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Flight path

Well we’ve done lots and lots of unusual gigs in our 17 year history, but yesterday was our first one done outside under a flight path. It was an end of year performance for Agincourt Elementary School, and hundreds of kids gathered outside on blankets and towels with their hats and sunscreen on for our performance (last for us for this season). We had a small group, given that there were lots of things competing for our youth’s time…testing, exams, school trips etc….but this made the ones who were there work hard,  play new parts and allowed the audience to really get to know them by name…Dan was a big hit with his big voice :). Our drumming sounds fabulous outside….where of course it was meant to be played…but every few minutes a jet would fly overhead and drown us out….kinda fun and novel. Later, Claire and Sara showed a few dance moves to one of the classes as they were leaving, and we all got high fives and “hey teenagers, great show” remarks on the way out.  That’s it for the youth group until we start up again in September. Thanks to Hayley and parents for driving.

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Studio Party

Last night was the last class of the season for our adults and we had a great gathering at the studio to celebrate all the achievements of the students and to thank all of our instructors: Dominic Donkor, Prosper Adjetey, Rory Magill and Julia Walmsley.They have been so inspirational to everyone taking the classes. Their contributions have ranged from a few months to seventeen years! Not with us last evening were Shara Weaver and Dave Bossmin, who we also thank for their great teaching to our classes in past years.

We also had a chance to thank and honour Hayley de Bie, Baobab’s manager,  for all her hard work behind the scenes of the classes over the last seven years…scheduling, registration, statistics, phone calls, emails, payments, refunds; everything that goes along with running 6-8 classes per week at the studio. She is an organizational wizard and a friend to many, and we are going to miss her when we make our changes next season to smaller programming.

Visiting from Boston, musician and dancer Nani Agbeli poured libation and gave a moving prayer invoking his father, the late Godwin Agbeli, master drummer and teacher to both Rory and myself  in our early years of studying this music. He wished future success for all the students and encouraged them to keep going with this music and dance.  He also paid tribute to the history of Baobab and wished for us to stay healthy and keep doing what we do! Some fun dancing followed. A great night. Thanks to Baobab’s Board for all the gifts and food for the evening: Ian Brown, Evie Gray, Nadine Powers, Claire Thompson, Hilary Clauson, Alison Clegg and Carole Johnson.

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A few years ago we started the tradition of honouring the youth who are leaving the group with a special concert.

“Sankofa” is a Ghanaian Adinkra symbol that teaches us that we must go back to our roots in order to move forward. That is, we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward.

Like any educational programs,  our group is cyclical and every few years there are a bunch of kids that are graduating…this year we say goodbye to Claire, Sara, Danielle, Claudia, Ben, Zach, Dan, Hudson, Peter, Rowan and Willow. Some of these youth have been with us as long as eight years! Very hard to say goodbye, yet a chance for the younger ones to take on new challenges next season.

The Black Sheep Inn performance yesterday was amazing…..lots of fantastic drumming,  singing and dancing, beginning with an outdoor Takai and finishing with a Gahu , featuring a surprise guest performance on lead drum by Nani Agbeli, son of the late Godwin Agbeli. The audience was a packed house of supporters…many who are parents of those leaving…there were lots of magical moments and great energy for sure. Thanks to Doug Brittain for the great photos!

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Race Weekend Drumming!

Last Sunday, members of Baobab Youth performed for 12,000 runners in the half marathon. We had a great time; it was really exciting and inspiring for us and runners gave us the thumbs up as they rounded the corner on our cheering station. We were also there to drum up awareness for and support the efforts of The Micronutrient Initiative, a wonderful organization that is dedicated to ensuring that the world’s most vulnerable – especially women and children – in developing countries get the vitamins and minerals they need to survive and thrive. Thanks to parent Derek Johnston for movie and photos! Check out the movie here!

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A Letter to our Community

Dear Baobab Friends,

We wanted to let you know of a few changes coming to our organization.  As of September 2012, we will be restructuring our programming and office/studio to respond to the changing times, both social and economic.

Beginning in September, we will focus our programming on youth and children only, offering weekly sessions of ROOTS classes for ages 9-12, as well as Baobab Youth Performers, our performance-based program for youth ages 12-18. We will also be adjusting our Studio space at St George’s to part-time use only, and reducing the administrative duties that go with those changes.

The 2012-13 season will be Baobab’s 18th, and we will continue to celebrate and share the amazing arts of Ghana, West Africa with the Ottawa community and beyond, as we have done since our inception in 1995.  We have enjoyed working with adults for many years and will miss this part of our programming, and the interesting and dedicated people we have met along the way!  We see this restructuring as a necessary change towards keeping our organization as healthy, vibrant and debt free as it currently is, something that would not be possible if we were to remain the same.  A special thanks to our Baobab Board of Directors, under the leadership of Chair, Ian Brown, for their hard work surrounding this major shift.

We are also grateful to the City of Ottawa and St George’s Parish for their continuing support and flexibility through this transition. We are planning a social gathering in our Studio on Monday June 4, at 8:30pm (following the dance and drum classes that finish that evening) for any adults who have participated at any time in our classes and workshops.  All are welcome!

Our website and email contact will remain the same.  Our new phone number as of June 7 will be (613)791-6994. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

 Sincerely, Kathy Armstrong  &  Hayley de Bie
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Rotary Club Thanks!

Last night Baobab board member Nadine Powers and myself brought two of our youngest drumming participants to the meeting of the Rotary club of Ottawa (Nepean/Kanata) where we made a presentation. Arman and Shyandra, both 9 years old have enjoyed time at our Rhythm Trek Drum Camp in the summer, as well as our ROOTS classes and school workshops here at the Baobab Studio. These programs are supported in part by an annual and generous donation from the Rotary Club.  The kids talked about their involvement in our programs and presented art work they did and speeches that they wrote. They both were extremely polite and articulate in their presentations and during the dinner segment of the evening Everyone was charmed by them! We are very grateful to the Rotary Club for making it possible for us to present these kinds of programs for young children. A special thanks to our contact at the Rotary,  Liliane Lalonde-McKennirey who is a long time Baobab friend and supporter,  and who has worked through the Rotary club for more than ten years to bring donations of goods and services to the village  of Dagbamete in Ghana, a place close to our hearts!

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A Busy Weekend!

Baobab Community was busy this past weekend….we hosted a teacher workshop on Saturday from 9-4. Twelve teachers from both the Ottawa Public and Catholic Boards participated in an intense day of drumming,  singing and dancing with me here at the studio. We also discussed lots of available resources and had a visit from our resident art instructor, Maureen Clarke to discuss curriculum extensions for this material. What a wonderful group it was to work with, everyone really dedicated to bringing the best to their students.

Participants in the recent Teacher Workshop with Kathy Armstrong

On Sunday, many of the Baobab Community and family and friends gathered at the new ClockTower Brew Pub in Westboro for our second annual Quiz night Fundraiser. Let’s just say,  its amazing the things we do know, and amazing the things we don’t! 80 people participated in teams of various sizes, responding to the variety of questions put forth by Quiz Master Paul Paquet (Cornerstone Word Company). Teams with the highest and lowest score received prizes….thanks to all who donated those:  20Q, Collected Works, Nadine Powers, Arlene Armstrong. Evie Gray.

Special thanks also to Claire Thompson, Michael Wilson and Hayley de Bie for their organizing efforts. The event raised more than $1400 for Baobab’s activities!

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Black History Month

February is Black History Month and as usual, Baobab Community is involved in many events this month.  Here’s a glimpse into some of what we have been up to:

Julia Walmsley leads the Thursday night adult drum class

Rory Magill leads the Dagbamba drumming at our recent "Try This!" workshop

Dominic Donkor, in town for some MASC performances, spends some time with my Carleton U Music students

Baobab Youth give a performance at the OSU Childrens Library Fund fundraiser, where many of their terrific books were for sale.

Baobab with OCLF founder Kathy Knowles. We were able to visit and perform with students from the Nima Library and Kathy Knowles Theatre Troupe in Accra during our trip to Ghana last summer.

At the invitation of Nepean High School music teacher, Lee Carter, Baobab Youth performed at two assemblies for Black History Month, highlighting current cultural practices in Ghana. I went in twice to work with Mr. Carter’s vocal students to teach them some songs and dance moves for Gahu, and then at the assemblies, about 100 of them surrounded an audience of peers to create a traditional Ewe Gahu with us.  Other parts of the assembly included a slide show from our trip as we played a couple of other pieces,  as well as some reflections from other Nepean students who went to Ghana last year as part of their social justice club. We also had the pleasure of having former Baobab Youth member Patrick Hoffman sit in with us for Gahu…he is about to graduate from Nepean and it was wonderful to have him play with us again. It was a great collaborative morning all round! See for yourself….thanks to our multi-talented manager Hayley de Bie for the photos!

Also this month, I had an interesting request from a music teacher in Arnprior who conducts a wonderful high school jazz choir called Red Velvet. They wanted some authentic choreography to go with their singing version of Waka Waka , made famous by Shakira during the World Cup in South Africa. The melody is originally from Cameroon and has a very interesting history. Hayley and I went out for an early morning rehearsal with these talented students and I taught them some Kpanlogo moves to go with their wonderful singing, The only challenge was to make sure they could do them while holding a mic in one hand!

And, finally, just this afternoon Baobab Youth performed at a benefit for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). This is an event called “Echoes of Winter” put on by the Kanata Music Academy, and all of their students. A lovely afternoon event at Carleton’s Kailash Mitel Hall, the program featured everything from solo singing, to piano, dance groups,  acrobat-skippers and us! Congrats to Peter who played lead drum for Gota for the first time,  something he has worked on for a few months. We were presented with a gift and a plaque for our participation. A busy but rewarding month!

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Drumming Grannies!

As you have seen in this blog before, there is a wonderful group of women who come to the Baobab Studio occasionally to study drumming with me. Last night they organized and performed at a wonderful event for the Stephen Lewis Foundation; here is a description:

Grannies at the Green Door On Monday, February 6th a fundraising Dinner in aid of the Stephen Lewis Foundation was held at The Green Door Restaurant.  The Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign seeks to build solidarity, raise awareness and garner support for Africa’s grandmothers.  The Green Door Dinner was organized by 3 local Grandmothers Campaign groups: Ammas for Grammas, Capital Grannies, and Grammas to Ambuyas.  African grannies want their grandchildren to be healthy, and to have an education and a future with meaningful work – the same things Canadian grannies want for their grandchildren.  The SLF Grandmothers Campaign contributes to over 300 projects helping African grandmothers and the children in their care with much needed support such as food, medicine, housing grants, school fees and uniforms, and grief counseling.

Jewel 98.5 Radio sponsored the fundraiser and provided strong support – lots of publicity, donations for door prizes and the Silent Auction, as well as Brother Bob from the Jewel’s morning show who was our wonderful MC.  The Capital Grannies Drummers performed, briefly, several times during the evening.  Their final piece was Gahu for Grannies’ (Gahu appropriately means a celebration to bring riches) which emphasized the significant themes of our Campaign: Canadian ‘Grannies’ working with African ‘Gogos’ to ease the pain of AIDS and turn the tide of the AIDS pandemic in Africa.

Having the event sponsored by The Green Door Restaurant, known for its relaxing environment and excellent food, ensured that the evening would be a success. And it was: all the tickets were sold, people ate well, and had a very enjoyable evening.  But the real success was that over $8,000 was raised for the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which will make a substantial difference to many of the African grandmothers and the orphans in their care.

Rosemary Carter, Capital Grannies

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Your donor dollars at work….

Thinking of making a donation (see previous blog entry) to our programming ?

Here is some feedback from recent participants…

“It is very clear that you care a great deal about the kids and want the very best for them. How lucky they all are to have you in their lives especially at this stage of their personal growth and development.  You’ve definitely created a special community and second home for them at Baobab where they feel connected and a sense of belonging.”-parent

“My partner and I saw you and your group perform at the awesome African Sanctus concert. It was a phenomenally moving performance. We had to work hard at sitting in proper ‘pewed’ posture as the soul-nourishing voices and rock-about rhythm enveloped all in the church. “-audience member

“The workshop had the right mix of events (cultural background, drums, singing, dance and games).  The instructor never dropped the ball while working through the material. As a result, the flow from one event to the next was seamless. This workshop covered considerably more material than other workshops I have taken of similar length.”-workshop participant

Thank you to you and your amazing performers!!!  It was a fantastic presentation.  It was really inspiring to see students so confident and engaged in drumming and dancing.”-teacher

“What a great concert!!! I asked (my son) what his favourite part was and he said: “The joy of performing with everyone.  It just makes you feel so happy, usually by the second song I just can’t stop smiling.” -parent/youth performer NAC 4th Stage show

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