Jubilation Fellow David Freeman with student

David Freeman

New York NY
Fellowship: 2013

“I’m not your typical drum teacher,” says David. “I’m a skinny white Jewish kid coming into Black and Latino neighborhoods, talking about West African music. I open a window for students to see what else is out there.”

David has taught in venues ranging from public schools to international jazz festivals. He got his start when a friend’s mother (and director of the Middlesex County Division of Youth Services Juvenile Detention Center) asked him to speak to a group of juveniles about West African drumming. “I was very young,” he says. “I had no idea what I was doing; the kids were barely younger than I was.” From that first workshop sprang a weekly program, and he wound up teaching the class for more than 10 years. “Working in that environment was challenging,” he says, “but it’s second nature now, that population. I feel at home; it’s an honest environment, transparent.”

He also teaches at a private school. “Kids are kids, rich or poor,” he says. “I don’t accept negative behavior from either population.” His mantra? “Respect for self, for others, for family, for community.” His students repeat it, then translate it into drumming. “It teaches focus, team work, and self-respect,” he says. “I love music, and want them to experience it in a holistic way, not just do boring scales.”

He’s also passionate about collaboration. “One monkey doesn’t make a circus,” says David. “I’m always looking for ways to collaborate with others. Sharing my experience and music with fellow artists — that’s what I do.”

www.thebiryaniboys.com: “The Biryani Boys is a web video series promoting and preserving Indian music.”

David is Listening to:
Brian Eno, Miles Davis, Yo La Tengo, Ravi Shankar, and salsa

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