Jubilation Foundation Teaching Artist Fellow Alexander Addy

Alexander Addy

Portland OR
Fellowship: 2021

“The music is always surrounded with meaning.”

Alex brings rich artistic and cultural experiences that deeply engage students of all ages and abilities. His teaching experience is extensive, and he patiently leads learners on a path of discovery one-step at a time, building confidence, enthusiasm, and personal voices as they experience the power of the drum.

A native of Ghana, he is the son of the famous musician, Obo Addy. “My father was one of the pioneers of bringing West African culture and music to America. My siblings and I listened, observed, and helped as needed when my father performed. From this I learned about the power of music, drumming, and rhythms.”

What led you to become a teaching artist?
I worked with my father since I came to this country at the age of fifteen. I grew up in a household of drummers. Music and dance accompanied all events in Ghana whether it be a wedding, a funeral or an “outdooring” for a newborn baby. It all has meaning.

After my father died in 2012 I felt that it was up to me to continue the tradition of bringing the music and culture of Ghana to children. I could see the joy that the music brought to the children and I wanted to be a part of that. I’ve worked in schools for about twenty years.

Teaching philosophy:
To teach the drumming and dances of Ghana in the traditional manner in order to bring knowledge and joy to students.

If the song has a meaning, I teach the meaning. The drumming has a specific technique and so I teach the techniques. There are five sounds that can be attained by the way you hold your hands on the drums and the way you strike the drum.

I always explain the differences as well as the similarities between Ghana and Portland. For example, I spend a lot of time talking about respect, how children respect their teachers in Ghana since it’s a privilege to be able to go to school. Ghanaian children also show great respect to their parents.

I also explain about ceremonies and the place music and dance play in community and the broader meaning of community.

Each student is asked to perform a solo. This has proven to be a way for students to begin to have more self-confidence and the other students support them by applauding.

Lastly, we always have fun! There is no judgment. Every student is encouraged to participate in any way they can.

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