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The Rhythm of Inspiration

July 29, 2011

The Rhythm of Inspiration

Life never fails to inspire me. No matter what might be going on in my day or week, I invariably come in touch with something so remarkable that I am lifted from whatever thought or experience I am having, into joy and amazement at the versatility, creativity and care of human beings.

Today I learned of a man, Rick Willett, who is a percussionist. A number of years ago he became involved in body percussion with a performance group called Stomp Dance Troupe. In Colombia, he had occasion to use this technique with Dance for Tolerance, a group addressing children at risk who are dealing with issues of poverty and violence. Working with them he saw their hardened faces change. That was the beginning of Willett using this technique around the world to help children who are trauma victims. He next met with children in Brooklyn’s Bedford Stuyvesant – kids with difficult backgrounds, living amidst drug dealers and addicts. Once again, as they were occupied making rhythms, he saw a change in the children.

A simple rhythm clapped on the knees, pounded out by the feet, complimented by snaps and claps. Sounds easy. Willett’s body music, however, is anything but. Even the simple rhythms he begins with are challenging although he firmly says “anyone can do what I do.”

He teaches a rhythm. When the kids have it, he speeds it up, adding accents and changes. The kids are instantly fully engaged, and for a time, forget about their circumstances.

Willett was on his way to Japan for a project when the earthquake and tsunami hit. He thought he might use his skills with Japanese children to help reduce their stress. While he was in Kamiyama, he was working with some kids and there was an aftershock. Taking one look at their faces, he saw just how much stress they carry around with them beneath the surface. When they started the body percussion again, however, their worry faded. What he saw was a group of kids having fun.

Willett’s hope is to help take the kids’ minds off of their stress. He says he wants to help them recover fun and bring back some childhood back into their lives. While he focuses on the kids’ enjoyment, he also acknowledges that the body percussion enhances teamwork. What he might not be thinking is that for some kids, he may be providing a choice that they never had before, an opportunity to see beyond the circumstances of their everyday lives to possibility.

Thanks, Rick Willett, for doing what you do, and for being such an inspiration.

Robin Damsky

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