First-year program goes out with a bang

Hundreds of students drummed to a common beat Thursday night at Drum Cafe to wind up Connections, a six-week leadership program for first-year students.

The event, organized by Student Development Services’ Community Renewal @ TCU, aimed to build community on  campus, Jenn Shinn, a junior ballet major and Community Renewal @ TCU intern, said.

Shinn, who referred to the event as “the last hurrah” for Connections students, said the event was also a great way for all students to relax before fall break.

“It’s kind of a nice break,” she said. “This week has been crazy with midterms and everything, and it’s the last week before fall break. So, this is kind of random and offbeat.”

According to its website, Community Renewal @ TCU is described as a campus-wide initiative established to encourage intentional caring and community-building among students in the community.

Modeled after Community Renewal International, — which was founded in 1994 by alumnus Mack McCarter in Shreveport, La.,— Community Renewal @ TCU values the same ideas of promoting and working for a community where people are invested, responsible and committed to the well-being of everyone, Daniel Terry, director of Community Renewal @ TCU, said.

Drum Cafe is a way to actively participate in the objectives Community Renewal @ TCU embodies, he said.

“Drums are an ancient way of bringing the community together,” Terry said. “So, it’s a great way to embody and actually do what we talk about when we talk about ideas of connectedness and relatedness.”

Terry said he thought Drum Cafe, at the very least, would serve as a certain kind of cultural experience unknown to the average  student.

Drum Cafe, an interactive drumming organization that directed students during their hour-long drumming session, was started in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1996, Dale Monnin, a Drum Cafe member who led the event, said.

Monnin said to the crowds of students before him at the event, “Where we come from, we don’t play for you—we play with you.”

He said the purpose of Drum Cafe was to relate what it takes to make music with the dynamics of teamwork in an organization or community,

Preston Oliver, a sophomore business major, said Drum Cafe did a great job getting this across to students.

“It was cool how he tied in important life lessons, and it wasn’t just about playing the drums,” Oliver said.

Freshman biochemistry major Charlie Ruff agreed.

“It was awesome. It’s my birthday today, so it’s even [more awesome],” he said. “I liked how he tied in building community to just having a good time and drumming. It was really interesting.”

Freshman strategic communication major Elizabeth Greenwell said drumming in unison was a great communal experience.

McCarter said that watching his vision being put to practice at his alma mater was “the most exciting thing in the whole world” to him because students were learning ways to build community and change the world.

“I wanted to come and watch the Drum Cafe. I wanted to beat my drum, too,” he said.

As a former Frog, McCarter said he was excited about doing his part to be faithful to the school’s mission statement: To educate individuals to think and act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community.

The university is the first  to implement McCarter’s vision of community-building by translating the city and neighborhood model onto a university campus, Terry said.

And McCarter agreed.

“TCU is going to be able to use this model and teach it to colleges and universities all over America and also all over the world,” he said. “We just met last week with a group that has 1,600 colleges and universities in its coalition. And they want very much to adopt this model, and they want TCU to teach them how to really intentionally care for one another.”

McCarter, who also attended the event when it was hosted on campus in 2010, said this time he brought along a busload of 40 people, including people from Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. who wanted to see how the university implemented the Community Renewal initiative on campus.

He said events like the Drum Cafe were surreal because it made him believe in the power of students to positively impact the world.

“I am living a dream right now,” he said. “It’s wonderful.”