Steven Clark has witnessed this among world-renowned musicians and 4-year-olds alike: Hitting a drum can change your life.
It develops the mind, he explains. It builds confidence.
Plus, it’s fun.
“I believe everybody (can play the drums),” says Clark, a professional drummer whose 35-year career includes performing and recording with Elvis Costello, The Clash and Tom Petty. “It’s a state of mind.”
That’s why he’s dedicated much of his life to sharing his love of drumming with others.
Over the past 20 years, Clark has developed rhythm workshops for disabled adults, created drum circles at geriatric facilities and helped expand local students’ access to music lessons.
He also works as one of The Smith Center’s longest continuing teaching artists, instructing preschool students with drumming to improve their overall development.
“I enjoy sharing what I know to someone else,” he says.
From First Lessons to House of Blues
Clark’s efforts include an experimental one – taking community members without access to musical instruments and teaching them the drums.
This “Make an Impression Drum Initiative” would culminate with each student performing solo on stage at the House of Blues Las Vegas.
“It’s a two-way street, because I can give them lessons, but they have to put some time into it,” he says.
The six-month program – sponsored by House of Blues – was intensive.
“At first it was like, ‘is this going to work?’ I had to teach them the very basics, like how to hold drumsticks,” Clark recalls.
But all surpassed expectations.
Starting as complete beginners, each student worked hard under Clark’s direction to learn songs they nailed on stage before an audience.
“I felt proud that each one of them got up there and did it,” Clark says. “Everybody gets scared, I don’t care who you are. But if you’ve practiced, you’re going to come through.”
Drumming for the Disabled
Drumming can also promote wellness.
This has prompted Clark to organize programs for intellectually and developmentally disabled adults at Transition Services Inc. in Henderson.
He supplies participants with various percussion instruments, which serve as therapeutic when played as a group.
“Holding the instrument and hearing the sound it creates provides a path to self-expression,” he says.
Clark had similar motivation for creating drum circles for local seniors.
“There’s socialization in it and movement,” he says. “Those who have never (drummed) before say, ‘Wow I can be successful at this.’ It’s a good feeling.”
Drums in School
This applies to children, too, Clark has found.
Since 2012, he has taught percussion to preschool students through The Smith Center’s Southern Nevada Wolf Trap Early Learning Through the Arts program.
This partners professional performing artists with educators to train teachers on applying arts-based teaching methods.
The program is made possible by support from Smith Center donors, including United Way of Southern Nevada Women’s Leadership Council.
Clark’s lessons incorporate counting tempos, using dynamics and memorizing patterns.
“It’s just neat to teach little kids,” he says. “They jump up and dance, and they learn the different elements of what they hear.”
Throughout all his work, Clark insists he’s still learning himself.
“It’s a continuous learning process,” he says. “I feel I’m learning something new with every session.”