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Queens Chronicle

Drumming up support for young musicians

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Posted: Thursday, March 28, 2013 10:30 am

Julie Sriken and Jim Vasquez were tired of watching school music programs getting cut for lack of funding.

Rather than complain, they created Jamaica Drum Jam in 2012, a nonprofit music education program aimed at bringing musical instruction and performances to low- and moderate-income neighborhoods in New York City.

Sriken said she and Vasquez, her husband, always have had strong ties to music.

“We met when we were 12 years old in band class,” she said, adding they they are heartbroken at the economic toll that is being taken on the Department of Education’s music instruction.

They bring instruments, genuine and improvised, to give people who attend their lessons hand-on experience.

And Sriken said their demonstrations are more than just an afternoon of lessons and entertainment.

“Children who learn music do better socially,” she said. “They benefit neurologically. It’s more than just fun.”

They have been able to bring in friends who are talented and even professional musicians to work with children and adults in settings such as libraries to bring their mission to more and more people. And they are having a carnival-themed fundraiser in Long Island City on April 27.

The dinner dance will feature a buffet, mini carnival games, with dance classes and performances by Cashel Campbell, Rodrigo Dance Studio and Junyversal Dance Studio; and musical performances by the the Jamaica Drum Jam Drum Corps featuring Sriken and Vasquez with percussionists Mike Veny, Brendan Finnegan and Geraldo Flores.

Other musicians scheduled to appear are Linda LaPorte, Nelson Jenkins, Albert Benscome, Oliver Demetrius, Matthew Marcial and Robin Mitchell.

Sriken said the money raised will be used to strengthen the program.

Acquiring instruments, she said, is the primary concern at the moment.

“We’ve been able to bring in our friends or sometimes borrow their instruments,” she said.

In some cases, things like old buckets are turned into drums that students can practice on before getting their hands on a real, professional set.

“We’d like to start purchasing so that we don’t have to rely on borrowed instruments,” she said. “And sometimes we are able to recycle other materials into things like small percussion instruments, so we would like to be able to buy things like craft supplies.”

The fundraiser will run from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the basement of St. Patrick Church, located at 39-28 29 St. in Long Island City.

Parking is limited to the back of the church, but St. Patrick is accessible by the E and R trains to Queens Plaza and the N to Queensboro Plaza.

Further information on Jamaica Drum Jam, its workshops and instructors, as well as the April 27 fundraiser, are available on the organization’s website, jamaicadrumjam.org.

Jamaica Drum Jam

When: April 27, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Where: St. Patrick Church basement, 39-28 29 St., LIC

Tickets: $20 adults; $15 students; age 12 and under free.


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