The only drumming class I’ve ever taken was taught by the master, Maroghini.
This was back when I was a camper, and Windsor Mountain looked a little bit different. Today we have a beautiful farm and garden sitting along the edge of the Cabin Meadow. But when I was a camper, I remember a wooden platform-tent there, and inside of it a collection of fascinating steel drums.
I’m not sure how long steel drumming was a thing at Windsor Mountain, but I absolutely loved it. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but 12 year-old Curtis thought steel drums were the coolest instrument in the world. People would play them around the campfire, they were a fixture at our music festival, and you could even take steel drumming classes. I signed up for one of the classes first choice, and I got in.
Maroghini was our teacher. He’s Jamaican, with a long grey beard that reaches all the way down to the floor, and his hair wrapped up above his head. He speaks with a soft, strong voice that commands your attention, and his drumming is legendary. I couldn’t appreciate it then, but I was learning from one of the most respected drummers in the music industry, someone who had performed and recorded with countless A-list acts across the globe, someone who dedicated every moment to the perfection of their craft.
Maroghini started the class. He showed us the technique for tapping on our drums. He showed us how to play the first few notes. Then it was our turn; he stepped back, we picked up our sticks, and he counted us in. 3…2…1…
We were terrible. A cacophony of out of tune, out of sync plinking. The steel drums are a beautiful instrument, melodic when played well. But when they’re played poorly, they sound bad. Really bad.
He let us play on for a little longer before waving his hand to quiet us. “Okay, that’s enough,” he said. He closed his eyes, put his hand to his face, and for a moment he was quiet too. “Alright,” he said, “do it again.” He counted us in again, 3…2…1…
I never got too good with the steel drums, but I thought of that story the other night while I watched him perform in the Meeting House. Maroghini still comes to Windsor Mountain in the summer, still teaches drumming to campers, and every session he treats us to a magical drum circle.
It’s him on stage, surrounded by his best students from the summer, and together they play powerful music. The whole camp assembles to listen to them drum and sing, and Maroghini never disappoints. By the end of the evening every person in the building is on their feet, dancing and clapping in rhythm.
Every year I look forward to his drum circles, and every year I am awed by the campers performing with him, who seemingly overnight have matured into drumming masters. It feels like an incredibly special moment, and a gift to be able to experience it right here at our camp.
Maroghini says that drumming is another form of speech, that when you listen closely you can hear the words being spoken with each beat. He starts every drum circle the same way, tapping two distinct beats repeatedly into the drums:
“Boom boom. Boom boom. Boom boom.”
He tells us what they mean, but if you really listen closely you can already hear what they say:
“Do good. Do good. Do good.”
This message of peace is the same one that Maroghini has been playing for years and years. He and his drumming are a part of the tradition of Windsor Mountain, and he has been a teacher and mentor to countless students during that time. If you come to pick up your child on departure day, there’s a good chance you’ll hear him playing in either our music or theater festival. But if you miss him this year, don’t worry; he’ll be back next year too.