Kelvin Spencer’s “Saving Da Children” Drum Lessons

Spencer Drum Clinic seeks to teach students to succeed in music and in life
Former SU band member’s clinic offers students lessons in playing, reading music; life
OLIVIA MCCLURE| OMCCLURE@THEADVOCATE.COM  Aug. 03, 2015

Photo by The Advocate

Photo by The Advocate

If Kelvin Spencer’s drum students sound or look anything like Southern University’s famed Human Jukebox marching band, it’s no mistake.

Spencer was a section leader in the band in the 1970s.

At the Spencer Drum Clinic, every child is held to the same expectation: “to become whatever you want to become,” Spencer said. And for many of those he teaches — some of whom are underprivileged or have disabilities — marching in Southern’s band is a dream.

…Spencer believes, drum lessons condition the children’s minds for success in everything from schoolwork to music to life in general.

Spencer, who retired a year ago from a 37-year career teaching at the Louisiana School for the Deaf, has conducted his drum clinic since 1976, stopping lessons only for a few years to care for ailing family members.

He has taught about 400 children how to play the drums over the years.

Spencer remembers all of their names and what they’re up to nowadays.

There’s something about the drums that can bring a child straight out of their shell and turn them into a proud musician.

“It’s some kind of calmness in it, some kind of peace in it,” said Spencer’s wife, Perlinda, who manages the clinic’s office. “It motivates them. … When they play those drums, they stand out with their chest out. Everybody loves to hear those drums.”

Spencer’s youngest student is 4 years old. Beginners practice beating their drumsticks on pillows to learn to control their hands, Spencer said. Next, they go to the drum pads, whose texture requires a harder stroke that develops tendons in their arms.

….Spencer…also teaches them how to read music.

He approaches his clinic as a youth ministry and sometimes refers to its acronym, SDC, as “Saving Da Children.”

Joshua Mason, 10, said he wants to keep playing the drums, but realizes “your grades have to be good to play” in middle and high school bands.

At the end of every class, Spencer kneels with his students in a circle to pray.

“I’m on a mission to save as many youth as I can,” he said. “… I give God the glory. A seed was sown, and I’m that seed. … He watered me and gave me all I needed to know to one day reach so many kids.”

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