The story began when I was a child. The “Number Drummer” approach was simply the way I saw music, but over time evolved into a method for learning and performing music through math and math through music. It demonstrates how mathematics can be seen, heard, and performed as music and how music can be seen, heard and understood as mathematics.
The need for this learning method was created by a circumstance in my own life. When they say, “Don’t throw that because someone could lose an eye!”, there is some truth to that. When I was 5 years old, my brother threw a plastic card across the room and it cut my right cornea. I did not go blind, but it greatly impacted my vision. I was left with one functional eye and an injured eye that was like looking through a drinking glass full of water. This affected my ability to sight read music because the musical notes looked like fuzzy spots floating on the page. My elementary music teacher even advised my mother to discourage any future music training because “music was not my thing.” Even though I did not take any formal music lessons as a kid, I still enrolled in the music program in college. I quickly faced the same musical challenges of my childhood, but using math I found success. I had discovered that music could be seen from a mathematical perspective. As I studied it, listened to it, practiced it, and created it, I realized the depth of the mathematics within the music. Mathematics could be a musical translation and path to learning music, just as music could be a mathematical representation and a path to learning math.
As a teacher, this automatically became my method for teaching young children math and music, but there was several years where the mathematical framework behind the method was not even realized or revealed to the students that were experiencing success through it. Students would simply come to my classroom and learn music through this non-traditional method. Children were so focused on playing the drums or other instruments that the math used to learn the music drew secondary attention. It is like the movie, “The Karate Kid”. When Daniel paints the fence, sands the floor, and waxes the cars, he does not realize he is learning Karate. Number Drummer is kind of like that. Students learn music skills using mathematics. Every participant is given an instrument when entering the venue, and after a brief introduction, begins to play a sequence of math skills, such as addition, multiplication, fractions, and more. By the end of the show, the audience has the musical skills needed to play in the big “grand finale” performance. It’s that “Wow!” moment that says, “I can’t believe I just learned to play an instrument using math!”
Over the past 15 years, there has been many benefits to this approach, not to mention the spectacular performances that students were able to create. Today, the system and method is taking on many new forms. Number Drummer is venturing into an interactive realm that has never been done before (stay tuned for that). Number Drummer Live interactive shows and sessions are being presented across the U.S. The Number Drummer mobile app is in development, and the Number Drummer children’s TV pilot is in the development process. The future is very exciting and lots is happening, so I hope you will stay connected and join me on the rest of this story. I would love for you to be a part of it.