Marketplace: Learning Music by Watching the Feet

By February 17, 2014 PRESS, TUTTI No Comments
ShannonPowell

Credit: Joseph Walton / APM

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Tutti Music Player and artist Shannon Powell were featured on American Public Media’s Marketplace last week….

“Of all the industries technology is disrupting, the music business is experiencing some of the biggest changes. One thing that has not changed significantly: Music education. But the inventor of a new tool hopes to change that.

Shannon Powell is one of the best drummers in New Orleans. He’s played on a platinum record with Harry Connick Jr. and studied under the New Orleans legend Danny Barker…”

This is where it all started, right here on St. Phillip Street,” says Powell, standing in front of the house where he’s lived his entire life.  “I roamed along this whole neighborhood.”

Powell grew up in the Treme neighborhood, where he learned to play the drums by studying the musicians who passed by his front door every weekend during the second line parades, and by watching the women in church play the tambourine.

“All of the rhythms that I was listening to when I was a kid are assimilated to the street beats of New Orleans,” he explains. “It’s all a part of that Habanera,  African rhythms and Spanish melodies.”

Powell teaches music occasionally at the University of New Orleans. That’s where he met a student named Darren Hoffman.

“He showed me how to play the tambourine,” Hoffman recalls. He was surprised at how the lesson began. Powell told him, “if you want to learn to play the tambourine, watch my feet.”

“The reason why I tell him to watch my feet,” Powell says, “is because when I play the tambourine up high with my hand, I’m doing rhythm with my feet.”

Hoffman realized that much of what he learned in his lessons with Powell came from watching him. “It’s not just in how he sounds, it’s in his style and his personality,” says Hoffman.

Listen to the whole segment, or read the transcript, here.

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