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Learning Through Play with Drummer Chris Marshak

“That was perfect,” a student called out after special musical guest, drummer, and percussionist, Chris Marshak, completed his lesson.

The Marcus Avenue Parents’ Association arranged for Chris to conduct 20-minute sessions for students, where they could engage in drum-based activities that complemented the skills they are developing in school.
Drummer Chris Marshak visits Marcus AvenueDuring his two-day rotation, Chris was able to teach over 200 students at the school.

“Students with special needs may not have the language to express themselves. When you play drums, they get to participate and express themselves through the universal language of music, which makes their day a little better,” said Chris, who has a degree in special education.

Chris has visited the school for nearly a decade and is mindful of how teachers, aides and therapists work with students. He focuses on music, movement, spontaneity, and silliness. Chris uses jokes and silliness at the start of his lessons to get the kids engaged. He asks them questions, uses tricks and even pretends to fall asleep on the drum, all to get the students in a playful mood.

Then, he gives each child a colorful drum to play along to songs they are familiar with, like “If You’re Happy and You Know It” but changes the words a bit to see if the kids are paying attention.

He’s developed these tactics to facilitate one of the core values of preschool education, which is learning through play.

For Chris, “Laughter is a big thing. Through silliness and spontaneity, I can plant the seeds of tempo, dynamics, one-to-one correspondence, even counting. At this early stage there’s a lot for them to learn, and it’s rewarding to see them responding happily.”

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