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Afro-Peruvian Artist Leads Residency at Glenwood

GES second graders with Napa Marcos Napa has dedicated most of his decades-long career to performing and teaching Afro-Peruvian music and movement, and for the first week of classes in 2020, he brought his compelling magic to all second grade students at Glenwood Elementary School (GES). On Day Two of the residency, children gathered on the carpet in front of Napa as he led them through a brisk series of warm-up exercises, small, isolated movements at first, building to popcorn jumping and giggles. But when Napa said, “Sit,” the children immediately claimed their squares on the carpet and listened for the next instructions.

Napa’s residencies for elementary school students bring a range of Afro-Peruvian rhythms and patterns of movement. After several minutes, Napa called out, “Are you tired?” and most of the children, who appeared to be bursting with physical energy, called back, “Yes!”

As Glenwood plans its transition to a STEAM2 magnet school in 2020-2021, staff are exploring new ways to incorporate each area of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) in their instruction. This year, each grade level received grant funding from the Public School Foundation (PSF) to support teaching artist residencies.  

GES residency with Napa Courtney Clapp, K-2 Instructional Coach, said, "One goal of these residencies is to inspire our teachers with new, exciting ways to use the arts in everyday instruction. For example, Marcos Napa used drumming and movement activities to help students practice freezing on cue, increasing their focus and attention. This same activity could be repeated by teachers to increase the amount of dance and music students experience on a daily basis."

Second Grade Teacher Carla Gilchrist, said, “My students all loved the week with Marcos Napa. The timing was perfect, being the first week back from break. There was instant buy-in from all the students- and they especially enjoyed beating the drums.”

The drums that Napa brings to his residencies are 10 gallon plastic cans, and each session featured a segment when the children sat on the floor and followed Napa’s lead as they drummed on the upturned containers. Each part of his lesson requires paying close attention, in order to imitate the crisp rhythms he creates on his own drum, and by midweek, the students sounded like seasoned percussionists.

On Friday, the final day of the residency, Napa rehearsed the 15 minute performance with each class of children, before parents and siblings entered the room to enjoy a taste of Afro-Peruvian music. At the last moment, before the door opened to their audience, Napa encouraged the children to express themselves on the drums. ““Hey hey hey,” he called out to them. “This is your moment now, this is your time. You can be loud now!” 

“I have is an ideal thought for each time I share my Peruvian traditional music and dances,” Napa said. “To transmit culture to a child through music and dances is food for his soul that will eventually be seen in his day-to-day, as a complement to the forging of a great person.”

GES students dance to Napa
Born in Lima, Peru, Napa began dancing in the Ballet Peru Negrito as a child, and in 1983, he made his debut as a professional percussionist in Ballet Perú Negro. In 1995, he founded Ebano Academy in Peru. Three years later, he traveled to the United States with a dream “to spread the rich Afro-Peruvian heritage.” Napa now lives in Raleigh and teaches music and dance throughout the Triangle.