Ten years ago, on the streets of New Orleans, 5-year-old Hassan Patin danced to a drummer’s beat. The street musician’s da-dum-da-dum-da-dum moved Patin, body and soul, he says.
“I felt the rhythm of the drum under my feet,” recalls Louisiana native Patin, now a sophomore at Summit Academy Transition High School – Cincinnati.
Today, Patin’s own drummer beat brings that feeling back again and again.
And the beat goes on.
Through Summit Academy Transition High School – Cincinnati’s 4Hands program, Patin and three of his schoolmates each received a refurbished donated rock band instrument. Music teacher Christopher Smith, affectionately dubbed “The Music Man,” started 4Hands to feed students’ musical talents and interests and reward them for their dedication to their art.
Patin received teacher Smith’s beloved drum set.
“Hassan exhibits so much excitement for drumming. It’s infectious,” says Smith. He says the young drummer brought his own drumsticks to school last year and played every chance he had. “With all the passion and excitement he has, Hassan has proved to be a really strong drummer.”
Smith says that giving students the tools they love helps them develop as artists, as musically sophisticated thinkers, learning basic patterns and structure. They then begin to create their own paths as musicians and individuals.
“That’s really what’s happening with 4Hands,” Smith says, describing an underlying current of the program, one that helps students identify and hone their distinct talents and gain a sense of ownership of their own lives in the process.
For Trevon Leisure, who will graduate in May 2021, an electric bass awarded to him through 4Hands would become that navigational tool. Smith bought the bass, repainted it metallic gold and donated it to 4Hands. Smith’s wife, Ashley Perry, embellished it with a buffed blue insignia from one of Leisure’s favorite anime.
“Trevon is very talented,” says Smith, noting that the multitalented musician plays both the bass guitar and piano. “He wouldn’t just play during regular practices, but also during lunch and after school. I wanted to reward him because he shows so much passion.”
Smith adds that Leisure is a collaborative artist who enjoys playing with other students and can learn to play songs by listening to them on YouTube or the radio. Last school year he performed at all three of the schools’ concerts: Black History Month, winter and spring during which he showcased his musical chops on various instruments.
Brothers Solomon Richardson and Rashad Richardson were awarded, respectively, a Les Paul electric guitar and Yamaha keyboard. The Les Paul, formerly owned and played by celebrated local artist Stephen Kuffner on his tours and recordings, came with its original case personalized with sticker memorabilia.
“Solomon is phenomenal at receiving and developing melodies,” says Smith, describing his musically gifted student who writes songs and plays multiple instruments, including the guitar, piano and some bass. Solomon’s passion runs deep, says Smith, adding that he has an impressive collection of music gear to prove it. His prized Les Paul will, no doubt, take a special place in that assemblage.
Rashad Richardson was selected as the deserving recipient of a Yamaha keyboard. Smith describes Rashad as a musician who reciprocates a melody on a keyboard and plays to his listeners’ delight.
“Rashad will work to find a melody and play it back to you with so much ease. He also enjoys making up his own melodies,” says Smith.
At the school’s 2019 funk concert Rashad played an improvisation on the “Rocky” theme, bringing his audience members to their feet in a standing ovation. “The crowd went crazy,” Smith recalls.
Smith says students are selected to receive instruments through 4Hands based on their excitement for a particular instrument and willingness to practice outside of class. The awardees “spent countless hours during lunch and after school, practicing music for school concerts and their personal enjoyment,” he says, noting that the goal of 4Hands is to supplement students’ drive with instruments of their own.
“They have a love for music and want to learn it. Give students something they love and they will go on forever,” says Smith. “These guys beg me to play after school. They’re shredding it.”
For Hassan, who aspires to become a sound engineer up the road, developing oneself as a musician requires hard work, fortitude and faith.
“Don’t wait until it comes. You have to be the one to go get it. You have to be willing to put in the hard work. It’s a hard journey,” he says. “Life’s going to throw challenges at you to discourage you, but you have to be strong enough to go get it.”