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VOL. 128 | NO. 115 | Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Beat Goes On

SRVS uses The Rhythmic Arts Project to teach life skills

By Jennifer Johnson Backer

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Rosalyn Jeans slowly tapped out the syllables in her first name as she beat the drum in front of her simultaneously with each syllable.

Former Beach Boys drummer Eddie Tuduri works with Chris White as he conducts The Rhythmic Arts Project (TRAP) workshop at SRVS. Tuduri started the percussion-based organization to help people with disabilities.  

(Daily News/Lance Murphey)

SRVS instructor Debbie Maddox smiled broadly and led the small group gathered around Jeans in a round of enthusiastic applause.

The Rhythmic Arts Project, or TRAP, is a curriculum that uses rhythm to teach basic life skills and reading, writing and arithmetic to people with various disabilities of all ages. Participants build confidence and independence through identifying their right and left hands, reading quarter notes, following patterns in rhythm and colors and creating their own patterns using percussion instruments.

“If you don’t see those visual aids, and you don’t see the numbers or the colors, and you are just looking at a picture of people and a lot of drums, the misconception is that it is a drum circle or a drum program or a music program … but that’s really not what we do,” explained Eddie Tuduri, the founder and director of TRAP, who is in Memphis visiting SRVS to help train TRAP teachers. SRVS was formerly known as Shelby Residential and Vocational Services.

Tuduri, a professional drummer who has played with The Beach Boys, Delaney Bramlett, Bobby Whitlock, Dobie Gray, Rick Nelson, Charlie Rich and others, is motivated by personal experience.

In September 1997, Tuduri was body surfing in Santa Barbara, Calif., when a wave slammed him against the ocean floor, breaking his neck. Physicians at Saint Francis hospital in Santa Barbara fused three cervical vertebrae and merged Tuduri’s neck with four screws and metal plate.

While temporarily paralyzed and recovering at The Rehabilitation Institute at Santa Barbara, Tuduri asked for some drum sticks and other percussion instruments and began tapping out some rhythms on the side of his bed.

Former Beach Boys drummer Eddie Tuduri works with LaQuita Mimms as he conducts The Rhythmic Arts Project (TRAP) workshop at SRVS. Tuduri started the percussion-based organization to help people with disabilities, after a pair of drumsticks helped facilitate Tuduri's own rehabilitation after breaking his neck.

(Daily News/Lance Murphey)

“I thought, yeah, I’ve still got it,” he recalled. “I still have soul and rhythm, and that made me feel good. And then, other people in the room started joining in.”

Oscar, the ward aide, began tapping out a beat on the food tray. Edith, a patient with a spinal cord injury, rolled in and was given a cowbell. Oscar, who had recently had a stroke and was recovering from pancreatic cancer, blood clots, diabetes and a motorcycle accident, also was given a drumstick and a cowbell. And in that moment, the TRAP concept was born.

“I knew immediately, I had something really powerful if for nothing else, we felt alive,” Tuduri said.

During his recovery, Tuduri worked with recreational, speech, developmental and rehabilitation therapists to help frame the TRAP curriculum and use rhythm to improve social integration, speech and memory, and other intellectual and developmental goals. The program has been used in California, New York, Tennessee, Nova Scotia, and in far-flung places like Turkey, Syria, Ecuador and Bulgaria.

Tuduri still logs onto Facebook daily to check on the safety of the Jesuit priests and Catholic nuns who use the TRAP curriculum to teach the disabled on a ranch in Syria. Despite the daily bombings and unrest, they still haven’t stopped using the program.

Irfa Karmali, a behavior analyst and clinical coordinator at SRVS, is working on a research project to collect empirical evidence to show the TRAP curriculum is effective at teaching the disabled verbal and motor skills in addition to improving auditory perception.

“I think my part in this is to shepherd the curriculum. It works because we’ve spent so many years working on the curriculum.”

–Eddie Tuduri
Founder, The Rhythmic Arts Project

She says she’s already seen a huge improvement in SRVS clients who participle in TRAP. The curriculum helps fill in basic life skills needed for independent living and confidence, Karmali said. SRVS plans to train leaders from other Mid-South organizations who want to implement the TRAP curriculum.

As the SRVS participants finished tapping out the syllables in their names, Tuduri suggested that that the instructor, Maddox, let the group relax a little and play their percussion instruments in a freestyle stop-and-go fashion for a few minutes.

“Go!” said Maddox as the group began pounding on their drums. “Stop! Now, Go! Josie,” she said, as a participant began slowly tapping out a solo on her drum. By the time the circle got to Lee, a gentleman who is deaf and uses signing to communicate, broad smiles were found all around.

“I see it (the program) having a life of its own,” Tuduri said. “I think my part in this is to shepherd the curriculum. It works because we’ve spent so many years working on the curriculum.”

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