The Brightside: The Rhythm and Roots Project
SALISBURY, Md. – An after-school program at a Wicomico County Elementary School is using the power of music to put kids on the right path.
It’s called the Rhythm and Roots Project, and it was founded by Dustin Thomas, the Physical Education Teacher at Prince Street Elementary School.
Thomas said, “I love hip hop its like a huge part of my life.”
Thomas started the Rhythm and Roots after-school program back in 2019 when three brothers lost their father who was a drummer.
“I thought maybe it could be a way to get them in check so to speak and to keep their fathers memory alive,” he said.
It didn’t take long for Thomas to realize this program could benefit other kids at Prince Street Elementary School as well.
Thomas said, “It’s good because some people go home and they have nothing to do. Some people get in trouble or have something that’s not necessarily a good role model that they’re going home to, so this gives them something to look forward to.”
The Rhythm and Roots crew uses buckets as their instruments, because they sound a lot like your traditional drum set.
A student explained, “One [bucket] is flipped over because it sounds like a bass, and one [bucket is facing upward because] it sounds like a snare.”
Prince Street Principal Jason Miller said, “So those things were cheap, and now we are adding on some additional pieces of equipment that certainly bring another level to the competition.”
The group now has a real set of drums, a brand new studio and a new DJ system as well.
The Rhythm and Roots crew breaks out all this equipment at various performances throughout the school year.
Camerhi Hull, a student said, “I like going on the set, its fun.”
Just looking at the Prince Street student body, you can see the admiration and love they have for the Rhythm and Roots crew.
Jordan Copeland, a student said, “They say you’re cool, I wish I could be in Rhythm and Roots.”
But of course, those performances wouldn’t be possible without practice. Every Wednesday, the Rhythm and Roots crew gets together for two hours and drums away.
Hull said, “I’ve learned how to like drum faster each time I practice, this is why I like it.”
The students also meet every other day during school to learn about World Music.
Thomas said, “World Music teaches them the elements such a DJing, emceeing, beatboxing, breakdancing, and they also learn about the history of it all and how it has evolved from back in the day to current day.”
Perhaps the best part about all of this is that the kids are held to high standards to stay in the group.
Miller said, “Through the Rhythm and Roots program students also have to keep their grades up and have good behavior so it also gives an additional incentive for students to do the right thing.”
If you want to see Rhythm and Roots in action, you can check them out on at Bennett Middle School on Thursday from 4 to 6 pm.
They will be performing at the school’s Hoops For Leukemia event where all proceeds will be going towards the Leukemia Lymphoma Association and the Wiersberg Warriors Foundation.