Rich Regione teaches kids more than drumming — he teaches unity and the benefits of teamwork.
By Barbra Alan
Drums have been around for a very long time — as far back as 6000 BCE. The earliest drums were made from hollowed-out tree trunks, covered with the skins of a reptile or fish, and played by hand. Later, the skin from hunted animals was used, and sticks were employed to create the sound.
From their humble beginnings, drums have had many functions: they were used to relay messages, they were employed in religious ceremonies, they accompanied tribes and troops going into battle, and they were used for entertainment, such as storytelling and music for dancing. Drums gave people a way to express their emotions or state of mind and — as any ancient shaman or healer would tell you — they were used to create and maintain a healthy mind, body and spirit.
While drums have come quite a long way from the hollowed-out tree trunks covered with alligator skins, their historical uses haven’t changed much over time. Drums and other musical instruments are still a part of religious ceremonies around the world. Regardless of what genre of music, film, theatre or other performance art you’re into, drums are an integral part of numerous forms of entertainment. And we still use drums and drumming to express ourselves and promote health and healing.
The Power of Drumming
Rich Regione knows well the power of drumming. At 9 or 10 years old, he’d find himself drumming along to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40.
“I’d put my headphones on and drum on chairs, or whatever was around me,” he recalls.
And despite the noisy Saturday mornings in his house, his family was fully supportive of their budding drummer because they saw he was learning more than keeping time and improving his technical ability.
“My mom understood it was a positive outlet for me. It was teaching me focus, and it helped me build self-confidence,” he says.
And his mom wasn’t the only one who saw how drumming was shaping Regione; his 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Frost, saw the positive benefits drumming was having on her student. Drumming helped young Regione feel more socially accepted in school with his peers, something that’s important to just about every middle- and high-schooler.
By the time he was 12, Regione had his own drum set, which he helped pay for by doing odd jobs in his neighborhood, such as mowing lawns. Looking back, he says, “It was a great way for my parents to impart a lesson in working toward a goal, being responsible, and really understanding the value of something.”
Regione’s love of drumming continued throughout middle school and high school, and propelled him into an exciting career as a professional, national touring drummer after a stint in the Marines. He was living the dream, but eventually, he felt a calling to do more with his passion for drumming, and that was to share it with others.
Sharing the Skill
In 2005, Regione founded Youth Beatz. He started off small and local, teaching drumming as part of after-school enrichment programs in schools around the Upper Valley. Over the years, Regione has had the opportunity to share the many benefits of drumming with thousands of young people. Through drumming, “Mr. Rich” — as he is known in schools throughout New England — has taught kids way more than the basics of drumming.
“I’m not trying to turn everyone into a drummer,” he says. “Drumming is a tool for unity, and to learn the importance of having each other’s backs.”
In fact, students don’t need any musical background or aptitude — just an open mind and open heart. Through his drumming sessions, Regione teaches students the benefits of teamwork, the transformative power of self-expression, the importance of social inclusion, respect for self and others, and other lessons that help shape children into successful, compassionate adults. And, knowing the importance of praise and encouragement to his own life growing up, he takes every opportunity to bolster kids’ self-esteem and pride, and encourages them to praise one another.
Today, Youth Beatz offers an incredible variety of in-school programs, including artist-in-residencies, motivational assemblies and events, after-school enrichment programs, summer camps, recreational programs and private drum lessons. Regione enters schools as a powerful, positive force who is ready for fun and connecting with kids. His passion for drumming is infectious, and his caring is genuine and evident with every visit.
After each drumming session, he keeps the positive energy going by engaging the kids in discussions that reach out to and solidify the importance of sharing feelings, supporting, and believing in each other — messages that he believes they will carry with them well beyond their school years.
Regione, a juried and accredited member of the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, has also taken his uplifting message of the positive benefits of drumming to chambers of commerce and leadership summits, energizing colleagues and offering team building events for corporations, organizations and schoolteachers.
“I am truly blessed to be doing what I’m doing,” says Regione. “This is my calling.”
Barbra Alan is a writer living in Alexandria, N.H.