Victor along with his family and friends raised $500 in July 2009 to
benefit the Peggy Cummings-Bolling Memorial Scholarship foundation.
Victor cummings   PRESS

Ay, marimba!

Step into any number of PPS schools, and you’ll hear the bright, booming sounds of marimba, a percussion instrument with roots in South America and Africa. What’s the lure? “It’s the perfect instrument,” says MyLinda King, who’s worked with five of the ten PPS schools that hold marimba classes.

Local musician Victor Cummings began building and teaching marimba at Metropolitan Learning Center in 1993, and the instrument’s popularity over the years has grown to include Beaumont, Binnsmead, Buckman, Gray, Jackson, Marysville, Sellwood, Skyline and Stephenson schools.

Buckman is the latest school to catch the marimba bug ( Classes began last fall, when King, a Buckman parent, launched a SUN afterschool class with a dozen third- through fifth-grade students. Armedwith a grant from the Portland Schools Foundation’s First Octave program, PTA support and interest from teachers, parents and students, she added beginner and parent-child classes in January.

King is looking to collaborate with Buckman’s chorus and world-renowned Zimbabwean musician Loveness Wesa to add another musical layer later this school year. Also in the works, King says, is a six-district marimba festival, possibly this spring.

A classically trained pianist, King took up marimba 18 years ago. It’s a great instrument for schools, she says: inexpensive, easy to maintain and accessible. “You can go up and bang on it, and it makes a beautiful noise.”  King played for 10 years with Boka Marimba, a local marimba band, and until two years ago taught lessons mostly to adults. She says that kids have been “a breath of fresh air.”

The benefits to students, she says, are tremendous. “I think that this can do more for kids’ self-esteem than just about anything. They learn about relevant history and musical theory, but more than anything, the benefit for them is — ‘I can do this. Look at me.’”

Victor Cummings and his rock-fusion band HANDS DOWN performed
at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002.
Victor Cummings led a student team in building the first
marimba band for Portland Public Schools in 1993.
Today there are over 20 marimba band in Portland schools.

Portland Public Schools “PULSE” newsletter    March 2008