Red Ribbon Week, the annual campaign that promotes drug- and alcohol-abuse awareness and prevention in schools, kicked off at Cunningham Elementary in Turlock on Friday with a couple of “Drums not Drugs” assemblies with percussionist Michael Bayard.
Bayard – a native of the Queens borough of New York City who was accepted on full scholarship at age 15 by the Juilliard School and was principal percussionist with the Sacramento Symphony for 17 years – entertained students for about 45 minutes while also teaching them some science, geography and math.
He used a drum to demonstrate that healthy living helps maintain a strong heartbeat. He showed that percussion can be created just about anywhere, from pounding on a garbage can to rat-a-tatting with drumsticks on a floor to clapping your hands in time.
A couple of students had fun wielding air lightsabers as he showed how a microphone and a cymbal created the sounds of the Jedi weapons in the “Star Wars” films.
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The assembly’s grand finale involved two students, the principal and then all the teachers getting up to dance as Bayard kept a beat on his drum kit.
Assistant Principal Joaquin Galvan said Red Ribbon activities will continue next week with several dress-up days: crazy hat day, twin day, sports day (“Team up against drugs”), pajama day (“Put drugs to sleep”) and fashion disaster day (“Scare drugs away”).
Red Ribbon Week – Oct. 23-31 this year – is the oldest and largest drug-prevention campaign in the nation, according to the California Highway Patrol. It was initiated in 1985 after the murder of federal drug agent Enrique Camarena in Mexico.
Camarena, who’d been a Southern California police officer, joined the Drug Enforcement Administration because he wanted to make a difference in the war on drugs, the CHP said.
For more on Red Ribbon Week, go to http://redribbon.org.