Near Oakland’s Lake Merritt, the windows of the Trybe Youth and Family Resource Center vibrate with rhythm. Two nights a week, this space on Park Boulevard throbs with pounding bass drums, tapping snares and clunking agogô bells, as the students of Boomshake Music play through their two-hour lesson.
Boomshake is a space for novice and experienced drummers who may not feel welcome in more traditional musical environments, who want to learn the cultural roots of their music and who may hope to employ their newfound skills on the front lines of protests. Founded in 2014 by Sarah Norr and Nkeiruka Oruche, the school provides classes that are multicultural and multigenerational.
The night classes are open exclusively to female, transgender and gender-non-conforming adults and teens. Norr and Oruche also host a "tyke tunes" session for toddlers, preschoolers and their parents, as well as afterschool programs for older kids at Manzanita SEED and Malcolm X elementary schools. They have a class specifically for LGBTQ families, too.
When Norr and Oruche started Boomshake, they came up with a set of class agreements, built on their own experiences as musicians, dancers and community activists. They want their students to be willing to take risks, to make mistakes and to express themselves without having to apologize for it.
Oruche has taught at Dance Mission Theater, Loco Bloco and other Bay Area dance and arts organizations, and is a mother who has taken her own kids to community music classes. She thinks Boomshake provides an alternative to more traditional extracurricular music programs.