Wellstone Elementary drumline creates buzz for reasons that go beyond playing on buckets

The 45 members of the St. Paul's Wellstone Elementary fifth grade drumline play on garbage cans and buckets, not traditional drums.

That's pretty remarkable, but perhaps even more notable is the drumline's purpose. The group was founded as a way to connect with kids who were having a hard time in school or demonstrating behavioral problems.

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Members of the drumline give up their recess and part of their lunch break several days a week to rehearse. But that hasn't deterred kids from signing up -- in fact, those who want to join these days have to apply and agree to a contract.

Asked about the contract, instructor Daniel Vasquez says the kids "know that if they're walking the halls, kicking chairs, doing behavior [they're] not supposed to be doing, they won't get to go up on stage."

"You must maintain good behavior -- it's in the contract," he continues.

Vasquez says he finds the experience of directing the drumline to be incredibly rewarding.

"I may not be a millionaire or own my own island one day, but I know I get to shape a child's life, and that's why I do it," he says.

Prominent Minnesotans have begun to take notice. In January, Twins manager Paul Molitor and pitcher Glen Perkins visited the drumline as part of the team's annual winter caravan.

Angelica Van Iperen, principal of Wellstone Elementary, says the program has been a positive part of the school's culture since it was introduced nine years ago.

"We notice our kids want to bring their homework because they know they can't do drumline if they are not meeting school responsibilities," she says.

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