The Heartbeat of Community


Lifelong friends James Richards and Derek Blackmar used their passion for music to create the Rhode Island Bucket Drummers. The street percussion group has brought their five-gallon buckets to streets and festivals, school workshops, and community centers across the state. Together, the drumming duo have sought to “promote a healthy lifestyle through rhythm and movement” and create a learning experience for observers. Richards and I discussed drumming and its ability to bring community together.

When and where did the RI Bucket Drummers originate? Has it always been just you two?

RI Bucket Drummers was formed in October 2015 out of Cranston. Derek and I are the founders, but other drummers sometimes perform with us for larger scale events.

What led you to start the group?

We both played in our high school marching band and took lessons from the same drum instructor, John Ragosta. The two of us have always loved the idea that you can make music out of anything. After seeing street performers busking at The Scituate Art Festival a couple years ago, we decided to take it to the streets ourselves.

What types of objects and instruments do you use to create your distinct, energetic sound?

We try to utilize everyday household items: five-gallon plastic buckets, laundry detergent buckets, cat litter buckets, trashcans. Our most unique instrument is probably our “cymbal”: a metal strainer that you would normally see being used at a clambake.

Where do you typically perform? Any favorite places?

We perform at schools, private events, community centers, fairs, festivals, bars, and clubs. All of these environments are special in their own way, but performing at youth workshops is definitely the most fulfilling. Seeing the kids have fun playing music and knowing that we are making a positive impact is why we do it.

What’s next for you guys?

We’d like to continue to grow and expand our workshop programs in schools. As funding for music and the arts is reduced, children’s opportunity to be exposed to music at a young age is greatly limited. Drumming helps to develop self-confidence, imagination, and coordination. Counting and keeping time uses math and it’s a good physical activity as well. We believe that our bucket drumming workshops can help provide a pathway to a more well-rounded, musical future for today’s youth.  


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