Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision.
- Ayn Rand
Todd Strandberg visualized his non-profit organization, RhythmVision, as a place where music provides experiences to help people grow. His unique program approaches musicians first as a member of an integrated community where musical experiences help students explore and apply life lessons. Centered in Denver, Colorado, RhythmVision serves at-risk youth as its main target population, offering drum-making, drum circles, and recording sessions as a gateway to critical thinking, collaboration, and leadership.
Todd believes our society needs alternatives for dealing with academic, health, social and behavioral concerns, and that students who meet to make music together find ways to heal, change, and lead others. Creative collaboration as students make drums, lead percussive ensemble, and record music together provides a platform for positive community habits, including what RhythmVision calls the “four words”: Belonging, Independence, Mastery, and Generosity.
The philosophy of RhythmVision embraces community music-making intended to provide “an opportunity for people to experience self reflection and interaction within a variety of social contexts.” When people are able to control their own actions, center themselves, and stay connected to others, Strandberg says, learning flourishes.
A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.
- Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Children in Todd Strandberg’s program often arrive from unstable backgrounds of dysfunction that often leave them feeling victimized and incapable. RhythmVision is a resource for schools and other non-profits to help aid and remediate students in crisis.
RhythmVision programs create a safe environment where all students “belong” as they share rhythms, listen, explore, and play together. As children begin to experiment with the connections between musical elements like rhythm and melody, they also experience individuals working successfully together in a supportive community. An oasis for exploration, RhythmVision invites students to improvise in healthy ways, without engaging in high-risk activities or anti-social behavior.
The reward is a community of learners who not only master skills and techniques, but become masters at sharing ideas and knowledge as they learn.
Leaders must invoke an alchemy of great vision.
- Henry Kissinger
Strandberg’s program offers kids of all ages a chance to develop their own unique voice and “practice leadership within the context of a group dynamic.” Oftentimes, extending the chance to lead others helps a student belong, which, in turn alters the trajectory of their future.
In one recent instance, a 5th grader’s year--and potentially his future--was turned around by his participation in an after school program in which RhythmVision was a part. Failing to get along with his peers and teachers, the boy transferred to a RhythmVision class.
As Strandberg recollects: “On the day he arrived he shook my hand, reminisced about some ‘fun experiences’ he had during his first stint with RhythmVision and immediately established himself as an experienced collaborator. He looked relieved. His peers instantly gravitated towards his air of self-confidence and accepted him as a leader.”
The boy finished the school year, where before he was under threat of expulsion, and even became a member of an all-school drumming session as part of the 5th grade continuation ceremony.
The question is not what you look at, but what you see.
- Henry David Thoreau
RhythmVision sees all students as capable, generous learners who can master skills, a sense of community, and also embrace 21st century technology. Several of RhythmVision’s innovative programs are examples of the musical sweet spot Strandberg is building in his programs. When Todd facilitates recording in his studio, he is not just training students to effectively use the equipment; he is setting them up to experience roles from apprentice to master engineer.
Todd uses Roland sample technology with the Roland MV8000 Production Studio and soon the BOSS RC-300 Loop Station to record student work and produce CDs for end-of-course celebrations and fundraisers: “From kindergarteners standing on chairs while performing basic recording operations, to middle schoolers learning mixing and editing skills, the MV-8000 has opened the door to a world of recording for many.” The MV-8000’s all-in-one resources mean his program can be flexible and mobile.
Recording classroom performances is one of Todd’s specialties because it gives students instant gratification and puts making music--literally--in the hands of his students. In a class called “Rhythmic Foundations,” drum circle performances are captured with microphones while students alternately lead, perform, mix and edit.
A leader's role is to raise people's aspirations for what they can become and to release their energies so they will try to get there.
- David Gergen
Todd Strandberg models the leadership and vision-casting he has developed at RhythmVision. His innovative ideas serve children who need it most, creating a learning environment that leads to far more than drumming skills. RhythmVision embodies the concepts of a true visionary.