At 5 years old, Art Reiner discovered the art of percussion — underneath his grandmother’s kitchen sink.
Grabbing her wooden spoons, he tinkered with the pots and pans. “One-and-uh-two-and-uh-three,” he’d play, clanging on the cooking utensils.
“It drove my mother crazy. I think my grandmother pretty much let me do whatever I wanted,” Reiner said.
Fifty-one years later, he’s still playing on pots and pans. Only now he’s making a living at it, and teaching young children to do the same.
Standing in front of a small class of 6- to 10-year-olds, Reiner instructed them to turn over their red, yellow and blue buckets.
“Kids can get the idea without playing on an expensive instrument,” he said.
“We’re going to blend together to make some music,” he told them. Raising a hand, he counted off as his future musicians went to work on their buckets.
Reiner only had a few days to take 20 elementary age children and turn them into a percussion team that would be ready to perform with the Kokomo Park Band at Highland Park for tonight’s concert.
He was charged with that task as leader of the Kokomo Park Band’s Youth Percussion Workshop held earlier this week at the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library.
Reiner didn’t hesitate when asked about the key to building a cohesive percussion team in such short time.
“Focus,” he laughed.
Some students caught on easier than others.
“When I was 3 and church ended, I used to go up there and play the drum set,” said Xavier McCarter, 7.
That’s when Xavier’s mother, Keisha McCarter, learned her son had a gift.
“I just like the drums because it makes cool noises,” Xavier said.
Under Reiner’s guidance this week, Xavier has learned more about rhythms and sound variations.
Aside from the musical skills, Reiner wants his students to leave with life lessons.
“It’s good for their self-esteem,” Reiner said. “Anytime a child finds something to do and realizes they’re good at it, it helps them.”
“[Music] helped me to find an identity.”
Children also learn to concentrate better, follow directions and explore their creativity, he added.
Those participating in the percussion workshop will have a chance to display their skills tonight in Highland Park, performing at 7:30 p.m. before the regularly scheduled 8 p.m. Kokomo Park Band concert.
“I expect them to be able to perform with the Kokomo Park Band,” Reiner said of his students.
Afterwards, he hopes they will continue with their musical endeavors — in middle school, high school, professionally or in their own kitchens.
“That’s why I have pots and pans. They’re fun to play on.”