Scene 4: Music


On Monday, November 16, our team hosted a music programme for the first time as part of our arts and performance efforts to build community and encourage individual expression. Our team had purchased instruments, including a guitar, a djembe, and five rattle-like instruments, for these events with the intention of leaving them at SDR so the programme can continue after we leave.

Cast of characters

WPI SDR Team is our IQP team consisting of four students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI): Aaron McGinnis, Briana Rodriguez, Drew DeRubeis, and Liz Desjardins.

Gideon is  one co-researcher in this project. Among his many abilities, he has artistic skills helpful in the art aspect of the project.

Streetscapes participants are clients of SDR that are part of a pilot programme, known as Streetscapes.

Khulisa Team is another IQP team from WPI consisting of four students, Tatiana, Miguel, Alicia, and Keegan, that is working at the Canterbury lot across from SDR.


The music programme took place at Service Dining Rooms in the main room nearest the entrance. Our team had pushed all of the square tables toward the back of the room and formed a circle of chairs in the center.


As the Streetscapes participants shuffled around the room, leaning shovels against tables and carrying other gardening equipment into a closet, Drew and Aaron pulled two chairs toward the front of the room. Once everyone was seated, Drew and Aaron introduced the programme and started playing a song by Bob Marley that our team thought would please the participants as a warm-up. Drew strummed the basic chords and Aaron laid a beat down on the djembe. When the chorus came, Briana and Liz joined in, singing, “Every little thing, is gonna be alright!” A few people sang along. Two people grabbed the small, rattle-like shakers we had brought as additional instruments. Others sat quietly. One woman sat with her chin resting against her hand with a bored look on her face. Our team was a little surprised at the lack of enthusiasm. After a few minutes, Drew and Aaron tried another Bob Marley song and then a few other songs by different artists. Throughout this time, the response of everyone in the room was consistent. Some enjoyed the music while others were less excited.

After this introduction to the programme, Aaron asked about people’s favourite music. Answers ranged from hip-hop to Whitney Houston to gospel. Next, Aaron asked each person what instrument they would like to learn to play if given the chance. Many said they would like to learn to play either the guitar or the drums. Drew then offered to teach some basic chords to whoever was interested in guitar, and Aaron offered the same for the djembe. Several people around the room wanted to try to play each, and the group clapped when one person successfully reproduced a chord or a beat.

As part of the music programme, Aaron taught how to play basic beats on the djembe.

As part of the music programme, Aaron taught how to play basic beats on the djembe.


One of the co-researchers from the Khulisa team stopped by and discussed guitars with Drew.

One of the co-researchers from the Khulisa team stopped by and discussed guitars with Drew.

Once each individual who wanted to learn the chord or beat had had a chance, Aaron asked the group to demonstrate a South African dance move. Aaron and Drew began to play an improvised piece to promote dancing. The bass of the djembe echoed around the room. Guitar chords pierced through the bass at a slightly lower volume. Briana and Liz began to dance to help lighten the mood. Within a minute or so, two women began dancing in the middle of the room. Another young man stepped out onto the floor and started moving to the beat. One of the men who had grabbed two shakers began to do the “Running Man” as he shook the rattles to the rhythm. One person started to clap, others joined in, and someone else started to whistle. Within a few moments, several people were dancing along with Briana, Liz, and the Khulisa Team. Whistles, shouts, and clapping filled the room. Miguel from the Khulisa team laid down on the floor and started doing “the worm,” and the crowd applauded loudly. The woman with the bored look on her face started to smile. One of the typically quiet, young women in the back of the room had a smile stretched across her face as she shook a shaker.

Meanwhile, one of the younger women had asked Liz to see some of the pictures on her camera, and then another person had asked if she could take a few pictures of her own. Within a few moments, several different people were taking pictures of others around the room. Each person smiled as he or she held the camera and focused on an image to capture. One of the men holding the camera began roaming around the room taking pictures of people dancing.

A dance circle formed during the programme, and people were showing off their moves.

Laughs and excitement ensued as a dance circle formed during the programme.

At this point, almost everyone in the room was laughing and having a great time. Just as the energy level in the room began to fade, Gideon shuffled his way into the middle of the dance circle, regenerating the energy. He reached down to the floor with the beat, dusted off his shoes on rhythm, stood up, shrugged his shoulders and made his way out of the circle, and a roar of applause followed him. After 15 or 20 minutes, tired faces began to emerge around the room, but each face held a hint of happiness. The music slowed and then came to a stop. After most people had left, Aaron asked the quiet woman in the back of the room if she enjoyed the programme. To which she replied, “Yes,” with a laugh, “that was actually awesome.”


The music programme exceeded our expectations. We were not quite sure what reactions we would generate, especially after the fairly low-energy response we received during the first few attempts at starting a singalong, and we were thrilled that by the end almost everyone was involved and seemed to be having a great time. When each person danced and another person clapped in approval or encouraged another, we could see a sense of community forming in front of us. The entire group was able to connect through a common medium, music.


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