The Public Works Kitchen Band

by Arthur Hull

This story unfolds at the first meeting ever of all eighty regional managers of the Canadian Public Works. This government organization met for a week-long leadership conference in the middle of Canada, in Winnipeg. I was brought in to be the rhythmasizer throughout the week, in addition to facilitating the opening and closing ceremonies. I arrived in Winnipeg at the hotel to find that all the drums and percussion for the program were sent to another hotel from the same chain, three provinces away, on the west coast in Vancouver, BC. Opening ceremonies were to be held that night, but all my instruments were hundreds of miles and two shipping days away.

I received carte blanche from the hotel manager to run through the hotel, with the concierge following behind me, gathering whatever “found sound” instruments would serve me for the evening ceremony.

Boy did I have fun! I found that the black plastic waste baskets from the guest bathrooms had a higher pitch than the white ones in the bedrooms. When turned upside down and struck on the bottom they made excellent hand drums. The food buckets made great bass drums when hit on the bottom with wooden serving spoons. I suddenly had all the drums I needed for the evening.

I found a trash can full of empty soda cans that hadn’t been crushed for recycling yet. I had them washed, and put a hand full of the black grainy rocks from the hotel ash trays into each can. With the holes covered with duct tape they made great cylinder shakers. That led me to discover how good the metal ash holders sound when you hold them in one hand and hit them on the bottom with your other hand. So we used them as well.

I used the heavy-duty cafeteria-style coffee cups as my high pitch percussion bells, hitting them on the side with spoons. The plastic water pitchers hit on their bottoms with spoons served as my medium pitch percussion sounds. I found one-half inch diameter metal pipe and some thick wooden dowels in the hotel basement shop, and had them cut into six inch pieces that made two distinct sounds when struck together.

The kitchen staff got into the act and came up with two sets of stainless steel salad bowls that, when hit on the lip with wooden spoons, gave our growing percussion ensemble a full chorus of gongs. We liked the sound of the metal plate covers too.

The laundry staff heard about some crazy elf who was running around the hotel gathering up “found sounds.” They showed up at the ballroom where all this equipment was being assembled and offered me a large fiberglass laundry cart with the wheels removed. When we turned it upside down the cart turned into a large bass hand drum, capable of accommodating four executives at once.

Needless to say, I ended up with more than enough found sounds to successfully facilitate our eighty-person opening drum circle ceremony. I also used this “stuff” for two more days, until my drum and percussion kit arrived from Vancouver. The group started calling themselves the Public Works Kitchen Band.

Using the “Kitchen Kit” did cause two problems. By starting up spontaneous Kitchen Band jams during the evening dinners, they would, in their enthusiasm, break the fine dinnerware, as well as disrupt the evening’s poor keynote speaker. The second problem was that when the percussion kit with the “real” drums finally arrived, some of the participants wouldn’t give up their favorite trash can.

From the book Drum Circle Spirit: Facilitating Human Potential Through Rhythm