Local music program inspires Keller kids

Posted Tuesday, Jul. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Jeremy Phillips and wife Mary Carla Whitaker are inspiring Keller area kids to appreciate and play African music through their program, ZimmaRimba.

About 150 kids from second grade through high school are involved in the after school and summer programs to play Zimbabwe-style marimba music. The program offers groups for beginning, intermediate and advanced players.

Last week, students participated in a summer camp at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church on the Keller/Southlake border. The advanced performance group was preparing for a trip to Walt Disney World to play a gig at Downtown Disney July 23.

The couple started ZimmaRimba 10 years ago. They both teach music, Whitaker at Bluebonnet Elementary in the Keller school district and Phillips at Pinkerton Elementary in Coppell, and have African music groups in their schools in addition to the after school/summer programs.

“We want kids to listen to the music and learn to enjoy it and play it by ear,” Phillips said.

Advanced students in middle and high school help with camps and after school lessons and learn to direct younger groups, write their own songs and improve their leadership skills, Phillips said. Students earn beads as they progress through the different skill levels.

Emerald Amos, an incoming sophomore at Central High School, has been playing with ZimmaRimba for seven years, helps at camps and will be one of 16 performers at Disney.

Emerald said she enjoys the marimba style which often incorporates simple dance movements while playing. She also plays piano, but the marimba, similar to the xylophone, broadened her musical horizons.

“I like that I get to have fun and dance and just let loose with the music,” Emerald said.

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