Where We're Drumming From:
Our Founder's Vision

By Dr. Lilian Friedberg, Founder/Executive Director of Hooked On Drums™

Lilian Friedberg performing with Nankama Drum Core, 1997

Where did Hooked On Drums™ come from? And why are we convinced that African drumming can have such a profound effect on the lives of urban youth?

The vision for Hooked On Drums sprang from my own experience as a multi-ethnic youth growing up in foster care and the social services system, combined with 13 years of work with children in similar circumstances in public schools, community centers, churches and arts organizations.

Today I hold a PhD in German; I am an accomplished performer, teacher and published bi-lingual author/translator. I have lived on three continents and speak as many languages. Most kids who come from where I do never graduate from high school—they're lucky to survive the sixth grade! But for me, the days of welfare lines and serial uprooting—relocating from one foster home to the next, from one detention center to another—are long gone.

When I look back on my life, I would not be where I am today without two things: the influence of music in my life, and the support of caring individuals who pointed me in the right direction.

Music has been there every step of the way, as guidepost, vehicle, teacher and friend. I didn't discover my instrument, the djembe drum from Guinea , West Africa , until the worst was already behind me. But it was African drumming that sustained me through the rest of the journey to become what I am today, and showed me that music inspires, instills discipline and develops the mental, spiritual and intellectual stamina and skills to overcome unbeatable odds.

My success would not have been possible without the aid of many committed individuals who provided resources, tools and insights, always reaffirming their belief in my ability to succeed: teachers, social workers, musicians, artists and friends.

Based on the journeys of my own life, I know that the creative power of music and the healing power of caring individuals can change any child's life for the better. This knowledge has been the driving impulse behind 13 years of commitment to providing high-quality African drumming instruction to youth of all ethnicities and social circumstances—but especially to minority youth in the inner city who often can afford it least, but need it most.

Lilian Friedberg teaching the bass drums in Chicago, 2004

Friedberg teaching the djembe in Chicago, 2004

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