Wilmington Rotary Drums Up Community Connection

In October, the Rotary Club of Wilmington proudly unveiled the Jonathan P. Whitcomb Memorial Music Circle – an installation of outdoor drums and chimes designed to fill the park with sound and give children and adults a chance to discover their inner percussionist.

Rotary Project

Located in H. Fletcher Brown Park, the circle of musical instruments, surrounding the Rotary Club's symbol in brick pavers, comprises a Street Quartet ( Large Babel Drum, Handpipes, Emperor Chimes and Cajon ) as well as a Small Babel Drum, Trio of Djembes, and Pair of Tumbadoras. All instruments are designed for tough environments and recommended for high-use public areas. All have elements of 316 stainless steel, aluminium and HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) plus all can be played with the hands (no mallets).

The project was coordinated by Rotarian and Past President Dave Fleming who told us “We chose these particular instruments because we thought both children and adults would easily play them, plus they needed no mallets, and that would be culturally familiar to some of the potential musicians.”

“We developed our park designs and education stations with the help of a designer named Paul Trapido. When we told him that our interest moved to musical instruments suitable for outdoor installation, he researched and suggested Percussion Play. Subsequently, we learned of Percussion Play’s work with other Rotary efforts.”

The Designer

Paul Trapido of Paul Trapido Interpretive Design explains why he chose outdoor musical instruments from Percussion Play: "To help revitalize a park in downtown Wilmington, Delaware, the Rotary Club of Wilmington asked me to create a group of outdoor educational play stations for children. Given the 24/7 unattended urban location, durability had to be a prime consideration, but cost and aesthetics were also important. Finding suitable musical instruments for this tough environment was a real challenge—until I discovered Percussion Play. Their sophisticated design, high quality of materials, and wide range of instrument choices far exceeded anything else I had found; the cost, including shipping from overseas, was very competitive; and communicating with Percussion Play’s very cooperative staff was a pleasure."

The Outcome

Since the installation and grand opening, Paul has observed "The installation is a big hit with the park’s nearby schoolchildren and their teachers, local office workers, neighborhood residents, and the Rotary Club members who sponsored the project. I wouldn’t hesitate to use Percussion Play’s instruments again."

Dave Fleming added, “We are hopeful that the site and the instruments will be used by both musicians who are interested in the specific sounds of these instruments and the lovely setting but are equally hopeful that random people using the park will discover and enjoy them.”

One such musician is Jonathan Whitney, a local percussionist who works at the Delaware Art Museum, who demonstrated each instrument at the unveiling ceremony said “No musical talent or experience is necessary. You can come in and play rhythms you've heard in pop music or music of Trinidadian culture or Cuban culture, or just come out and listen to the tones and play different sounds,"

Officiating at the opening of the new music garden Mayor Mike Purzycki said “They’re beautiful in addition to being functional. I am grateful for this addition from the Rotary Club of Wilmington and look forward to hearing the music that will be created here."

This public play space has been designed to engage the whole community and introduce music-making in the outdoors to people of all ages and all abilities.

“This new installation is designed to promote both community and creativity at the park for the young and the young at heart,” said Lisa Detwiler, Rotary Club of Wilmington president. “We hope these new instruments will be used to create and strengthen bonds of friendship in this community.”`

David Fleming said this and other features at the park came about in consultation with nearby schools at the Community Education Building and at the Friere Charter School. The club has been involved in building "education stations" at the park such as a reading circle and a place where children can grow vegetables.

"What we heard from the teachers is there's just not an opportunity for a lot of kids to have musical instruments they can experiment with and have a good time," Fleming said. "We thought this would be a great part of the installation."

Shawn M. Garvin, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, called the new instruments a welcome addition to one of the state's great parks,

"It's exciting to know that visitors to the H. Fletcher Brown Park will not only be able to enjoy the beautiful landscape of this park, but can also participate in creating a beautiful soundscape for all to enjoy," Secretary Garvin said.

The total cost of the installation — from design to site work, to the brickwork, to the benches that were custom made for the curved wall around the site — totalled $48,000. In addition to generous personal donations from many club members, the Rotary Club of Wilmington applied for and received an international Global Grant and a local Rotary District 7630 grant to complete these park improvements.

“These instruments we ordered from Percussion Play exceeded our expectations in every way. The quality of the craftsmanship, the obvious durability of the instruments, and the fabulous sounds that they emit were absolutely perfect for our park installation. All aspects of our interaction with the company have been memorable for their professionalism and clear emphasis on customer satisfaction.”

Now, no matter the weather, there's a place in Wilmington where the community can visit any time, relax and make their own music.