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November 27, 2014

Where Did Art Start For You? - Bobby Bovenzi, Musician

In the days leading up to GivingTuesday on December 2, 2014, we are sharing stories from artists in the ArtStarts community. We asked them, "Where did art start for you?" It's a question that asks us to reflect on our own lives in order to see where along our journey our passion for the arts was sparked.

What is GivingTuesday?

GivingTuesday is a movement for giving and volunteering that takes place this year on December 2, 2014. Taking place each year right after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, GivingTuesday is proof that the holiday season can be about both giving and giving back. GivingTuesday is the perfect time for the world to come together and show how powerful humanity can be when we unite to give on one day.


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Choose Interac Online when you donate here on December 2, 2014 and Interac will match up to your donation, up to $25. Your $25 donation becomes $50! Click here to donate via Canada Helps on December 2, 2014—and remember to select Interac Online as your payment method.


Read musician Bobby Bovenzi's story below and share your own story at

Where did art start for you?

It wasn't until my mid-twenties that I discovered a passion for the arts. As part of my university curriculum in African and Afro-Amercian studies, I registered for a West African beginner drum class with instructor Khalid Abdul N'Faly Saleem. Before my first class I went to see a performance of the university troupe called Sankofa, led by Khalid and dance instructor Clyde Morgan. The performance began with the troupe processing down the isles to the stage and then forming a V shape with the point section open. From behind the troupe Khalid appeared, drumming as he made his way to the front of the stage. The feelings I had at that moment were beyond anything I felt in the past, and immediately I began to shed tears. My girlfriend at the time looked at me and was shocked asking if I was alright and if I needed to leave. I could barely speak, but said, I don't know what is happening to me, but I feel this music in me soul!

For the next three years I studied with Khalid and Clyde, but it's true potential never struck me until Clyde offered to take me into the city schools for a workshop with elementary children. I witnessed the kids and teachers taking such delight in what he was doing and realized that more kids should experience this for themselves. As part of my M Ed. Mentorship teaching, I brought several drums to school for an after school program for kids who wanted to try it and found that I had tapped into a latent I had now foreseen. The kids and I had a blast and from that day on, I felt that I needed to go deeper into sharing community drumming and the culture of West African drum and dance. I started my career as a full time Rhythm Circle Facilitator through the generous donation of a friend, who helped me purchase drums and a van to get started. Over the past 12 years I've had some incredible experiences!

One time I was working with a grade 5 class during a residency and we were playing an elimination game called Pass the Pulse with the drums. Each person had to play their drum in turn on the beat, if they played off the pulse, they were out. It came down to the last two participants (the Jaws round) as they went back and forth until one girl won. The entire class jumped for joy, the teachers started crying, the girl who won was jumping up and down and hugging her other classmates. I was in shock, as I've played this game hundreds of times and never witness a reaction like this. I went over to ask a teacher what was going on, and she said that the winning girl hasn't spoken in school for a month, as she was the only survivor of a car accident that killer her parents and siblings. When I looked back at the girl and saw her filled with joy and talking to her friends, the tears came streaming down my face very similar to my experience seeing Khalid for the first time!!

On a final note, the troupe I have formed in the South Okanagan has helped raise over $100K over the past 7 years for African and local charities! I honour Khalid for sharing his passion and talent, for Clyde who showed me the path, and for my family, friends and community who support my work in the spirit of giving of their time, talent and resources ;)

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