What We Do
Three Rivers Jenbé Ensemble (TRJE)
TRIAAC began as TRJE co-founded in 1999 by three individuals of widely varied backgrounds: Ketu Oladuwa, poet, musician, teacher, journalist, community activist; Lisa Tsetse, teacher, choreographer, dancer, certified Feldenkrais and yoga practitioner, and Fort Wayne Dance Collective Outreach Coordinator; and Akinlana Dada, musician, carpenter, and radical materials quality control specialist. Their focus was on strengthening family relationships for youth, one family, one child at a time. Together they nurtured and developed a culturally diverse ensemble of students that learned the often-difficult skills of ensemble play (cooperation rather than competition).
More specifically, they learned to work together as a family, respecting peers and elders, caring for and supporting one another and their community, and giving back through community service. Their enthusiasm, commitment, hard work and self-discipline led them to excel as scholars, musicians, and peer teachers.
In an 18-month campaign launched in 2005, TRJE raised funds to travel to and study with master artists and their communities in Guinea, West Afrika. Working with world-acclaimed master artists, and participating in their family and community life, the students experienced the Afrikan family firsthand. This exposure strengthened the student’s nuclear family understanding. Upon their return home, the students’ music more clearly represented their lived relationships. As well as their music, their musicianship, stage presence, and presentation soared earning them accolades wherever they performed.
TRJE graduates have gone on to excel at university and college, are leading productive community lives, and have demonstrated enhanced community awareness.
The Mandé Music School adopts the time-honored Afrikan way of passing on knowledge in traditional cultures — through music and song. The Mandé Music School works with children of all ages and backgrounds to engage them in celebrating themselves and their cultures, as well as the history and culture of Afrikan people through drumming and art.
Classes for youth begin at 4-years-old, and continue through high school. Students are involved in age-appropriate drumming, culture studies, crafts, and oral expression. The hallmark of the Mandé Music School is the family-focused development of sustained relationships across generations, gender, culture and ethnicity.
The Acoustic SpokenWord Café (ASWC, the Café) is a much-needed space in Downtown Fort Wayne. Here performers come to share their work and ideas, and to meet with a public that comes attentive to their presentation. The Café draws multicultural, multigenerational audiences to Downtown—and has grown from 66% in its second year to 135% as it enters its fifth season.
ASWC serves as an artist incubator, and features the region’s most dynamic poets and musicians in an acoustic gem of a space. Writers and spokenword artists, whether they have written for 30 years or are up-and-coming talent, are encouraged to take risks in their public performance. The Café opens on Saturday each month from September through June. ASWC has hosted such artists as: Carol Lockridge, Fatima Washington, Sunny Taylor, Mankwe Ndosi, Lizz Wright, Helen Frost, Emmanuel Ortiz, Curtis Crisler, Erika Martinez, Michael Patterson, Julia Meek, the Cliff Wallace Trio, George Kalamaris, Condra Ridley, The Bryan Nellems Trio, Mary Ann Cain, Teresa Vazquez, the AfroDisiacs, and given many aspiring artist their first run on the boards.
The Adult Drum Circle is a forum for adult learners who want to experience the power of traditional jenbé and dunun drumming. The series of seven-week workshops are offered in classes geared to beginning and intermediate students, who learn correct technique for sound production, and acquire a practical understanding of drumming healing impact.
The traditional Mandé drumming at the Adult Drum Circle is offered Wednesday evenings from 6:00–7:30PM.
The workshop is open to beginners and intermediate students. Advanced students (students with considerable traditional jenbe and dunun experience) should contact TRIAAC to arrange special classes or private instruction in Hand Dancing.
Proficiency in both written and oral communication is essential for young people to develop social and academic strengths. The Young Writers Forum provides instruction by professional writers and educators. YWF offers a readers forum for students to share their work with other writers, and to conduct readings where young writers gain experience reading their work publicly. The target population is 11 to 18-year-old writers. YWF writers citywide have the chance to explore different genres, such as poetry, rap, short fiction, journalism, and playwriting. Since 2005, YWF writers have annually read their work at the Three Rivers Coop First Friday Reading series.