Thursday, February 29, 2024

Telling Stories, Bringing People Together

Daniel Scruggs is a music and world culture educator based in Williamsburg. (WYDaily/Ben Mackin)

WILLIAMSBURG — In a church building across the street from the College of William and Mary, there is a second floor office bursting at the seems with more than 150 instruments from six different continents. There are a few keyboards and guitars and a whole lot of drums, congas, cajons, bodhrans, tambourines and snares, to name a few.

Daniel Scruggs, Williamsburg native turned world citizen, is the caretaker of the massive and diverse collection.

“I consider all these instruments, things I have been entrusted with,” Daniel says gesturing around the room. “I don’t consider this mine. I consider myself the earthly protector of this objects. These instruments are not meant to just sit here in this room with me so I can show people how cool it is that I collected all this stuff. This stuff is alive and is made to bring people together.”

For more than 20 years, Daniel has devoted his personal and professional life to that concept. He brings people together by sharing music and cultures through community drum circles, school music programs and immersive music workshops.

Daniel’s start in percussion started where it does for a lot of kids growing up in the Historic Triangle, when as a member of the Williamsburg Fifes and Drums from the age of ten through graduating from high school.

After finishing high school he headed to college with the hope of majoring in music at the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C.

“That went well for a little while,” Daniel remembers with a smile. “Then I started majoring in surfing and playing in a rock band.”

Over the next several years, Daniel lived to surf and traveled all over the world to do it. He, along with his friends spent time in California, Mexico, even going as far as Indonesia to find good waves.

Unfortunately, in 2005, Daniel sustained a back injury while practicing martial arts had to take a break from surfing just before a planed trip to South Africa with some friends.

Not one to let a paltry back ache completely sideline him, he found some discounted airfare to Egypt, with a 24-hour layover in Moscow, because why not? He tried to get friends to go with him, but no one accepted. So off he went on his own. Daniel refers to that solo trip to the Middle East as when he “got his wings”.

“I made friends with Egyptians and then traveled to Israel and Jordan,” he said. “The trip taught me that I could do it. I that I could travel on a shoestring budget by myself.”

Since that excursion, Daniel has been to five continents and 23 countries. He has taken every opportunity to immerse himself in as many cultures as possible. Whether it was an Arabic Language immersion in Sana’a, Yemen or working with humanitarian programs like Project Okurase in Ghana he reveled in meeting all kinds of people and celebrating the differences and similarities between cultures.

Over the last two decades, he has put together cultural education programs based on his travels and he shares them with groups of all ages and backgrounds.

He has three main programs: small group learning adventures for classrooms, large group learning adventures or “edu-concerts” and artist residencies where he spends a week at one school teaching one hour classes of up to thirty students.

To catch Daniel in a less formal setting, he has been known to lead drum circles outside Williamsburg Baptist Church when the weather is nice. All of the programs give people an opportunity to interact with instruments and learn about cultural diversity.

With his programs and the instruments, Daniel hopes that people see how similar people are no matter where they come from in the world.

“When we harness these tools,” Daniel noted. “Whether its for communication or ritual or to uplift or focus, I want to model giving kids permission to utilize these cultural tools that we have inherited and have been universally passed down. That is what this collection represents. All of them represent a different culture and values and richness. My hope is that children experience this wealth of culture and arts and are inspired to live a full and giving life. More compassionate and empathetic to others.”

For more information about Daniel and the programs he offers, go to his website.

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