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Along Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles, local community arts, music and dance organizations were the recipients of 40 West African style drums made from the wood.
Some of the lumber from trees cleared to make way for a new light rail line in the Los Angeles metropolitan area will be turned into West African style drums, through a collaborative effort the transit agency building the rail line is carrying out with members of a local nonprofit group.
Known as the “Trees to Drums” project, the initiative involves the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and members of The World Stage , a nonprofit with an educational and performance arts gallery in Los Angeles’ Leimert Park neighborhood.
To accommodate a variety of new infrastructure, such as station sites, widened streets and relocated utilities, dozens of trees were felled along the 8.5-mile corridor where construction of Metro’s new Crenshaw / LAX light rail line is taking place, Anthony Crump, Metro’s community and construction relations manager for the rail project said by email last week.
As part of the Trees to Drums project, makers of musical instruments in the Los Angeles area are using wood from the removed trees to build drums. By early last week, at least 40 drums had been produced from Canary Island pine trees that once stood along Crenshaw Boulevard . These were donated to local community arts, music and dance organizations last Monday.
Matt Gibson volunteers as the facilitator for the Jazz Jam Session and as the weekend concert coordinator at The World Stage, according to the venue’s website. He is also acting as project coordinator for the Trees to Drums project, and discusses it in a video Metro has posted online .
Describing how a tree in the light rail corridor was blessed before it was cut down, Gibson said: “When you cut a tree for a drum, you want the tree to know that it will be used for something useful and its life is not over.”
“It is a living thing, much older than any of us, and deserves that respect,” he added.
Drums made from the wood, Gibson explained, would be based on a West African style of drum called a djembe . The hope, he said, is to donate the finished drums to churches, nonprofits and schools along the Crenshaw / LAX line.
Crump said the trees for the Trees to Drums project had been primarily located on Crenshaw Boulevard , between Exposition Boulevard and West 60th Street in the city of Los Angeles. The drum-making initiative began to take shape in mid-2014, according to Crump. Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas also had a hand in making it happen, he said.
Ground was broken on the roughly $2 billion Crenshaw / LAX Transit Project in January 2014.
The project’s eight-station light rail line is now scheduled to open in 2019 . The line is slated to run from Exposition and Crenshaw boulevards in South Los Angeles , to Aviation and Century boulevards near the Los Angeles International Airport.
The light rail line will be eventually connected to LAX via a planned airport people mover system .
Most of the trees that were removed in the Crenshaw corridor came down between November 2014 and February 2015, according to Crump. In addition to Canary Island pine, the species of some of the cut-down trees included southern magnolia, Italian cypress, fern pine and Mexican fan palms.
Crump noted that Metro will be planting more than 800 replacement trees along Crenshaw Boulevard, and in the surrounding community. The ratio of trees planted to trees removed, he said, would be as high as 4 to 1.
Gibson, in the video, emphasized that “the trees that shade this community, are much beloved.”
Bill Lucia is a Reporter for Government Executive’s Route Fifty.