CLEARWATER — Teacher Karen Malloch placed a hand on the excited student's shoulder.
Lee Jordan, a 42-year-old Dunedin resident who has Down's syndrome, wanted to run toward the sound of tambourines, maracas and drums echoing down the hall, but he hadn't finished his school work. He smiled at Malloch and in a deep baritone voice shouted, "Drum!"
It was the first word he had ever spoken.
"I didn't expect that," said Malloch, 49. "My assistant and I stood there with tears in our eyes. …
"Drumming has become an inspiration to him. We've all discovered he has a fantastic sense of rhythm."
That sense of rhythm has been drawn out of Jordan thanks to a program that started 18 months ago at the Upper Pinellas Association for Retarded Citizens at the Long Center.
The Rhythmic Arts Project, known as TRAP, was introduced to UPARC administrators by Polly and John Stannard, owners of Hammerax, a Clearwater company that hand-hammers bronze into hybrid cymbals that create nontraditional sounds.
While attending a California music convention in 2006, the couple saw drummer Eddie Tuduri, who had toured and recorded with the Beach Boys and Rick Nelson among others, demonstrate the fun and functional qualities of TRAP.
"John was smitten with the program," Polly Stannard said. "We were at the right booth at the right moment."
Tuduri, 60, understands serendipity. He founded TRAP in 1997 after breaking his neck in a body-surfing accident at Carpinteria Beach, Calif. He was initially paralyzed from the neck down.
"Being a professional drummer all my life, I didn't know what else to do," Tuduri said by phone from his home in Carpinteria, Calif. "I had no idea to what extent I'd come back."
When he could move his right arm a little, Tuduri requested drumsticks and a practice pad. He visualized the TRAP concept in the hospital as he struggled through rehabilitation.
He found solace as he tapped on his pad, bedrails, even his dishes. Other patients clapped, tapped and drummed with him. Soon Tuduri had a rhythm session that doubled as physical therapy.
Today, Tuduri walks with a cane and has some residual paralysis. But he doesn't allow anything to keep him down.
"I thank God for my broken neck now," Tuduri said. "TRAP has been a gift every day of my life."
The program also has been a help to thousands of others. TRAP is taught all over the United States and in six other countries. Shortly after discovering the program, the Stannards brought Tuduri to Clearwater to teach a TRAP training class at UPARC. It's been going strong since.
"The Stannards, UPARC staff and students have taken the program to new heights," said Tuduri. "I can meet with agency people, but if the staff changes, a program can go by the wayside. It takes people like John and Polly to champion a cause."
Polly Stannard volunteers and teaches four 40-minute classes each Wednesday to about 40 adults through the Long Center UPARC adult day-training center.
The drumming session is healing and helpful for people with conditions ranging from Aspergers and Down's syndrome to Alzheimer's and cerebral palsy.
Fledgling musicians thump on drums, tap bongos, and shake maracas and tambourines and often conquer physical and social challenges.
"I've watched people blossom," said UPARC volunteer coordinator Deborah Simeone. "They come out of their shells. It's a phenomenon to see."
In August, the UPARC Tarpon Center began a TRAP program for 60 students with a grant from the Young Lawyer's Division of the Clearwater Bar Association.
Polly Stannard encourages people to find their passion and volunteer in such programs, especially in these difficult economic times.
"The return far exceeds what we give," she said. "TRAP gives people choices. UPARC constantly strives to foster independent thought, and gives its consumers parameters to learn. TRAP is part of that, and Lee's one of our biggest success stories."