PHOTO: Judah Lopkin plays the bucket drums at Pioneer Courthouse Square to support the food bank Feeding America.
BY GABRIEL MALKA
Judah Lopkin, 16, is not your average drummer. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, Lopkin took to the crowded downtown streets to perform on the bucket drums to raise money for the food rescue organization Feeding America.
Bucket drums involve drumming on plastic buckets and other objects to create beats and rhythms.
Why did a high school junior decide to do this?
“As much as I enjoy drumming, I felt unfulfilled,” says Lopkin. “I really wanted to use my passion for drumming to do something that mattered. I became tremendously inspired by the YouTuber and philanthropist MrBeast, who makes charity fun through entertaining fundraisers and donations. I wanted to combine my passion for drumming with charity in a fun way, and the idea of playing the bucket drums downtown took off from there.”
The Jewish concept of Or L’goyim (a light upon the nations) was another inspiration.
“I truly feel this is the most important part of Judaism and the beacon that every other Jewish value and tradition points to,” says Lopkin.
Choosing Feeding America as the nonprofit to raise money for was a no-brainer for Lopkin.
“Feeding America provides meals for the over 40 million people living at, or below, the poverty line, who can’t afford their next meal. Food insecurity is part of a massive challenge, and I wanted to help out as much as possible,” he says.
Because the potential audience watching him would be so diverse, he wanted to be sure everyone walking by would be able to understand the cause. “Feeding America is something anyone on the street can recognize and appreciate.”
After formulating the plan, Lopkin began training to play for strangers in the city, although the method was a little different than the typical approach to practicing an instrument.
“When you’re performing in a concert, the expectation is that everyone watching bought a ticket and traveled out to see you play,” Lopkin explains. “But when you’re playing on the street, people just happen by with no expectations. I wanted to prepare enough (content) so that maybe someone would stop by, listen for a bit and drop some change in the bucket for Feeding America. I practiced for months putting together different beats and working to improve my hand speed and stamina.”
The day of playing for strangers in public finally arrived.
“With butterflies in my stomach, I set up my buckets and began playing my set. After a couple of minutes, people began watching, dancing, taking videos and even donating money to Feeding America.”
Lopkin adds it was important to him to wear his kippah during the performance.
“In light of the recent rise in antisemitism, I felt it was special to go out there while displaying my Jewish pride,” he says. “It was really cold and windy outside, but I made sure to be wearing the kippah the whole time. No one said anything about it.”
“I was inspired by the concept of ‘being more visibly Jewish.’ I want to show kids who are scared to wear their kippah in public due to rising antisemitism that they shouldn’t be afraid to.”
He captured the experience in a video for his followers on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, @thedrumcell.
“I started posting drum videos in eighth grade and fell in love with the process,” he says. “At first, I started off making videos drumming to my favorite songs, and eventually I pivoted to making drum tutorials.”
Creating content hasn’t been easy.
“I spent hours every day writing, filming and editing my drum videos, but my account stayed stagnant at 11.9k followers for 17 months in a row. I liked making them though, so I spent last summer figuring out how to make the videos as good as possible, and with some research and a bit of luck, the views and followers started to pick up. I was fortunate enough to even get a sponsorship.”
So, what’s next?
“This experience was incredible. It was amazing seeing strangers help raise money for such a paramount cause. My goal is to continue these performances and make entertaining videos out of them to further help feed people in need. If I can help out at all, I see that as a win.”
Gabriel Malka is a sophomore at the University of Oregon. Malka enjoys eating hamburgers and doing theater improv. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.