Beating her own vocal drum

Image of Samantha Petitte standing in front of a wall with TEDxFondduLac branding in the background.

Samantha Petitte is a UWL master’s student and graduate assistant in UWL’s Therapeutic Recreation program. Petitte shared how she incorporated beatboxing into her future during a TEDxFonduLac event on Aug. 25.

In a TEDx talk, UWL beatboxer makes the case for treasuring even the most seemingly unimportant passions

UW-La Crosse graduate student Samantha Petitte started beatboxing at age 12, inspired by a contestant on “American Idol.”

As Petitte developed her skills — making drum noises with her mouth — into her teenage years, she got some push back. Some called it “useless” or “annoying.”

Some were unconvinced that Petitte could ever use the skill after college. She became discouraged that her passion had potentially amounted to a useless party trick.

But Petitte, now a part of UWL’s Therapeutic Recreation program, says the skill, like some of her other passions, have turned out to be important therapeutic recreation intervention tools. She hopes to serve those she works with in the future.

Petitte made the case for treasuring even the most seemingly unimportant skills and talents during a TEDxFondduLac event Aug. 25. Hear Petitte’s music therapy and learn why she does it.

“I believe no talents or strengths or skills are useless,” says Petitte in her talk. “I believe that we only need to allow ourselves the creativity and freedom to use them, however simple or involved they may be.”

Petitte says it was a UWL Facilitation Techniques class last spring with Kari Kensinger, associate professor of Recreation Management and Therapeutic Recreation, that got her thinking more about incorporating beatboxing as a recreation therapy intervention. Kensinger encouraged her to research it. Petitte found other examples and further explored the potential while working as a youth counselor at an organization called, The Threshhold, this past summer. There she worked with 10-20-year-old clients with a wide range of disabilities.

“I discovered that beatboxing, if nothing else, was a great way to bond with the clients and build rapport with them, which, in turn, made me a better employee,” she explains.

Beatboxing is an activity that seems to resonate with young people. It is also a relatively new concept in terms of a therapeutic intervention, says Laurie Harmon, department chair and associate professor of Recreation Management & Therapeutic Recreation.

“The use of various mouth parts and voice box coupled with incorporating harmonic rhythm makes it an extremely useful recreational activity to use for therapy and can be relatively easily incorporated into programs for individuals with a wide variety of abilities,” says Harmon.

About TEDx

Petitte’s talk was given at a TEDx event in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. TED is a non-profit organization devoted to “ideas worth spreading.” It created TEDx, a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.

UWL has also organized independently coordinated TEDx events featuring local speakers. The most recent was held in February 2018. During the event, speakers sparked deep discussion and connection around ideas related to “Chain Reaction.” Watch the talks.

Learn more about TEDx.