Southeast Kansas is known for its fried chicken, but inside the Colonial Fox Theatre on Saturday, folks were celebrating a different type of drumstick. The inaugural Michael Ray Drum Workshop was not only a celebration and encouragement for young, local musicians, but also a labor of love for those who named the event in memory of their friend. “The whole thing came about because Little Balkans Days is about live music and folk music. We thought instead of just crafts, maybe we could start people on an instrument early so the live music tradition can continue,” said Jamie Ortolani, co-organizer of the event. “John Bartlow asked about a drum workshop. We said that was fantastic. We want to do this every year.” As the event was being put together, then came the problem of what to name the drum workshop. Organizers arrived quickly at the answer. “It’s in memory of a local legend,” Ortolani said. “Michael Ray died a couple years ago. He played in a lot of local bands. At the time we were making this, I couldn’t get him out of my mind. His whole spirit was to teach us all something about drums.” Ray, who played in local bands including Conny and the Bellhops, the Survivors, and Smoot Mahuti, started playing the drums at age 13. Although Ray has passed on, many instructors and local legends themselves were at the drum workshop, teaching and instructing about the art and history of drums. The instructors included several local musicians, and consisted of men who have played for, backed up, or opened for bands including James Brown, Sonny and Cher, Chubby Checker, Tanya Tucker, Ike and Tina Turner, Little Richard, and more. The event was not entirely direct drum instruction. Rather, there were breakout moments, including Jon Sherman teaching about how to tune a drum, Michael Brewer talking about the origin of drumming, and Larry Douglas giving instruction on how to get started without a drum kit. There were also drawings for drumsticks, keychains and even a pair of bongos, all donated by Kutz Music. There’s already a vision as to how the event can be expanded in the coming years. “Our idea is to have it every year, and draw people from all over. Next year, we’ll be adding a guitar workshop,” Ortolani said. “Big picture plans, we’ll be teaching the next generation of musicians. Maybe in the next 10 years, we hope to have the workshop for many different instruments. Maybe one day we can have a concert at night from those in the workshops. I can’t emphasize enough the talent in this area.”