Marimba Ensemble Classes FAQs

Q: What style of music do you play?

A: The marimba is played all around the world. We study and play both contemporary and traditional music of the Shona people, who are one of the indigenous tribes of Zimbabwe, as well as original pieces in a Shona style.

Q: What level of classes do you offer?

A: Beginning to Advanced.  Classes are created based upon current interest in the local area.

Q: How do I know what level to sign up for?

A: Beginning is usually a good place to start since it provides good foundational information and technique, although someone with marimba experience can request a try out for the next class.. This option requires one or more private lessons to audition and get started. Both of these classes must have an opening to be able to join. If there are no current openings you can put your name on a waiting list. New classes start when there are enough people – tell your friends of your interest and they might start too.

Q: Where and when are lessons held?

A: Please see the marimba class page for the most current information. Since 1993, classes have been held in Lacomb, Corvallis, and Albany, Oregon.

Q: How do I sign up for lessons?

A: All classes are given directly through Ancient Ways, a 501(c)3 charitable non-profit organization – contact Jaiaen Beck ( for more information.

Q: Who teaches the classes?

A: The primary teacher is Jaiaen Beck. She has studied Zimbabwean marimba music since 1990, founded Ancient Ways, and carries out humanitarian work in rural Zimbabwe, having visited there 17 times as of 2023. Jaiaen has taught classes at Zimfest, served as in-residence in schools as well as participated in programs through other organizations such as the Arts Center in Corvallis and the criminal justice system. Helen Six also teaches classes for Ancient Ways, with experience playing marimba since 2000. She’s been personally trained by Jaiaen, as well as having studied with other teachers and assisting Jaiaen on her 2005 trip to Zimbabwe.

Q: How much do classes cost?

A: The base price is $18/lesson, but discounts may be applicable depending on if you are a member of Ancient Ways, making classes $16.50. If a student is taking more than one class, the second class is $13.50. As long as there are an adequate number of students in a class then discounts can be applied. Beginners are often given the member discount to get their feet wet. Once they decide to become part of our music community, they can become a member to retain the discounted price. Contact Jaiaen for more specific information.

Q: How do I become a member of Ancient Ways?

A: An annual membership is $25 for an individual or family. A check, payable to Ancient Ways, can be mailed to PO Box 346, Scio, Oregon 97374.  Find more information on the site.

Q: What does membership do?

A: Membership in Ancient Ways does a few things. It benefits members by entitling them to discounts on t-shirts and lessons. Having membership fees benefits the organization because these fees are put toward the cost of insurance for lessons and performing in public. This insurance is to protect the audience from getting hurt if we throw a mallet for instance, or to protect the place where we have classes – it is not for the performers. Performing is one of our prime methods of raising awareness of our mission, so insurance coverage is essential. Membership fees also help support other administrative expenses of being in business, such as addressing the accounting needs to satisfy the IRS, and being a registered non-profit.

Q: How and when do I pay for classes?

A: Please pay class tuition on the first lesson of the term, and pay for the entire term which follows the local school calendar. Payments can be put on a credit card or spread over 3 months through the office, but we ask that you chip in on the finance charges from the credit card process, which is $4 for each $100. During summer and holidays if you schedule a vacation please pay class tuition at the beginning of the term for the classes you will attend. We can give a pro-rated amount for taking a 2-week holiday.  Discounts may not be available when taking a partial term.  Until a beginner is established (a few months), we offer a monthly payment option, rather than the term.

Q: What if I miss a class? Do I get a refund or a makeup lesson? How do I find out what I missed?

A: Unfortunately, credit for missed classes cannot be given – its just like a regular college. It is the student’s responsibility to connect with classmates to find out what was covered during a missed class. Please email, text, or call Jaiaen or Helen to let someone know you are missing the class; it helps the group stay connected with each other, even when someone is absent.

Q: How will I ever remember all those notes being played?

A: Feel free to take notes, or better yet make a recording during class to play back and practice with during the week. Telephones, cameras, and recorders are all optional recording devices. Once you have learned some basic information, it gets easier and easier.  We just ask that you don’t upload any of your recordings!  With the internet the way it is now, it is definitely an invasion of privacy.  Thanks!

Q: I don’t own a marimba, can I still take lessons?

A: Absolutely, but it is hard to learn a musical instrument if you don’t have one to practice on. There are a limited number of marimbas that we rent for $5/week. If you are serious about lessons, eventually you may want to buy one (contact Jaiaen about new and used options) or to sign up for one of our community marimba building workshops and make your own.

Q: How much does building your own marimba cost? Is it hard?

A: It depends. These estimates are pre-covid. A soprano marimba runs about $320 ($250 keys, $25 workshop fee, $15 hardware, $30 your choice of wood). The beauty of the community workshop is that we can help each other in the process. People with absolutely no woodworking experience have successfully built their own marimbas in a day at our workshops. 

Q: What is the Mudzidzi Mailchimp list and the Signal Private Messenger Group, and how do I join? 

A: These are our primary methods of electronic communication. Announcements, polls and set lists are all associated with the groups. When you sign up for lessons, we request you sign up for the Mudzidzi group list for the emails that are sent out.  We also ask that you install Signal Private Messenger on your phone so we can add you to the group.  These two approaches are essential for communication with large numbers of people with ease.  We very much appreciate you adding these to your life so we can keep you in the Ancient Ways loop.

Q: Is there a calendar of events for Ancient Ways?

A: Yes, there is a Google calendar on the Ancient Ways site that lists lessons, rehearsal, performances, fundraisers, board meetings, etc.

Marimba Performance FAQs

Q: Do we have to play at each performance that comes up?

A: No. Everyone participates as they are able. Performing is highly encouraged since one of the ways to master the music is to perform. When you perform you learn more about your level of accomplishment of a given part and the song, helping you to evolve as a musician. Participating in performances is also a way that you support Ancient Ways in helping spread the word about what we do both here and abroad.  Beginners are not expected to perform right away!  Please relax and enjoy building confidence gradually…eventually one wants to share what they have learned.

Q: How do I sign up for a gig?

A: There will be a poll for the performance sent to the members who are potential players.

Q: What do I do if I said I could play a gig, but I just found out I can’t?

A: PLEASE notify Jaiaen or Helen as soon as possible of any changes to your schedule. Ideally, if there is a doubt in your mind when you sign up for a gig, you vote as a maybe. It is far easier to add someone to the performance group than to take someone out at the last minute. Remember that this is a team event, and others are practicing their parts for the gig. It is very disruptive to have to shuffle parts at the last minute and can severely affect the nerves and performance of your fellow musicians.

Q: Can my family or friends attend our gigs?

A: Yes, but it depends. Your family or friends are always welcome at public events, but private events may have potential exceptions. Please make sure someone is available to watch any small children. If you consider your pet as part of your family, we would prefer they stay home, with exceptions. Our goal with this policy is to remain a very professional presence as musicians, and as a key fund raising arm for Zimbabwe. For instance, some public events invite and allow all dogs, like Saturday markets, and if you have a guest to manage your dog so you can remain completely focused on our mission, and it is a well behaved pet, then they it would be fine.

Q: How early do I need to show up before a gig?

A: Show up to help set up 30-45 minutes before start time, depending on the location. It takes a little longer when we need to setup our tents.  If for some reason, you aren’t able to help set up, you still need to show up 10 minutes before the gig for a group circle. Normally, everyone helps with unloading at the prior to the gig, and loading at the end….it is a team effort.

Q: What do I wear for a gig?

A: Wearing an Ancient Way t-shirt is highly encouraged. T-shirts are available for sale for $15 for non-members and $13.50 for members. Until you buy one you can wear a t-shirt that is similar in color. Sometimes people sell their used shirts. Black pants (or as dark as possible) are preferred, although some shirts have white ink, and so sometimes white pants work.. Shorts are OK in hot weather. There are very few performances where we don’t wear black or white on the bottom and you will be notified of the rare exception.

Q: Where and when do we rehearse for a gig?

A: It depends. We always have a set rehearsal day and time during the week before the gig. This is frequently Wednesday or Thursday. Polls will provide other options as available.

Q: What if I would like to play in a gig but I’m not available for the rehearsal?

A: Sorry, but we have learned from experience that it is critical for everyone playing in a gig to attend the rehearsal. Even our most experienced players only play in those gigs for which they can rehearse.

Q: Who sets up and takes down the instruments for a gig?

A: We do!  Ask an experienced person to show you the ropes!