How a Bucket Gave Me Confidence During My First Week of College

I walked into my Introduction to Child Development lecture hall with my head bowed down as I tried to avoid making eye contact with anyone. With my five-gallon, signature orange Home Depot bucket in hand, I climbed the stairs to my seat and sat as quietly as possible. I was safe. Suddenly, I heard a voice say “Hey Bell Pepp, what is that bucket for?” and I knew I was about to face the inevitable. I pulled out my drumsticks, flipped my bucket over, and squeezed my eyes tightly shut as I began to drum out a simple beat. A hush fell over my classmates as I continued to play. When I gained a bit of confidence, I opened my eyes and looked around nervously. Rather than my professor acting confused at the sudden music, he began dancing and clapping along with my drumming.  In fact, he actually got the whole class, all 100 students, moving along with him!

I am a member of a street percussion group at my university called Tufts B.E.A.T.s, which stands for “bangin’ everything at Tufts and then some.” During my first week on campus freshman year, I decided to try something new and “out there” by auditioning for B.E.A.T.s.  Given my innate lack of pitch, rhythm, tone, and basically any other musical metric, this was something I never would have considered being involved in. Yet, once I was (somehow?) accepted, my name, Sophie, was replaced with an unexplainable B.E.A.T.s name – Bell Pepp. B.E.A.T.s plays music on anything we can find from pots and pans to garbage cans and street signs. However, our main instrument is the good old Home Depot bucket.




The new members of the group, myself and three other freshmen, were each given one of these buckets to tote around for a week. Every time a new member encountered a fellow member of B.E.A.T.s, the new member would be asked why they had a bucket and resultantly had to flip their bucket over, grab their drumsticks, and improvise a beat, regardless of where he or she was or what he or she was doing. To my surprise, this weeklong experience taught me more about myself than I ever could have imagined.  I ended up playing my bucket in the library, dining halls, the local pharmacy as I got my flu shot, and just about everywhere else on campus. In the process, I conquered embarrassment and fear while my confidence grew.

My bucket was heavy and hard to carry while also holding my stacks of introductory textbooks. It was uncomfortable to squeeze onto the metro, bucket in hand, or walk in the library with the bucket’s noisy handle clanging against its rim. Yet, through all of my bucket-toting experiences, I began to understand and embrace the culture of my college: acceptance.

No matter where I went, my peers and professors were enthusiastic about my participation in B.E.A.T.s. When I went to office hours with my professors, many of them curiously stared at my bucket and began unique conversations about my hours of practice and favorite improvised instruments, arguing the merits and tones of buckets versus jugs, or a frying pan versus a U.S. Post Office Box-turned-scratchboard. When I went to parties, my bucket became a conversation starter that encouraged me to talk to many people. My bucket eased me into what could have been an awkward first week on campus. Haphazard musical performances transformed into new friends and friendly conversations.

This fall, B.E.A.T.s is accepting new members that will be encouraged to step out of their comfort zones in the same way that I have. I am looking forward to inviting the new members to play on their buckets. They will join the group as we bang everything at Tufts…and then some.