Matthew Farrar

Matthew Farrar, a sophomore at Kennett High School in Conway, joined the school’s drumline last year and primarily plays the marching snare. (COURTESY PHOTO)

CONWAY — The beat goes on for high school sophomore Matthew Farrar, due in part to the generosity of a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting patriotism and providing financial help to individuals and causes.

The Penacook Tribe 116 chapter of The Improved Order of Red Men is based in Conway and was formed in 2018. Nationally, the organization goes back to 1834 and has approximately 15,000 members in chapters across the country.

Penacook Tribe 116 was the first New Hampshire chapter to be chartered in 121 years.

“The purpose of the Improved Order of Red Men is to promote patriotism, respect for America’s institutions and heritage, and encourage the virtues of Freedom, Friendship and Charity, which is the motto of the organization,” said Lucas Brown, a member of the Conway chapter.

Among other programs, the Penacook Tribe 116 awards Community Enrichment Grants. And Matthew Farrar, 15, a student at Kennett High School in Conway, was the chapter’s first recipient.

The organization covered the $560 tuition for Farrar to attend a five-day drumming camp held each summer at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Mass.

The camp was an exciting opportunity for Farrar, who has been a member of the Kennett High drumline for the past two years.

“Matthew lives and breathes drumming,” said his mom Darcy Farrar. “He’s constantly drumming cadence — even without drumsticks.”

The name of the camp that Matthew Farrar attended is the Mobile Percussion Seminar, put on by Thom Hannum, considered one of the top percussion arrangers, instructors and clinicians in the nation. He offers clinics and workshops for high school and college students of all ability levels.

According to his website, “The program offered by the Mobile Percussion Seminar is carefully designed to develop the mental and physical aspects of percussion performance through technique, reading and musicianship. Emphasis is placed on establishing a positive attitude, leadership skills and a uniform playing style.”

Farrar primarily plays marching snare. This is his second year as a member of the Kennett High drumline, and his first year with the Kennett band.

He had never played drums before joining drumline. He saw the drumline perform and “wanted to try something new,” said his mom.He got hooked.

“Working hard to make a good performance is a really good feeling,” he said.

The drumline performs at numerous events, including Kennett High football halftimes and open houses; the Fryeburg Fair parade; holiday concerts; basketball games; and a spring concert.

A Community Enrichment Grant from Penacook Tribe 116 is what enabled Farrar to attend the camp. The chapter also has a Single-Parent Fund.

“The money (for grants) comes from our own fundraising efforts and our dues,” Lucas Brown said. “In Matthew’s case, the tribe made an initial commitment, and other members of the tribe contributed out of their own pockets to help him reach his goal.”

The Improved Order of Red Men is not a Native American organization.

“Though several members of Penacook Tribe 116 do have Native American ancestry, as do many national members, it is not a prerequisite of membership, nor does it involve membership with any Native American tribe or organization,” Brown said.

The Improved Order of Red Men takes part in an annual wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, and it maintains the Faith of Our Fathers Chapel at the Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge.

The organization is also an active supporter of the Alzheimer’s Association. In the past three years, The Improved Order of Red Men nationally has raised over $3 million for Alzheimer’s research and treatment.

The local chapter, Penacook Tribe 116, currently has about 30 members and meets the first and third Wednesdays of the month at the Brown Church in Conway Village.

“We’re always looking for new members,” Brown said. “We are also trying to start a Degree of Pocahontas, the ladys’ auxiliary to the Red Men. Membership is open to anyone 18 years of age or older, or 16 years of age with parental consent.”

Requirements for membership, Brown said, are: “You must be an American citizen (either native born or naturalized), and you must believe in a supreme being.”

For more information, contact Jason Sanderson, the chapter’s chief of records, at (603) 733-6000.

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