Since participating in the life-changing session “Drum Circles? Really?” last year at camp, my perception of drum circles has expanded. Not only do I thoroughly enjoy them, I also participated in another one since last year and had a wonderful time!
Drum circles are complex in the sense that many different beats are being played simultaneously, yet when you listen intently, the rhythms and beats come together in synchrony. Coming into a drum circle is raw and intimidating, especially without a musical background, but that’s the great fun of being a part of a drum circle! There’s no stress or expectation of being a great musician or even being a musician at all. All you have to do is bring your enthusiasm, and willingness to contribute to the group and the moment!
Before I went into last year’s drum circle, my only intention was to observe, yet I simply couldn’t say no when there was an empty chair and an instrument waiting for me. I learned two things from that session: being able to free myself from my inhibitions and to not overthink.
Today’s drum circle I did a little bit of participation and observing. The group consisted of Jessie Fisher, Director of Education and Communication of Cornerstone Center for the Arts, and her group of campers that ranged from 10-14 years old. I was also joined by Karissa, our Advancement Intern; and Patrick Rutledge, our Advocacy and Educational Resources Coordinator and facilitator/leader of the drum circle. This drum circle was in conjunction with Music for All’s efforts to strengthen the connection between Music for All and the people of Muncie and Delaware County, by providing opportunities to be part of our programs.
Jumping back into a drum circle was like riding a bike. It was nerve-wracking, but my muscle memory kicked in and I was cruising right along. It felt great to stop thinking for a moment, as I felt like I was meditating in a more rhythmic and upbeat sort of way. Overall I felt a sense serenity and focus. What I really enjoyed was watching these kids get the chance to express themselves, as well as witness my good friend Patrick facilitate the group in an effortless manner. At first the kids seemed a little hesitant to express themselves, but Patrick made a point to let the group know that there are no wrong notes or wrong beats in a drum circle. With that being said, the group’s mood shifted in a more confident direction and everyone seemed more sure of themselves. The kids also had the opportunity to play with different drums and lead/facilitate the circle, which was fantastic to watch.
As I drummed along and watched these kids take the reins of the circle and express themselves in different ways, it’s as though I saw their futures and the future of music; and despite everything going on in the world, it looked bright. Access and opportunity are key, when music programs are becoming fewer and fewer. Having an organization that invests in not only the preservation of music-making opportunities, but also the well-being of the students, makes me think things are progressing. And with that we will keep playing, leading, and jumping back into the groove!