I <3 rhythm
By Kathryn Schiliro
Photos by Angelina Bellebuono
Just listening, it sounds like a dessert tasting. With a beat. “Pie, pie, apple pie.”
“Pie, pie, coconut pie.”
“Pie, pie, huckleberry pie.”
It’s a drum circle for children and their parents – conveniently coinciding with the Percussive Arts Society’s celebration of the health benefits of recreational drumming from October 4 to 18 – put on by local percussionist David Boardman at Camp Twin Lakes in Rutledge.
In this exercise, Boardman is having each individual in the drum circle tap out different rhythms using these very yummy-sounding words. They are using their fingers to slap the edge of the drum, an action that makes a different sound then, say, slapping the middle of the drum.
Then, with their West African Djembe and percussion development and production company Remo-invented Tubano drums in their laps, the group bangs out the same rhythm, but uses their neighbor’s drum to do it.
This is a place where individuality is embraced, and the goofier, the better. Each exercise incorporates a sense of community with rhythm.
The circle learned that hitting the drum in the center produces a bass sound. They practiced this with the “Hula-Ha,” a Camp Twin Lakes original that requires one person stand in the middle of the circle and hula while the others chant and beat on their drum. The hip-shaking continues until everyone in the room has had a turn.
Boardman introduced a rhythm he called “solemn,” one that has been “passed down through the ages.” The exercise even required that the group warm up their individual drums.
With his most serious of faces on, Boardman hit the drum three slow, deliberate times before he turned to his neighbor and…broke the widest smile that he could possibly fit on his face, much to the delight of everyone in the circle.
Hearing about the drum circle by word of mouth, many of the parents present came to the drum circle out of curiosity, and to expose their children to drumming.
“The kids enjoy music and I thought they would have a blast drumming,” Debbie Ingallsbe said.
They did. (And so did their parents.)
Of all of the exercises, Quinn Brown, 10, liked “the one with the banging” best. Why? “Because I can bang it the loudest,” he said.
But Brown, a student of Boardman’s, isn’t exactly an amateur. “I have a drum set at home,” he said.
Nicole Ingallsbe, 11, preferred the “Hula-ha.” She chose her drum “because I like the way it looks; it looks very African,” she said.
A percussionist, Remo representative and instructor at Camp Twin Lakes, Boardman has put in four years when it comes to instructing drum circles. And he has seen the effects community drumming can have.
Recreational drumming lowers blood pressure, boosts the immune system and relieves stress, according to Boardman. Research has also proved that drum circles can increase production of white blood cells “that seek out and destroy cancer cells and virally infected cells,” the Remo Web site (remo.com) states, in its explanation of HealthRHYTHMS – that’s the Remo-supported recreational drumming program.
There’s proof that recreational drumming changes behavior too.
Boardman recalled a study done through HealthRHYTHMS that involved English teachers holding a drum circle once a week in their classrooms. According to Boardman, grades got better and truancy decreased.
Boardman cited another study where youth in a Pennsylvania detention center were made to participate in the HealthRHYTHMS program. Much to the shock of members of their community, they returned changed people.
The program provides support and encourages community; it forces everyone in the circle to open up. Boardman has seen how drum circles have impact those who choose to take part.
“Things come out in the drum circle,” Boardman said. “You can drum something that you’re trying to get off your chest. There’s that support of everyone trying to help each other.”
And that sense of community support is surely sweeter than a slice of pie.