Different Drummers Drum Circle of Santa Fe

2013 Farewell to Yarmouth, Maine Drummers

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On August 17, 2013 Different Drummers had our last drum circle in Yarmouth, Maine. There was a potluck dinner, followed by a last performance by Different Drummers Joyful Hearts Club Band. Before we began our drum circle, I addressed the friends who turned out for that last drum circle...

"First of all, let me just say that public speaking scares me more than death or hairy spiders. Plus, I'm not very good at it. I've learned to push through it anyhow. With the exception of only 2 years out of 10, I've even managed to avoid making speeches at our anniversary celebrations. So imagine my surprise when this little speech turned out so long. I should have Martin read this FOR me! He'd have you riveted!

When I was 9, I had a memorable summer. For starters, my brother (and only sibling) got married and moved away. He was 10 years older than me and was the family member I was closest to. Then my grandfather died. We weren't close, but I had never even thought about death before, let alone the possibility of people randomly leaving us. Then my parents got divorced. I was suddenly living with my mother in the attic space above my grandmother's antique store. In one single summer, my family went from four people to only two.

I mention this because it may be important.

Sometime during that year or the next, a new friend across the street was tossing out a pair of drum sticks that were split. I asked if I could have them. I started lining up cardboard boxes on my bed and hitting them with my new broken drum sticks. When my mother went out I traded the boxes for her pots and pans. She never could figure out where all the little dings on the bottoms of her Revereware were coming from. ;-)

I think that, for me, drumming was becoming a coping mechanism.

When I was 12, I asked for a snare drum for my birthday. A few relatives chipped in and bought me one. We couldn't afford drum lessons but I got some free lessons from Chic Boucher of the "House of Drums" (You may have read his dedication page on DDDC's webpage).

We moved a lot. We stayed at most rented apartments for a year or two then changed neighborhoods. This meant changing schools every few years. It's difficult always being a "new kid" in school... not having a single friend in school. But an interesting thing happened. When kids learned I was a "drummer," the kids who were musicians were suddenly my friends. I had people to hang around with, talk with. There were cafeteria tables where I was welcome. All because I drummed! :-)

At the age of 16, I bought my first set of drums with my own money from working part-time. I started playing in bands with friends and cousins. You may have heard of me. I was the drummer for "Stick, Pick & Jingle", "Sequoia Tonnage", and "Captain Fruitcake & the Meatballs"

Despite all this, I spent a good part of my teenage years clinically-depressed. Underneath the music and the humor was the knowledge that I didn't fit. I would never truly belong. I would never measure up. I believed that everyone alive got "the manual" except me. I brought nothing of value to the table. I didn't just BELIEVE this... I KNEW it. In my late teens, I bought my first psychology book and spent a few years reinventing myself. The me that you know is the result of that process. People who don't know me very well think I'm all about ego when I talk about the things I've been lucky enough to accomplish. What they don't know is that, for all of my adult life, I've been surprised by every accomplishment... every compliment... that suggested that I brought ANYTHING of value to this life. Deep inside me resides a very clear memory of that disconnected teen.

At the age of 20, I took up the guitar and started writing songs and singing and recording albums. When I think of my 20's, I think of songwriting with my guitar. Still I kept my drum kit. If I had a stressful day at work I would come home and play the drum solo from hell for 20 minutes and get all the negative energy out of my system.

It wasn't until decades later that a woman from church approached me to tell me she was starting a "drum circle" (whatever THAT was) and "...would you be interested in joining us?"

"How did you know that I was a drummer?" I asked.

"I didn't." she said. "It's not a prerequisite."

"Maybe you should tell me what the heck a drum circle IS, then."

Being the only drummer, out of eight people, people soon referred to me the "unofficial leader". I could answer questions, tune their drums, advise them on which drums were worth buying, etc.

As a psychotherapist, playing with that fledgling drum circle, I noticed some things. I saw lots of positive personality shifts in people. I saw shy people becoming less shy. Depressed people seeming less depressed. It occurred to me that some emotional healing was taking place. This was huge! Before long I started a drum circle for combat veterans with PTSD at the V.A., as well as with youth's at risk. I began teaching drum circle workshops to bring in more community members.

I also noticed that the people in our gradually growing drum circle didn't have a whole lot in common, outside of the drum circle. Our circle included Wiccans, a few gay members, a divorce attorney, a machinist, a few teenagers, a 75 year old retired college professor... Our drum circle was building bridges between people... connecting people who might otherwise never be connected. I considered this huge also.

Because of my early association with such a wide range of people, I was often invited to drum for pagan festivals and gay pride events. Someone once asked if it bothered me that people at those events would assume that I was gay... or a Pagan. Well, I've also drummed for the national Women in God Conference, the Green Party, a synagogue, a New England hoopers conference, and Providence Rhode Island's First Night Parade. So anyone who spotted me at each of those might assume I'm a gay Pagan green Jewish hula-hooping woman from Rhode Island. I'm okay with that.

...but I digress.

I was meeting the most interesting and enjoyable people I had ever met in my life. I was bringing people together. I never charged money for a drum circle because I wasn't willing to create an exclusive group and because I couldn't take money to do something I did out of love. This was my contribution... my gift. To turn it into a money-making scheme was unthinkable. I could tell dozens of individual stories about how my drum circles have affected various people's lives but trust that I have been privileged to have made a difference to some people in my small way. From time to time, I receive a 'report card' from God or Life or the Universe in the form of feedback that tells me I did something worthwhile with my time and my energy.

And that, too, is huge.

The Portland Maine Drum Circle began about 6 months after my own Different Drummers Drum Circle started. On their website they listed three "teachers" they recommended: Annegret Baier, Shamou, and me. I felt awkward about being listed with such master drummers as Shamou and Annegret. I didn't consider myself a teacher and I certainly wasn't in their league. I mentioned this to my wife, Judy, who said, "If you had the choice of being a 'master drummer' and training a dozen or so more master drummers in your lifetime... OR being exactly who you are and influencing a few thousand people of all ages and backgrounds to pick up drums and play together... You would do exactly what you're doing. You're not Annegret or Shamou... But they're not YOU, either."

(...and I'm the therapist!)

Some of you remember Jim Chatlain who used to play his 4 piece conga arsenal in the corner near the window. One night, I was remarking to Jim how amazing the music was that evening. Judy and Rudy had each played flute and blues harmonica leads over the drumming. Margaret sang. Briana sang. Martin recited poetry. I told Jim how cool I thought it was that such an incredible night of music could happen... without my having anything to do with it. Jim said, "You've created a safe space for people to fill... and you trust them to fill it."

That idea will always stay with me.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it."

I would like to thank all of you who ever made the choice to spend an evening drumming with us. Look around this room and you'll see some of the most warm-hearted, interesting, creative, intelligent and fun-loving people you'll ever have the privilege of sharing moments with, whether those moments are musical, spiritual, social or just sharing a good, hard laugh or a chuckle over something ridiculous... like a weekly newsletter, for example.

I'm thankful for the all first-timers who were brave enough to put their toe into this water. I know you thought we'd be judging you by your drumming 'talent', I'm grateful that you came anyway. I'm thankful for our 'regulars'... not just the people who join us once or twice a month but those who have been joining us off and on for years. You're the backbone of Different Drummers. You make it work. You keep it musical. You are the glue who holds it all together. People tell me I make my drum circles feel welcoming and positive. Well, so do every one of you... I couldn't have done that alone.

I see YOU being friendly and welcoming. I see YOU being helpful and encouraging to newcomers. I see YOU being playful and inclusive to the kids who join us as well as to anyone who looks like they could use a bit of inclusiveness in their lives.

I couldn't have done any of that alone.

The 16 to 20 hours per month I devote to drum circles would not be possible without a partner who believes in the importance of what I'm doing, (either that or she welcomes getting a break from me) so I would also like to acknowledge and thank my wife, Judy.

I'll end by quoting something I wrote more than a decade ago...

"We live in an age and culture where our sex, race, age, and class separate us. Our lifestyles separate us. Our neighborhoods separate us. Our livelihoods separate us. Our politics separate us. Even our religions separate us. So many distinctions in our culture serve to keep us disconnected from one another.

Much has been documented regarding how drum circles can heal individuals, but another kind of healing takes place:

Group drumming builds bridges between people.

We feel connected, find commonality and build Community."

Thank you for 10 1/2 incredible years of bridge-building."

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