Friday, October 3, 2008

Crescenta Valley Sun: The Drum Circle

Crescenta Valley Sun: La Crescenta, California
Published Friday, September 26, 2008 4:17 PM PDT
Around Town
The drum circle

Last Saturday, I attended a drum circle. A drum circle is a gathering of any sort of people, with or without musical background, with or without a facilitator, for the purpose of playing hand drums and other percussion instruments.

When I arrived at the drum circle, the participants were mostly young and mostly male. A few of them wore cub scout uniforms. Most of them had new shoes.

Why? I asked myself. What’s with the new shoes?

And then it dawned on me. It was September. School had started.

This drum circle was a part of a family service at Adat Ari El synagogue. The service was for a holiday called Selichot, which is a precursor to the high holydays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Selichot is a time of individual self-reflection, but also a time when the community gathers together.

I took a seat in the corner. I tried to be unobtrusive, but the rabbi immediately noticed me. Here, he said, and smiled as he handed me his own drum, a three-foot-high wood-trimmed tofu-skinned faux-rawhide-covered painted Kpanlogo.

I felt a little bad taking his drum away, but then memories came rushing back.

Suddenly it was 1991. The economy was good. Big hair and padded shoulders were still acceptable. The future lay before us all rosy and unafraid. That was the year that the United States Senate took testimony from a drummer from the Grateful Dead.

The drummer was Mickey Hart and he told the United States Senate Committee on Aging that "¼drumming, the rhythmic manipulation of sound, can be used for healing and health. I also would like to express my support for the role of music therapy as a means of maintaining mental, spiritual and physical health in people of all ages..."

Hart described the physiological benefits of drumming. "Everything that exists in time has a rhythm and a pattern," Our bodies are "multi-dimension rhythm machines" with the main beat laid down by the heart and the lungs, augmented by the beat of the digestive system and neuron pathways in the brain. As we age, these rhythms can fall out of synch, but when modern technological society removes us from the natural life’s rhythms, drum circles can reconnect us.

I thanked the rabbi and took the drum. With each beat, I began to feel...younger?

A toddler in a party dress careened across the circle. She began to laugh. A woman began to play a guitar. The rabbi started to sing a prayer and the little boys with new shoes and September haircuts took up the beat.

There was ice cream afterward.

Anita Brenner is a local resident. She is a trial attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. She can be reached at (626) 792-3175.

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