Much as I like to share my opinions, I also want to allow others to share their experiences with and love of music. Here is the first installment. It shows that enjoyment of music truly is universal and knows no boundaries!
The Encore Drummers~
By Bitz Haley
Last fall I talked my friend, Tom, into volunteering to lead a drum circle for members of our local Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a program for seniors where “learning never retires”. When the semester ended, some of us didn’t want our weekly drumming sessions to be over because we found such joy, release, and peace through this wonderful activity. So we continued to meet weekly in Judy’s home.
None of us had ever done anything like this before! Many of us had never experienced any kind of music lessons or owned an instrument. But by the time the new year began, each of us had our own drum and every week one or two new percussion instruments would show up at drum circle. We were hooked!
Then I noticed an ad for vendors and entertainers at our downtown Thursday Night Market, a very popular event that covers several blocks and offers farm-fresh produce, delicious food, arts and crafts, and live entertainment. Held weekly (rain or shine) April through September, the market is a street festival and CDFA Certified farmers’ market. The perfect venue for our drum circle, don’t you think?!
We talked about it for a few weeks. Are we actually considering submitting an application? Won’t we be too loud and impose on neighboring vendors? We aren’t really talented – we are amateurs – and we actually don’t even know what we are doing! It is a crazy idea! Some of us don’t drive at night. Some of us are afraid to go downtown. ALL of us are intimidated by the thought of others hearing us, and TERRIFIED at the thought of others SEEING us! Egads! But what the heck! Why not apply? The worst thing that can happen is they will invite us to perform.
The worst thing happened. I got a phone call practically the day after mailing in the application. It happened that fast! Thursday Night Market LOVED the idea and said we were exactly what they had been wanting to add to the event. And could we play every week? Wow.
I was thrilled!!! But then I had to tell the other eight drummers. I thought they would be thrilled too. But the thought of being expected to play for two to three hours every week was a bit daunting. After all, our average age is much closer to 70 than 30. A few of us were excited, a few were reluctant, most had mixed emotions. With a little arm-twisting, bribery, threats and near-extortion I was able to convince everyone to try it at least once.
And then came our debut. Larry set up a canopy with a tarp underneath to protect our drums. He, Tom and I brought extra drums. Everyone brought percussion instruments: egg shakers, tambourines, bells, triangles, cabassas, rhythm sticks, maracas, a frog, and many more I can’t even name or describe. Judy made colorful peace flags to hang from the canopy. We began to drum.
People started gathering around. We offered drums and shakers and they joined in. There were people clapping along, dancing, hula-hooping. Babies, toddlers, children, teens, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents drumming and swaying and making music together. Everybody was SMILING! It was such a delightful experience for everyone, but especially for the core group of nine – Arnethia, Beth, Bitz, Ellie, Judy, Larry, Meadow, Patricia and Tom – who call ourselves ENCORE DRUMMERS.
Erin, long before The Music Initiative became a reality you allowed me to observe a drum circle led by you. It was my first exposure to this sort of thing. I was fascinated and mesmerized. I was too shy to participate at that time, but I never forgot what a wonderful experience it was, even as an observer. I am grateful to you for planting the seed that ultimately became Encore Drummers.
(We would love for you to check out the photos and Like our Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/EncoreDrummers).