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
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.
mention this because it may be important.
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.
think that, for me, drumming was becoming a coping mechanism.
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).
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! :-)
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"
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.
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.
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?"
did you know that I was a drummer?" I asked.
didn't." she said. "It's not a prerequisite."
you should tell me what the heck a drum circle IS, then."
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.
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
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.
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
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.
that, too, is huge.
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."
I'm the therapist!)
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
idea will always stay with me.
Gandhi once said, "Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it
is very important that you do it."
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.
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.
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.
couldn't have done any of that alone.
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.
end by quoting something I wrote more than a decade ago...
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.
has been documented regarding how drum circles can heal individuals,
but another kind of healing takes place:
drumming builds bridges between people.
feel connected, find commonality and build Community."
you for 10 1/2 incredible years of bridge-building."