The big bang theory
Therapist Rick Cormier helps people find release through
You know me, I'm always trying to drum
up a good story, so picture this.
one of, perhaps, 25 drum-toting people seated in a large circle. The various drums surrounding you -- mostly hand drums,
mind you -- like the individual drummers, themselves, are every size, shape, and color imaginable.
Everything from an African drum called the djembe (pronounced jim-bay)
and a Middle Eastern drum called the doumbek (doom-beck), to Indian tom-toms, and even bongos
Male, female, young, old, black and white, the group is made up of people
just like you.
One person starts beating on a drum. Slowly. Deliberately. Rhythmically. Others join in, banging
their drums in unison, or in counterpoint, or just plain awkwardly, according to their skills.
reluctantly, you do, too.
Some of your fellow drummers are experienced, most are not, but that really doesn't
matter ... for expertise, it begins to dawn on you, is not this aggregate's objective. A Buddy Rich you simply do not need
At times the beat quickens and the sound intensifies to a pulsating, thunderous crescendo, while at others
the cadence diminishes to a sound barely more audible than a church whisper.
The one constant is the complexity
of united sound.
Before long, you and the other 24 people are in a world apart, a world -- at least for the moment --
totally devoid of tension and everyday problems.
If all is going well, nothing else matters ... there is nothing
outside this room.
You are totally intent on the sound that, together, you are producing. Each in the circle
is feeling a connection from one to the other -- almost like a shared heartbeat -- and in this pulsation there is release,
harmony, and joy.
Welcome to the world of Rick Cormier's Drum Circles.
Both as teacher of a SouthCoast
Learning Network course and as part of a tri-monthly group that meets at New Bedford's First Unitarian Church, Rick has had
many documented successes.
Not that he wants to bang his own drum, mind you. But, luckily I get paid to pry.
come to drum circles for a dozen different reasons," the 48-year-old drummer/ therapist says.
"Some come to it to make
great music, while some come to it for the physical benefits ... arthritis, say, or for the aerobic exercise. Some come for
the psychological benefits, like relaxation and stress management. Some are in recovery from substance and alcohol abuse.
Some find it spiritually powerful while others do it as a social outlet ... to have fun.
There is no one "right" reason to be part of a drum
circle, the Fairhaven resident emphasizes. Only the right conclusion.
"Lots of our drum pieces end with laughter,"
Rick continues. "The release is joyous. Everybody feels connected. People are amazed to be part of this wonderful experience."
Rick Cormier, comes at these sessions with a lifetime of music and percussion as background. He began drumming at the age
of 10, playing in a number of area garage bands in his teens, before graduating to guitar and keyboards later in life. In
fact, he even recorded two solo albums under his own name wherein he sang and played acoustic guitar.
the point, he has always collected percussive instruments as a hobby, and theorizes today he has more than 40 -- from a huge
Japanese Taiko drum to a tiny Tibetan finger drum -- even after selling more than three dozen of them over the years.
as master's graduate in counseling psychology at Cambridge College, music, as such, has never been his main focus, he maintains.
a psychotherapist specializing in anxiety disorders, Rick has worked with many cases of post-traumatic stress disorder both
in his current job at Taunton's Community Counseling of Bristol County and his former part-time gig with the Veteran's Administration.
each instance, drum circles have been an unqualified success -- for everyone from Vietnam vets with PTSD to rape and incest
victims. They afford Rick an admittedly back door access into troubled people's dysfunction.
As illustration, the married father of a 10-year-old son offers how just recently
he introduced a group-home of "at-risk youths" to a drum circle.
According to the group-home staff, at least
two of the teens were categorized as having attention deficit disorder and could not be counted on for more than a few minutes
attention to anything, yet there they were participating with glee throughout.
"Despite my apprehensions about
working with this (group), it was a huge success," Rick says. "After less than 15 minutes of drumming, the room was full of
smiling faces, creativity and laughter."
He also points with pride to his most notable success, a veteran who
was so blocked that he could not deal with people, even small groups of people.Yet, today, thanks to group drumming, this
52-year-old man has run the Boston Marathon shoulder-to-shoulder with 17,000 other folks ... a major victory.
so we've seen that it works, but how, exactly, did Rick Cormier get started in this unusual pursuit, I wonder?
six years ago, someone at church (New Bedford's First Unitarian) approached me to ask if I'd like to participate in a drum
circle. I was amazed. 'Wow,' I said, 'how did you know I played drums?' She looked at me kind of funny and said, 'I didn't.'
" She was just recruiting anyone and everyone who might be interested, he laughs.
Beyond his own involvement,
however, community drum circles have a curious history, with Rick crediting Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead and a man named
Arthur Hull as the "grandfathers" of the present movement.
"It's become a big phenomenon, all over the world,"
he says. Indeed, the annual Drums Around the World festival was held in Amherst a couple of weeks ago and attracted hundreds
of drummers to Western Massachusetts, not to mention thousands of people around the globe to other locations.
As far as details of his own groups -- open to everyone -- are concerned, a long
individual drum circle performance is about 10 minutes, Rick explains, while the average piece goes on for six to eight minutes.
"There have even been some memorable times where our groups have gone on for 15 to 20 minutes, but that's rare ... only six
times, or so, in my experience."
His own expertise is not really a factor, Rick insists. "I can direct it a bit
if its falling apart, but generally I don't. I'm not really there as a leader of the drumming. I'm there as a member."
as with any club or group, there are certain rules of etiquette. "If you've played a lead part in the last piece, you should
try playing a supportive role in the next few," Rick cautions. "The only sin a novice can make is to be the loudest drummer
in the room," Rick explains. "The object is not to worry about your individual performance. Just listen. That's the most important
thing to do."
Go, as they say, with the flow.
"We're novice friendly," he adds, emphasizing yet again there's no need to be musically
inclined. "There's no audition ... nobody sits in judgment."
Even for people who are painfully reserved. "People who are shy are less shy when
they are drumming," a smiling Rick Cormier contends.
"You don't need to be charming, witty or glib ... you just have to pick up a drum
and add your voice to the group drumming."
The results can be quite amazing, Rick sums up.
"There is magic going on here."