Community Drum Circle finds a new home

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WEBSusan Hall makes boomwhacker music with Robert Lohman at the La Mesa Community Drum Circle..jpg

Noise reverberating from the La Mesa Fire Station on Dallas Street was not the clangs and bangs of fire engines racing to an emergency. Neighbors heard instead the heavy beat of drums. Community Drum Circle, which formerly met at Nancy Couts Cottage, had its monthly meeting at the new venue.

Led by Susan Hall, proprietor of RhythmWorx, the Drum Circle is a traditional Thursday night activity for people who cannot resist the beck and call of pounding drums.

Noise reverberating from the La Mesa Fire Station on Dallas Street was not the clangs and bangs of fire engines racing to an emergency. Neighbors heard instead the heavy beat of drums. Community Drum Circle, which formerly met at Nancy Couts Cottage, had its monthly meeting at the new venue.

Led by Susan Hall, proprietor of RhythmWorx, the Drum Circle is a traditional Thursday night activity for people who cannot resist the beck and call of pounding drums.

The city of La Mesa liked Hall’s concept of a drum circle as a way to personal and community health. Its Live Well Initiative funds the event each second Thursday of the month. Hall said that the benefits of group drumming are experienced physiologically as well as emotionally.

“Living well means to incorporate all aspects of our being into our lives. You get to do that in the drum circle. You make music, you make friends, you use your arms and tap your feet. It’s good for the whole person,” sai Hall.

After people seated themselves in a circle in the community room of the fire station, Hall explained what they could expect. Drum circles are not performances, rather, they are opportunities for community recreation and personal rejuvenation, Hall said. Participants were not expected to drum with rhythmic precision or perform composed rhythmic patterns. 

Instead, everyone contributes his or her sound to the circle and the music, creating a whole that is greater than its parts.

A pile of instruments ranging from bells, drums to tambourines laid in the center of the circle. Hall invited the drummers and percussionists-to-be to choose from boxes of musical instruments. She picked up some colored plastic tubes in varying lengths. 

“These are called boomwhackers. Lots of fun. You whack them against each other for a different sound. Long tubes make a low sound; short ones a high sound,” she said.

Hall sat down and positioned a Djembe drum between her knees. She tapped out a rhythm, instructing everyone to join in at the raise of her hand.

People in the circle all responded, beating on drums, tapping tambourines, and clanging bells. They made a vigorous noise filled with joyful sounds. Hall alternately slowed and sped up the tempo and every percussionist followed in his or her own rhythm.

The drum circle had a way of teasing out the little kid in everyone. Robert Lohman, a regular to the circle, got everyone laughing with his own collection of homemade instruments. He shook a wooden rolling pin covered with red bells and a plastic baby bottle filled with beads.

The first round of drum music lasted for about ten minutes until Hall put her drum down, making motions with her hand to bring the sound lower and finally to a complete stop. Every participant stopped exactly on the same beat. They cheered each other.

Hall motioned for someone else to begin the beat, and the musicians fell into tempo once again. The people played together, the rhythm rising and falling at Hall’s direction. 

When someone noted the time was already 7:55, Hall said they would do the “Celebration Song.” Joyous clanging and banging ensued with all the vigor the percussionist could muster, sweat breaking out onto their brows.

Stacy Kadrich, a first-timer to the drum circle, grinned big.

“This was really fun. A true release. And I felt so welcome,” she said. 

Lohman agreed.

“I love to come here and make music without worrying about how I sound. We all just play along with everyone else,” he said.

The next La Mesa Community Drum Circle will take place on Oct. 10, 6:30 to 8 p.m., at the La Mesa Fire Station. 

For information, call (619)251-9910.

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