If you find yourself around the hammocks at the southwest corner of the music building on a Thursday afternoon, you are bound to see something different. What I am talking about is Yuba College’s new drum circle.
It all started when Yuba College’s librarian, Elena Heilman, went to the Whole Earth Festival in Davis. She wandered upon a drum circle, and was quite curious as to what exactly it was. Feeling the urge to participate, she found out quickly that drum circles allow for “talking through music,” says Heilman. Participants in the circle rely upon a call-and-response technique, where everything that is played has a counterpoint.
After some research on the positive aspects of drum circles, Heilman went to Dr. Robert Mathews and asked if she could borrow a drum. She soon pitched the idea of a drum circle to music teachers Mathews and Aya Ueda, and thus the first ever Yuba College drum circle was created. They see this as an opportunity to increase morale and build a new community within the college. “What I like best about the drum circle is the fact that it’s for everyone,” says Mathews, via email. “Now any administrators out there?”
Eager to experience more of what drum circles have to offer, Heilman and Dr. Mathews attended a drum circle that has met every Sunday at McKinley Park in Sacramento for over 12 years.
So what can you expect to see if you attend a drum circle session? Picture a circle of unique individuals beating on drums; some teenagers, while others are older returning students. Everyone feeds off of each others energies, keeping things interesting. “I feel really relaxed … it’s like I beat my stresses into the drum,” says student Michael Starkey.
Anyone can grab an instrument of their choice. There are cabasas, djembes, congas, bongos, and other assorted types of exotic percussion. There is even a drum that sounds like thunder. Mathews starts the circle off with a beat, and then everyone else follows suit. The tempo and volume gradually increase until Mathews signals the end of the rhythm with a wave of his hand. For the second and third rhythms, anyone can volunteer to lead off with a beat.
If you just so happen to hear tribal drumming off in the distance, you will know it’s the new Yuba College drum circle. It is open to anyone, and in Heilman’s words “Opens the mind and eyes to the world.”