By Joyce DeWallace, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – On the third Friday of the month, a diverse group of people gather at the First Congregational Church in Shrewsbury to make some joyful noise. They pound; they bang; they hit drums creating rhythms and beautiful sounds. The place vibrates with hands beating against leather skins. According to facilitator Nan AK Gibbons, “it’s not about performance; it’s about the process. It’s working on emotions, expressing strong emotions and thinking about creating multi-rhythms.
The group varies from month to month from the youngest drummer, age 4, to a woman in her 80s.
“We have families; we have music teachers, we have people with developmental challenges and their caregivers,” said Gibbons. “It’s about bringing out the best in each person so that they experience success not frustration.”
For Gibbons, this is her fourth year at the Shrewsbury Church. She has a degree in music and art from Leslie College and a master’s in music education from the same school. She earned another degree in arts and theology with an emphasis on pastoral care from Andover Newton Theological School. Her passion is developing community and resilience through the arts.
A drum circle is any group of people playing hand-drums and percussion in a circle. Community drum circles are the original and most popular form of improvised group drumming. The facilitator shapes the experience through discrete actions, such as helping to maintain a steady beat, helping those who need it, and generally managing the environment to see that everyone is able to participate fully. The attendees make up the music as they go along, using their listening and playing skills to make musical connections and express themselves in any and all ways that feel right. The main objective is to share rhythm and get in tune with the rest of the group. A new collective voice emerges from the group as they drum together.
Ryan Terry-Lorenzo comes with his daughter Ramona.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “It’s very different from anything I do in the rest of my life as a scientist in a pharmaceutical company. I like that it’s technical and physical and meditative.”
Ramona simply feels that it’s fun. She has played the flute since she was 4 and is also learning to play the piano.
The program is sponsored by Arts on the Green, a community outreach of the First Congregational Church, which gets funding from the Shrewsbury Cultural Council. The drummers meet monthly from 6 to 9 p.m. in the main church hall from September through June. There is a modest fee of $5 per drummer or $12 for a family. The drumming goes from 6 to 7 p.m. Then there is a half-hour break to eat pizza and socialize until 7:30 p.m. and the music starts again with another short break at 8 p.m.
The drums are provided by Gibbons and the Worcester Arts Magnet School where she teaches. The hand drums are shaped like African drums, but are actually made in California.
The drum circle promotes spirituality as well as team building. It’s a form of recreation, education and celebration leading to personal growth.
“Good things happen when you drum,” said Gibbons.
This family-friendly activity is open to all folks in the community. All ages and abilities are welcome to attend. For more information, contact Gibbons at [email protected] or the church at 508-845-7286.