Friday, April 03, 2009

Drum circles bring people together, relieve stress

All semester long, innumerable stresses plague students. Whether they are school or social life-related, they are unavoidable. Luckily, two recent clinicians at SUNY Potsdam have a simple answer to your stress-filled days. Their answer is to make music. Even if you never studied an instrument in school, you-yes you-can still make amazing music in the company of friends. This is possible through group drum circles. They are easy to organize, and you don't even necessarily need drums: just your hands to clap or fingers to snap.

In a drum circle, everyone is equally important to the process and overall sound. Drums are instantly playable to those with no musical training. Aside from being fun, drumming helps develop teamwork and leadership skills.

Earlier this week, alumnus Matt Savage returned to facilitate several drum circles, lead percussion masterclasses and speak to several music business classes. The clinic, part of the Dean Alan Solomon music and wellness series, even attracted the dean himself. The biggest drum circle, held in the Crane Commons, drew approximately 50 students. Participants got to do four important things: "move together, think together, work together and play together," said Savage. He led the group through activities (some from an educator's perspective to benefit the many music education majors present) that tested the group's concentration and ability to work together. The climax of the session was organized chaos: everyone was given a steady beat and got to create their own rhythms. Savage sculpted the sound by having only certain groups play at certain times. The environment he created was nurturing and exciting. Everyone left the drum circle with a smile.

In February, SUNY Potsdam hosted Ghanaian-born master musician Kwasi Dunyo. Over the course of two days, the drum master taught many students the finer points of traditional music making in Ghana. In Ghana, music consists of singing, drumming and dancing and cannot exist if one element is absent. This comprehensive approach to music allows people to get involved on many levels. Dunyo's anecdotes about success and failure and always trying to move forward were inspirational and amusing to all who attended.

Although drum circles are periodically held on campus and around town, never have they been as organized and well publicized as these sessions were. Hopefully these two clinicians have inspired workshop attendees to recreate similar situations. There's no better way to release stress than by beating on a drum. Sometimes, you just need to make noise.

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