“Imagine a group of people, picking up a drum or some percussion, and the next thing you know, everyone is jamming! The air is filled with motivating sound and movement. You are floating and really feeling the beat! The sound is healing! You are part of the drumming and rhythm.” 

This was the image that Dave Miller created in an interactive drumming circle program he recently presented with Dana McCurdy at the Quail Brook Senior Center (625 New Brunswick Rd., Somerset NJ). Dave and Dana are drum facilitators and members of the EarthMovers Drum Collective (EarthMoversDrumCollective@gmail.com; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EarthMoversDrumCollective/).

This unique program was funded by the Franklin Woman’s Club, a nonprofit service organization committed to philanthropic initiatives to help the community.

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Quail Brook Senior Center Manager, Allyson Toth, welcomed 38 guests including Franklin Woman’s Club members, to the event with a summary of the growing body of research on the health benefits of drumming, (i.e., relieving stress, lowering blood pressure, stimulating brainwave activity and positively benefiting one’s emotional wellbeing). Afterwards, Dave and Dana taught participants basic drumming techniques such as hand positioning to maximize drum resonance and how to achieve tonal variations.  

Attendees learned about the beautiful array of solid wood or fiberglass hand drums (djembes and ashikos from Mali, Ghana, the Ivory Coast of Africa, Indonesia and America). The drums, works of art themselves, featured beautiful carvings and goatskin heads stretched using special ropes that served a functional as well as decorative purpose.

The group began with a basic “heart – beat” tempo and then quickly progressed to more complicated rhythms, embellished by even more syncopated drumming and singing by the instructors. Dave encouraged drummers to use the accents on simple words and phrases as a way to remember when to beat the drum. This allowed the group to create a harmonious sound even though individual strokes were not all exact.

In the second half of the program, Dana distributed boom whackers.  At first glance, boom whackers look like hollow plastic tubes.  However, upon closer examination, one learns that the “notes” that sound when the player hits the tube on a solid surface, are the result of their varying lengths.

Participants, divided into same–note groups, were asked to sound their boom whacker on or between certain beats as Dana directed.

The drum/boom whacker combo resulted in an energetic sound that reverberated through the center while generating smiles, laughs, relaxation and even some members jiving and dancing in the aisles.  As Dave initially envisioned, everyone was “feeling the beat.”

Dave facilitates monthly drum circles at EarthMovers Drum Collective on the first Friday, second Saturday and third Sunday of each month at different locations within Central NJ and by appointment at Somerset County’s senior centers. He also teaches workshops at festivals from the spring to the fall. You may also find him at Johnson Park or Sandy Hook during the warmer months.

The Quail Brook Senior Center, (located on the Quail Brook Golf Course, Somerset), is operated by the Somerset County Office on Aging and Disabilities Services and is one of six facilities with others located in Basking Ridge, Bridgewater, Hillsborough, Montgomery and Warren. All centers offer a wide assortment of educational, recreational and wellness activities,  volunteer and community service opportunities plus lunch in an uplifting, social atmosphere for people age 60+.  Transportation is available for those unable to drive. For more information about Somerset County’s Senior Centers, visit www.co.somerset.nj.us.

Those interested in learning about the Franklin Woman’s Club (FWC), should contact Membership Chairperson, Kecia Baptist at FWCmembershipinfo@gmail.com. FWC meetings are held at Franklin High School, 500 Elizabeth Avenue, Somerset, on the 2nd Tuesday of the Month (7pm) between September and May with special meetings held at alternate locations.  For more information about club events, philanthropic, social events and other initiatives, visit www.franklinwomansclub.com. To follow the club’s activities on Facebook, visit:  www.facebook.com/franklinwomansclub.

The Franklin Woman’s Club, which has been serving the community since 1922, is part of the General and New Jersey State Federations of Women's Clubs. The General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC) is an international women's organization with over 80,000 members in affiliated clubs in every state, the District of Columbia, and more than a dozen countries. GFWC members work in their own communities to support the arts, preserve natural resources, advance education, promote healthy lifestyles, encourage civic involvement and work toward world peace and understanding.