We moved into our house in Yarmouth, Maine the day after New Years 2003. Great move
but no drum circles in sight. I asked around at The Drum Shop in Portland and I was told that drum circles were around for
a brief while but had died out a few years ago. I replied, "Hang on. They're about to come back."
We found a spiritual home in the First Universalist Church in Yarmouth. When one of the church leaders heard
I had been involved in drum circles in Massachusetts he asked that I open a service with a drum circle and then supply some
drum/flute music during the service. It was a popular service and I took the opportunity to offer my Intro to Drum Circles
Workshop to church members.
When the two-part workshop was over, I told participants that I would hold a drum circle monthly for anyone who
would like to continue drumming. In March, 2003 a drum circle was born.
We needed a name so I invited participants to submit names and then held a vote via email. "Different Drummers
Drum Circle" won by one vote. We were almost called, "Positive Re-Percussions"
After we had been drumming together for 3 or 4 months, I started letting people outside the church know we were
here. Brand new freestyle drum circles require a lot of patience because there are so many novices driving the music.
The most I could do was to provide a solid anchor beat to help keep everyone in rhythm. Of course, once or twice a night I
would cut loose... to show everyone where we were headed.
Ok. ...Also because it felt so good. <grin>
In 2004, I was asked to do a presentation on drum circles to a retirement community in Topsham, Maine. As a result,
a busload of seniors visited our drum circle one evening. The most memorable line from that evening was when a woman sitting
beside me turned and said, "I can't believe it took me 80 years to find out I love drumming!" They so enjoyed our drum circle
that they started their own at their retirement community. Some of them still visit our Yarmouth circle from time to time.
At the end of our first year, we were averaging 25-27 drummers per night. One side of the circle couldn't hear
the other side of the circle very well. I increased our schedule to two nights per month which cut the circle size in half.
At the same time, we were invited to perform at the A2U2 Coffeehouse in Portland.
Deja Vu. Community drum circles don't generally get asked to perform, yet our Masachusetts circle did after a
year of playing together. Now my Maine circle was being asked. Very cool. We have since performed at several
coffee houses, lots of church services of various faiths, the Yarmouth Clam Festival, Portland's Pagan Pride Festival,
the Common Ground Fair, Women In God's annual conference, countless benefits, a parade and even a wedding reception!
We were actually asked to provide the music for TWO weddings on that same day and had to turn one
down! The nine-member "Wedding Band" used the payment from the wedding to purchase 2 new djembes to be used by drum circle
participants who do not yet own drums.
When our circle began averaging 25+ drummers again I added a third night of drumming per month.
I've learned over the years that novice circles don't attract experienced drummers. Until a circle learns to
listen to one another and hold a steady rhythm they can be frustrating to experienced drummers. It's gratifying to have seen
the DDDC solidify. Our novices are now drummers. People have learned to listen while they play, to give others room musically,
and to keep a solid tempo. We're attracting more experienced drummers today. We also absorb the steady flow of new novice
drummers more easily. We have been joined by professional drummers such as Annegret Baier and Shamou.
We are also attracting more dancers. There is nothing like drumming for dancers. The energy exchange is incredible.
Creatively, Different Drummers has taken off in directions I never dreamed of. Our drummers feel free to implement
hand claps and vocalizations into the drum pieces. We have created incredible percussive backdrops to guest instruments such
as flute, didgeridoo, upright bass, electric bass, blues harmonica, saxophone, mandolin, berimbau, oboe, clarinet, marimba,
harp, cello, steel drums and the human voice. Our official poet, Martin Steingesser, who recites the most wonderful poetry
to our drumming, was inaugurated Portland, Maine's first Poet Laureate.
We are a diverse bunch. We are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Pagan, Buddhist and Athiest. We are doctors, artists,
ministers, woodworkers, therapists, administrators, nurses, cooks and dishwashers. To date, we have had participants from
Canada, Guatemala, Australia, Peru, Puerto Rico, Germany, New Zealand, Cuba, China, Iran, Holland, Japan, England, France,
Mexico and Russia.
We have several drummers who drive for more than an hour on a regular basis in order to drum with us. We have
had folks drive from Mass, NH, Wells, Damariscotta, Orono and even Calais(!!) to drum with us.
The three characteristics of Different Drummers that are most often cited are our welcoming atmosphere, our positive
and upbeat energy, and that people feel safe to be creative. I think these are important to the success of a community
Whether seeking physical, emotional, or spiritual healing, relaxation, excitement, creativity, sociality or fun,
Different Drummers has grown into an incredible community of diverse, warm, and connected people co-creating wonderful, uplifting
music with full hearts and dancing hands.
I would end saying, "It doesn't get any better than this."
...but I suspect that it WILL.