The first drum circle, led by Harriet Peterson and assisted by Amanda Santos, gathered at the Legacy Activity Center on February 28. The two leaders were surrounded by a most energetic group of approximately seventeen very young, young, less young, middle-aged, and bordering-on-old boys, girls, men, and women. Age seemed to play no role in the level of enthusiasm. None of the participants had ever taken part in a drumming circle before.
Harriet Peterson started the group off with warm-up exercises, which involved shaking the hands in mid-air and clapping. In addition to several kinds of drums, such as bass, bongo, and djembe (a West African drum), she also presented other percussion instruments to the group, such as a tambourine, triangle, rattle, a two-tone wood block, and a frog. Scraping along the frog’s back with a stick produces a frog-like croak.
The guiding principle to lead the group through rhythms was “If you can say it, you can play it.” Abiding by this guideline, Harriet taught the group to play different rhythms by the rhythms of speech in the following sentences, each representing a different rhythm: “Ring the bell,” “Play ca-cee-chee,” “Play cla vea today,” and “We came here to play some real good music.” Since all of this was too simple for this highly motivated group, the next step was to have some drummers playing one rhythm and some playing other rhythms. The whole state of confusion was to be held together by poor Amanda Santos on the bass trying to maintain one overall beat for the group. The results were-shall we say-amazing! What happened after that remains known only to the group, since the writer of this article suddenly had urgent business elsewhere.