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When I was in fifth grade, it was the time when you could sign up to be part of the band. I went to the meeting all prepared to say "I want to be a drummer." However, when Mr. Stetz, the band teacher got out the instruments and introduced what our choices were, he didn't mention drums. Hr got out trombones, trumpets, clarinets, French horns, flutes, even tubas. We went around and each students said what they were choosing. My best friend sitting next to me said "French horn" and before you knew it that was what was coming out of my mouth, too, "French horn, please." "A good choice" said the teacher. He then wrote it down. When we got to the next to the last kids, a boy said, "Drums. I want to be a drummer." And the teacher said, "Of course you do. Everyone wants to play the drums. If I tell students that is a choice, I would have a whole band full of nothing but drummers. Let's hear you tap out Yankee Doodle....Good, okay you're a drummer." "No fair!!!!!" I screamed inside. "I WANT TO BE A DRUMMER, TOO." But my polite girl sat still, and quietly went and picked up my used, "loaner" French horn, which I dutifily carried back and forth to school on a weekly basis for a year and a half, (a full mile, although not uphill both ways.) Half way through sixth grade, I convinced my teacher and my parents that I really did NOT want to play French horn and quit. My teacher tried a last ditch effort to get me to keep playing by saying that I could use the talent of playing French horn if I was a contestant in a beauty pageant, which has never come up in my life.

But life did go on and I did do a good many things. But deep in my heart, I still knew, "I always wanted to be a drummer." I bought a small hand drum at one point in my twenties when I was hanging out with the women's ritual group folks, and banged on it quite satisfactorally for a while, but that time ended. And a kid in one of my counseling groups poked a drum stick through the head of that drum.

And then two years ago, my story partner James and I were hired to be on staff at a Children's Hospital in their Healing Arts Department. We go there on a weekly basis to tell stories. Very satisfying work! One of our colleagues in the Department, Sundiata Kata, is a professional drummer and drumming facilitator. Each week, he hauls drums and other percussion instruments to the playroom at the hospital and we join him as well as parents and kids from the hospital in creating a drumming and storytelling circle. It started with the idea that we were helping him out. But as we've gone along now nearly every week for two years, I have gotten to be an okay djembe player (a West African drum, also known as the healing drum). I can pretty much hold my own as we rock and roll and help to create community and healing space together. nd we tell stories with amazing drumming accompaniment.

So this week, Sundiata held a giant drumming circle at the San Diego Children's Center where he also works. This was to kick off a study on the lowering of stress in children by recreational drumming. He invited us to join with him, the kids, and other drummers and community supporters. There were over a hundred of us drumming and creating a fine energy in the California sunshine. And I realized as I was sitting there keeping the beat, enjoying all of the wonderful drumming and drummers, "I always wanted to be a drummer. I ALWAYS wanted to be a drummer. And now I am!" Thank you to Sundiata and to the drum.

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Tags: dreams, drumming, storytelling

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Comment by Helewise/Karen Standal on May 2, 2008 at 9:39pm
I love drums too.....especially to walk a bonfire at night....smoke spiraling and crisp cool air.....and telling the stories....WAHOO
Comment by Pamela Grenfell Smith on March 31, 2008 at 7:22am
What a wonderful story! And it's wonderful how life sometimes circles around to let us re-visit our heart's desires.

Somewhere on the Web there are instructions for making a taiko drum out of duct tape, a folding chair and an old tire. Someday I'm going to make myself one. You've reminded me of that longing...thank you.

Have you seen the California storytellers Eth-No-Tec? They use drumming as part of their telling - sometimes with an invisible drum.
Comment by Roger Armstrong on March 30, 2008 at 10:16pm
Hi, Patti,
I, too, went through that 5th grade "instrument assignment" experience, except that I HAD a snare drum at home (from my dad's days with a swing band) and I knew I wanted to learn to play it. So I stuck it out...through Jr. and Senior High, then into the college bands and into the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra--in the days BEFORE they became professional. I even studied to be a band director for a couple of years. I still have the drum, including my great-great-great grandfather's ebony drumsticks HE used in the Civil War. I don't get to play percusson much any more, but the lessons and love of it never leave. Thanks for triggering the memories!

Roger

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