Interactive drum circle enlivens community

Kellie Bowen, Staff Writer

The first thing that is heard before even entering the Woolley Rehearsal Hall is a messy noise of people pounding on drums. Students and faculty from Linfield as well as McMinnville residents were all there to participate in the Drum Circle.

The leader of the circle was Jim Donovan. He has lead over 2,700 events, is a Music and Wellness professor at Saint Francis University in Pennsylvania, teaches the World Drum Ensemble and was in the band, Rusted Root, which opened up for Robert Plant in a show in Pittsburg.

This drum experience was unlike any other musical participation; this was meditation with drums. Everyone, including Donovan, had a drum. He taught the audience how to calm anxiety, fall asleep, play, and create music.

Donovan bounced between steady “ticking” meditation exercises and music rounds. He explained that tapping a steady beat is a pattern your brain can easily stick to, which allows the restless mind wandering to slow down.

“It takes about 120 seconds of focusing on just this ticking beat for it to kick in,” Donovan said.

Donovan instructed the class to create music on the spot. He advised to just start beating, with only one rule: “try to make us sound good.” And they did just that. Following his lead, the class innovated, but quickly found a steady beat to follow. The strong, tight pounds made the large glass window vibrate.

One of the last things he introduced the class to was an African Luma tribe song of gratitude. The class chose one of three drum rhythms to play. When played collectively, the sound had a strong reggae beat. Donovan sang the song in the tribe’s language which translated to “Are you happy to be here? Yes, we are happy to wake up today.”

The class ended with a final copy-cat exercise. Donovan played, clapped, snapped, shouted and yowled in an opera voice for everyone in the circle to take turns copying. It quickly turned into a unified challenge to make each turn sound like one, rapid movement of noise.