The Heartbeat of the SC Motherhouse: The Drum Circle
By Megan Moore, Communications intern
Once a month, under the direction of S. Shirley Le Blanc, the SC Motherhouse is transformed into a living being with a very clear heartbeat coming from the circle of drummers in the Cedars Auditorium. The Drum Circle was an idea borne of S. Caroljean Willie, EarthConnection program director. I was lucky enough to attend the most recent meeting of the Drum Circle.
S. Caroljean recounts her first encounter with a drum circle: “I was first introduced to a drum circle in Eustis, Florida, where once a month at sunset people from all of the surrounding towns would gather by the lake for a drumming circle. About 70 people showed up ranging in age from 3 to 90. No experience or talent was necessary. The goal was simply the spontaneous creation of music using a variety of drum and percussion instruments.”
To be completely candid, when I walked into the Cedars Auditorium on Jan. 30, I was nervous about what I was about to experience. I’ve never been much of a musician and I make a much better audience member than I do musical act, but as soon as I entered the auditorium, my worries were dissolved. I was greeted with a warm embrace from S. Shirley Le Blanc and quickly found a seat with my name on it with a set of bongos ready for me to start playing.
It turns out that the day I attended the Drum Circle was a special one. S. Shirley explains, “We recently were the beneficiary of 33 Tarahumara Indian Drums made by Mexican Indians. They were drums that were unsellable at a Southwestern Decor Shop in El Paso, Texas, due to scratches and dents. They were a miracle for us as we did not have enough drums to go around. S. Mary Ellen Murphy and I had a great time decorating the drums with artwork.”
The artwork on the drums was beautiful. There were images of animals and wildlife adorning the already beautiful instruments and though they may have been scratched or dented, they sounded flawless when played.
The Drum Circle has a total of 76 members on the roster though on average only about 55 members will be present on drum call day. Though there was not a full 76-member circle on Jan. 30, the sounds from the Cedars Auditorium were robust, nothing short of complete.
So why do these 76 individuals, some musically inclined, some not, choose to spend one Saturday each month drumming? The answer is different for every member.
“We do not teach or demonstrate. We only create our own authentic self-expression and we have a great time doing it. Some use it as a prayer form, some as a social activity, some use it to make community, and some use it as a creative endeavor from their own ‘within,’” says S. Shirley.
What struck me most about my experience was that there was no apprehension, no fear from the drummers that what they were playing may be wrong or sound out of place. Instead there was a sense of harmony and cohesion amongst the group. Even when each drummer played a different beat, it all came together in one collective sound, an undeniable heartbeat of the SC Motherhouse.
S. Caroljean reflects, “I find the Drum Circle a wonderful experience of companionship and community. It is a great tool for focusing on the present moment and just being present to that moment. Everyone is equal in the circle and each one has a role to play. It reminds me that each of us alone can do something, but together we can do great things.”