“Drumming ultimately has therapeutic value, providing the emotional and physical benefits collectively known as “drummer’s high,” an endorphin rush that can only be stimulated by playing music, not simply listening to it. …The endorphin-filled act of drumming increases positive emotions and leads people to work together in a more cooperative fashion.” The Neuroscience of Drumming
Want to experience your own drummer’s high?
The beat goes on at KC Memory Cafe. Brandon Draper of Drum Safari reminds us how connected we all are by tapping his hand on the table. “No matter where we come from, we all share this internal rhythm, our heartbeat,” he tells us. We tap along with him, and follow his lead as he introduces other more complex beats. Ninety of us are gathered on the lower level of the Plaza Library to experience the magic of drumming, guided by Brandon, his wife, and two daughters. He introduces us to ancient drums and to contemporary instruments. After our briefing in the powerful history of drumming, we all have an opportunity to experience the “drummer’s high.”
The excitement and energy in the room builds as we all make music together. We are laughing, banging away, singing call and response, and thoroughly engaged in creating cooperative sounds.
People lingered for a long time afterwards, drawn together by the shared experience.
Though Brandon has shared his drumming skills many times, performing at the KC Memory Care touched him deeply. He was thinking of his beloved grandmother, who had lived with dementia. He stayed connected with her through music. “To be here, sharing with all of you, meant so much to me,” he told us.
Our thanks to the wonderful team from Santa Marta Retirement Center, who nourished us with delicious snacks and helped serve everyone. Thanks also to Pam and Beverly, who helped nurture, serve, encourage and keep the beat going on. Want to volunteer or get on our email list? Just contact Heather Harrison, firstname.lastname@example.org 816-701-3763
Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.
Life is about rhythm. We vibrate; our hearts are pumping blood; we are a rhythm machine; that’s what we are. – Mickey Hart
Some might have thought it a hassle to be hauling such a large load of percussion instruments, but Renee Kessler didn’t mind. She was thinking of the sudden smile she’d see when her mother-in-law began rhythmically shaking the maracas. Or the joy she’d see in Mr. Norman’s eyes as he beat the drums. She was glad to see the circle of residents in the memory care unit waiting for her and relished offering them choices of bells, clappers, triangles, drums, tambourines, and rain sticks.
“Through our drumming circles, we give people choices, we inspire them and we wake them up. Their eyes brighten when we play music,” Renee says.
Renee has a long history of waking people up through engaging them in creative arts. She worked as a teacher for an esteemed arts school in West Palm Beach, Florida, and now serves as a consultant, helping students prepare for arts programs. And she’s long been involved as a family care partner. When a drummer friend invited her to visit memory care units with him, she was eager to go; she’d been collecting instruments for years.
The experience was meaningful for all involved. Once they talked to each participant and distributed the instruments, the drummer set a beat and gradually everyone chimed in.
“We kept the flow of the energy and then we stopped and invited people to make random noise,” Renee says. “People were very expressive and eager to beat on drums, flap the clappers, and shake bells.”
Being part of rhythm and music energized and equalized everyone and built a sense of community, creativity, and connection.
Want to create connection through percussion instruments?
- Set the tone with a drumbeat or select a CD of familiar music with a definite beat.
- Offer a choice of noisemakers. If needed, you can beat a pen on a book or put some beans in a jar to make an impromptu shaker. Or you can hit two spoons together.
- Encourage your loved one to make as much noise as possible. Do the same. There’s liberation in making noise and there’s a sense of connection sharing the same rhythm.
Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.