Ranch Style Rhythms

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April 29, 2017

Hired to provide an interactive rhythm event for three dozen entrepreneurs and investors, I loaded all the instruments into my truck and drove out into the wine country near Point Conception. Had been to the ranch for previous events, and was happy to return. It’s a horse refuge, and there are over five hundred wild horses roaming freely on the expansive property. A few dozen of the magnificent beasts were lounging near the entrance road as I drove in. Sign said, “Speed Limit 8 1/2 Miles Per Hour.”

Parked, pitched my tent, connected with Chipper Bro Bell, reviewed the last minute details for the event, and then went to the barn to set up. The barn has been gentrified with a concrete floor and cosmetic carpentry upgrades, and earlier that day they’d added the beautiful drapes and lighting for our drum circle. What a spot!

Everyone came in and sat down, and after a few opening comments we all picked up the Boomwhackers and played our first piece standing around inside the circle of chairs. The oblong shape of the room was challenging, but the participants were totally into it, and having a grand time. Then we put the Boomwhackers aside and everyone dove into the pile of drums and hand percussion like kids gone nuts in a candy store.

At one point I was in the middle of the circle and realized how many creative, quick thinking, energetic people were in the group. Decided it would be far more engaging for them to facilitate their own circle than for me to do all of it. So I handed out John Scalici’s Leadership Cards, explained how the game worked, and let them totally facilitate their own event.

The Leadership Cards are numbered in sequence. Each card has one simple instruction to facilitate for the group, such as, “Lower the volume of the whole group,” or, “Raise the volume of the whole group.” Everyone takes a card, and then we take turns going into the middle to facilitate whatever instructions are written on our card. There are 25 cards, and as each person fulfills the instructions – or ignores them and totally improvises – the cumulative result is a sequence of interesting facilitation and groovy music-making. The game is easy to do, everyone gets a moment to shine, and we all share the role of leadership.

After the first few facilitators had struggled and laughed through their moments in the middle, the game got progressively funnier and more unique with each participant. Some used big body language, others stood still and relied on their voice for communication. Some were timid or gentle, others exuberant and theatrical. Two guys got out in the middle and started spinning and twisting with Capoiera dance moves, upside down as often as they were upright, feet whirling at the speed of the music. It was a freaking BLAST. By the conclusion of the game, everything I had been asked to facilitate had happened, plainly evident in the cheers and huge smiles all around the room. Then we concluded the ‘official event,’ and most of the people began chatting, while the diehards and I keep jamming for another 45 minutes. I guess it was around midnight by then, and most folks had pattered off to their tents for sleep, but fifteen of us ended up seated around the bonfire, laughing and singing as guitars and bottles circled their way round. At some point we realized it was after 2 AM, so I plodded off to my own tent and slumbered ’til dawn.

Mid afternoon the next day I am back home, grinning as I unpack all the instruments and put everything away. Thunderstruck once again by how much I love my work and the people I get connect with, and how grateful I am for the events I get to participate in. Day after day, facilitating vortexes of joy and happiness, building spiritually powered love bombs and lobbing them in all directions, KA-BOOM! KA-BOOM! KA-BOOOM! Delighted and humbled by the opportunity to host one glorious life affirming activity after the next, constantly surrounded by groups of happy people celebrating their togetherness.

Feeling very, very blessed indeed.

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Why

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November 12, 2010

The light shining in their eyes after we drum together is the reason I do my job. The laughter, the giggles, the grins, the easily identifiable signs of joy; the transformation from our individual hang-ups and concerns into a cohesive, harmonious state of happiness.

I schlepped piles of instruments to a couple of different elementary schools today, and drummed with dozens of sixth graders this morning, and dozens of first graders this afternoon. Drums and assorted hand percussion in the morning, Boomwhackers, the Hang, and a personal djembe in the afternoon, one hundred and eleven students, plus seven teachers, totaling one hundred and eighteen participants today.

Today wasn’t a “job” it was a “gift” because I was providing music for the classes my niece and nephew are in. I didn’t asked to be paid, I just tried to be a good uncle by contributing musical enrichment to a couple of elementary schools. But as I sit here in the slanting rays of fading, chilly November sunlight, beside the creek in the back yard of my mom’s property, among the pines of Plumas county, watching the steam rising from the flanks of the horses playing in the field next door and the leaves dropping from the trees like weightless flecks of gold and crimson and reflect on today’s music-making, I feel no less rewarded than if I had been paid top wages by the most prestigious private school.

Twenty-one years deep into this career of drum circle facilitation, I look back, consider the four hundred thousand-plus participants I have hosted, mentally peruse the spectrum of school cafeterias, concert halls, corporate ballrooms, castles, pubs, fields, beaches, backyards, living rooms, trains, buses, restaurants, spotlights, bonfires and sunsets in which I have held events, and realize nothing has changed. I still do it for the same reasons I got hooked on it in the first place.

Drumming together creates a uniquely beautiful state of love.