Tips, Tricks and Road Stories


Drums and the Rhythm of Life

November 26, 2013; Renee A. Kathleen (

Music has always been a significant part of my life. I can still recall early life in California, before I could barely walk, playing the bongos along to Beatles 45’s. Much later, at the onset of my parents divorce, and at the threshold of my turbulent teens, I would again, find a form of real salvation in the drums. My first drum kit at 17, was a throw away, with cymbals like trash can lids. But I was happy to have it, till I could earn a better one. My first ‘real’ kit was a 5-piece Slingerland, wrap in a beautiful oyster black and blue finish.  

It seemed to take forever to pay off, but the night I finally did, was one of the most memorable of my life. The couple that ran the drum shop even threw in a set of Zildjian high-hats and a pair of sticks. I could not wait to get it home, set it up, and rock it, no matter what the hour!

Within the next 6 years, life and all manner of upheaval would separate me from my beloved kit- through moves, marriage, theft, and loss. I replaced it with a white Premier, but that, too, would fall to the needs of survival. Despite it all, my passion for drums and music would remain, even when I did not or could not own a drum.

After the suicidal death of my father in 2006, I again turned to the healing power of percussion. A local drum circle was a call too potent to resist. I picked up a very small d’jembe at a yard sale, and soon, purchased a Toca, my first true d’jembe.

In rapid fashion, I found myself immersed in this rather large, and varied community of drum circles in the Tampa Bay Area. The first time I experienced the bliss of locking into a rhythm with other drummers, it exceeded the exhilaration of the first night with my kit. It was a trance-like, free- spirit soaring, feeling of energy, pure and beautiful. That it was experienced by others, was nothing short of life changing for me-yet again. Mickey Hart defines it as “Entraining” in his excellent book “Drumming on the Edge of Magic.”, where everyone is of the same heartbeat and your beta state is heightened.

Over the years, I would hear many stories, of others, drummers, and dancers alike, battling depression, abuse, physical illnesses beyond imagining, all manner of life tribulations, that found their own connection, a comfort, an outlet and a joy in hand drumming and the transformative power of rhythm. Of all the people that have confided their stories to me, there is a commonality, a constant, like the rhythm of the drum, like a heart beat.

Life is rhythm, an energy that is ever shifting, challenging and in that unity of rhythm-there can be a connection and hope. I have come full circle and bought another Premier kit. But hand drumming is a social phenomenon, where you become one-when you drum.



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