By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The Women’s Drum Center (WDC) was bursting at the seams a couple of years ago, so they traded in their 350 square foot studio in the Dow Building for one three times that size. Still located in the Dow Building at 2242 University Ave. W., the 20+-year-old non-profit organization now has all the room they need for classes, workshops, and equipment storage.
Bettie Seitzer is president of the WDC board, a member of the drumHeart Ensemble, and an enthusiastic instructor. “Historically, women were not allowed to drum in many parts of the world,” she said. “At WDC, we understand the transformative power of drumming for both individuals and groups. We support the nurturance of women’s talents as musicians, composers, teachers, and leaders.”
Photo right: Drummers practice on the West African Dundun Drum, which comes in small, medium, and large sizes. The three sizes produce different tones (which correspond to size) from high to low. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)
While there are some co-ed opportunities for men and for families to drum together, the bulk of the classes offered at WDC are for women. Newcomers often share their music experiences in their first drumming class and, according to Seitzer, more than a few say something like, “I wanted to drum when I was in elementary school or junior high, but the music teacher handed me a flute instead.”
WDC strives to be a safe place for women and girls (12+) to start drumming, and to offer ongoing opportunities that explore female expressions of drumming.
An excellent place for new women students to start is the Beginner’s Class on Tuesdays from 6:30-7:30pm. No previous drumming or music experience is needed; owning a drum is not a prerequisite either. WDC has plenty to share! The class is taught by Seitzer, and the atmosphere is encouraging, educational, and fun. From 7:30-8:15pm, the more experienced drummers in the group stay for an advanced beginner class called “Women who Groove.”
Seitzer started drumming nine years ago, and it took just a few drum beats for her to know that she had found her instrument. She said, “I’m excited about the direction that WDC is headed right now. We’ve done a good job for years with our classes and with our work out in the community, and recently, we’re doing more to broaden the scope of our performances. I attended a West African drum and dance retreat in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania this fall, and talked with the staff there about the cultural appropriateness of non-Africans playing performing African drum music. Their response was, “You are welcome to play our music, but please tell the stories behind the songs too.”
The performance ensemble at WDC is called drumHeart, with the “H” capitalized to emphasize heart. Seitzer explained, “Authentic performance of this music features elements of drum, dance, and voice—and we approach all three with Heart.” The ensemble is made up of the center’s most experienced drummers, whose mission is to serve the community with world percussion music that nurtures and inspires. They are out and about in the Twin Cities almost every summer weekend, drumming, singing, dancing, and explaining where their eclectic music comes from. They bring their joy and spirit to energize walkers fundraising for organizations like the National Kidney Foundation, the Pancreatic Cancer Foundation, and many others. To inquire about hiring drumHeart for an event in 2019, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The ensemble charges an honorarium to perform.
Drumming has many social and musical benefits, but did you know that it’s also good for your health?
“There’s verifiable research out there about the health benefits of drumming, especially for people over 40 years of age,” Seitzer said. “Several students have told me their sleep patterns improved, they had fewer chiropractic problems, and less depression since they started drumming.”
Part of the mission of WDC is to use drumming, percussion, and music to help participants find avenues to better heath and healing.
To view their class schedule, visit www.womensdrumcenter.org or call 651-206-7616 with questions.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here