We arrived early, my daughter and my friend and myself, to the small studio on Kerbey Lane. "Murphy's Law," I said, with a comment about the uncertainty of traffic and parking and unfamiliar places. Our facilitator hadn't even gotten out of her car yet, but graciously answered my parking questions and allowed us in.
An arched entrance to a short stone path revealed a beautifully landscaped garden spotted with Asian statues and a quote from Henri Nouwen engraved on a plaque. I snapped a few photos and we entered the studio. The walls were lined with percussion instruments of all sorts. A circle of chairs was arranged around several djembes, with various smaller instruments on each chair.
More friends arrived, until our group of eight was complete. Introductions and connections were made, and we were invited to find a seat. Our host, Sherry, explained her life events that led to drumming and the opening of this drum shop/studio, where she teaches classes and plays in a performance group of women drummers.
Our warmup was playing on the small percussive instruments that were in our chairs. Sherry set the beat on claves, and we were free to follow it however we chose with our shakers, tongue drum, bells, tambourine, agogo, and other instruments I hadn't seen before. We then passed them on to the left, saying "Life changes," and the next person with the claves set the beat.
A lesson on the djembes came next. I got to pick a drum first, and the others followed suit. We were shown how to find the nap of the skin, the spine of the drum, and position it to get the right sound. Hand movement and placement mattered, too, lifting the sound from the drum, using our palms in the middle for deeper tones and fingers together near the edge for higher sounds.
Sherry talked about the importance of drumming in other cultures; women have been forbidden to drum in some places, and are just now returning to a practice that historically was women-centric. Emboldened by that knowledge, we learned a simple rhythm and began practicing.
The last round of drumming was the most interesting, with our group split into three sections, each doing a different variation on the same beat. Sherry and my percussionist daughter played the larger dunun drums with sticks, riffing on our basic patterns. Several times, I caught friends with their eyes closed, focused on their parts and smiling. I did the same.
Eight friends, drumming together for the first time. What started as an outside-of-our-comfort-zone activity was, two hours later, one of the best experiences I've had. We all want to do it again.