The group: Lisa Lapides,
Sheldon Frankel, Eric
Cohen, Steve Mandell
and Lisa Klein.
they beat the
efore Steve Mandell bought a drum, he
used pots and pans, restaurant tables
and counter tops.
Anything to keep the beat.
"There's something about the prim-
itiveness of the drum," he says. 'There's
a beat that moves outward from deep
in your soul. It's energy. It's powerful.
It's rhythm that begs to be released."
Each week, Mr. Mandell joins other
amateur percussionists for one-hour
drumming sessions. They meet in an
old building off Woodward Avenue
downtown where the rush of traffic can't
be heard above the crescendo of bare
There's no right way. No wrong way.
Drummers do their own thing. And
somehow, it all comes together in a
high-power thunder, that vibrates the
walls and floor boards.
"It's physically tiring, but it's emo-
tionally and spiritually invigorating,"
says Lisa Lapides, a drummer.
Ms. Lapides and Lisa Klein sit on the floor
with legs crossed, eyes half-closed. Instru-
ments strapped around their shoulders, Mr.
Mandell, Sheldon Frankel and Eric Cohen
hover above the women. Swaying.
The group begins in silence. Abruptly,
someone initiates the session with a blow of
a fist to hide. The others join in. Slowly at
first. Then faster. After moments, the con-
stellation of disparate beats merge into a
staccato, identifiable rhythm.
And the beat goes on. Quickening. Slow-
ing. Getting quieter. And quieter. And qui-
eter. Fading to a near silence. Fingertips
scrape the drum tops forming a shhh, shhh,
Crash. With an unexpected blow, the pace
accelerates again. The drummers' heads bob
trance-like in late afternoon sunlight, which
streams into the room through vertical win-
"For me, this is spiritual. My essence
comes out through my drums," Mr. Cohen
Drummers beat for different reasons. It's
fun, most say. In fact, in this group, the idea
to drum regularly together began at a party
Mr. Cohen tossed last fall.
"It's so nice to have a party where you don't
need alcohol and you don't need drugs. You
can have a great time making music," he
Beyond recreation, drumming serves ther-
apeutic purposes. In 1991, the U.S. Senate
supported the use of drumming circles as
part of the Older Americans Act.
Rose Morgan, a music therapist at Bots-
ford Continuing Health Center, has wit-
nessed the emotional, social and physical
benefits of drumming for her elderly patients.
"It is wonderful for range-of-motion," she
Mickey Hart, drummer for the folk/rock
group, the Grateful Dead, publicly endorsed
the activity. So did Dr. Oliver Sacks, a neu-
rologist and author, who wrote that drum-
ming can help restore natural, internal body
In recent years, the men's movement has
sought to put husbands, fathers, boyfriends
and sons in touch with their inner-most feel-
ings. Dr. Samini Siegel, director of music
therapy at the University of Windsor, has
used drum therapy for children and adoles-
cents who have sustained abuse and bouts
She says a drumming circle serves as a
microcosm, teaching youngsters about indi-
viduality and compliance with social norms.
"It's about expressing themselves, hear-
ing their own rhythm, their own music," she
says. "Then, they put their rhythms out in
the group and synchronize their music with
a social, communal system."
Language. Drummers say their penchant
elevates non-verbal communication skills to
a different level. Each beat is a word, each
thump a revelation. Each rhythmic conver-
sation becomes a method for conveying af-
fection, frustration and other emotions.
Participants say drumming is a conduit for
self-knowledge and better friendships. It's a
"I definitely feel like I'm sharing through
my soul," Mr. Frankel says. "There's a real
religious aspect to it. For me, it's a ritual and
release of tension."
For Ms. Lapides, the chance to make noise,
loud noise, enables her to break through a
sound barrier — one that tells women to re-
main hushed and less assertive than men,
even in the 1990s.
And for all members of the group, there's
a connection of the drum beat with the heart
beat. Says Ms. Lapides: "You can't help as-
sociating drumming with passion." ❑