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home : news : news Tuesday, May 24, 2016

10/30/2013 Email this articlePrint this article 
Local community gets the beat at drum circle

Melanie Saunders

Once a month, the earthy sounds of ethnic drums fill the Central Community High School band room. Clanks, taps, booms and unique rhythms are being played by DeWitt community members from 3 months to 80 years old.

For about a year and a half, since his completion of the master's program at VanderCook College of Music in Chicago, Central band director Josh Greubel has been leading a drum circle consisting of several eclectic rhythm instruments.

Upon taking a world music master's course and participating in a weekend drum circle at the college with his wife and son, Greubel said of the program and his instructor, "Just kind of seeing what they had and the way he led it, as well as some of the ways he was teaching things, just got me inspired."

That inspiration led Greubel to start a drum circle in DeWitt. To get started, he applied for and was awarded grants from Theisen's, the DeWitt Area Fine Arts Foundation and First Congregational United Church of Christ. Since receiving the grants and beginning, drum circles consistently have brought in around 20-25 participants per meeting, even having 50 at one.

In addition, Greubel is starting a world music course at Central Community High School for students interested in learning more about ethnic and world instruments. Students will play many of the same instruments used in the drum circle, and world music will incorporate a vast array of instruments to represent various parts of the globe.

Greubel plans to use drum circle/world music instruments for concert band as well. "Right now, out of the entire band of 80 kids, I have at least one thing for everybody," Greubel said. "So we could do some rhythm stuff with the entire band."

Students also are excited for the world music course. Hailey Franzen, Central senior and band participant, is looking forward to the world music curriculum this year. Her goal is to gain a better understanding of world cultures through music.

"The reason I want to take the class is to learn about the music cultures in different countries," Franzen said. "Music is such a major component to the way people live around the world, and history classes don't cover that area as well as they should."

Greubel says he has many favorite aspects of the drum circles. He enjoys having the opportunity to work with members of the community and especially with the young children, like his own, who come and participate. "The equipment is designed to handle them and their excessive energy," he said with a laugh.

Greubel has been impressed with how the news of the drum circle has been passed within neighboring communities, even bringing in participants from Davenport and the Quad Cities. In addition, he has been approached by businesses about using a drum circle for leadership training and team bonding.

Since last year's inaugural drum circle, participants have enjoyed having the opportunity to play at various community events. Community members played at the John Bloom festival, and Greubel also took students from his high school band program to demonstrate the drum circle at the Iowa Bandmasters Association Conference. There, students played in a brief demonstration, which was followed up with a clinic taught by Greubel.

In comparing this year to last, Greubel feels the drum circle has evolved, both with participants and with himself. "I'm not a drummer by trait, so I've grown a lot more comfortable with it," he said.

"It's all about experimenting and people feeling comfortable."

The next drum circle meeting will take place Saturday, Nov. 2, 10:30-11:30 a.m. in the band room. Greubel is looking forward to upcoming meetings. He hopes to involve the new middle school band director in drum circle activities and give her an opportunity to lead the group.

He sees big things for the future of drum circles but is taking it slow to see what happens.

Greubel compares the drum circle to the community band program started by Ed McMahon 27 years ago. At the time it wasn't expected to run more than three or four years.

"We're going to do this as long as the community will show up," Greubel said. "I have no plans of moving or anything, so I plan to just keep drumming away for a long, long time."

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