The Beat Goes On

Madison’s Drum Circle group engages mind, body and spirit

Monthly meetings are open to all ages

(June 2016) – “No Rules!” That is the quick response from Fernando Rubio if you should ask him why he enjoys Drum Circles. “We are surrounded by rules everywhere, except here,” Rubio said. “There are no mistakes. There is no right or wrong. Just relax and put a smile on your face.”
Born in Chile, Rubio was exposed to Latin music from an early age and even played the congas in high school. In the 1960s, his parents moved the family to Chicago. As an adult, he relocated to Madison, Ind., when he was hired as a mechanical supervisor for Marble Hill. Today, he is in international sales for Rotary Lift.
“Life happened and slowly I was pulled away from performing, but music was always part of me,” he said. Then while vacationing in Ashville, N.C., he stumbled upon what he describes as a “beautiful event.” It was a drum circle. As he enjoyed the experience, he thought, “Why couldn’t I do this in Madison?”

Photo courtesy of Teresa Waller

Drums of various sizes and types are arranged in a circle in preparation for the evening’s drum circle in Madison, Ind.

For the past eight years, Rubio has been playing host to a free, monthly drum circle in the heart of Madison. At 7 p.m. on the third Friday of each month, young and old gather at Yoga on Main, the studio owned by his wife, Julie Rubio. A typical night for the Madison Drum Circle begins with Rubio in the center of the circle setting a rhythm, often with his favorite drums, congas. As the attendees become comfortable, they join him, adding improvisations and expressing their personal interpretations.
“I love it when people say they do not have rhythm. I tell them if you listen to music and find yourself bobbing your head to the song, you have rhythm,” he adds with a chuckle, “Just try it!”
According to Arthur Hull, an internationally renowned percussionist, at its heart a drum circle is any group of like-minded people playing hand-drums. People drum in circles to reduce stress, build community and have fun, creating a group version of the so-called runners high.
There are three basic types of drum circles. Community are typically free-form, informal and usually conducted in a public place. A Conducted circle is where a paid leader directs the music (think of corporate retreats). And the type used by Rubio is the Facilitated.
“I think drum circles are a great way for people to come out of their shell and possibly discover a new interest that literally anyone is capable of doing,” said Stephanie Beard, a longtime Madison resident and licensed massage therapist. She was introduce to the group by Julie Rubio and has been attending the Madison Drum Circle since 2015. She was initially attracted to the idea of trying something new. “I always wished that I could play an instrument (still do), but I thought ‘Hey, anyone can beat on a hand drum.’ ”
Drum circles are the oldest form of communication dating back to the prehistoric times when the beating of drums warned of upcoming dangers or simply provided entertainment. “We are seeing a rebirth of interest in drum circles in part due to Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who are seeking a way to express themselves. Drumming is not a political statement, it is a personal statement, it is about enjoying yourself,” said Rubio.
Beard recalled her first experience with the drum circle, saying, “My husband (John) was very against going, and I basically twisted his arm into attending.” She added that as the hour went by, she could feel how much he was enjoying the experience. “We walked out, and I said. ‘Well, that wasn’t so bad was it?’ to which he replied “I’ve got rhythm!” The next day he proceeded to purchase three djembe drums.
Typical instruments found at a drum circle include djembes (rope-tuned, skin-covered, goblet shaped), ashikos, (megaphone shaped with goat-skin surface and hardwood base) congas, bongos, frame drums, (reputed to be the first drum ever made, it is a round, shallow, hand-held instrument) tambourines, djun djun, (hourglass-shaped) bass drums, shakers, bells and woodblocks. Participants at the Madison Drum Circle can bring their own or they can use instruments available at the studio. Crawdaddy Music in Madison carries a line of drums.
“In reality, there are numerous everyday items that can be used – pots and pans, plastic buckets, cans, wooden sticks drummed on a table,” said Rubio, “Even referee whistles.”
Rubio encourages people to give it a try at least once.
“I am always encouraging people to try the drum circle, it is good for the soul,” added Beard.

• For more information, contact Fernando Rubio at (812) 701-0446 or email: frubio1842@gmail.com.

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