Since beginning the journey of learning to play drums, I’ve been very interested in how they might be used as an instrument for bringing people together as a healing modality. After some research in my own city, I found that one woman, Nathalie Wendling, has been using the power of drumming to bring her community together in Ottawa South for just such a cause. She started a community drum circle.
Nathalie’s daughter, Melanie, has Cornelia de Lange syndrome (CdLS). This is a chromosomal disorder which can cause a number of physical and developmental delays. Melanie was very sick last year for almost six months and was unable to attend school. According to Nathalie, it was a very difficult and lonely time for her. Because of her disorder, Nathalie’s family wasn’t able to do many normal activities in the area, like skiing, skating or swimming. But, they were determined to find something to do together as a family.
Nathalie met her husband while at university in Montreal, and they would often go to the mountain on Sundays to watch the drum circle. They realized that they did have an activity to participate in together as a family, and for their purposes, it was more important to be having fun and being happy, than having lots of experience.
So, they set out to find an instructor, and began a journey with their daughter and son. They started out small in their basement, and invited families with children who had special needs. With some of the money their son raised for his other project, 2petrats.com, they purchased hand drums. They found a professional drummer from the area, and once he was on board, they had what they needed to keep their drum circle going. Just recently, they moved into their local Legion and are continuing to expand to include more people every time they meet.
The benefits for Melanie is that she now gets to participate in social activities and have a more normal childhood. Melanie has suffered many operations and procedures, her speech is impaired and she can’t participate in activities like riding a bicycle. It’s very difficult for her to have friends at the house and maintain close relationships. Drumming provides her the freedom to make music in whatever way she can without judgement or criticism. Everyone is there to have fun, with community building as the goal. Also, with a professional instructor, Nathalie says they also sound really good!
Nathalie hopes that by moving into a larger facility they can incorporate more people, make more music, and maybe even include dancing. The idea that sparked Nathalie to start this, and to continue, is that she wanted this activity to be for the community, in the community, with everyone coming together, making friends and giving people who may normally feel isolated, a place they belong.