FARMINGTON – Boom, boom. Shake, shake. Rattle, rattle.

The thunderous rhythm of 22 hands banging goat-skinned drums rocked the University of Maine at Farmington on Thursday morning as students and teachers demonstrated the therapeutic side of thumping.

UMF senior Abigail Breen and the crew of student-musicians played as part of the college’s annual Health and Rehabilitation Festival. Breen, a rehabilitation services major from Vermont who now lives in Farmington, spoke about the benefits of drumming for adolescents, then pulled the willing crowd into the act.

“When you are playing a drum, there are no wrong notes,” Breen said.

The festival showcased more than 20 social service providers in Western Maine and offered a variety of workshops, like the drumming demonstration, that taught ways to improve quality of life.

Breen, her legs wrapped around a large, wooden djemebe, an African drum, said, “It involves improvising music, beautiful music. Group drumming is not about teaching people to play, it’s about giving people permission to play.”

Breen has been interning at Skowhegan Middle School. She told of seeing the transformations that students have made since being invited into the rhythmic circle. They meet each week to drum, she said, and to heal.

“People would call them social delinquents,” she said. “But they form these social bonds in this drum group, and the connection is great.” Already, more than 60 students in Skowhegan have joined the group. Some drum for anger management, others to release stress. Many just drum for fun.

“I think every school should do it,” said Maria Gamage, a 12-year-old seventh-grader from Skowhegan, one of the students involved in the demonstration. “It’s such a great stress reliever. It makes me feel welcome and that everything is going to be OK.

“Drumming makes me feel like I am famous. When I play, I only hear my own drum. It’s almost like it wouldn’t be a group without me.”

Students said that when they get angry, it’s better to beat their fists on a drum than another person.

Breen is a believer in drumming for therapy. She cited research showing that everyone, from cancer patients to career professionals to substance abusers, can benefit. Drumming helps improve the quality of life by providing a release and burning calories, she said.

It pulls together the body, the brain and the soul.

“It gives you a sense of self-worth,” Breen said. “A lot of kids are so enthusiastic about drumming that it carries over into the classroom.

“It’s the simplest thing, yet it’s so empowering.”



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