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  • Writer's pictureClaudia Paige

Written by Lisa Williams, RhythmHealing at The Rawlin!

Having now run several weeks of yoga ball drumming sessions at The Rawlin, we’ve learned the names that go with faces. We know that certain folks will be eager to help us with set-up and take-down, that others will want to show off their ability to play counter-rhythms while Claudia is teaching sequences, and that others yet will struggle to track, sometimes drifting off and just tracing circles around the yoga ball with their drumsticks or sitting still and frowning, frustrated for a moment to not remember exactly what it is we’re doing but then snapping back into rhythm with a small bit of encouragement.

It's a profound honor to share music with this group of people, many of whom now lack the social filter that keeps us from expressing our vulnerabilities. One woman labors intensely to track her lefts and rights and apologizes, her eyes on the floor. “I’ll do better next time,” she tells me between songs, almost in a whisper. I assure her she’s doing wonderfully and that there is no wrong way to play so long as she is feeling the rhythm and enjoying the music, and the assurance prompts her to smile and make eye contact, after which she begins to really relax and play. Another woman has lost the use of one arm and expresses how frustrating that is when she wants to do things, so every time the others click their drumsticks together in class, I lean over with one stick, and she clicks her stick against mine with her working arm. It becomes our little game and creates a dialogue of smiles between us.

One woman has tried several times to talk to us, but her speech is garbled and unintelligible. Another woman speaks only in her native language, which neither Claudia nor I share with her. But each time we go and play, I’m reminded of and heartened by the power of this universal language of music. There is just something intensely special about playing together, about matching one another’s movements and rhythms and connecting in that way. People smile at each other when they play; they watch Claudia as she facilitates and track her movements with surprising precision. They also can’t help but respond to her ever-bouncing feet and happy, playful demeanor, their moods lifting visibly in reaction to her positive energy. “She’s GOOD,” one woman kept telling me during a recent class. “Does she play the drums at other places?” She does, I affirm.

Thanks to support we’ve received from donors, the Lane County Cultural Coalition, and the Oregon Cultural Trust, we’ll continue doing it at even more at more places, too. I’m delighted to be part of the journey, to share music with these seniors who teach me something new each time I visit them.

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