Percussionists create magic at drum circles

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    From left, Tony Kaufman, Beth Koons and Quinn Wilkens play the Djembe drum during a drum circle at Maumee Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Bowling Green. Wilkens is also playing a rainstick.

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  • BOWLING GREEN — Tony Kaufman doesn’t have to say anything. He just starts the beat on a djembe, strong and steady and rhythmic, and the others fall in — thumping on frame drums, rattling shekeres, and tapping out metallic tin-tin-tins with drumsticks on cowbells.

    Conversations drift off. The drum circle has begun.

    WATCH: The Good Vibrations Drum Circle

    The Good Vibrations Drum Circle meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month at the Maumee Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 20189 N. Dixie Hwy., in Bowling Green. It invites drummers of all skill and experience levels to experiment with rhythms that blend into one collective, hypnotic beat; the tempo speeds up or slows down, picks up or drops off in intensity in an ever-changing reflection of what the drummers put into it.

    “When you get a beat going,” Mr. Kaufman, 73, said, “it’s magical.”

    Lynn Israel, 65, of Sylvania got this drum circle going about two years ago, when she was looking to recreate a memorable experience she’d had while vacationing in St. Petersburg, Fla. She said a participant might be drawn to it for any number of reasons: Some find it meditative, others exhilarating; some are drawn to it for the sense of community that exists in the circle.

    It’s really not spiritual, even though the church is a convenient venue. Primarily, Ms. Israel said, it’s just for fun.

    “It’s fun and it really does build a sense of community,” she said. “It’s like being in a choir, almost. You’re creating something beautiful together. You’re just doing it with drums instead of voices. It can either be very calming, if you’re doing a really gentle rhythm, or sometimes we really get pounding away and it’s quite exciting. It’s fun to make that music together and it really feels like a community accomplishing something special.”

    Ms. Israel and Mr. Kaufman are regulars in a shifting cast of 15 to 20 in any given month. Some bring their own instruments and some swap out provided instruments between songs.

    Erin Strouse, 51, of Perrysburg, recently borrowed a boxy timber drum to add her own rhythms to the drum circle. She stopped at the church after a sign pitching the drum circle caught her eye.

    She settled in beside Cassandra Bridinger, 65, of Toledo, who’s frequents drum circles and brought a bagful of instruments she was happy to share. It didn’t necessarily matter if she didn’t know Ms. Strouse’s name when they traded instruments after a few songs; she felt like she already knew her from playing in sync.

    “Once you enter the circle, you leave the definition of yourself behind,” Ms. Bridinger said. “You can pick it up after you leave. When you’re in the circle, it’s like neutral territory.”

    The local drum circle scene is expanding, with Mr. Kaufman coordinating a new circle that will meet at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Simpson Garden Park, 1291 Conneaut Ave., in Bowling Green.

    Like Ms. Israel, Mr. Kaufman said he first came across drum circles on a beach vacation in Florida. He, too, is looking to bring that experience home.

    “I’m trying to really build up the enthusiasm,” he said.

    Contact Nicki Gorny at or 419-724-6133.