Drum Circles at Landis: A Transformative Experience

By Louise Polli

We’re going to build a lit­tle momentum…It is sort of a trans­for­ma­tive expe­ri­ence, every­thing in our lives is so inte­grat­ed … you have to let go and get into a zone,” 

Zep and Denise explained. He not­ed that he had some record­ed music. 

It gets us off the run­way a lit­tle bit … for self-dis­cov­ery, freedom.” 

With the help of a well-cho­sen instru­men­tal playlist, every­one picked up and began play­ing, unchore­o­graphed, a per­cus­sion instru­ment they brought or passed around the cir­cle, con­gas, mara­cas, claves, even five-gal­lon buck­ets. Days of rain had sub­sided, the Arbore­tum’s birds danced over­head, cedar waxwings and a scar­let tan­ag­er soared, and the drum­mers set­tled into the rhythm of the night.

We can thank Vijaya for the drum cir­cles and much more. She is the vision behind the Shan­ti Vun Med­i­ta­tion Gar­den and its pri­ma­ry bene­fac­tor, aid­ed by many hours of vol­un­teer labor. A trib­ute to her par­ents, Vijaya’s gar­den and pavil­ion are a spe­cial addi­tion to the Arbore­tum’s land­scape. Per­fect for a fam­i­ly pic­nic or a peace­ful retreat from the stress­es of every­day life, Shan­ti Vun was planned and exe­cut­ed with metic­u­lous detail. And, yes, it’s the ide­al back­drop for a drum circle.

Just as Vijaya was deter­mined to cre­ate the Med­i­ta­tion Gar­den, she also con­vinced Zep to bring his drum cir­cles to Lan­dis. It was the chai, ” he said, beam­ing, Her chai led me in here.” Vijaya’s home­made chai, rich with the spices of her Indi­an home­land, charmed Zep and per­suad­ed him to work with her to estab­lish a series of drum cir­cles at the Arbore­tum the first and third Thurs­day nights of each month, from 7 to 9 PM, through the sum­mer and into Sep­tem­ber, weath­er permitting.

Par­tic­i­pants new to drum cir­cles were unsure what to expect, but any hes­i­ta­tion quick­ly dis­si­pat­ed with Zep’s wel­com­ing approach and encour­age­ment. He imme­di­ate­ly con­nect­ed with the group, put every­one at ease, and solicit­ed feed­back between sets. By the end of the evening, the group was smil­ing know­ing­ly, relaxed and con­fi­dent enough to per­form with­out accom­pa­ni­ment. Every­one instinc­tive­ly con­tin­ued to play, to find their own sound. It might just be some­thing the oth­er per­son came to hear, ” Zep told us.

We made our own music, our own peace, that mem­o­rable July evening. Come and find yours in the seren­i­ty of the Med­i­ta­tion Gar­den and Pavil­ion. You might want to bring some chai.

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Fall 2021

Volume 39 , Number 3

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