My Past Life (Before Drumming)

I was born in Trenton, NJ just as the Baby Boom was kicking into full gear. I spent most of my childhood (well, all of it until college) in Syracuse, NY, graduating from Wm. Nottingham. I did not take kindly to life in Syracuse, and was more than thrilled to be able to go to college as far away from it as my parents would let me go--St. Paul, MN, to the banks of the Mississippi River, practically--where I spent my freshman year at Macalester College.

Although I enjoyed life at Mac, for some strange reason at that age I craved anonymity, and rankled under the in loco parentis attitude of the faculty and staff there. So off to a giant campus I went--to Indiana University, from which my father graduated and I could get in-state tuition because he was an alumnus. While I didn't enjoy it as much as I could have, I got an excellent education there, both academically in the biological sciences, and in overcoming purely administrative and bureaucratic obstacles to getting an actual diploma and the fact that I graduated on my transcript. Little did I know then that this really was the way the world of capitalism worked.

Next, primarily because I couldn't decide what to do and was enjoying the academic life, I embarked on a Master of Science degree in zoology at the University of Minnesota. It took two years, but I got the degree and also some work experience, at the museum of natural history and in teaching. Shortly thereafter, I was introduced to the rude fact that exhibit designers and guides did not really earn enough to support an enjoyable lifestyle in the "real world," but at least I had experience working in a job that I liked, with very interesting people.


Welcome to The World of Work--a 30-Year Digression

For most of my professional life, I served as a technical writer/editor or medical writer/editor in the private sector. Specifically, I started out as a manuscript editor at a medical journal, and 30 years later was let go from my last professional position as a Senior Technical Writer/Editor at a biotech company that was working on an "integrated product," by which they meant a pharmaceutical product formulation delivered by a specialized delivery system. I spent 3 years there (it started out as Inhale Therapeutics, and ended up as Nektar Therapeutics), and really enjoyed my time there, as I got to work on the device documentation as well as the pharmaceutical documentation. I specialized in regulatory writing--as opposed to marketing writing--but by the time I left, society was well on the way to not knowing the difference, and the company was no different. I still hold stock in the  company, but they don't even bother to send me their annual report any more! For a while, I tried to find similar employment unsuccessfully, but then decided to train to be an ultrasound technician--made it all the way through school, and was preparing for my internship when I was diagnosed with a benign essential tremor that precluded my ability to manipulate the transducer. BUT, I still  enjoy reading about diagnostic radiology technologies, especially the case histories I still receive by email. So, I guess ultrasonic technology was my first Sonophilic Exploration.


Another Quagga

Musical Background

Music, for me, has always been a way to stay sane and grounded in an insane world. I was, however, quite rebellious. My grandmother started me off on the piano at the age of 8--thereafter I went through quite a few teachers until that last one--who taught me a lot of jazz theory and had the grand idea that I could play in a bar (I was 13 at the time). When she had to give up her tutelage of me because she moved too far away for me to walk to lessons, I decided to switch to the guitar, and bussed myself all the way downtown for classical guitar lessons for almost a year.

Meanwhile, I also started learning to play the cornet, and eventually the French horn, and LOVED playing in the school band with those instruments all the way through seventh grade, when we finally could move into the junior high school building. At that time, I also started singing, but unfortunately, had to choose choir or band, because they were offered at the same time. For reasons I can't quite remember, I chose choir.

Once I found myself at IU for three years, studying the biological sciences but at the site of the greatest music school in the US, I took a year of French horn there, then took another year of piano. While in graduate school, I began learning guitar again (this time following the Great Folk Scare) and building on my knowledge of chord theory, learning the country and folk songs that I liked to sing, and have continued that lo unto the present.

Somehow, as I was whiling away life in corporateland, I developed the practice of rewarding myself with a new instrument to learn every time I managed to escape a particularly unbearable job situation. In this way, I learned--after a self-taught and weird fashion, usually--a mandolin, a tenor recorder, a piano accordion, and later several different guitars, a duet English concertina, and an octave mandolin. Then came the mountain dulcimer, which I still have an affinity and affection for. It seems to be the most intuitive instrument, and therefore the easiest to get actual music out of. About the same time that I started drumming, I also became enamored with the autoharp, and now find myself dragging dulcimers and autoharps to festivals, and answering as many calls to perform and teach these two instruments as come my way. And of course the ukulele--it was really easy to pick up after experience with other fretted instruments--which I'm also working on. Really, there's always way more music to do than time to do music! But it's WAAAYYY Fun!  

Oh yes, I almost forgot--singing. In 1999, I joined two community choirs here in the Bay Area--The World Harmony Chorus, which I sang with for about 10 years, and the (wait for the entire name, it's a long one) San Francisco Bay Area Rockin' Solidarity Labor Heritage Chorus, which I'm still with. My voice usually tests out as fitting everything in the second-soprano-down-to-tenor range, but I prefer singing tenor. These excursions also introduced me to the Alexander Technique and to the joys of singing in Georgian, which just happens to require intoning and dwelling on all of the chakra-healing vowel sounds found useful in elementary sound-healing practice! Thus serendipitously began another sonophilic exploration.


Drumming Life Begins!

Early in 2007, I was diagnosed with what turned out to be Stage IIIB malignant melanoma. It was an extremely lucky fluke that lead me to go to the dermatologist for a bleeding mole, but because it was ulcerated (1) I noticed it, and (2) qualified for a year-long course of interferon therapy. During that year, I began a whole new life regimen, and successfully managed to remove myself for almost all the toxic aspects of life (leaving only the mundanities of maintaining a home and finding interesting non-toxic people to associate with. One of the first things I did was start attending a support group and other activities at the local chapter of The Wellness Community (now The Cancer Support Community). In addition to beginning restorative yoga and Chi Gong practice, I started attending a drum circle. It was the only activity that was pure fun--and soon I was looking forward to the monthly circles as a lifeline.

While I was beginning my drumming journey, I also added other sound-healing modalities to my individual spiritual-wellness practice. This involved learning to chant and tone, as well as play the Native American flute--integrating those practices with the yogic breathing. To this day, I am certain that these sound-healing practices contributed to my recently celebrating 4 years of being cancer-free! 

As anyone who has traversed their own cancer journey knows, one of the paramount questions we all face is "What happens next?" For me, the answer was easy--I WANNA BE A DRUM-CIRCLE FACILITATOR WHEN I GROW UP. Fortunately, my financial situation stabilized about that time, so the dream could actually become reality. Being an Enneagram type 5, I read all I could on the subject, began collecting drums and other percusson instruments to use as a kit, and signed up online to learn as much as I could--as well as started to experience as many different drum circles as I could. While all those activities continue, the next step was to jump in!


Two Wild Asses

Circling the Wagons to Carry the Drums

Some time in the spring of 2011, I mentioned to the minister of the church I attend that I was thinking of becoming a drum circle facilitator. She was thrilled to hear it, as she apparently had been wanting to start up a drum circle for the church for some time, and had even recently acquired for herself a drum (an excellent sounding Toca Freestyle model it was too). After a healthy exchange of meetings and emails, we set a date for our first circle (first Friday of May), and we have been meeting monthly ever since. Since this circle is an "official" church activity--as "official" as UUs ever get--we are careful to adhere as strictly as we can to the UU First and Seventh Principles (the ones about the worth and dignity of every human, and the interdependent web of life), which comes automatically if we are following the three principles of drum circles--inclusion, cooperation, and appreciations). And so it goes, and on we go--Let it Be A Dance!

A few months later, it seemed to be time to branch out, and so I contacted a community minister whose ministry is in the field of mental health, and volunteered to lead a drum circle for the clients of a wonderful organization called "Life Reaching Across to Life." We held two "trial" circles at one of the picnic spots on the shores of Lake Elizabeth in Fremont, which were deemed a success, and now those circles continue monthly, often at people's houses during the winter.

After attending several events at the new Silicon Valley Chapter of the Wellness Community (now Cancer Support Community) in Mountain View, I wondered aloud why they didn't have a drum circle. The answer that came back was quick--Because no one's offered to lead one! So I offered to lead one, The first two were held at 3 PM in the facility (it's in Mt. View), which is in a really nice office mall, but (surprise, surprise) has neighbors who complained about the noise! Starting the circle at 4:30 alleviated those complaints, and we had a lot of fun and much joy in participation! In March, these circles expanded to twice a month, with one of them being a HealthRHYTHMS circle and the other a continuation of what we had been doing. The MV facility closed at the end of June, 2012. However, I am now leading the Health RHYTHMS circle in Walnut Creek on the first Thursday of every month; on the fifth Thursday of the month I facilitate a less formal spiritual wellness drum circle there.

You can find additional information about all three of these ongoing drum circles on the Circles page of this website.




The following beautiful photograph of a Przewalski's horse appeared via an internet search for images of wild horses. The photographer is AJ Axel, but I haven't been able to locate the photograph again, or get any additional information about it or the photographer. This perfectly expresses my vision of the Spirit Horse, carrying healing to wherever it is needed. Do you need one to come to you?