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In the Beat of the Night

“Fouster” Greg Clinnin brings Matt Savage’s drum circle to Foust Hall

Staff Writer

Published: Friday, November 5, 2010

Updated: Friday, November 5, 2010 14:11

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It was an evening of unity in Mary Foust when students gathered round the parlor to partake in a drum circle, courtesy of UNC Chapel Hill drum line teacher Matt Savage at the organizational efforts of Residential Adviser Greg Clinnin.

Since 1996, Savage has been known to travel in search of different organizations, shelters, schools and even corporate offices to create the sense of “unity, community [and] team-building.”  At first, his initial idea behind his drum hobby was to gather a group of friends together for some regular rhythm games until the discovery of drum circles: the creative child of California native Arthur Hull. Inspired by the idea, he attended his workshops and manipulated the experience into something of his own.

Students arranged chairs into a circle encompassing their leader equipped with a wide variety of drums, including paddle drums, tambourines, cow bells, tubano, conga, dun dun, tan tan and frame drums. The students handled the drums with a michevious gleam in their eyes. Like childhood revisited, students had the instinctive urge to beat, tap and slap the vessels of rhythm.

Savage began by introducing the students to the pitches they create by the different spots they hit with his choice of drum, the djembe. After uniting them in a deep breathing exercise, focusing on the bass tone, he began the circle with a simple heartbeat. “When we do that we’re going to be doing four important things as a group. We’re going to be thinking together, we’re going to be working together, we’re going to be moving together and we’re a little bit going to be playing together.” Savage educated them on how the students would unconsciously unite their heartbeats, muscles and brainwaves. Adding in a contrasting beat he began to create what he considered an action of chaos. “At some point I kinda went crazy.” When asked how the students felt about his insert, they felt, soothed, steady and a little bit annoyed. “My feet wanted to keep going with yours,” stated the annoyed student. “When there’s chaos all around you…you’ve just got to focus on each other and the things you can’t control,” stated Savage.

Next, Savage introduced what he liked to call “Drumming Simon Says.” Maintaining a steady beat of two notes, he would direct the group, splitting the circle in half and instructing the pace, volume and side that would play. After establishing his leadership, he pulled freshman Maela Chavis from the crowd, letting her have a taste of the leadership experience. “Everything she does is right!” Savage shouted over the thunder. Shaken at first by the daunting task, the group embraced her conducting and followed along faithfully. The session came to a close with a drum circle style of applause called a rumble, where everyone beat their instruments frantically until the leader jumps and lands with a final beat. “It’s an honor in the drum circle world to be to be called to the center to do the cut off,” stated Savage.

The evening  continued until students were given an opportunity to unite and create their own rhythms. Ending with a heartbeat and cleansing breath, a rumble was awarded to Savage for creating the enriching experience. “It really brings the group together like nothing else can really…we’re literally moving together and playing together. It’s really powerful…”

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