A Wisdom Frame Drum Journey Evolution

Recently Marcella Kraybill-Greggo encouraged me to share my journey with the frame drum and how it became a part of my Wisdom practice.

The first seeds of exploring what the frame drum would mean for my Wisdom practice came when Jeanine Siler Jones, Rebecca Parker, and I were co-facilitating a long wisdom weekend at St. Mary’s Sewanee during Advent, 2018. It was a simple remembrance from Jeanine that landed—another Wisdom student had used a frame drum during group chanting at another Wisdom gathering. Now that sounded like fun to me!

Beginning with Karen Renee Robb’s Frame Drum Wisdom workshops in Nashville, TN, I learned about the healing gifts of the drum—through sounding and vocal toning. Karen also sells Meinl frame drums along with other percussion instruments, so I purchased my first 18-inch frame drum from her in 2019. Several workshops later, I was considering a more in-depth full year intensive with her when Covid descended, cancelling everything that brought people together.

Not long after the pandemic began, I realized I wanted to learn to play my frame drum by hand, not by mallet, because of its deeply grounding effects. So, my on-line study began in earnest.  I found Marla Leigh Goldstein through videos available on YouTube and became a student of her Frame Drum Academy in June 2020, taking four courses and many on-line Zoom events with her over the last 3-plus years. During this time the practice of drumming while chanting merged for me—initially through chanting in Hindu with one of her senior students, Kandambari Maa, who lives in India. With Marla, I learned three styles of frame drumming – free hand, lap style and upright, and much more (see Bobi Souder’s link below to view these styles).

The frame drumming community is very much like our Wisdom community – international, committed in compassion for our world and how drumming may support that, and supportive of one another. Events held in person and through a private Facebook Page throughout the year offer opportunities to connect with other students from around the globe. As part of our work, we are encouraged to drum for peace.

As Wisdom students using our voices through chanting, we are sending into our atmosphere vital nutrients of hope, mercy, love and more. Frame drumming magnifies the resonance of our voices in addition to the beat, another powerful means of post-holding during these challenging times.

The first Wisdom school where we had an opportunity to chant and drum together in community was during Jeanine Siler Jones and Jonathan Steele’s Wisdom school – The Enneagram and Christian Wisdom, held at Valle Crucis in August 2021. By our last day, there were nine folks playing frame drums, shakers, and foot bells with the Chant from the Imaginal, which had arrived to me during the liminal early morning hours several weeks earlier.

Most recently, 12 of us chanted and played together at the end of The Care and Nurture of Second Body Wisdom school led by Cynthia at Claymont in October 2023, complete with frame drums, djembes, darbukas, shakers and foot bells (with gratitude to Deborah Rose Longo and Michele Zenkowich for the loan of their drums!).

From the group above, six of our Wisdom friends from Latin American and the US fell in love with frame drumming and will be incorporating drumming during their upcoming Wisdom school – The Way of the Heart, in Boyaca, Columbia, January 31 – February 4, 2024.

As I look back over what has unfolded, the times of drumming and sounding together in community whether on-line or in-person are my most vivid remembrances. Yes, there is the individual practice part, and this holds especially when learning a new technique or rhythm.

However, the frame drum manifests its energy as a community-building instrument—and has inspired people to “make a joyful noise” for centuries, in many ways.

“Frame drums were played in the ancient Middle East (chiefly by women), Greece, and Rome and reached medieval Europe through Islamic culture. Their shape varies (round, octagonal, square, etc.), they may have one or two heads, and they may have attached jingles or snares” (Brittanica.com).” When the Drummers Were Women, by Layne Redmond is a wonderful book resource for the history of the frame drum (Although today many adept frame drummers are men!).

Given the frame drum’s history and ties to various cultures and nature, frame drumming allows one to tap into the magic and mythic structures of consciousness (Jean Gebser) allowing these structures to integrate within one’s being over time with practice. As one of my teachers wisely notes, “It’s primal, and we all know how to do it.”

Delightful to play via learning methods accessible to everyone, frame drums are easily portable to bring into a circle with others. Today our frame drum circle playing flows freely and is growing within our Wisdom community. For me this journey is a dream come true!

Drumming with Laura:
If you are interested in trying frame drumming within your Wisdom practice, I will be offering a four-week, one-hour per week introductory session to frame drumming in January, 2024, including Wisdom chanting with the drum and learning Middle Eastern rhythms.

Flyer and sign-up: https://wisdomwaypoints.org/event/wisdom-frame-drum-zoom-circle/

I also offer a monthly drumming circle that you are welcome to join once you have a flavor for drumming from our four-week introduction to help provide on-going support.

Drumming Resources:
Enjoy exploring the following links for other frame drumming possibilities. Feel free to be in touch if you have questions (lgcopeland8@gmail.com) and may you be blessed with Happy Drumming!

My primary teachers:

Marla Leigh https://framedrumacademy.marlaleigh.com/

Karen Renee https://www.framedrumwisdom.com/frame-drum-wisdom

Other teachers and influencers:

*Currently, I study weekly with Yousif Sharonick, a senior student of Glen Velez, taking on-line classes with his student group, and an occasional intensive with Yousif and Glen. www.framedrumschool.org

*During the first half of this year, I studied on-line regularly with River Guergarian at https://www.ashevillepercussionfestival.com/

For those of you living near Asheville, NC, you are fortunate to have these gems of teachers nearby. Brandi Mizilka Hubiak offers in-person beginner classes.

*Bobi Souder, senior student of Marla Leigh, with her Dreaming Drum website, along with her YouTube tutorials are another treasured resource. The landing page of her website includes free YouTube videos of her playing the three frame drum styles mentioned above.   https://www.thedreamingdrum.com/

*Another of my favorite teachers on YouTube is Ken Shorley from Canada. www.kenshorley.com

Laura Copeland is a long time Wisdom student, who also studies and practices the Fourth Way. In addition to her love of drumming and facilitating a drumming practice circle, she enjoys co-facilitating Wisdom Waypoints book circles with Liz Whitehurst, and co-facilitating a joint Wisdom practice circle with folks from the Virginia and Tennessee regions with Liz and Nan Delach. The link to the 2018 Wisdom weekend co-facilitated with Jeanine Siler Jones and Rebecca Parker, Beyond the Basics, Our Hearts in Advent, may be found here.

Photo credits: Group photo courtesy of Thomas Telhiard; Greek Cybele – Thessaloniki Museum, contemporary cast made from one of three ancient molds found in Olynthus. Note omphalos (navel, the stone at the center of the universe) symbols on crown and earrings. Image on page 121 of When the Drummers Were Women, by Layne Redmond.

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