Enhance your emotional empathy at Tuesday hand-drumming classes


By Paul Roberts

Special to The PREVIEW

Join musician and music therapist Paul Roberts for a free hand-drumming class at the Pagosa Lakes Clubhouse on Tuesday, July 31, at noon.

The class offers a welcoming environment that encourages fun, creativity, playfulness and connecting with others. Drums are provided for those who do not have one. Designed as an opportunity for people of all ages to unleash their creativity, the drumming class is a family-friendly activity open to all ages. No previous experience is necessary.

A boy who yearns for a drum forms the basis of a folktale from India. The boy felt the beat of the drum deep inside his heart, but his mother was too poor to buy him a drum, so she gave him a stick instead. While playing with his stick, he noticed that an old woman was having trouble lighting her stove, so he gave her his stick, which got the stove going. To thank him, she gave him a chapati.

The boy came upon a mother and her hungry child, and he gave them his chapati. The mother, whose husband was the potter, thanked him by giving him a large pot.

As he walked along, the boy heard a couple quarreling. They were in a fix because the wife had broken the pot they had used for washing clothes. The boy gave them his large pot. In return, the couple gave him a warm coat.

Later, the boy met a man who had been attacked by robbers who had helped themselves to just about everything he had, including his shirt. The boy gave the man his warm coat. The man rewarded him with a strong horse that, luckily, the robbers hadn’t noticed.

After some time, the boy came upon a wedding party where everyone was in distress because they didn’t have a horse for the wedding procession. He gave them his horse and they rewarded with a drum — what he had longed for all along. The boy ran home to play a song for his mother, a song from deep inside his heart.

This folktale intertwines empathy with music, a concept that many scholars, educators and philosophers have been fascinated by and which a considerable amount of scientific research now supports.

In his book, “Defining Music Therapy,” author Kenneth E. Bruscia writes, “Music is a medium par excellence for empathy. In fact, in many ways, it is unmatched by any other medium. When we sing the same song together, we live in the same melody, we share the same tonal center, we articulate the same lyrics, we move ahead according to the same rhythm — moment by moment, sound by sound, through an ongoing awareness of the other, and through continuing efforts to stay together and thereby become one within the experience.”

Can participation in a hand-drumming class enhance emotional empathy? After 40 consecutive classes, purely anecdotal evidence veers toward the affirmative.

Immersed in the nonverbal language of music, participants develop the ability to experience each other’s emotional states. In a mutually beneficial atmosphere of good-natured reciprocity, the class demonstrates that music is a powerful medium for social interaction. Getting into the groove with others through music, we attune to each other empathetically.

For more information about the Pagosa hand-drumming class, call 731-3117. The Pagosa Lakes Clubhouse is located at 230 Port Ave.