Rediscover your rhythm at hand-drumming class


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, Jan. 23, at noon.

The class offers a welcoming environment that encourages fun, creativity, playfulness and connecting with others. Hand drums are provided for those who don’t have one.

Even participants who have no experience playing a musical instrument can immediately get into the groove. Besides hand drumming, the class includes body percussion and songs of indigenous peoples.

Childhood is a promising time to encourage children to appreciate the value of their musical inclinations. The teacher’s task is to sensitively foster a supportive attitude, always being aware that disparagement can trample on children’s musical aspirations, undermine their confidence, create feelings of fear and anxiety, and make it difficult for them to achieve successful mastery of a skill they can enjoy for their entire lifetimes.

For those who were discouraged as children, it may be hard to give music another try in adulthood, but the potential rewards are worth the effort.

“I was always afraid of rhythm,” said Catt LeBaigue, “so it’s huge that I am coming to this class. When I was in third grade, we had a sing-along every week with the music teacher and his guitar. I really liked it. On the last day of the class, the teacher told us there was orchestra next year and we would start on a recorder. After that, we would get the chance to pick an instrument if we were good enough. He gave us a test to see if we would be good enough to play an instrument. He went around the room, about 23 students, and had us, one by one, tap out a 4/4 rhythm on our right thigh and a 2/4 rhythm on our left. I was so shy and nervous. I was scared to death that I wouldn’t be able to do it.

“He didn’t give me much time before telling me that I had no sense of rhythm. I believed him and I took it hard. I was crushed. That statement had a lifelong effect on me. They let me play an instrument, flute, but I had to fight against the judgement that I had no sense of rhythm. I quit after a few years. Later, as a music major, I sang for a few years and even performed in some college operas, taking the tricky part of second witch in ‘Dido and Aeneas’ by Henri Purcell. I did OK, but it was very hard because I fought against the music teacher’s statement the whole time. I turned from voice major to electronic music major, where sequencers could keep the rhythm for me. I didn’t realize that I did have a sense of rhythm and I could do well with it. I missed out on a lot because of my perceived lacking sense of rhythm.

“Although I got my BA in music, I am an oddity in that I have never played. After focusing on electronic music composition in college, I went into postproduction sound editing for television and film, not the music side, but rather sound effects, dialogue and Foley, sounds that enhance the auditory experience of a movie. I did that for 20 years in Hollywood, working for the studios. When sound is enhanced, the film begins to come alive. As the dialogue is smoothed out and the background sounds are layered, we suspend our belief and we forget every angle happened at different times. Sound effects and Foley bring reality to the environment. What is not heard by the location mic now becomes part of an integral reality — we start to believe. This is before the really fun stuff of adding sound effects for action scenes. Later, as it all comes together, the music is added and emotions are activated. Doing sound for movies is like painting.”

LeBaigue’s filmography is extensive. She has worked with Judd Apatow, Melissa McCarthy, Keifer Sutherland, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jason Segel, John Stamos, Don Rickles, Michelle Williams, Katie Holmes, Mykelti Williamson and many others.

“When I was supervising sound editor for Warner Bros. in Burbank, still believing I had no sense of rhythm, I refused to dance with Keifer Sutherland. We had gone to a karaoke bar after a long day of dubbing Keifer’s movie, ‘Truth or Consequences, N.M.’ Keifer finally got me to dance, because he gave me the choice of either singing or dancing, and I chose dancing. In Hollywood, at the wrap party for Dallas, my first dialogue editing job on a prime time TV show, I nearly refused to dance with Larry Hagman who played ‘J.R.’ Ewing in the show. Fortunately, my friend, another sound editor, kicked me under the table and let me know that I couldn’t refuse the star of the show. I almost missed that opportunity. He was a great character.

“After avoiding anything to do with rhythm, because it embarrassed me over and over, I got up the courage to take a belly dance class. I had a lot of fun laughing, trying, failing (because everyone does at first), and finally discovered that I not only have a sense of rhythm, but that it is fun. I left the entertainment industry because I felt it wasn’t serving my greater purpose for being on earth. I feel my purpose is to help uplift humanity through sound, and that’s what I will be doing in the latter part of my life. Your class feels integral to this. If we can, as a community, unite around rhythm, our hearts sync up. Harmony begins in the community. It’s odd that I couldn’t feel rhythm in my body for so long. Now, it’s something that I need. I enjoy my sense of rhythm and I enjoy playing drums.”

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