Inside The Library: New drumming circle program launched

At the library, we have been delivering books and other library materials to nursing and retirement homes for many years, thanks to the dedication of volunteers who give their time and energy to not only carrying bags of books and DVDs, but also visiting with the residents.

We recognized that there were individuals, particularly at nursing and retirement homes, that did not need books but who may benefit from library programs and could not get out to participate in them. To serve more people, and inspired by the Song Circle that meets weekly at the Picton library branch on Friday afternoons, we launched a new drumming circle program to bring music programs to nursing and retirement homes.

The benefits of playing music are myriad and drumming is a great entry point that most people can participate in. In a Washington Post article entitled “Seniors with dementia express themselves, connect with others in drumming circle,” Al Bumanis of the American Music Therapy Association said: “If you have two grandfather clocks in a room and they are out of sync, eventually they will synchronize, and it seems that the human body has the same kind of way of doing it. Jazz musicians call it ‘in the groove’ or ‘in the pocket’ when you’re playing together. So Alzheimer’s patients with advanced disease, they start drumming, they start tapping together and it’s very powerful to see that eventually they start playing together. It’s a dramatic thing to see.”

Ruth Dwight has been drumming since she was 12 and is a natural to lead this program for the library. She brings an assortment of percussion instruments from the Musical Instrument Lending Library with her including mallets, djembes, claves and bells. Her easy, welcoming manner entices even those who might be reluctant to join in. She encourages anyone, regardless of their ability, to find an instrument that suits them and participate. For example, the djembe is a West African drum that is most commonly played with bare hands, but it can be difficult for some people to hit the drum with their hands, so she also brings mallets that can be used to strike the drum. Others come just to listen to the rhythms and take in the social time.

Throughout the year, Dwight also brought the drumming circle to a number of community events including programs held at the library, on Main Street in Picton on Canada Day and in partnership with Community Care for Seniors, she led a drumming circle at the first Seniors’ Active Living Fair held this fall by Community Care for Seniors and welcomed anyone who was passing by join in. It was amazing to listen to how quickly the participants got in sync and were drumming together.

As 2019 begins we are planning to continue hosting musical programs both at nursing and retirement homes and in the community, as well as ukulele classes, Song Circle and other music programs. For more information about the Musical Instrument Lending Library or to search the catalogue of available of instruments visit

– Liz Zylstra