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Thursday, Jan. 8, 2004 02:20 pm

Local drummers explore the frontiers of percussion

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Dennis Maberry hosts a monthly drum circle at UIS
Photo by Nick Steinkamp

Drumming is an obsession for Dennis Maberry, who started banging away on a drum set 25 years ago. For years, he played with rock bands until he couldn't maintain a semblance of a normal life. He settled down, married, and got a job. Then, nine years ago, during a visit to Seattle's World Percussion Festival, he was introduced to the art of hand drumming -- and immediately fell in love.

Maberry began making annual trips to the Seattle event, where he attended hand-drumming workshops and classes. But when he went looking for workshops or drum circles in Springfield, he came up empty. So three years ago, Maberry started holding drumming workshops. His first were offered at Heartland Peace Center; then, the director of community education at Lincoln Land Community College invited Maberry to offer workshops. There, he's taught African and Middle Eastern drumming.

In the winter of 2001, Maberry took Sharon Graf's drum class at UIS. Encouraged by Graf, Maberry took over the class in the fall of 2002. He wrote the curriculum, and the class focused on rhythms and drum techniques. Recently, Maberry taught the class with Doug Marshall, a faculty member.

Maberry hosts a monthly drum circle at the university, and founded the World Percussion ensemble there. He's involved in other projects as well. Two years ago, he started writing a book and he's recording drums for Carlinville musician Rod Lingo. He's also recorded with Springfield musician Joel Hinckle. He and Tom Irwin (yes, our Tom Irwin) are also making plans to record together. Maberry released his first CD in 2000 and is currently recording for his second release due out this year.

Maberry's not the only local drummer with a different beat. Two women's groups, EarthBeat and Journeys, also meet regularly -- and invite women into their circle.

Six years ago, Peggy Patty, Phyllis Lau, and Ramona Nafus (now deceased) formed EarthBeat, an all-women drumming circle. "The three of us enjoyed drumming, and were looking for [other women] to drum with," Patty says. Patty, Lau, and Nafus began teaching drumming workshops to show that workshops could be done in a non-threatening way. They taught the basics -- different rhythms and drumming techniques -- and talked about different drums. "Women would come saying they could never do this, and would leave the workshops saying, 'I can do this,' " Patty says.

The group offers a comfortable, non-threatening place where women can come and get in touch with their body's rhythms. No prior experience is necessary. "All you have to have is a heartbeat," Patty says.

Journeys was founded in 1994 by Kay Earley and Rena Bailey, who wanted to offer wellness classes that incorporate different approaches to relaxation, including drumming. In 1998, the two women began doing drum circles, taking novices and leading them through a one-and-a-half hour drum circle that works with the spirit of the drum. "We create a rhythm together," Earley says. "We don't teach specific techniques."

EarthBeat meets the second and fourth Tuesdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, call 217-636-8875 or e-mail earthbeat3@aol.com Journeys may be reached at 217-529-2033. Its Web site is www.journeyskr.com. Contact Dennis Maberry at rhythmspirit@yahoo.com. His Web site is www.geocities.com/rhythmspirit.

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