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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Kickoff event for Brandeis Beats engages students

Published: November 6, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc., Top Stories

Monday night marked Brandeis Beats’ first drum circle of the semester, bringing laughter and excitement to the lively group. Brandeis Beats is a club devoted to making music and involving the community in a peaceful, relaxing and cooperative activity. First-years and seniors, first-time visitors and long-time members, all kicked off their shoes and took their place in the circle, a perfect place for meeting new people.

After going around and giving just a few short introductions, the group delved into music, choosing their instruments from the many authentic instruments available, such as several types and sizes of drums, bells and rattles. With few guidelines or restrictions imposed, the group was ready to perform. One leader began the music with a single beat, and individuals added themselves in until each participant had joined in with their own addition. What arose was a true community setting in which all students purged the stresses of a Monday night by playing beautiful instruments straight from Ghana, being urged to hit the drums as hard as possible with as much energy as possible. The purpose of the event was not to show off musical expertise but to exercise a freedom of expression.

This session was led primarily by Jeremy Cohen, who engages Brandeis students in many drumming workshops throughout the year. His high-energy and passion for drumming fueled the energy of the group as he welcomed both first-time drummers and those with professional-level skill. Cohen urged the skilled drummers to take the lead, while also making sure to include those who lacked experience but were looking to get involved by providing small tricks and tips as he went along with the session. He is founder of ThisWorldMusic, an organization that provides cultural learning opportunities around the world through a shared love of music. Cohen’s experience and expertise in engaging youth was evident at Monday’s event.

Although stifled by the university setting and lacking a common community space, the group has in no way been held back. Brandeis Beats has an abundance of instruments for its attendees to choose from, as well as strong ties to other community-oriented groups on campus. The club has partnered with Waltham Group, for example, to reach out to the greater Waltham community and engage its citizens. In addition to their success in creating partnerships, the group was just recently able to secure a permanent space on Monday nights in Gosman, above Linsey Pool. The new space will hopefully allow the group to generate a larger attendance, although the turnout proved quite successful at their first assembly of the semester.

Aliza Gans ’15, club founder and president, was among those gathered Monday night. Like Cohen, her energy and enthusiasm sparked creativity and passion in the drum circle. She arrived with snacks and eager to meet the new members. Gans started the group with some background experience in drum circles and a vision for what she wanted to create here at Brandeis. She explained that her inspiration came from a summer of attending drum circles in Central Park and even joining in to accompany the other drummers. She founded the group with an emphasis on both music and community. Her passion for the music is clear in the efforts she has made in creating the club.

This truly unique club welcomes all skill levels and ages to participate, and hosts a variety of events that students may attend. In partnerships with other groups on campus, there is a strong element of community and community service in addition to practicing and enjoying music. Regular meetings are Monday nights from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. Musical expertise is welcomed but not required. If interested in attending future meetings or events, contact Aliza Gans.