To the Beat of a Drum

Written by: Shannon Smith

When people sing together, community is created. Together we rejoice, we celebrate, we mourn, and we comfort each other. Through music, we reach each other’s hearts and souls. Music allows us to find a connection. 

– Peter Yarrow 

Full of different cultures and perspectives, a community united together by the connections each individual makes along their personal journeys—that is Washington Adventist University. 

Over the past year and a half, the WAU community has seen many trials and tribulations, but the final hurdles are near. As the time for the Fall 2021 semester draws closer, WAU is finishing preparations to welcome its students, both new and returning, to campus. Part of these preparations includes bringing its student leaders together and ready them to lead their fellow students through the new school year. 

In just a few days, the student dorms, Halcyon Hall and Morrison Hall, will open for new student orientation week. All the selected resident assistants (RAs) have returned to the dorms to train and build team effectiveness. Distance-living, though manageable, has unfortunately made it difficult to return to a semblance of normal dorm life. Although the ingrained habit to distance ourselves physically from each other to protect ourselves and others is important in today’s world, that should not stop us from connecting with each other. This element is key to working as a RA to better serve and support other students. 

For RA training this past week, all the RAs were able to participate in a particularly teamwork-intensive yet fun and exciting activity—a drum circle. Drum circles are musical events created by participants who come together and share their rhythmic talents with the circle. It is an activity that empowers people through collaboration and synergy, each person offering something to the connectivity of the drum circle. It is also a very magical experience, bringing together communities of all ages, races, ethnicities, and cultures of varying levels of musical expertise. You don’t even need a drum to participate, just a percussive instrument and a willingness to join in. 

The RA drum circle was led out by Drum Circle Facilitator and owner of Drumming for Wellness, Katy Gaughan. Having a facilitated drum circle,“…means that someone is in there to help shape the music and empower the individuals to play and make their own music…to help bring it out. It’s tracking a lot of different things and every moment to how you can help serve the circle musically but also serve it that it becomes a community,” she said. Now based in Greenbelt, MD, Gaughan has been drumming for almost 25 years and facilitating drum circles for over 15 years. With Drumming for Wellness, she promotes health and works with several schools, churches, senior centers, and assisted living facilities, and also does community events and classes. 

Being a part of a drum circle can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience, not just for building a sense of teamwork and community, but also wellness. “When people drum regularly their bodies create more T cells and it helps the right and left hemispheres of the brain actually talk to one another and connect—that doesn’t happen with most activities. That’s what puts you into the flow state, which also helps regulate your body so that you can really reduce stress and relax,” Gaughan stated. “Working with all these different populations, not only do they get the experience making music together and having fun and doing team-building like we just did, they’re actually boosting their wellness and their immune system at the same time.” 

Overall, this was an amazing opportunity for the student RAs to have. “I thought it would be a good ice breaker. When we do things collectively it helps us become a better team. And I thought just to have them drum, laugh, and as it turns out sweat together. For those that didn’t know each other, they became a team,” said Renee Phillips, Dean of Women, who coordinated the event. “The hope for me this year is, after COVID, to do a lot of engaging. We’ve been gone for a year and a half. People were stuck at home, were stuck here—you know just stuck. We need to come back together, get re-engaged, and do it safely.”

As new student orientation begins next week and the new school year the following week, WAU wants to encourage each new and returning student to take advantage of opportunities available to them upon their arrival to campus. We have a host of events to be excited about this semester! The WAU community and its student leaders are here preparing for your safe return and want to welcome you to our learning community for the year 2021-22.


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