By Ann Trieger Kurland, Boston Globe Correspondent | January 29, 2005
CAMBRIDGE -- Arnold Thomas, a banker in Malden, was still dressed in office garb -- dark slacks, gray button-down shirt, cellphone attached to his belt -- when he settled into a chair in a Cambridge classroom after work and wedged an African djembe drum between his knees.
Others drifted in with goblet-shaped drums in African print cloth cases slung over their shoulders. Among them were a fourth-grade teacher, a writer, a yoga instructor, a mother, and her son. They all came to take a break from the rhythms of daily life to learn the rhythms of the drum.
As the instructor guided her students, palms pounded the centers of the goatskin drumheads and fingers slapped the rims. The drummers counted beats. Pulsating African rhythms soon filled the room. Some closed their eyes; others concentrated hard on their hands.
Community drum circles -- groups of people who come together to make music by hand drumming -- have been around since the 1960s. But in recent years, people of all ages and backgrounds have heard about its benefits and are seeking out classes and informal drum circles.
People who embrace drumming in a group say it's a transforming experience. It sparks their creativity, helps them release pent-up emotions, and connects them to the people they're playing with. It can be so aerobic that the ''high" they get, some say, is similar to the one that comes from running.
Some believe it makes you feel good because the rhythms of the drumming resonate with your own body's rhythms.
For Thomas, focusing on the rhythms helps him get rid of stress. ''Coming from work, I'm all stressed out," he said. ''When I leave here I can feel a weight off my shoulders. I'm so relaxed."
Kim Childs, 41, a yoga teacher from Arlington, found the drum rhythms she learned in the class were meditative and lifted her spirits. ''It helps center and ground me," she said. ''I'm hooked."
Pam Naria, 47, a fourth-grade teacher in Hopkinton and mother of two, turned to drumming during a midlife crisis when she turned 45. ''I felt something was missing. Drumming keeps me connected to people I like."
The drum class instructor, Audrey Gaffron, teaches for the DrumConnection, an Arlington hand-drumming school that has offered classes in the Boston area for 13 years. Some of the classes are taught through adult education programs in Cambridge, Newton, and Brookline.
''There's an element of healing that goes on when you're hand drumming," Gaffron said. ''It's easier to relax and come to terms with things in your life."
Getting People Together
DrumConnection's director, Alan Tauber, is a trained musician who learned hand drumming from a master drummer from Senegal, West Africa. DrumConnection initially offered classes two to three nights a week, but as demand has grown in the past few years Tauber has trained more teachers. The school now offers classes every evening, hosts drop-in jam sessions, and gives drum and dance performances.
When a group plays in unison, Tauber said, the rhythms sound primal and evoke strong feelings.
''People say this drumming has changed their lives," he said. ''I've had students while they were drumming get angry at their families who didn't allow them to express themselves while they were growing up. I've had students who were alcoholics who stopped drinking."
Some health professionals have embraced hand drumming circles and feel they're therapeutic because they get people together. The drum is a vehicle to create community, they say.
In the mid-1990s, Dr. Barry Bittman, a neurologist with the Mind Body Wellness Center in Meadville, Pa., attended a national medical conference where he witnessed 700 health professionals hand drumming together in a room. ''It was invigorating, enlivening, and at the same time refreshing without being threatening," he said. ''Once people started they couldn't put it down."
The experience inspired Bittman to conduct scientific studies on the impact of group hand drumming on health. In one study, he found that stress levels, measured by the hormone cortisol, decreased in participants. In another, he found positive immunological changes in certain cells of the people he studied.
Some Fortune 500 companies have used drumming circle workshops with employees to help build team spirit and improve morale.
''It's about cooperation instead of competition, listening to each other and using rhythm to make space for other people's creativity," said Arthur Hull, the pioneer of corporate drum circles and author of ''Drum Circle Spirit: Facilitating Human Potential Through Rhythm." Hull has been leading community and corporate drum circles for 25 years. ''It's still a grass-roots movement but no longer a fad. We're no longer the hippie anarchist thunder drummer in the park."
Robert Lawrence Freidman, a New York psychotherapist and author of ''The Healing Power of the Drum," has been hired by corporations to facilitate such workshops.
''It's the only instrument that allows a lot of people to speak at once," said Friedman. ''In this world of technology, when everything is about speed and creating distance from each other, the drum is a way we as a society seem to be coming back home." Toyota's US headquarters opened a drum room in 2001 with more than 50 hand drums -- djembes, ashikos, djin-djins, and other percussion instruments -- for their executives to use.
Friedman and other proponents believe group drumming is a form of nonverbal communication, and he uses hand drumming as a therapeutic tool with troubled teens and elderly patients, focusing especially on memory in Alzheimer's patients.
Permission To Make Noise
Hand drumming is easy to pick up even if you haven't gone to a class or played a musical instrument. ''It gives you permission to make noise, which is something we don't always give ourselves permission to do," said Dave Curry, who facilitates a community drum circle in Milford that meets monthly at the Milford Union Church.
Curry started the circle four years ago and got only three or four people to come. Now he regularly gets up to 25. He lights candles and adds chants from American Indian traditions.
Other circles have cropped up in the past few years in towns around Massachusetts such as Grafton, Hudson, and in the Berkshires. There's also a women's circle in Sherborn. Everyone is welcome, even if they haven't played before.
The longest continually running drum circle in the area, and some believe in the country, is the Earth Drum Council in Cambridge. The circle started in the 1980s and meets every Saturday at the First Church in Cambridge, Congregational, on Garden Street. It can attract as many as 40 drummers weekly and dozens of dancers.
''Our circle has spawned other circles. Earth Drum Council has been their inspiration," said Morwen Two Feathers, who has overseen the Earth Drum Council for the past 14 years with her husband, Jimi.
John Chiros, a coordinator for a technical manufacturing company in Peabody, wanted to meet people to hand-drum with. So three years ago he decided to start his own monthly circle and rented space from the Plymouth Church in Framingham.
On a recent rainy night, Chiros came to the circle dressed in a short African caftan that his wife stitched together for him. He played recorded African music while a dozen people hand-drummed corresponding rhythms.
Tambourines and cowbells and other percussion instruments lay in the middle of the circle for anyone to pick up and play. Chiros started the rhythms. The drummers followed. Each had the chance to present his or her own rhythm patterns. Even a beginner could follow along.
One drummer, Steve Seminerio, 49, from Melrose, a night manager at a gym, said he was developing his skill as a hand drummer as he would a sport. ''It can be anything -- wild, trancelike."
''I just love it," said Liz Kalber, 73, of Wellesley. ''It's exciting, relaxing but invigorating. You feel centered and focused." Kalber took up hand drumming after her husband passed away. ''When one door closes you open another," she said.
DrumConnection ph: 617-686-6080
Mailing address: PO Box 293 Wayland, MA 01778
Actual Reviews - 1992-2020
Average Rating: 5 Stars
I went for my first drumming class yesterday. Alan and Nancy met me with a big smile and created such a loving and caring atmosphere making me feel really comfortable and accepted. I have no musical experience and was really worried of how the class would flow. They were just amazing. I don't have enough words to express how magical the class was. I can't wait to go back and I have been telling all my friends about drumming. It's the best therapy for your mind and soul!!!
Sarah Tenney of Marimba Magic (R) at The Rivers School Conservatory recommends us! Thank you.
"The Drum Connection has brought the joy of drumming to many hundreds of people through excellent classes. Alan is very knowledgeable about African drumming and he has reached deeply into the whole Boston area spreading his passion through many communities. I recommend his classes and drum circles."
Nancy Browne recommends DrumConnection
January 28, 2018
This is a great class taught by remarkable drummer and gifted teacher, Alan Tauber! It’s something I just want to share with everyone, so much fun and such a wonderful way to connect with other people in a deep, uplifting musical way. You will feel supported and uplifted at the same time as you learn to play the hand drums with others who learn and play along with you! A very, very special experience awaits all who take this class. You will not be disappointed. If I could, I would give this class as a gift to everyone I know!
"Drum Connection has been an amazing source of drum culture as well as lessons and community for many years. From hand percussion to events and travel, Drum Connection has reached (thousands?) over the years."
Dr. Barry Taylor, N.D.
Weston MA • 10.8 mi away • Medical Center
"If you want to learn drumming, Alan is the man to call."
The Spiral Path
Topsfield MA • Alternative & Holistic Health Service
"Great teacher. Has depth of knowledge about drumming and is passionate about sharing it with others."
Dr Margaret Rogers Van Coops
Lake Havasu City AZ • Medical & Health
"The rhythm of music is key to cleansing the body of negativity. Everyone should attend this kind of class to dump negative history. I recommend contacting Alan who is caring and nurturing."
Wellesley MA • 11.5 mi away
"kind, patient and totally passionate about his work and his students growth"
Waste to Energy Machines
"Progressive Drum Shop"
Brighton MA • Fine Art
"Alan is a great teacher and Networker!"
Live Fully with ADHD
Jamaica Plain MA • Coach
"Alan is a great teacher and has trained a terrific staff. And he's a really nice guy. Sells some good drums, too."
EV Custom Massage
"I highly recommend DrumConnection. Alan is very knowledgeable in many areas of drumming, and can assist anyone from the first time novice to the skilled professional. DrumConnection has a wide array of drums that you can try for a perfect fit."
Kennard Music, LLC
Dayton OH • Entertainers, Actors, & Directors
"Drums and wisdom. 👍🏻😎"
Hub Health & Wellness Center
Jamaica Plain MA • 8.1 mi away • Alternative & Holistic Health Service
"The best djembe place in Boston"
Something Savory - Catering and Events
Arlington MA • 1.5 mi away • Caterer
"Great classes, wonderful people!"
Malibu CA • Meditation Center
"Drums have always been a path for me to express my soul and the beat of my life. DrumConnection has a fabulous variety of all kinds of drums that can add to your enjoyment or musical expertise. Just a wonderful place to purchase a drum from."
Royale Business Club International Inc
"They are in the same business as we are but a long way away. Doing a great job at their craft."
Medford MA • Performance & Event Venue
Kneeland & Kydd
Arlington MA • 1.0 mi away
"It is a really cool store in a fun shopping area if you are looking for drums a great place to start"
Drum Teacher / Freelance Musician
Belmont MA • 3.2 mi away
"Alan & DrumConnection are a cornerstone to the hand-drumming and "world-beat rhythms" community. Alan has been sharing his authentic knowledge here for decades. I wholeheartedly recommend Alan & DrumConnection!"
Lifeworks Career & Life Design / Grafton Street Writing Center
Arlington MA • 1.2 mi away
"Knowledgeable devoted and fun"
Drumming Preparatory School
Arlington MA • 1.0 mi away • Performing Arts
"Alan is one fine human being! He already has most of the answers and knows where to find the rest."
Universal Drums: Music Therapy, Lessons & African Arts!
"DrumConnection in Arlington offers fabulous services in African Arts! :)"
5.0 star rating Yelp!
This place should be called, "percussion heaven". You can find every sort of percussion instrument and accessory here, all in one place. The staff is very friendly, knowledgable and helpful. They have professional djembes and dunun . They also sponsor local drum circles and have drum classes with the very talented owner as well as master drummers from around the globe. They also offer a wide variety of CD's. One of the best shops ever!
San Rafael, CA
5.0 star rating
5.0 star rating 2/9/2017
I was thrilled to find that this store doesn't just have hand drums, but is also well-stocked with hardware and parts for rock drum kits. And if they don't stock something you need, they'll order it for you or point you in the right direction.
Alan, the owner, is extremely knowledgeable and helpful if I have questions or need advice. When I came in last year wanting to restore my vintage kit, I had no idea where to start, and Alan helped me through the entire process, from cleaning, de-rusting, to finding missing parts. Whenever I have a problem with my kit or something breaks, I always go to Alan first (it's a good idea to call the store to see when he's working!) Often he'll find a way to fix it without having to purchase new parts.
Definitely recommend this gem over bigger places like Guitar Center.
5.0 star rating
Jan 22, 2017
"Hi Alan, Eddie & I LOVED Nancy's classes. We stopped going because it was dark & cold & late & it was the only time we could both make it ( I work nites ) but we plan to resume classes probably in the spring. I miss it. Rochelle"
5.0 star rating
Purchased beautiful instruments...
I recommend the workshops to all my college student studying world music in the classroom. We've also purchased beautiful instruments I use in my teaching. People marvel at their sound and touch.
5.0 star rating
So much fun...
Participating in a beginners drumming series was so much fun, and I was surprised at what they were able to teach us! We plan to go back as soon as our schedule allow a steady attendance.
5.0 star rating
Just bought my 3rd instrument from this store. Always a pleasure to do business with DrumConnection, and home to a great community of drummers.
5.0 star rating
Honest, original voice...
Way back in 2011, I wrote and published a feature story about Alan Tauber and DrumConnection. Read it at YourArlington
Nothing that has occurred since would cause me to change my mind about Alan and his business: He's an honest, original voice in a fast-changing town, offering a rhythm that is hard to beat.
5.0 star rating
Always a great experience...
Alan is always a pleasure to do business with. He is knowledgeable and very kind. The classes they have are fun and very informative. Always a great experience.
Redington Beach, FL
Alan's knowledge is vast...
I needed to replace the head on a djembe. I live on the south shore of MA, and was having a hard time finding a place to do the job. I discovered the DrumConnection through a list serve and found the best resource I could hope for. Alan's knowledge is vast, and the service was done professionally, on time, and at a reasonable price. I do not need to look any further for my hand drumming needs.
It is a privilege to know you...
You play such an important part in drumming education in this country. It is a privilege to know you...
Name withheld upon request.
(but a famous dude in percussion).
Great Local Place, Great Stuff, Nice People
Bought a present for a friend and they had just what I wanted. They helped me pick the right one. Weren't pushy. Really nice vibe. Will definitely go back when I need a drum or a present for someone.
5/16/2016 5.0 stars! Yelp!
DrumConnection is great! Excellent teachers, extremely high quality guest drummers from Africa, and female teachers and leaders.
5/15/2016 5.0 stars!
Thank you Alan, Thierno, Audrey, Issa and Moussa!
At DrumConnection, I began my beginners' class feeling lost and insecure. However, while the drum is quite challenging, I have felt more and more connected to the group thanks to the wonderful teachers, and the kindness and acceptance of other drummers.
In other words I am deeply indebted and grateful for the opportunity to expand my skills, horizons, and sense of belonging thanks to the drum. The ongoing learning experience is challenging, exhilarating and humbling. Thank you Alan, Thierno, Audrey, Issa and Moussa, and thank you to all my fellow students!
5/13/2016 5.0 stars!
Thanks so much. Tuned up my kids drum, very knowledgeable and friendly!
4/28/2016 5.0 stars!
Love DrumConnection in Arlington!
Great teachers including the Masters from West Africa; great drums (all kinds) and accessories. Director and owner, Alan, is an excellent drummer himself, friends to all and always willing to share his knowledge. Classes & Workshops at all levels challenging and tons of fun. Serious drumming going on here!
4/27/2016 5.0 stars!
Knowledgeable, and very helpful.
I watched Alan help a gentleman trying to rent an accordion. Yes, this sounds like a Seinfeld script, but it was touching seeing Alan help someone out. Additionally, the store is well supplied, and the prices are quote reasonable for being able to get your hands on what you need right now. Truly, an asset to the community!
Brian C. J.
April 9, 2016, 1:47 p.m.
Friends cannot believe how light it is and how good it sounds. Easy for me to carry. It is also very nice looking, not ornate, just beautiful wooden swirls. Thanks for all your help on this..... kdl
4/10/16 ; 5 Stars
I have spent several wonderful weekends at DrumConnection studying drumming rhythms with various master drummers (djembefolas) and I just want to thank Alan and the wonderful community of people I met at there for a wonderful, fun, inspiring and informative time. If I didn't live on Long Island, NY I would be there every week. 5 star rating from me!
Long Island, NY
2/24/2016 : 5 Stars!
DrumConnection is a wonderful place. Alan is so helpful, thoughtful and kind. The store has a great selection of drums that will help you connect to music from all over the world. Highly recommended!
Jan. 16, 2016 : 5 Stars!
Great experience, no pressure to buy or spend more than I wanted to, just the perfect assistance to help me find the right drum for me - a clear joy for drumming and very welcoming - made me feel right at home.
12/22/2015 : 5 Stars!
A great little store
I was looking for some nifty percussion accessories for my son-in-law and I really didn't want to go the the Guitar Center. What a great place! I got great advice & was able to find exactly the kind of stuff I was looking for! A perfect shopping trip & well worth the weekly trip down from Cape Ann!
Cape Ann, MA
5.0 star rating 12/6/2015 Yelp!
I took a beginner drum class here this fall. I was impressed by the business's connection to West African drumming. Thierno, a drummer from Guinea, was our teacher. If you want to learn drumming, have a weekly class with lots of laughing and meet people from around the world this place is for you.
5.0 Star Rating 12/4/15 Google+
Alan the owner is always friendly and helpful. When I was looking for a drum, he chose 4 drums he thought I might like, each unique. He helped me sort out the differences to find the combination of pluses that added up to the perfect drum for me.
Alan the teacher is a non-judgmental, supportive, and clear instructor whose decades of experience and amazing skill as a drummer combine to provide a safe and inspiring learning environment. I've studied with four other DrumConnection instructors and each is excellent in his or her own ways, and all certified by examination.
A great store and a wonderful school. I recommend it without reservations.
11/15/2015 5.0 Yelp!
The beginner drum class was extra special. Taught by Thierno Keita-what a wonderful escape each week from the work-a-day world into a world of rhythm and movement. Great for the brain and the soul. Alan Tauber, who runs the Drum Connection could not be kinder or more devoted to his art. This has been a postive turn for me and I will continue on this road with pleasure.
5.0 star rating 11/11/2015
DrumConnection is an nook of musical magic on Mass Ave in Arlington. The drumming teachers are from Africa, they sponsor workshops and trips to Africa to learn drumming. Alan the owner is very flexible and understanding with scheduling lessons. The drum selection is fantastic!! I recommend it to everyone I know. What a gem!
5.0 star rating 11/9/2015 Yelp!
Broad selection of percussion instruments from all over the world. Alan, the owner, really knows a lot about the instruments and the music they make.
5.0 star rating 11/7/2015 Yelp!
We have purchased many instruments from Alan. He knows so much about percussion instruments that we trust him with ordering sight unseen and have been pleased with our purchases. Prices are very reasonable. We drive 2 hours each way to shop at the Drum Connection and it is worth it.
5.0 star rating 11/6/2015 Yelp!
You will not find a more beautiful person than Alan to assit you with your journey of learning the drums. I have traveled with Alan to Guinea, purchased various drums, and attended numerous classes. Have not been able to find the joy I felt when I was involved with the Drum Connection. Please open a southern location!
5.0 star rating 10/5/2015 Yelp!
The drum I purchased from Alan several years ago is both beautiful and is a joy to use. The classes are fantastic -- designed for all skills levels and taught by master teachers that are knowledgeable and exciting.
They are patient and know how to break rhythms down to bite size. I have enrolled my 4 year old in the children's drum class and it is dynamic -- teaching movement and African songs. She loves it and loves her teachers."
5.0 star rating 10/19/2015 Yelp!
The Best! Thanks!
Purchased my djembe here a few years ago, just bought new skin, Alan and staff always knowledgeable and helpful.
5.0 star rating 8/29/2015 Yelp!
I am new to drumming and am having a ball. I went to a Sunday night lecture and lesson on one type of drums and followed that with 2 Sunday night drumming circles with an excellent teacher-but not at the rank beginner level. Still, I loved it and just tried to follow and keep up.
Now I am in a beginner class and I am still enjoying every minute. Alan is a kind and welcoming person. He coordinates to bring in a variety of excellent teachers and classes take place most every day of the week. He gives great advice about what to purchase and has rentals available. Come join the fun!
5.0 star rating 8/24/2015 Yelp!
This is a great little shop. Alan was able to rent me some drums for my autism caregivers retreat and was very accommodating. The drums were gorgeous, beautiful sound. Our group had a great time thanks to Drum Connection coming through at the last minute for me. Thank you!
June 25, 2015
5.0 star rating Excellent Teaching!
This is the first time I took drum lessons. I have taken piano lessons off and on for years. I really enjoy playing the drums. I had two teachers. They both had their individual style of teaching. I found that Alan is an excellent teacher. I would recommend anyone with a desire to learn drumming to check out DrumConnection. I haven't gone to their drum circle yet, but that's the next step for me. I am finishing up my first six weeks of classes, two more classes to go.
August 4, 2015
5.0 star rating 8/4/2015 Yelp!
I'm new to the djembe and drum circles in general. The drum circle I attended last week was a blast. Very relaxed and friendly, the drumming was amazing. Alan and Fanta were both very warm and welcoming. As others have noted, great energy. I'm definitely going back.
July 6, 2015
5.0 star rating Incredible Drums!
I returned to the store today to purchase my first djembe. Alan was more than helpful. He gave a mini-lesson on the spot so I would know how to evaluate the variety of drums, their tonal differences, etc. He also played several of them for me to have a better impression of what it sounds like once technique is mastered. The drum I finally settled on is incredible, love it. My wife was looking for a bodhran, and he gave demonstrations of those as well!
July 8, 2015
Way better than 5 stars!
Alan clearly loves what he is doing and it shows in the friendly, professional and deeply knowledgeable service. Way better than 5 stars.
June 10, 2015
Alan was so helpful. He came highly recommended, and lived up to it. I got a wonderful drum for my nephew - have not yet given it to him, but he is going to love it.
April 8, 2015
Five stars all the way!
Honestly, I can't say enough good things about DrumConnection. Alan and John helped me pick out the perfect drum, and when I came in tonight, Alan talked with me for at least an hour about technique, the history of the djembe coming to America, and more. The place is warm and inviting, and the people who work there are the same. I am confident I chose the best place to start my drumming journey, and I will be back for their classes! Five stars all the way!
March 7, 2015
My son is now starting drum lessons. We stopped in to purchase a drum pad and drum sticks. This is an amazing store. There is much to learn about choosing an instrument that suits you...and we were encouraged not to rush in and spend a lot of money at this stage. The store is packed with drums (mostly hand drums) and each visitor is encouraged to try out items that spark their interest. While visiting, my son tried several thumb pianos as well.
March 6, 2015
Fanta lead our group of 21 drummers thru two hours of song, dance, and drumming. Everybody was smiling at the end of the evening. What a deal for 10 bucks!
February 24, 2015
Drum Connection is a fantastic place to take African drumming lessons, meet some wonderful people and really expand your horizons by attending workshops with master drummers from West Africa. It's been a life changing experience for me. I am so blessed to part of Alan and Fanta's community.
February 13, 2015
As always Alan was right there to make sure I got exactly what I was looking for. He even sent me a photo/text to confirm that he had the correct size, shape and sound of rattle I needed. This was that perfect combination of personal service and immediate results.
February 5, 2015
Hey just wanted to write you a note to tell you how much I absolutely love the drum! It was the perfect choice for me. The slaps are just incredible and yet it gives good bass response. I brought it to work to play with the children and it was just such the perfect instrument. It’s just the right one for me and I'm really thrilled with it. Thanks so much.
January 24, 2015
Thanks Alan for your undivided attention today as I purchased the replacement head for the djembe I had previously bought at DrumConnection. Could not be more satisfied!