|| Drum Circle Facilitator & Founder of Ripple Rhythm ||
At one point, there were thousands of people in the park who were drumming and dancing every Tuesday night. It was our own urban festival. It got bigger and crazier until the police shut it down. We moved around a few times, filed for permits and added security but it ended up collapsing under the weight of its’ own attraction.
There’s a history of drumming in Trinity Bellwoods Park. We started as a group of 12 drummers. Fire spinners started practicing with us. Our gatherings began attracting not just onlookers, but other talent in the city. At one point, there were thousands of people in the park who were drumming and dancing every Tuesday night. It was our own urban festival. It got bigger and crazier until the police shut it down. We moved around a few times, filed for permits and added security but it ended up collapsing under the weight of its’ own attraction.
From that experience, I became really passionate about drumming and became one of the community leaders and coordinators for our group. I liaised between the police and the Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood committee. People use the drum as an instrument for healing, communication, community building, stress relief and even as a form of therapy. With a small set of drums, I met more clients and grew my practice. The response has been awesome. It keeps me going.
I am a mobile company. I take the drums to wherever they are called for. I also teach a variety of courses at the Royal Conservatory of Music and work with different community groups. I don’t have a typical day; my role shifts from month to month.
What other events have you participated in?
I’ve done a number of festivals including Big on Bloor and Bloorcourt festival. My best workshops were sessions I held on the Toronto Island. I set up my drum circle where the ferry docked. Hundreds of people would pass my station. I’d collect a bunch and then hold my 10 minute workshop. I must have met 50,000 visitors over the course of a couple summers. People still contact me because of the connections I made there.
Who is your audience?
It’s a mix. Sometimes it’s birthday parties and sometimes it’s larger corporate groups. Sometimes it’s schools, senior centres, and smaller companies. The beauty of my practice is that it’s accessible to everyone.
What are the next steps and growth opportunities for your business?
The limitation is the physical time and space required to bring and move the drums. I don’t have my own studio. In fact, very few people I know have been able to secure a studio that is noise friendly. My plan is to create an online drumming course. There’s a lot of people who teach African drumming, but not many who teach freestyle and or how to play with other instruments. I want to teach people how to play with DJ’s, guitars, other drummers, etc. I want to put together several modules that will be sold as online courses. The goal is to reach out to a broader community that extends beyond Toronto. In a way, it’s a legacy project.
I will have a few videos available for free to spark people’s interest. For those who want to take it a step further with the modules, I’ll have a variety of levels and classes available to children and adults. I want to teach people how to listen and how to improvise.
Did you grow up in Toronto?
I grew up in Bracebridge, Muskoka, but I came to Toronto as a theatre student. After that plan fell through, I turned to music. For me, drumming is the most inspiring form of artistry. No one tells you what to play and you have a lot of creative control. I love the improvisation and the bond you create with other drummers as you play. It’s fresh everytime.
Did you start drumming at Trinity?
I heard about this group in the park. They were just a handful, at the time. We’d meet every Tuesday. At the time, Facebook didn’t exist. We just showed up and drummed. It was organic.
I played at Lee’s Palace, at the Dance Cave, for a friend who used to DJ there. I played at a yoga centre where I had to drum the same rhythm for an hour. I drummed several times a week wherever I could. I had a day job at the time — a shitty government-office-paper-pushing-answering-phone job.
When I met my wife, she convinced me to let go of that life and start Ripple Rhythm full time in 2009.
If there’s a space that’s noise friendly, I can drum. People gravitate towards it without too much pressure. I like that it has a natural attraction to it.
Portrait photos: Trinity Bellwoods Park