One beat at a time: Drumming class allows students to look outside of themselves | TahoeDailyTribune.com

One beat at a time: Drumming class allows students to look outside of themselves

Jeff Munson

Students in the drumming class work together on a beat. Photos by Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Drumming to a different beat is nothing new to Liz Broscoe. The longtime South Shore musician has led the rock and roll band Raw Nature for years as well as the drum troupe Java Djembe.

What began as a fascination with percussion when she was 10 years old has turned into a lifelong passion where rhythm, she says, emulates life, one beat at a time.

Five years ago Broscoe began teaching West African rhythms on the African hand drum called Djembe at Lake Tahoe Community College. Over the years, she has expanded her classes to include drum set and Conga in the areas of Reno, Carson City and Gardnerville.

Her students say Broscoe’s style and passion for teaching and learning West African rhythms keeps them interested, motivated and committed to learning.

“I have been taking Djembe drum classes from Liz for about two years, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” said student Erin Kelly of South Lake Tahoe. “Just being around the sound and vibrations of a group of people drumming is so intensely powerful and energizing. I always leave class feeling energized, yet calm at the same time, like a massage makes you feel. Liz makes learning how to play the drums fun and easy.”

As she became more involved in the class, Broscoe learned that drumming does something outside of making a sound. She observed her students procuring an energy unlike she had ever seen.

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“My students go away with a twinkle in their eyes and energy that they did not have when they first arrive,” Broscoe said. “And, as time continues, I have seen many of them make empowering changes to their lives and lifestyles, which they have attributed to some of the benefits of drumming, such as spiritual awareness and growth.

“But mostly they just have fun connecting with others and themselves rhythmically.” she said. “I think sometimes more goes on for them than they are actually aware of. Drumming definitely elevates our spirit while we play and if that carries into the rest of our daily lives that’s a wonderful thing.”

Drumming, her students say, is more than the sound. It is about unity, community and sharing an experience.

“You have to work together and listen to one another in order to play well together and make these rhythms work and sound the way they are supposed to,” Broscoe said. “The history behind West African drumming as well as other forms of drumming is so rich and deep. If you desire that connection I believe you can tap into it.”

One of the best things about the class is how drumming can build long and meaningful relationships, she said. Drumming brings people together for a common cause of creating energy and rhythm together. The drum does not differentiate between race or social status or gender. Everyone must work together equally to create the energy and feeling that occurs.

“I have the great job of facilitating that experience,” she said. “This energy I feel while playing West African rhythms is something I haven’t experienced in any other music that I play – and I have been a working musician for a long time. In my performances with Java Djembe, I especially see how crowds of people are drawn to these West African rhythms and dance, although we are basically amateurs at it.”

Broscoe says she is fortunate to make a living teaching and performing, but acknowledges she is also a student herself and will be for the rest of her life.

“That’s the beauty of this – we all have so much to learn and also unlearn through the drum,” she said.

Broscoe is currently writing an instructional book on the fundamentals of Djembe drumming. She will be teaching in the schools this spring through the Tahoe Arts Project and continues to do corporate team-building workshops around the area. For more information on classes and performances, visit http://www.drumchik.com or http://www.rawnature.net.