Nothing says “African drum circle” like a longhaired white guy from Pittsburgh. But over a career spanning more than 20 years, Jim Donovan has proved himself as one of the foremost drum circle experts in the country. Between earning degrees from University of Pittsburgh and St. Francis University in music and education, respectively, the former Rusted Root percussionist has developed a series of workshops dedicated to enriching people’s lives with drumming. On Thursday, April 26, 7 p.m., Donovan brings his motivational “Rhythm Renewal Drumming Workshop” to the Liverpool Art Center, 101 Lake Drive, Liverpool.
For $45 ($35 if registering in advance) participants get an intimate, 2-hour evening with the man named 2008’s Drum Circle Facilitator of the Year (yes, it’s a thing) by Drum! magazine. The workshop provides pointers on communal drumming and emphasizes the spiritual benefits of making music with a group. Like any good drum circle, it’s open to anyone older than age 17, regardless of experience or ability.
Donovan was a founding member of the multi-platinum jam band Rusted Root, back in 1990. The Pittsburgh-based group brought the percussive sounds of Africa and Latin America to a mainstream American audience with hits like “Send Me On My Way,” “Lost in a Crowd,” and “Ecstasy.” Since parting ways with the group in 2005, Donovan has been drum circling his way across the country championing drumming as a meditative and spiritual exercise. (Anyone looking to catch Rusted Root should check them out at Utica’s Uptown Theatre on May 9).
“My intention with this experience is that each person in the room will gain more confidence in their drumming abilities and a sense of how to use rhythm to positively affect how they feel,” Donovan said. “Not to mention they’ll likely make a few new friends.”
Donovan is a firm believer in the spiritual and healing power of collective drumming. “Rhythm positively affects the way people feel,” he added. “It leaves them feeling fully rejuvenated.” When he’s not teaching workshops, he is involved in research with occupational therapists and medical professionals that uses percussion as a therapeutic method for dealing with autism and other developmental disabilities.
For the workshop at the Art Center, Donovan will provide djembes—tall, rope-strung African drums—for all participants and lead them in massive, spirit-lifting jam sessions. The workshop teaches rhythms, techniques, chants and songs from Africa, the Caribbean and South America.
No previous drumming experience required to participate in the Rhythm Renewal Drumming Workshop. Those interested in attending can call Sandra Fioramonti at 234-933.