By Paul Roberts
Special to The PREVIEW
Join musician and music therapist Paul Roberts for a free hand-drumming class at the Pagosa Lakes Clubhouse on Tuesday, Dec. 26, at noon.
The class offers a welcoming environment that encourages fun, creativity, playfulness and connecting with others. Hand drums are provided for those who don’t have one. Even participants who have no experience playing a musical instrument can immediately get into the groove. Besides hand drumming, the class includes body percussion and songs of indigenous peoples.
My father, a distinguished neuroscientist, told me he thought music was the only thing that might enable the survival of the human race, that language and rational thinking won’t suffice, and that music can bring people together in a harmonious way as nothing else can.
I suspect I was genetically predisposed to music, but I am sure that my musical circuits were permanently connected listening to my father playing his mandolin. He played with a tremendous amount of feeling. One of my strongest early memories was playing with my blocks on the floor while listening to my father’s music. Whenever he played a tremolo, a rapid reiteration of a note, I felt a powerful sensation of energy moving up my spine, a phenomenon, I later learned, Hindu philosophy refers to as kundalini awakening. Whether my inclinations came from nature or nurture, my early musical hardwiring certainly predetermined my fate.
When I was 20, I created a music therapy program at McLean Hospital, a highly esteemed psychiatric hospital in Belmont, Mass. Observing dramatic improvement of seriously disturbed patients, I developed a lifelong fascination with the healing power of music. Working at McLean and several other psychiatric institutions expanded my perception of music. I developed a sense for what seems like music’s limitless positive potential.
“If I’m playing the guitar because I’m just filled with some emotion, playing music vents a lot of feeling,” a young man in one of my patient bands told me. “It brings me out of feeling bad and turns it into something tangible that I can work with. Hearing it is working with it, just having it there instead of running around in my head, to have it through my fingers, into the amplifier, out and into my ears, dreaming into the fingers and letting things come at the spirit of the moment.”
The saying “music begins where words end” really came to life for me when patients who could not speak became actively engaged in music and gradually recovered their ability to communicate through words. Music was their bridge to mental health. Those experiences helped motivate me to continue trying to build musical bridges with others.
“The sense of community at the drumming class is very valuable for me, especially as a newcomer to Pagosa Springs. Another thing I love is that my senses are stimulated. I feel more alive after the class.” — Catt LeBaigue.
“As a part-time resident of Pagosa Springs, I have attended several of the drumming classes generously given by Paul. Being a complete beginner I felt comfortable in the friendly environment he creates and I received gentle encouragement. I have fun and it’s a great way to recharge my energy.” — Marti Bledsoe.
For more information about the hand-drumming class, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 731-3117. The Pagosa Lakes Clubhouse is located at 230 Port Ave.
By Paul Roberts