Drum Beat: Communication
My wife and I had the extreme privilege to spend a summer at Philmont Scout Ranch, in Cimarron, NM. It was my dream to work at the Ranch when I retired.
Something extraordinary happened one afternoon at the dining hall. There were several percussionists, drummers on staff and they were all frustrated that there were no drums to be played and no time to do so.
I had the idea of an experiment that went like this. I sent one of the young men to the far corner and told him only to hang out there and make sure everyone was enjoying their lunch and I would be sending him a message and I would expect an answer. I did the same with three more of the young men and told them they would receive a message they were to answer from the one on their right.
Once they were all in place and the dining hall was buzzing with over 250 people I tapped out a short sequence that any drummer of good conscience would know. The first young man in the far corner listened and I had to repeat the sequence, pounding it out on the metal table in front of me. He caught it this time and the others looked and listened. The first young man repeated my sequence and added the next two beats. The young man on his right caught on and repeated my sequence and the next and added the next. The third young man quickly picked up the cadence and sent it to me and completed the drum roll. I continued and so did they almost without warning people in that the tables caught on and the drumming became almost as an all in one drum fest. I started to slow the rhythm and so did they when it got down to an almost quiet I stopped and went back to work.
The boys stopped one at a time and came over with huge grins on their faces and said that was the best drum lesson they had ever had. I asked why. We were just drumming on tables, chairs, pots, pans and anything that made some noise. Their answer was that they had never seen communication catch on so fast or be so understood with any words or directing.
There were no words but the direction was there. Communication was made through the need to connect with themselves and all who were there. Not just to feed them and clean up afterwards. But to really connect!
Word got out of what had happened and we even tried to make it happen again. It never was the same as that day. Trying to make connections is hard work and even harder to reproduce. Genuine relationship building takes the verbal and the nonverbal signals to be passed from one to another.
I never will forget these young people at the dining hall in Philmont Scout Ranch. They were there as a job to serve food, and clean up. What I saw was a connection built of friendship, service to each other, comradeship and a need to serve others in a new way.
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