On July 14, 2021

Seniors discover joy in drumming, creating rhythms together

By Ethan Weinstein

Inside St. Joseph Kervick, an assisted living facility, seniors walked and rolled toward a familiar face: Rob Zollman. Zollman runs a monthly drum circle at St. Jospeh Kervick, bringing music and activity to an excited group of residents.

By Ethan Weinstein
Zollman poses with his drums as he sets up at St. Joseph Kervick, an assisted living facility in Rutland.

Zollman has been playing drums and other percussion instruments for over 40 years, and leading drum circles for 30. His interests range from rock and blues to Brazilian and other world music, and he facilitates drum circles for everyone from months-old infants to seniors.

Zollman’s St. Jospeph Kervick drum circle is his most frequent gig, and the residents have come to expect him. “There are a couple of live wires,” he said, laughing about a resident who once danced in ‘West Side Story.’

The residents were ready to start drumming even before Zollman. “Let’s get going,” one called excitedly. “You’re ready, but I’m not,” Zollman joked back.

As Zollman handed out instruments, it became clear some people had favorites, snatching up familiar drums. Others expanded their horizons.

“You must be kidding,” said one woman handed a strange percussion instrument that produced a grating noise when scraped. There were waist-tall drums, flat drum disks, rattles and bells and croaking wood frogs.

“Lets get started,” Zollman called, smacking quarter notes on the drum strapped to his waist. For a moment, everyone — residents, staff, and visiting children — struggled to find the beat. Soon: rhythm. A cowbell struck quarter notes while others experimented in the space between. Zollman silenced the circle with a flourish before ending with an all-out rumble — a clear fan favorite.

While Zollman has been running drum circles like this one for decades, he has only expanded to senior- specific circles in the last three years. Now, they make up a significant por- tion of his business.

Watching the St. Joseph Kervick drummers, the positivity of the drum circle was plain to see. Residents stomped their feet, smiled wide, even burst out laughing. One woman, growing bold throughout the hour, began to freestyle, drumming on her walker, her chair, anything within reach.

The circle bred listening, heads leaning closer to neighbors, the occasional scornful glance at an errant note. At the end of every rhythm: the urge to begin again.

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