Music : Moving to the beat
For years, Rick Bausman has been a familiar presence on the Island. His smiling, exuberant presence cannot be missed, whether he's performing with fellow drummers on the beach, leading a band of Jabberwocky campers through Edgartown on the Fourth of July, jamming with Entrain, or drumming with children at school concerts. But few know that this bouncy and energetic Pied Piper with the big grin and youthful mien dedicates most of his time to helping others. Helping others, a constant theme in his life, seems to be second nature to him.
Under the auspices of his Drum Workshop, he teaches drumming to adults and youngsters from pre-schoolers through high-school students, works with elders, prisoners, at-risk teenagers, Alzheimer's patients, autistic children, and people with a wide range of disabilities.
Perhaps most dramatic is his recent work with sufferers of Parkinson's disease, in which drumming often brings about positive changes in physical abilities. Neither a doctor nor a scientist (he holds a degree in Spanish from Colby College), Mr. Bausman believes the challenge of learning complex drum patterns makes subtle changes in the patient's neurological system that are reflected in movement. The technique has helped a number of Vineyarders, he said, and he was honored to participate in a conference on the disease in Vermont.
"The response was overwhelming," he says. "For me, I feel better when I am being of service to my community. I think it's our responsibility to share ourselves and our abilities with those around us in whatever way we can. It's the way I've discovered I'm happiest."
Celebrating its 21st anniversary, the non-profit Drum Workshop is conducting an on-line auction through June 16 to raise funds by selling one-of-a-kind ceremonial drums. The exotic drums are made even more valuable by the work of noted Island artists adorning them. One drum bears a pastoral landscape by Allen Whiting.
Although Mr. Bausman says the Drum Workshop has been fortunate to attract generous donors to support its work, fundraising is critical to keep the programs accessible.
One of his festive programs, "The Lucky Samba," an exuberant hands-on family event, takes place at the Chilmark Community Center this Saturday. Raising funds and fun, the event welcomes all to join in playing this upbeat Brazilian national music for the price of a modest donation and a potluck dessert.
"Bring any kind of drum you have, a trash can, a sheet rock bucket, a shaker," urges Mr. Bausman with a grin. "It's mostly for fun," he adds. "This is a way to celebrate our 21st anniversary and thank the community for everything we've all done to improve the quality of life for so many people.
"I love drumming, it's my gift. I'm good at it and I've found a way to share it in a way that benefits others. I'm filled with gratitude because I've been given the opportunity to do that."
Photo by Ralph Stewart
Spreading the word is a priority for Mr. Bausman. Curriculum models are available for use by off-Island educators and Mr. Bausman and his colleagues have presented workshops in a number of states.
Mr. Bausman is determined that no one will be excluded from drumming, even when physical conditions present barriers. If someone cannot use his or her hands Mr. Bausman substitutes mallets, and for those whose bodies are not flexible enough to reach the drum he employs clamps and supports to make to make it work.
"Adaptability is one of the biggest factors in Drum Workshop programming," he says. "We adapt to the degree that it makes it possible for people to participate, but not to the degree it removes the element of challenge. Because challenge is the catalyst for growth."
Whether running an anger management workshop for troubled teens, a class for prisoners, or a violence-prevention class, Mr. Bausman finds a common thread - self-esteem. Whatever their challenges, participants are encouraged to respect others and themselves as well, and he sees confidence grow as rhythms are learned.
"The Drum Workshop is a microcosm for community," he says. "We are there to support each other. It's not necessary to play perfectly, but it is necessary to give your best effort to support yourself and the people around you."
Mr. Bausman started drumming at age three, and has loved the instrument ever since. After a foray into rock and roll drumming, he discovered ensemble drumming which uses intricate traditional African and other ethnic rhythms in his teens. He first came to Martha's Vineyard in 1980 at age 17 to volunteer at Camp Jabberwocky. It was a perfect fit.
After 26 summers, Mr. Bausman remains a dedicated Jabberwocky helper. He is music director, writing and producing original musicals and drumming with the campers. In 1986 he moved here full-time to work for a family caring for their son who had cerebral palsy, and also helped found Vineyard Employment Options.
Soon he joined with Sam Holmstock and his legendary ensemble-drumming group, Die Kunst der Drum. When he was asked to perform for youngsters at an Edgartown pre-school and decided to let them play too, the Drum Workshop was born.
"It's a great medium," says Mr. Bausman of drumming. "It's more than just making music. It's a medium for growth of community, spirit, and self-esteem."
Community Drum Performance, "The Lucky Samba," Saturday, June 14, 7 pm, Chilmark Community Center. Bring dessert to share and your own drum to play along. $10; $20 per family. 508-627-3786.