Current members:

L-R: La Tanya Carmical, Sandy Mills, Nina Roberts, Charlene Gumbs, Shawn Nealy-Oparah, Mar Stevens
(kneeling) Jillian Lyles, Mya Cross

Born to Drum 2009

Drum camp 2009! For the fourth year in a row, I have attended Born to Drum and each year I have a blast. This year the camp was expanded to 4 days over the Fourth of July weekend. One of my favorite aspects of camp is the location: Walker Creek Ranch. The land, originally inhabited by the Miwok Indians, is magical. As soon as I wind up the road to the ranch I am immediately in a different state. The rolling hills, wildlife, lack of cell phone service are all qualities I truly appreciate. Arriving on the land and being greeted by all of the smiling faces of camp attendees sets the weekend off right.

This year's camp featured many of the same teachers I have come to know and love. All fierce and extremely talented Drum Maestras. We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from them all. Camp is an opportunity to experience a new teacher in a discipline we already study. For example, Sistahs of the Drum plays West African drums and rhythms so, camp is an opportunity to take a class or two with djembe instructor Nuru Dafina from Boston or Dunnun instructor Mabiba Baegne from  the Congo by way of Arizona. But, camp is also an opportunity to step outside of our comfort zones and try new disciplines. Last year, I tried Taiko drumming with Janet Koike of Alameda. This year I tried Middle Eastern drumming for a belly dance class. Fun and challenging! It's great to continue to be in beginner's mind.

Another new and exciting feature of this year's camp was the open mic night. Every year there is a concert that features all of the instructors and it is off the hook. Since we had an extra night this year, we were able to have a night that featured the students. Mar and I joined up with our good, sistah friend Nahi Akinola and signed up to present a drum piece. I was nervous to perform in front of the whole camp and especially the teachers, but those two convinced me to do it. Once at camp we were reunited with other talented campers that we either know from the Bay Area or have met at previous camps. We asked a few to join us for our piece. We met for about 20 minutes on Friday afternoon before dinner and choreographed a piece that now could include, drums, dancing and percussion. Let me just say, we turned that motha out! It was beautiful, fierce, sexy, powerful and transformative. We received thunderous applause and a lot of positive feedback for the next two days. I have to say that was a highlight for me and Mar.

The other members of Sistahs of the Drum couldn't be at camp this year, but have all been before. Mar and I represented even though we missed them.