About a dozen Vets living at the Menlo Park VA are now drum makers, thanks to a program put together by Beth Longwell (pictured below), a music therapist at the facility, in partnership with The Riekes Center. Today they worked on the final piece of their new instruments, the mallets, before participating in a drumming circle.
“I am always looking for new and creative ways to use music as a therapeutic tool,” said Beth. “Instead of just having a drum circle and using pre-made drums, I wanted the Veterans to be able to create their very own instrument. This way, they could have something to take away at the end of the workshop, and it would also encourage creativity, self-expression, and self-confidence.”
Most of the Vets had never made a drum before, but embraced the activity. “I signed up because I thought it would be a good way to meet new people, so something crafty and learn how to drum,” said Kim (pictured top), who spent four years in Germany and two in Panama with the U.S. Army.
The drums and tops of the mallets are made with deer, goat, cow and moose hide. Sewing the tips of the mallets took a fair degree of effort with some vets using thimbles and others using pieces of hide to help propel the needle and thread.
“Music therapy is all about using music in healing ways, and this workshop gave Veterans the chance to say ‘wow, look what I just made. Maybe I can do more than I thought.’ The feedback so far is that they are really enjoyed the hands on aspect of the drum creation. The workshop has brought back memories of past musical experiences as well.”