The Birches Drums Up Fun in Summer Drum Circle

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Residents of The Birches Assisted Living in Clarendon Hills got into the rhythm of summer on June 23 during a drum circle that ushered in the new season.

Professional drummer Tim Wilsey led the circle and provided each resident with homemade percussion instruments, including drums made from coffee cans and hand shakers made from Pringle cans filled with rice or coffee beans.

Wilsey taught the group different rhythmic patterns and had them play together in unison. He also led the circle in a call and response style that helped them follow along to more complicated rhythms. Eventually, Wilsey even had the entire group play along to popular songs like the Elvis classic “Jailhouse Rock.”

Wilsey, who has been playing drums professionally for over 25 years, performs and leads drum circles at assisted living communities throughout Chicagoland, and he says the seniors always enjoy the opportunity to make some music.

“We have a great time. I work with the audience and try to play or teach them songs they would enjoy. Usually that means turning to standards from artists like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Louie Armstrong and Dean Martin. But sometimes they even get into rock and roll artists like The Beatles,” said Wilsey.

The Birches’ Activities Director Katie Klitchman says she notices an amazing difference in the mood and energy of residents after they play or even just listen to music, which is why she invited Wilsey to lead a drum circle.

“Music is so therapeutic. It has the power to totally change the way you feel in an instant,” said Klitchman. “I think it’s really great for residents to be interactive and play music themselves, and a drum circle was a perfect way to do that. It’s easy enough that everyone can participate and experience what it’s like to be a musician, even if only for an afternoon.”