Guest blog: I kept drumming and it saved my life…

19th June 2019

Tom Chalmers, a drumming facilitator with The Buddy Beat, gives us an insight into the positive impact of drumming on his life and a recent Music Medicine retreat.

The Buddy Beat

Tom in the forrest holding a drum.My name is Tom Chalmers and I am a drumming facilitator with The Buddy Beat, a Renfrewshire based drumming group for adults with mental health issues. Drumming found me in 2008 when I was very unwell and was self-isolating to a terrible degree. The first time I drummed, I had this sense of peace wash over me, a feeling that had had escaped me for quite some time. I kept drumming and it saved my life in no short measure, returning my self-confidence and self-worth to me. Now I pay that forward by running drumming workshops in the community (opens on facebook page), aiming to make a difference to people who are walking the same path as myself.

Music Medicine

Each May year for the last three years, I have attended Music Medicine at Wiston Lodge near Biggar. Wiston Lodge is a former Victorian hunting lodge and is set in 52 acres of beautiful woodland. Music Medicine is the creation of Californian Christine Stevens, who is an internationally acclaimed speaker, author, and music therapist. Holding master’s degrees in both social work and music therapy, Christine inspires people all over the world with music medicine for holistic health, spirituality, and wellness. The founder of UpBeat Drum Circles, Christine also offers online courses in drumming for wellness. She has trained facilitators and led workshops in more than twenty countries, including Iraq, Hong Kong, Brazil, South Africa, Japan, and Western Europe.

Music Medicine explores the four elements of music – Rhythm (Medicine for the Body), Melody (Medicine for the Heart), Harmony (Medicine for the Soul) and Silence (Medicine for the Mind). It also offers practical tips on drum facilitation and encompasses the land around too, for there is music in nature at every turn.

People from many countries attend Music Medicine for this three-day retreat. It is also where great friendships grow.

Why do I return each year?

Well, for me it is one of the highlights of my year. It is utter joy to be part of Music Medicine and it centres me, heals my soul, re-energises me for the months ahead and inspires me too. I love the exploration of sound using percussion and even our bodies! And we sing wonderful songs too, that fill your heart with happiness. One of the highlights of the retreat is when we go out onto the land and find a quiet spot to play an instrument, accompanying the sounds of nature. It is hard to describe quite how powerful that is.

Group photograph from Music Medicine.

A time of good music, good singing, good learning and good friendship. One of the other lovely things to happen is the Cultural Sharing, where people are asked to share a popular song from their country and this year, we had offerings from Ireland, Scotland, Mexico and America.

I am already looking forward to returning to Music Medicine in 2020!

– Tom Chalmers.