By Louisa Benatovich, ECS Student Reporter
She stood, feet bare, ankles encircled in jingly bells, proudly admiring the fold-out tables covered with her collection. She had placed them there with the help of her granddaughter; each drum, tambourine, and rain stick a story yet to be told. Her purple-feathered earrings coloring the beige of the Ellicottville Memorial Library’s activity room, she awaited 4 o’clock with the excited impatience of the truly passionate.
Based out of Olean, Faith Tanner-Thrush specializes in drum circles. From corporate retreats to community workshops, Tanner-Thrush uses her love of rhythm to unite, educate, and inspire. That day, Faith readied herself for the group of boisterous ECS students that comprise the Ellicottville Young Writers’ and Illustrators’ Club. Quiet but commanding, Faith described each drum with the care of a loving mother. The hoop drums, pieces of hide stretched over a cross-section of sticks, were a big hit among the students. Their favorite, a beautifully painted mid-size drum, was made from the skin of a true buffalo. Faith explained the history of the tambourines, rain sticks, and djembes, allowing each child to sample its sounds. The most interesting piece was an envelope of steamed bark filled with stones. Now hardened, it rattled hauntingly.
Cross-legged in a lopsided circle, the students took their percussion equipment and banged away, as loudly and as quickly as possible. Without speaking, Faith slowly thumped a heartbeat on her hoop drum. The group followed suit, and soon, they were singing and playing along to “The Habitat Song.”
Jackson Kruszynski, having attended all of the Library’s summer workshops so far, was particularly enthused with the drumming. An avid percussionist himself, Jackson brought his own snare drum to contribute to the cacophony. “Today was definitely my favorite workshop,” said the fifth grader, “because I got to show off my passion and talent.”
Aaron LoGiudice, a seventh-grader and trumpeter, was obsessed with the hoop drum. “It’s just so loud, and deep, and awesome!” he screamed while hitting the drum with all his might.
After the noise died down, Faith had the time to answer some questions about her passion. “I started drumming to reconnect with my heritage,” says Faith, who has Native American roots. “It was a solo practice at first. At the time, I was working at Camp New Horizons teaching traditional weaving and beading classes. Then, they asked me to do some drumming workshops. It was the perfect opportunity to expand my hobby.”
She went on to say, “I love to drum because it’s a chance for me to reconnect to the heartbeat and the Creator,” she continues. “Drumming is silent in its noise, and I love to drum outdoors, to feel connected to the Earth.”
Faith added that now whenever she travels, she looks to expand her drum collection instead of purchasing “touristy” souvenirs. “I have pieces from all over the world,” she says.
Faith, also known as She Who Hugs A Lot, uses her classes to spread her love to the world. “The kids always teach me new things,” she smiles. “They always have new rhythms, new ways to listen and play.”
This workshop, facilitated by the Ellicottville Memorial Library and the Rotary Club, was the third in a series of six this summer. Designed to tie into the “Library Rocks” Summer Reading Program, the workshops invoke the musical creativity of all who attend. “So far we’ve crafted homemade guitars, used everyday items to make drums, and participated in our very own drum circle. Abby DeChane also came in to teach us the basics of guitar-playing,” says Katie Benatovich, workshop leader. “I love to see what our young minds can cook up.”
“These workshops aren’t just to tickle the creativity bone,” says Benatovich. “They’re also meant to bridge gaps, inspire communication, and teach teamwork. These workshops are influencing and shaping the young leaders of today and tomorrow.”