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DES MOINES, Iowa – There’s a non-profit traveling across Iowa and it’s using percussion instruments to bring people together.

Social drumming is a music-making tool that’s good for the body, mind, and soul. Residents at Beaverdale Estates retirement community are the students in this social drumming class.

“Well, for one thing, it gets us all out here, and we start to enjoy and to loosen up,” Joan Utz, a resident at Beaverdale Estates, said. “I know it’s hard to put into words, but I think it’s very important.”

Joe Parrish and Annie Mielke are the beat behind these drums. They started the non-profit Adventures in Social Drumming back in 2007.

“We just kind of started real small, buying a few drums at a time,” Mielke said. “And there were lots of groups interested, all the way from kids groups to the retirement communities, so we’ve been a little bit everywhere.”

Since then, they’ve traveled to hundreds of places helping people find their rhythm. 

“We chose to use this not only with kids and individuals with special needs, we chose to do this with individuals that were over 65,” Parrish said. “Because the research showed us that less than 3% of individuals over the age of 65 actively play a musical instrument. That wasn’t right for us. Everybody needs to play music and needs to appreciate music and music is a part of who we are.”

The founders say playing drums as a group promotes healing and helps release emotions.

“Whether you’re playing an instrument or just tapping along, smiling, singing, any of those things are activating so many different parts of your brain,” Mielke said. “So it’s good for your body physically to do the drumming, the hand over hand. It’s also just good for the community just doing something together.”

The therapeutic tapping is also unifying in more ways than one.

“I think that’s probably the greatest part of being human is that ability to feel and to connect with one another,” Parrish said. “And when you’re drumming along with everybody and you got that five minutes of music in your system, you just feel this. You’re on the same rhythm. You’re on the same beat. You’re not different, you’re the same. You’re connected.”