Baraboo’s Village Booksmith to host therapeutic drum circle

Jim Turk says drum circles aren’t limited to hippies and music festivals.

The multiple sclerosis advocate from Madison hopes to introduce the therapeutic benefits of group drum sessions to people in all walks of life, and on April 7, he’ll be at the Village Booksmith with an arsenal of percussion instruments to do just that.

For the past few months, the longtime drummer and former research officer for the University of Wisconsin-Madison has led community drum circles across the state. Turk said the jam sessions are intended to promote inclusiveness and creativity, along with mental and physical well being.

Turk said his own battle with MS provided inspiration for the drum circles.

After symptoms forced him to step down from his position at UW-Madison last spring, Turk began studying alternative methods for dealing with the disease.

“I started seeing a lot of papers citing the benefits of group drumming for people of all abilities and disabilities,” he said. “There’s significant proof of improvement in people who have PTSD, autism, Parkinson’s or just stressed out people.”

The research prompted Turk to sell off some of his more expensive drumming equipment in exchange for a diverse array of handheld percussion instruments so he could lead his own drum circles.

From bongos to maracas, Turk has instruments for people off all musical abilities. He’s also customized a few for people with physical limitations as well.

“It’s about community and getting everybody participating with whatever they can do,” Turk said. “I’ll walk people through that and come up with ways for them to encounter rhythm in their everyday lives and apply that to drumming.”

Turk said the social aspect of drum circles has proven effective in treating several mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.

“Everybody’s working as a team to create something beautiful together,” he said. “It changes your attitude because you’re part of this bigger group.”

Christin Harding, an MS advocate in Baraboo, has been to several Village Booksmith drum circles in the past, and said the drumming creates a “shared pulse” between the members of the circle.

“It’s a unifying event,” she said. “It doesn’t matter who’s there, but there’s an immediate connection with everyone else in the circle.”

Turk said creating music within the group tends to make people feel good, and the positive feelings provide a starting point for recovering from many physical and mental ailments.

“I always say to people, ‘If you feel good, you feel good for a reason,’” he said. “You’re putting your body in the best possible position for recuperation, rejuvenation, healing – all that kind of stuff.”