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How Can They Turn You Down?

By: Laurie Loeb
Category: Recreational
Population Served: Seniors

I get fired up about something, there's no stopping this ol' gal in reaching her goals! Having just come home from my first drum circle at Barry Bernstein's "Unity with a Beat" weekend in Kansas in October 1998, it took only one week of visits in the Alzheimer unit at the local nursing home where my mother had just moved,to know that those residents could benefit from drumming! There was no doubt in my mind that rhythm-based music activities and drum circles would be a far more engaging activity than any of the programming that currently existed there.

Like many such facilities, especially here in rural western Colorado, the for-profit home had no funds available for such programming. Since I had previously been active in other forms of community service, as well as in mental health, human services and higher education, I knew of some local potential funding opportunities. A small grant obtained from the local council on arts and humanities for "seed money" plus some of my own savings enabled me to soon purchase a starting package of drums and rhythm instruments with which to initiate a drum circle program at the nursing home. With that impetus I established on a volunteer basis a weekly six-month drum circle program, which not only introduced the residents and staff to the benefits of drumming, but also gave me a great opportunity to learn more about working with this special population and sharpen my own skills.

After a few sessions I invited the local newspaper to cover a session with a story and photos, being sure to recognize the arts council for their support. Next thing I knew, the non-profit, tax-exempt regional facility for the developmentally delayed called requesting a program at their center. I conducted a complimentary session to acquaint them with the activity, and, convinced of the potential benefits for their clients, they in turn procured grant funds from a state agency to integrate the arts into their programming. Of course, once that program was under way, I made sure that another newspaper did a feature article on it.

Then I approached a number of community and fraternal organizations, such as Rotary, Lions, Elks, sororities, community service thrift shops, banks, etc as well as the municipal government, to provide more funding to support continuation of the programs for special populations. Fortunately, most of these funders haven't required me to have non-profit, tax-exempt status, but if and when it is required, there are a couple of local 501-c-3s (tax-expempt organizations) that are willing to act as my fiscal agent (ie sponsor).

After another well-received gratis demo drum circle at a near-by senior center's Christmas party, their administration subsequently sought and obtained grant funds for a year-long program of monthly drum circles. Schools heard about the program and applied for artists-in-the-schools funding to bring me in. By collaborating with non-profit, tax-exempt agencies to serve as my fiscal agent, larger grants have been received from funders that require 501-c-3 status.

I also started a monthly community drum circle on a volunteer basis to give an opportunity to the public to experience the joy of community drumming. One thing led to another, and eventually I was able to get a partial scholarship, again from the arts council, to attend Arthur Hull's week-long DCF Playshop, and to buy more instruments for the community drumming.

Immediately upon returning from the Playshop, I did volunteer drum circles at a local summer festival and for community benefits, after which requests started coming in from the private sector and fees were finally being paid to me. With all the added visibility from doing gratis events I was starting to become known in the area as "the drummer lady".

There's so much demand now for drum circles with special populations and at regional and local conferences that I can't (don't want to?) handle it all myself. In order to expand and assure perpetuation of drum circle activity around here (remember, I'm an ol' babe, 61 to be exact, so don't know how much longer I'll be jumpin' around like this.....), I wrote a proposal to a medical foundation which was submitted by the regional senior volunteer program to fund a series of trainings for senior volunteers to become drum circle facilitators. And guess what? It's a winner......... they couldn't turn it down!

I believe the key factors to successfully obtaining funding for your program lie in believing in what you do and sharing that enthusiasm, being able to articulate the potential benefits of your program, making the time to donate demonstration drum circles, rigorously publicizing what you're doing, and encouraging others to have a sense of "ownership" in activities which benefit humanity. It really helps, too, to be able to effectively write up program descriptions, prepare realistic projected budgets, and design ways to evaluate the outcomes. Such left-brain activity isn't usually the forte of artists such as ourselves, but hey, doesn't drumming enhance our hemispheric synchronization, our mental clarity and our creativity? I say, "Be whole, be bold, and actualize your dreams!"

Contact Laurie Loeb

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