Beacon Drum Circle Has Returned to Long Dock


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By Jennifer L. Warren

BEACON – Stephanie Tuck refers to it as family with open arms. It’s a unit that has nothing to do with race, gender, age, residence, political views or financial status. Rather, it’s solely about a passion for one thing: drumming.

Tuck’s year-round “drumming family” is the Beacon Drum Circle. In existence for the last seven years, the collaborative, “free flow” group of varying percussion instrument musicians of all ages (babies to 82 years of age have joined in) and abilities (novice to professional) as well as locations (come from as far as Rockland County and Connecticut) change each week; one thing that remains is an undeniable love for the music created and the very personal purposes each participant has for playing.

“The purpose of our drum circle is very individual; many get a release from the act of drumming,” said Beacon’s Richard Simyak, who has been with the Circle since its inception and is now in his third year as the group’s organizer, rather than “leader,” a title he sees all involved having the ability to do at any moment. “For some, it relieves anxiety; others it helps them forget their inhibitions, and some are here to meet people.” He added, “It’s about individuals coming together in a group to make music in a very organic, creative, free and enjoyable way, an amazing thing.”

Participants in Beacon Drum Circle play their percussion instruments last Thursday evening at Beacon’s Long Dock Park. The informal, free flow group has had to make several adjustments (including pre-scheduling of players, group limits, social distancing and the wearing of facemasks) in the wake of COVID-19; however has finally returned (following lifted restrictions and some weather challenges) to the popular outdoor Beacon spot, providing beautiful music, along with an upbeat-positive ambience during the summer months.
Participants in Beacon Drum Circle play their percussion instruments last Thursday evening at Beacon’s Long Dock Park. The informal, free flow group has had to make several adjustments (including pre-scheduling of players, group limits, social distancing and the wearing of facemasks) in the wake of COVID-19; however has finally returned (following lifted restrictions and some weather challenges) to the popular outdoor Beacon spot, providing beautiful music, along with an upbeat-positive ambience during the summer months.

For Tuck, all of those reasons resonate and still more.

“This is a healing drum circle for me; it’s a chance to get away from everyday life; when we play here outdoors in Beacon, there is a type of healing with the trees, water and sunset,” explained Tuck. “It changes you just being down here; people have told me (pre-COVID) they can actually hear the drumming on the water all the way in Newburgh.”

That magic was alive and well Thursday night, as the Circle reconvened once again (it plays every other Thursday evening from 6-8pm in September-April at Beacon Recreation Center) for its fifth year at the Long Dock outdoor spot for the summer season, also during the Thursdays 6-8pm time slot and typically running from May-August. The unplanned three month pandemic hiatus did not seem to have any impact at all on the talent, chemistry and moving sounds the Circle produced. A group of about six drummers, many who had never met and from all different backgrounds and abilities, could be spotted on a beautiful summer evening providing an assortment of impromptu melodies, enveloped by the Hudson River and pending sunset. Nearby were couples relaxing on blankets, walkers strolling by, runners fleeing past, and some people periodically stopping to admire the upbeat, positive, even contagious sound the ensemble was creating.

The energy of the group remains, despite many of the adjustments that have been made in the wake of COVID-19. Now, those interested in joining the circle must do so ahead of time, signing up on the group’s Facebook page, ensuring state guidelines of group gatherings not exceeding 10 people. Further, all playing in the circle need to have their faces covered and maintain at least six feet of distance from other participants. In the past, Simyak, whose first purchased drum was an eye-catching African treasure Djembe, would bring and lend out his now growing range of percussion variations to anyone in need; however, now due to safety precautions, all wishing to play must bring their own equipment. With the past, regular yoga sessions no longer around the corner, nor busy photo opportunities available capturing wedding and high school graduate images, the crowded and buzzing, outdoor Long Dock family environment of summers past the Drum Circle was so accustomed to has temporarily come to a halt, at least for now. However, the music continues…as does the optimism.

“We are trying to make the most of it,” said Tuck, as the picturesque sun began to set on the Hudson River behind her and the group slowly wrapped up their playing for the evening. ”I really look forward to getting back to how it was when we could all see each other’s faces and not have to introduce ourselves; it’s very different, but it’s still a lot of fun being able to get together and drum in a family environment and being very positive and just so important to keep on doing.”

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