By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Jim Donovan understands the power of rhythm, and he wants to share that power to help people transform their lives.
The founding member and frontman for multiplatinum- selling worldbeat band Rusted Root (“Send Me On My Way”), Donovan is a percussion educator and researcher at St. Francis University in Loretto, Pa.
He also leads seminars on weekends, including one Friday at The Yoga Room in Warren titled “The Drum and Chant: Transformation Workshop.”
“The whole premise of the workshop is to show people, regardless of their musical experience, different ways to use drumming and their voice to move the energy inside of them,” Donovan told The Vindicator. “They can find ways to use the techniques I give them to transform that which might be holding them back. It’s not just to entertain and make music, but for personal growth.”
The workshop is open to anyone 17 and older, regardless of musical experience. Donovan provides all of the African drums.
The benefits are especially useful in this stressful era of shrinking leisure time and economic struggle.
“People are seeking inner peace in this day,” said Donovan. “They’ve noticed that some of the things that they thought life was about, like jobs, a nice house and money, are all well and good, but there are other things that go beyond what we were taught by our culture as valuable.
“They are finding an ability to be with other people and help each other move together to bring transformation to their lives and awareness of things that might not be apparent at first.” Donovan invites workshop participants to reflect on their lives and think of something that is holding them back from doing that which they are most passionate about.
“Then we work through techniques to unblock and move that energy,” he said. “None of it is coerced. Participants are in charge of the entire experience. I provide something real to them, something they can take with them and use later.”
Sound, Donovan explained, is one of the oldest-known methods of healing. Indigenous cultures in all parts of the world attach songs and rhythms to healing rituals.
“Every culture uses music to tap into a place that is beyond time and the everyday,” he said, “to take you to a place where you experience more of yourself.”
Those who have participated in the 21/2-hour workshops report changes in their lives, including being more relaxed, a clearer mind and a better connection with people, said Donovan.
“People are often surprised at how effective it is, and also how well they can do the musical aspect of it,” said Donovan, although he did say some people are resistant to the chanting and drumming because of mental baggage from their childhood.
Some participants even find it cathartic.
“They can cry if they need to,” said Donovan. “It’s set up so that participants are comfortable and know they are in good hands and around like-minded people.”
The typical workshop draws between 20 and 40 people, he said.
In addition to his work at St. Francis University, Donovan is the author of the soon-to-be-released inspirational book “Serving the Groove” and is also a columnist in Drum! magazine.
In addition to the music he released with Rusted Root (1990-2005), Donovan has released six solo music CDs as well as several instructional drumming audio and video products. He is involved in research at St. Francis University into the use of percussion intervention for autistic and special-needs children.