The wider the smile, the better the music sounds — that was one of Steven Turner’s first lessons to the children, parents and community leaders who gathered Thursday at the United Center for Community Care to play in a drum circle.
Turner’s company, Giving Tree Music, uses drumming as a social and emotional learning tool. He aims to bring people together through music, and to instill participants with a sense of self-worth and appreciation for others. All of which is central to the United Way of Greenwood and Abbeville County’s newest push for community vibrancy.
“It is a necessary movement in this community, to renew and revitalize it,” said UWGAC President and CEO Marisel Losa. “This is just a small piece of the bigger picture.”
Throughout the week, the United Way has helped bring Turner and his wife, Jennifer Frances, to Greenwood County School District 50 students. At Woodfields Elementary and Brewer Middle School. they helped students build their own drums, which they’ll be playing today at the United Center. Thursday’s event was to help adults and United Way partners experience what the children are doing to better understand what the movement Losa is describing is all about.
“This is about changing the way we think, changing the narrative, changing the dialogue,” she said. “The idea was for people to come and feel it, because it’s something you really can’t describe. You have to feel it.”
The drumming events are the first step in the movement, which Losa called “Inspire 864.” The emphasis behind it isn’t to create new programs, but to have events and work with existing community resources to better serve and unite Greenwood. There are a lot of people working to address family and youth-related issues, but she often she finds groups that aren’t working alongside other, similar groups.
Part of the movement will be to help clean up 211, a service reachable by dialing 2-1-1 that offers listings of health and human services groups. However, Losa said when dialing 211 to look for after-school services, for instance, there are many organizations that offer such services locally that aren’t listed.
“We need to clean up 211 and help make sure everyone’s categorized correctly, that way when a mother calls and asks for after-school care, they get a full list of services and not just the one that has “after school” in the name,” she said.
The next steps in Inspire 864 are still under works, but Losa said the campaign is about continual, layered efforts to create a stronger sense of community pride and vibrancy.
As for the drum circle, Alice Hodges of Meg’s House said it was relaxing and therapeutic. Throughout the session, Turner had participants give positive affirmations to one another and to themselves — turning to other people in the circle and complimenting their playing.
“I can see how it could be useful in building self-esteem in children,” she said, “from making the drums themselves to playing them.”
Niria Abadia brought her children to the drum circle and said it was a pleasure to see Turner sharing cultural lessons about the drums along with his playing.
“In my life, music has been the key to learning,” Abadia said. “To see them learn something cultural, it gives me hope that they’ll develop a love of art.”