IMG_4506 C logo removed 350Shortly after finding my way to the rhythm path, I found myself drawn to playing the bass drums whenever I could.  I liked the mellower, low-pitched sounds of the Brazilian surdo, the African dununs, and the larger frame drums.  Usually playing with a mallet, I learned how to positively affect the music without needing fancy technique.  Over time, I adopted the bass drum as my “main instrument” in ensemble play.  I’ve even been called The Bass Queen.

Along the way, I discovered there’s a lot more potential — and responsibility — in playing the bass drum for a drum circle or ensemble than might first appear.  In fact, I find the role, metaphors, and subtleties of the bass drum endlessly fascinating.  Yes, I’m a real geek.

So I’m excited to present my workshop, “Beyond the Pulse: Melody and Magic on the Bass Drum” at the FREE Seattle World Rhythm Festival on Saturday, April 9.  Check out the details on the sidebar!

Bass Drum as Leadership Teacher

Another reason I love the bass drum what it teachers me about effective leadership.

In a rhythm circle, the bass drum’s most important job is to keep the Pulse, defining the steady tempo that the group organizes around.

However, this does not mean playing on every beat, 1-2-3-4, over and over.  In fact, that can get overbearing and unpleasant, and dampen the group’s creativity.  Just like a boss who barks out orders one after another after another.

Instead, a skilled bass player establishes a spacious, interesting rhythmic pattern that sets the foundation and character of the song.  S/he plays it steadily, so the rest of the group can count on it, build on it, and express in the song.

I liken the bass pattern and melody line in a drum circle to an organization’s values, mission, and key goals.  It is leadership’s job to form the steady foundation for all organizational work by keeping that drumbeat steady, strong, and articulated underneath the layers of busy activity and waves of change.

Mary on dunIf you’re anywhere near Seattle April 8-10, don’t miss the FREE World Rhythm Festival.  And please join my workshop, “Beyond the Pulse: Melody and Magic on the Bass Drum” on Saturday, April 9 at 1:30 pm!

“Beyond the Pulse: Melody & Magic on the Bass Drum”

workshop with  Mary Tolena

World Rhythm Festival

Saturday, April 9, 1:30 pm

Seattle Center Armory

4th Floor, Room C

Workshop Description:

In a drum circle or ensemble, the low-pitched bass drum creates the backbone of the rhythm — the sonic pattern that other players orient to.   Learn the secrets of juicy, melodic bass lines that are fun to play, and add depth and interest to the music.  Though the techniques are pretty simple, it takes a special orientation and sensibility to bring out the full potential of playing the bass!    Some bass drums will be provided.  Other drums can also be used as good substitutes.

About the World Rhythm Festival:

2016 brings the 23rd annual Seattle World Rhythm Festival, a joyous rite of spring and celebration of rhythmic traditions from around the world.  Drum, dance, listen and learn in over 100 world music performances, and drum & dance workshops.   The festival is FREE to the public, and includes Friday family activities, Friday night performance showcase, Saturday night dance party, and Sunday afternoon community drum circle.  See for schedule details.