For people looking to connect with other community members, the Timmins Native Friendship Centre (TNFC) is offering free virtual drumming sessions twice a week.
Sessions are held via Zoom and the access link is posted on the TNFC Virtual Drumming Facebook group on the day of the event.
Women's sessions are held every Monday and Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Men's meetings last from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays.
A number of programs at the TNFC, such as the community mental health, the cultural resource, the Indigenous family support and the Aboriginal drug and alcohol programs, have partnered up to offer virtual drumming sessions to anyone interested in learning more about drumming.
Organizers are at the “trial and error” stage and it took them a bit to figure out how to fix the video lag but overall the sessions have been going very well, said Caitlyn Kaltwasser, the centre's youth employment counsellor.
“It’s been a different thing but it’s had its silver lining,” she said.
Participants use hand drums but having one is not required in order to take part in the workshop.
“Whether you’re singing, whether you’re drumming or dancing or just listening, it’s a way for us all to connect with spirit. People can join just to listen, people can join to learn.”
For several years now, the centre has been offering family drumming sessions twice a week for community members to socialize and connect with each other. When the pandemic started and the provincial restrictions were put in place, community members started feeling “gaps” in those sessions, Kaltwasser said.
The centre held a few trial sessions before launching officially on Monday, May 4.
Typically, with face-to-face drumming, all participants are gathered together with men and women taking turns singing and drumming.
With virtual drumming, organizers decided to have separate sessions for men and women to allow people to learn the songs and socialize without interrupting each other, Kaltwasser explained.
“The few sessions we’ve had thus far have been pretty amazing and the participants have been very grateful and enjoy the time together,” she said. “I invite anybody who’d like to join us to come and have a good time with us. It’s a very great way to connect especially during this time for people that are seeking that connection.”
For one of the participants, Holly Buffalo Rodrique, drumming brings peace and comfort as well as a spiritual connection with the Creator and the ancestors.
“And with other drummers, our voices are in sync, it’s a really amazing experience,” she told TimminsToday.
Although virtual drumming may be difficult for new learners who have to drum by themselves, there’s no judging or anything like that from other participants, Rodrique said.
“I’m grateful the friendship centre came up with the idea to virtual drum and bring us together because sometimes it gets lonely for people. It’s a great time to get together and laugh.”
Kaltwasser said virtual sessions will continue until the pandemic is over and it’s safe for people to gather again.