Weekly group beats the drum for building community
Story by Mark Heller
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
We all march to the beat of a different drum, so Dr. Tim Larkin brings several each week to help form a band of “anyone.”
The rhythms you’ve likely heard on Grand Canyon University’s campus from 2-4 p.m. every Thursday come from the shady bench between the College of Humanities and Social Sciences building and Prescott Field. Most weeks during the school year, the CHSS associate professor hauls out his cart full of bongos, congas, maracas, sticks, mallets and more that he keeps in his office.
He sets up a drum circle, part of GCU’s Sociology Club, to play as he waves over any curious onlookers to grab a seat and find the beat. Most weeks bring in 25-30 passersby – students, staff, faculty, anyone – willing to join the jam.
Expert or rookie, musically inclined or not, it makes no difference.
“The goal is to fit in somewhere,” Larkin said. “Someone gets a base beat going, and then people fit in around it. That’s the community aspect we need.”
This is Larkin’s seventh year teaching at GCU and third year of doing these drum circles, born from his younger days of attending concerts. He bought a set of congas from a nearby church and purchased another set of maroon-colored congas from a friend in Chicago who was a stage manager for the Blue Man Group.
A recent jam session included students from every corner of campus and the country. A few spent nearly an hour playing a variety of hand drums.
Larkin estimated that somewhere between one-third and half of all participants never played a drum before – he’ll show you how – but Randhir Deo has. The CSET instructor played in a rhythm-and-blues band in college. He stayed only a few minutes but found it worth the stop.
“It’s energizing, even if only for a couple minutes,” he said.
It’s also an ice-breaker, which is why Larkin believes in creating connections and community through congas.
“People who’ve never met each other – or when four girls who were very shy – stop by and start playing, then they start meeting and talking to each other,” Larkin said. “That’s outreach.”
Contact Mark Heller at (602) 639-7516 or firstname.lastname@example.org