RAD has had a profound effect on the practitioners who are part of the group. From aiding mental health, to helping participants advance in their music studies, to supporting the personal development of those with additional challenges, here are some of the stories from RAD members.

Lee’s story:

Lee is a 47 year-old profoundly sight-impaired adult who is part of our main group. He was made redundant 7 years ago and has looked for other ways to fill his life (while he continued to seek work). Just over a year ago, the leader of our group visited a Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind meeting and encouraged people to join. Lee had decided to challenge himself to learn music last year and took this opportunity to learn African drumming.

RAD has supported Lee in developing new skills which are accessible to him as a sight-impaired adult and given him the opportunity to work regularly with a group on a shared musical endeavour. Over the last three months his skills and confidence levels have developed. He feels the group is very open, friendly and inclusive. He says he finds playing Djembe ‘medicinal’. He also says working with RAD has deepened his musical knowledge and his grasp of percussion skills. Since he started, he has gained hugely in confidence and branched out, taking his drumming skills to Open Mic nights, trying out new instruments like the Cajon and Bodhran, becoming part of the Parsons Cross music initiative and also participating in public performances with RAD.

Since then Lee has successfully gained employment.

Joanne & son:

Joanne attends RAD each week which helps he switch off from her job and also aids a good work/life balance. Due to frequently enduring high levels of anxiety in her life, the practice of drumming, concentrating on the rhythms and listening to her peers (trying to play “as one”) has really helped her keep the anxiety at bay, in her own words: “It’s a most welcome break in my week.”

Her musical interests started 34 years ago and she currently plays a variety of instruments, but her current job doesn’t require any music/teaching. RAD enables her to keep her interest in music alive, without the full time commitment being in a band or top choir would demand. Joanne has had various ‘highs’ in her music career and she says playing at Leeds’ Day of the Dead Festival for Halloween 2017 as part of RAD’s Advanced group, really shines in her memories as up there with the best!

Joanne’s son joined RAD aged 10 (he is now nearly 15). RAD has given him a plethora of opportunity’s and a strong foundation to build his own music career on. He was voted Best Up and Coming Music Talent in 2018 at the first Rotherham Music Awards for his commitment to RAD and African Drumming; he also accepted RAD’s award for Best Community Group. By that point he’d performed over 200 times with RAD and was valued as a young leader of the group, regularly helping the teacher in leading the session, or stepping in in the teacher’s absence. His drumming also led to him performing with a professional African band for the Love is Louder festival in Rotherham and Leeds, his level of performance matching that of the paid musicians.

His strengths in music led to him achieving various awards at school for music and performance, and he chose GCSE Music in his options, building on the initial skills RAD gave him. He is excelling in his music studies already and although he only started guitar lessons in September 2018, he is very competent.

Liam:

Liam is a 28 year old young man on the autistic spectrum. Because of his high levels of anxiety and Pathological Demand Avoidance, he is unable to work. He struggles also with social interaction and can become withdrawn, isolated and inactive. He did some African drumming at his special needs college when he was twenty, so when the group was set up, he joined. He has been involved from the beginning. Recently this has become his only involvement in a wider activity, as other opportunities have disappeared or he has struggled to cope with the demands of volunteering situations. He feels drumming gives him ‘extreme joy’ and it is one of the things where he can go to a session ‘in an absolute state’ and come out ‘grinning from ear to ear’! He feels it has hugely improved his hand eye co-ordination and his ability to remember sequences, because he is also Dyspraxic. Liam has gone on to contribute to the running of the group when it became a volunteer-led organisation. He has taken on administrative tasks updating the Facebook page, events, making posters and will manage the new website. He has also taken on the teaching of the group in Thurcroft free of charge, once it became clear this group was not sustainable financially. He feels he is surprisingly comfortable with this group and leading them has given him confidence and a really important social role. He often leads small performances at local events, and he has taught workshops at some bigger local events. His work with Rotherham African Drums and the contribution this allows him to make to society is a source of pride.