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Beating drums to beat stress

The Jamani Drummers collaborated with the Japanese artist-in-residence calligrapher Koji Kakinuma during an on-campus event this spring.

When the stress that accompanies researching behavioral neuroendocrinology gets to be too much, biology professors
Jill Schneider
and Jennifer Swann smack, nod and groove to the beat of the djembe drum.

The Lehigh professors are both members of the Jamani Drummers, a women's percussion group based in the Lehigh Valley. The group, directed by Maureen ‘Moe’ Jerant, plays powerful African rhythms that encourage audience members to let go of their inhibitions and dance.

Silagh White, administrative director of ArtsLehigh, says the group’s passion for drumming is inspiring.

“They play together because of shared love for drumming, and the joy they experience by sharing their love with others,” White says. “I’m intrigued by the individuals in the group.”

Swann became interested in drumming while on a sabbatical in Holland. After returning to the United States, Swann was disappointed in the lack of drumming instruction in the area—until she met Jerant.

Jerant’s drumming expertise and strong leadership led Swann to encourage her fellow colleague, Schneider, to join.

Five years later, the biology professors say the Jamani Drummers is their major outlet for relieving anxiety and stress.

“My mind is like some kind of crazy pinball machine,” Schneider says, “and I find that drumming is one of the activities in my life where I can feel the relief of thinking about one thing at a time.”

Jamani is a Swahili word for friend and according to Jerant the group’s friendships transcend the everyday boundaries of life.

“All of the people in the group are professionals,” Jerant says, “They all have lives, they all have families.”

Jerant says not many people would guess that two of the group’s members were biology professors at Lehigh, but that doesn’t matter because work is left at the door.

“I wanted to create a situation where it doesn’t matter. Where the only thing that mattered was having fun,” Jerant says.

While both professors making a living by using their brains, Swann says that letting go of the stress of your job is one of the perks of drumming.

“I am paid to think and it’s nice to have a job or activity where you actually can’t think to do it properly,” Swann says, “You almost have to get out of your own way. You have to be able to play without thinking about it; you almost have to stop thinking to play.”

The Jamani Drummers have had the opportunity to work directly with Lehigh through the Vagina Monologues and also in collaboration with the Japanese artist-in-residence calligrapher, Koji Kakinuma in the “Eternal Now” performance.

Schneider hopes to bring more performances to Lehigh in the future and to use drumming to bridge the gap between the university and the South Side.

For more information on the Jamani Drummers, show dates, or drum lessons go online.

--Madelyn King

Posted on Tuesday, June 26, 2007

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