Thursday, March 4, 2010

Senecaville Drummer Follows Her Inner Beat

by Lindsay Hahn

From the time she was young, Toni Kellar knew she had a strong internal rhythm. What started as a natural talent eventually evolved into a full-time career when she opened the doors of Roots to Rhythm in 2002. Home to a series of interactive rhythmic events aimed to integrate the mind, body and spirit, Toni uses a combination of percussions and body movements to teach others how to find their own inner beat.

The Birth of a Passion

Toni’s love for drumming stems back to high school; as a member of her marching band she learned to play the snare drum, eventually becoming the leader of her fellow drummers. Her passion was put on hold, however, when she entered college and shifted her focus to photojournalism. It wasn’t until 15 years after high school that she re-discovered her passion by enrolling in a hand-drumming class.

“That experience was life changing,” Toni says. “Being able to express rhythm directly from my body and hands to the drum head, and expressing innate rhythms instead of something written on a piece of paper was very powerful.”

From there she sought to expand her knowledge and learn different hand-drumming techniques. Living near New York City exposed Toni to some of the most skilled hand drummers in the nation.

The Birth of Roots to Rhythm

Toni moved back to Ohio in 2001 and, after attending community drum circles, members started asking Toni for personal hand-drumming lessons and to facilitate a women-only circle. From there, the rest is history and a passion was transformed into a full-time job. Toni created the name Roots to Rhythm because she felt she was returning to her “roots” and sharing her love for rhythm with others. A tree metaphor perfectly describes the essence and the heart of the company; Toni says it’s like “finding and mixing nourishment from deep down and all around in order to grow and ‘branch out.’”

Toni’s most rewarding experience since starting Roots to Rhythm is when she hosted a program in an assisted living community. The residents danced around, sang and encouraged others in the group to join. Usually this would be considered a typical situation. However, she soon came to discover that these residents were Alzheimer patients and it was one of the first times they had interacted with one another.

Group drumming or drumming circles have been shown to not only have health benefits but also to increase connectivity and closeness with other people within the group. Roots to Rhythm includes programs for corporate and professional development, health and wellness, school and youth, as well as for community groups.

“Every time I facilitate a rhythm event, I witness people experiencing great joy through their personal expression. It’s incredible,” Toni says.

Through discovering a sense of empowerment and playing rhythms that are naturally innate, Toni is helping others one beat at time.

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