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Guest blogger: Marcia E. Vanderlee

Drumming in a community



As we walk our paths we find a sense of purpose in building communities. For 26 years, African Music Specialist, Khalid Abdul N’Faly Saleem has been teaching a free community drumming class in Rochester, NY. His giving spirit and gift has been a saving grace for many people who have shared in the community that he has developed and created over the years. He has brought a lasting impression on the community with his talents and expertise in African music. Many individuals in the community he has built have gone on to influence the people whom are around them now, and they continue to share the healing powers of the djembe.


The djembe is a West African drum from Mali, West Africa. The purpose of the djembe is to bring everyone together. The sense of belonging and community that he has created with his drumming family has gone on to help addicts in recovery and people battling mental health issues. His students have gone on to help people in nursing homes, individuals with developmental disabilities, individuals incarcerated, children in schools, individuals in hospitals, and many other community organizations. The sense of belonging you have from being a part of a community makes the person playing the instrument feel empowered and enlightened. There is a spiritual connection and the sense of purpose felt fom playing with a group of people.

The structure and the commitment to the community aspect of drumming helps to build stability with the residents in the organization. At a nursing home in Rochester, NY the therapeutic recreation drumming group meets weekly.

The clients enjoy a sense of accomplishment and purpose. They continue to feel an improvement in their physical endurance. The repetitive motion of moving their arm or arms while drumming helps them physically, and the residents being able to learn a consistent rhythm helps them cognitively. They are utilizing their physical, affective, and cognitive domain while participating in the therapeutic drumming class. The residents have created a drumming community. This drumming community gives the residents a sense of purpose.

The community aspect of therapeutic drumming community will continue to be beneficial to healthcare. Khalid Saleem has been responsible for many of the different therapeutic drumming communities that have come out throughout the United States. Drumming as a means of therapy has been widely accepted.  The talented artists who develop and share their gifts with the healthcare practitioners are rarely credited for their contributions.


Marcia Vanderlee, CTRS is a graduate from the College at Brockport. Vanderlee has a Master of Science in Recreation and Leisure with a concentration in Therapeutic Recreation and also holds a Bachelors of Science in Dance and Physical Education. She has been a member of Khalid Saleem’s personal group Percussion AH Saleem for 13 years. Currently she is a recreation therapist at Monroe Community Hospital and a dance educator at Patty Flowerday School of Dance.