One-Way Ticket to Boston

By Phil Didlake

Update: This blog was uploaded from Blogger to this site on Oct 2, 2017

Hello and Goodbye to my Livermore Family,

I am so excited to start this blog as it marks a monumental turning point and the beginning of a new chapter in my life. By now, many of you know about my recent acceptance to the Berklee College of Music in Boston and how I’m planning to study music therapy there this fall. This summer has been absolutely incredible especially the 5-week adventure to Istanbul and Spain with Ron Scudder. Now I am preparing for this big west to east coast move. I am fortunate to have found a newly remodeled 2-bedroom apartment right in downtown Boston and right next to the school and Fenway Park. If any of you find yourself in Boston then hit me up and come visit!

But through all this excitement there is one element that lays extremely heavy on my thoughts—you, and all the friends, family, connections and community work that I will be leaving out here in Livermore, California. Honestly, the goodbye process isn’t easy but it's important to have some closure before I move on. 

                This first blog is to express my appreciation to each person reading this and how you have all played a fundamental role in bringing me to this transition. I also want to share the events of how I stumbled upon my later-found passion and how the result still boggles my mind how these opportunities seemed to perfectly unfold (whether it was by coincidence or fate). I also find it personally beneficial to communicate my mission to the community, as this is a reminder to mark and to further develop and progress these ideas. Finally, I plan to write future blogs to continue our long distance relationship and to keep you updated on my adventures in Boston during these next intensely studious years.


 How it all started

Never would I have imagined that a rhythmical passion that I discovered later in life would blossom into all the opportunities that lay before me now. It started in the summer of 2009, when I bought a new djembe and hit up my other drummer friend, David Shawver, to jam. At that time I lived in an apartment and David still lived with his parents, so we decided to meet in downtown Livermore. It was amazing to witness how our drumbeats seemed to attract curious by-passers who were on the same rhythmical vibe. I remember when someone asked, “So when’s the next time you're going to be down here jamming again on the drums?” I replied, “I don’t know, maybe next week-same place, same time?” We all seemed to nod in agreement and thus the Livermore Community Drum Circle was born.

Since that summer the drum circle has taken on many forms and has reached so many people in different environments, from the tiki hut at Los Vaqueros Grill to downtown Livermore in front of the Bankhead Theater and now to the most recent jams at the First Street Ale House. In conjunction with these community drum circles was the beginning of a performance group called the Tri-Pulse Drum Circle Ensemble that I began teaching at Las Positas College. This high-energy drum ensemble has had many unforgettable performances including the Two Day Town music festival, the Livermore wine festival and at Camp Arroyo with the Exceptional Needs Network. Through all of these drum circle events I continue to keep the philosophy that music making is inclusive of everyone no matter their age or background. I have had the joy of seeing so many people who thought they were musically challenged open up to find that they have so much rhythm and music inside of them to share that some even got the opportunity to perform on stage in front of hundreds of people.

A clip from a local TV station featuring the Livermore Drum Circle 

It’s all your fault! (in a good way)

I hope that each person reading this knows the extent and the role they have played in teaching and supporting me through this next big step in my life. Every friend that I have made along the way, every conversation and testimony that was shared has been reinforcement in my decision to seek an education in music therapy. I will never forget when one of my friends who had just returned from serving in the military in Iraq came up to me after a drum circle and said,

“I’m having a hard time trying to adjust back into civilian life; but, if there is one thing I look forward to every week, It’s coming to the drum circle. It’s the one place where I can just get lost in the rhythms and not have to worry about anything.”

Another friend told me she was seeing a therapist every week and that after coming to the drum circle she was able to manage her stress better and didn’t have to see her therapist as often. I could go on and on telling so many similar stories but the fact of the matter is these testimonies helped me realize that there was something deeper going on than what met the eye. It was not just about the rhythms or the technicalities of drumming but there was a healing element taking place that seemed to give people a sense of belonging and self-worth.

Leading a drum circle at EDCC Day Care

Not too long after I came to this realization, I decided to attend a Drum Circle Facilitation Workshop with Arthur Hull in Oakland for a weekend in May of 2011. That weekend I learned something more important than drum circle facilitation. More than half the people who attended this workshop were people who called themselves music therapists. For the first time I got to sit down with these professionals and asked them, “What is music therapy and what kind of jobs do you do?” It was this weekend that I decided that I could see myself doing this kind of work and found that I wanted to seek an education in music therapy.

Influential Individuals

Since I made the decision to pursue music therapy, the right people and situations have come into my life that point me in this direction. It would be impossible for me to mention every person who has helped me up until this point but there are a few that can’t go without mentioning.

Ron and I in Sevilla, Spain

I’ll never forget when Ron Scudder stopped by Los Vaqueros Grill one evening while I was working and we immediately hit it off talking about drums. I talked Ron into coming to the drum circles and he talked me into taking drum lessons with him out at the Jazz School in Berkeley. A year later, I moved in with him and we were both surprised to learn how compatible our personalities were. Today, I’m happy to say that Ron is my number one friend, mentor and supporter. He has helped shape my ideas into goals and to aggressively find the right school that would support them. Surprisingly, Berklee College of Music is the


school in the US that will allow me to combine music therapy with contemporary music and methods. Ron is the main reason why I will be attending Berklee—the world leader for contemporary music. I still can’t believe I got in!!!

Another amazing influence in my life has been Mogauwane Mahloele who randomly stopped by the drum circle one week. A master drummer from South Africa, Mogauwane is a professional musician who has since taken me under his wing and has taught me so much about the drum, life, and the deep-rooted heritage that comes from his culture.

Mogauwane and I

Cindy Rosefield is another incredibly influential teacher; without her, I don’t know if I would have gone back to school for music. Her enthusiasm is contagious and she is a relatable music professional and teacher at Las Positas College that understands music, both in the school system and out in the real world. Cindy has supported me every step of the way and has rooted me in a foundation of music theory and in the original American music – Jazz.

Two other gentlemen that have inspired many philosophical conversations about the structure and understanding of drum circles are Kenny Williams and Dennis Pedersen. And the list goes on…if you're reading this now, insert your name here: ________. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am of all the friends, family and the entire community who have been there for me every step of the way.

So what now?

Probably the number one question I get asked when I tell people I’m leaving for Boston is, “So who is going to take over the drum circle?” I believe the right answer is that it was never mine to take in the first place. I voluntarily invested myself in this community to empower others through these drum circle events to show how easy and natural these events unfold with just a little bit of effort to get them started. There is obviously a need for this here in Livermore and it just takes as little as two people to show up with some drums. That's how it started for me.

Josh Nellis took this video at Los Vaqueros Grill. So many of my close friends were there at the beginning. The video is about 5 minutes but we would go on for hours. A tear swells up every time I see Olivia Martinez's smile and hear her laughing in this. I will always remember and carry her rhythm with me. Liv Life!

Art by Katerina Salsman

One-way ticket to Boston:

As I leave for Boston this September please keep in contact with me while I’m gone. This is the best way I can keep you all posted about my whereabouts as schoolwork will take most my attention these next 3 years or so.

In the closet, literally! I've spent so much time here practicing and now coming out to change the world!

Signing out from California and Boston bound.

-Phil Didlake