Wahlbangers Drum Circle Organization is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit
(based in Los Angeles, CA.) dedicated to
“Banging down walls” of stress, isolation, and stigma
& building bridges to inclusion, acceptance, and contentment
with the therapeutic benefits of group drumming.
Background of the Founders:
Chris (Wahly) Wahl has been playing drums and percussion, both professionally and recreationally, for over 40 years. He is also an accomplished hand drummer and, during his involvement in drum circles for over 20 years, he has experienced and learned the importance and significance of the health benefits of group drumming.
Many years ago, Chris lost his favorite aunt to dementia. He wanted so much to improve her quality of life in the nursing home, and the feeling of frustration of not being able to do anything for her lingered with him.
A few years later, Chris suffered a debilitating injury to his right hand and arm which rendered him unable to continue to play drums professionally. During his nine year recovery process, Chris continued to play hand drums and percussion and participated in community drum circles as well as he was able, and he developed a stronger empathy for the infirm.
Then Chris read about, and was inspired by, the cause taken up by professional drummer Mickey Hart (whose grandma had Alzheimer's and could only communicate when Mickey played drums with her) and Dr. Oliver Sacks (the author of Awakenings). Together these men testified at the Hearing before the Special Committee on Aging, United States Senate, as advocates for music and drum therapy for the aged and the infirm. With many medical studies available to reinforce the obvious benefits of group drumming activities pertaining to health of body, mind, and spirit, it became Chris’ dream to bring drumming to the elderly in nursing homes. (see: Studies & Research)
When Chris and Judi met in 2009, Judi had been caretaker and advocate for her aging mother as she was undergoing treatment for Stage IV Cancer. During her mother's chemotherapy treatments, Judi had discussions with some of the nurses who were knowledgeable regarding the health benefits of music playing in the infusion area.
When Chris and Judi were married (Feb. 2010), the ceremony was preceded by an amazing 100 guest drum circle, during which Judi’s mother played a drum for the first time. Although in remission, two weeks after the wedding Judi's mother suffered a massive stroke and had to be placed in a nursing home. Following years of overcoming the adversities of caring for her mother, Judi was at a loss.
What led to the formation of this group?
After Judi’s mother suffered the massive stroke in March 2010, Chris and Judi volunteered to provide and facilitate a drum circle at the skilled nursing facility. Encouraged by the Activity Coordinator and the Physical Therapist, they brought family, friends, and drums. The benefits of participation amongst all the residents who attended, combined with the positive environment of multigenerational interaction, were immediately evident.
As the burgeoning group of volunteers (including Donna Wahl, Ruth Pierce, and other future board members) returned to the facility week after week, attendance at the drum circles grew. It was the residents and staff at this first nursing home (where activities began April 2010) who dubbed the group the "Wahlbangers".
The “Wahlbangers” group soon began to see first-hand the ideas and theories read about proving to be effective, and it recognized the need of many more nursing home residents left without the enrichment of socialization, stress relief, and self-expression commonly experienced through participation in drum circles.
With the many medical studies available to reinforce the obvious benefits of group drumming activities, as well as an amassed volume of anecdotal evidence, it became clear to the group how to direct its focus, time, and energy. Although Judi’s mother had passed away – from April through December 2010 the Wahlbangers group volunteered 35 facilitated drum circle activities to the residents at Woods Health Services at Hillcrest in La Verne, CA. ~ Thank you to Activity Coordinator Jennifer Dabney for her encouragement!
When did the organization begin operations?
Inspired by the results, services were extended to other nursing homes. Word about these drumming activities spread, and Wahlbangers Drum Circle Organization began formation with an increasing list of clientele. From January 2011 to November 28, 2011, the group continued to volunteer drum circle activities and workshops at six different locations, 31 activities in total.
This organization learned that the budgets of most Activities Directors at Skilled Nursing Facilities/nursing homes are minimal, yet residents are in desperate need of these life-enhancing activities. Realizing the dire need for expanding, training, and funding of these activities and services, these Initial Incorporators began the process of organizing to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public benefit corporation; and are serving on the Board of Directors of Wahlbangers Drum Circle Organization.
The original Board of Directors (nee the Initial Incorporators) have worked for years on these activities, honed services and programs, recruited board members, recruited a larger volunteer staff, set a mission statement and goals for this organization, and sought funding. The mission of this organization developed from the recognition of the need. The Articles of Incorporation were certified effective November 28, 2011, and the other required formation documents were filed subsequently.
THANK YOU to our dedicated Volunteers!
We are very grateful for the love and unending encouragement and support given by our family and friends... many of whom have become "Wahlbangers"!
We especially want to Thank:
Steff & Fritz Lauer
Michelle & Eric and Benjamin Laase
Erin and Drake Laase
Jeff & Claudia Wahl
A special Thank You to Billy & Donna Paver, and John & Shelly Paver & Family for being there with us at the beginning...