V ineyard summer has its own rhythm, measured in tides, sunsets and Rick Bausman’s drums.
Most summer Mondays, State Beach offers all of these, with children’s laughter for a back beat and generously spaced picnic blankets for appreciating the rests. It’s called Drumming on the Beach.
Whatever stresses the Monday might have held — because the regulars at this free show are year-round Islanders who work their hardest in the summer — start to dissipate on Beach Road as the bright blue Camp Jabberwocky bus comes into view. The scene seems to work like the tension rods on a drumhead; you can feel the loosening of the skins now.
So they come, in small groups, dressed in still-dry swimsuits and sarongs, carrying carefully prepared or hastily purchased picnics. They come, as the sun yawns towards the horizon, down the wooden decking that provides Jabberwocky counselors room to maneuver their charges’ wheelchairs from the road past the dunes to the sandy beach. They come, passing the barbecue where a volunteer is grilling hot dogs and marshmallows for the campers, and sometimes for eager kids who have slipped away from the low-sugar snacks their parents probably packed.
They’re already smiling and they might already be swaying.
Because by now Rick Bausman, his son Hudson and his fiancée Jen are around the circle, having hauled down drums for themselves and the campers. Maybe Tom Major is there, if Entrain is not booked off-Island. Maybe Roberta Kirn, who brings her djembe and African chants to the circle. The range of drumming varies — those with cerebral palsy are seated with celebrity drummers in the circle — but they are all in tune with Mr. Bausman’s philosophy that drumming simply making people feel good.
It’s therapy for the campers, for the players, and for the folks lucky enough to have made it there to see what this thing called community looks like, and how it sounds.
As they groove, the counselors’ energy infects not only the campers they care for. Campers’ parents, visibly decompressed from the respite Jabberwocky provides them, cuddle their children, and the counselors who too love them so well. Islanders share food and secrets as they slip in and out of the waves, watching each other’s kids. And the circle changes up the beat as the sky dims.
It all started just because Mr. Bausman thought it would be nice to get out of the basement to rehearse when the weather got good. For a while it was in Menemsha, but that got a bit crazy; police issued 840 parking tickets in one night, he said.
Drumming on the Beach is mellower now, like its leader, who first came to the camp with his drum workshops in 1980 and ended up staying.
They stay on Monday nights, too, until you can hear the beat, and the kids chanting along, a little wistfully but with syncopation, “I like pizza, all kinds’a pizza.” That’s the phrase Mr. Bausman uses to teach the samba rhythm. It’s also the rhythm, on Monday nights, that signals the end of drumming on the beach, another heartbeat of summer pulsing past.
— Lauren Martin