“Rhythm of community”: Combatting stress through music

All students are welcome to the weekly drum circles in the Multi-Faith and Spirituality Centre.

The Multi-Faith and Spirituality Centre is home to weekly community drum circles. Irene Feher, a Concordia University music professor, and Dylan Gitalis, who is learning facilitation techniques from a program with Music for People, both lead the event. Feher teaches voice, and joined the Drum Circle last year. The ultimate goal of these weekly music jams is to combat stress and isolation, and to build community.

“I believe so strongly in the power of music to enrich lives in so many ways,” Feher said. “Drumming grounds us, connects us, and the physical activity [is good for the body]. I feel the physical, emotional, cognitive and social benefits of drumming.”

Every Monday from 6 to 7 p.m., students from all programs are welcome to this event.

Although the event takes place in the Multi-Faith and Spirituality Centre, Feher said that the drum sessions are secular.

“We use the universal language of music, and don’t practice any particular style,” said Feher.

Feher continued that they don’t necessarily drum in Indigenous or African style, although the students are using African drums.

Feher explained that students attending the event use the “rhythm of community,” and the drumming styles emerge spontaneously, with the moment.

“I want us to reflect the mosaic at Concordia, this wonderful community we have of people from different religions and backgrounds,” said Feher.

The event usually garners around 10 to 12 students, but the room has the capacity for about 20 people.

Using drum circles as a therapeutic form of stress-relief has been studied before. One 2010 research paper published in the Canadian Journal of Music Therapy found that more than half of drum circle participants – who were all young adults in school – reported that their drum circle group helped the participants with stress, anger and lack of motivation. The same study found that some of the participants reported “therapeutic gains” in terms of their self-confidence and self-esteem.

“It’s an opportunity for students to come together, release their stress, have fun, and create sound in the moment,” said Feher. Feher explained that drum circles and music have been used for thousands of years to foster community.

When students engage in this activity, they eventually reach a state of flow, as Feher explained. Also known as “being in the zone,” when someone reaches that stage, they are extremely focussed on what they’re doing, and are no longer thinking about their everyday stresses.

“When you are completely engaged and immersed in an activity you enjoy, you become completely engaged in the present moment, and time slips away,” said Feher.

Feher explained when one is in a state of flow with a group of people, a connection is created between all of them; from there, students become freer to try different rhythms.

No previous experience in music is required in order to participate in the activity. There is no registration and the event is completely free. The weekly drum circles will be running until April 6, 2020.


Graphic by Salomé Blain

Editorial: Mandatory sexual assault training a step in the right direction

The deadline of Oct. 4 to complete Concordia University’s mandatory sexual violence and prevention training, “It Takes All of Us”, is only a couple days away at the time of publication.

Concordia partnered with the Sexual Assault Resource Center (SARC) and Knowledge One to create the online training. The training walks students and staff through a series of scenarios, definitions and education on what sexual violence means, especially on campus.

Over the past years, The Concordian has covered several stories regarding sexual violence at Concordia, including the recent sexual assault scandal in the university’s English department. The Concordian believes this training is a positive first step towards improving sexual violence education among students and staff.

But a step in the right direction doesn’t mean that the issue is suddenly solved, or that the university has done enough. It was only two years ago that Concordia ranked last among 15 Canadian universities in terms of sexual assault policies in the “Our Turn: A National, Student-Led Action Plan to End Campus Sexual Violence” report released Oct. 11, 2018.

Based on the reaction we heard from students, most believed that the training would have a positive impact on the Concordia community. Which is good, students should feel as though their university is moving in the right direction. Part of that process includes the university’s “Report of the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence” that was released its findings two years ago. In it, the task force found that students had very little idea about where and how to actually report sexual violence on campus. This needs to change.

While The Concordian agrees that constructive, well-thought out training and education on the topic of sexual violence is always positive, education is only the beginning of truly affecting change. Definite and effective action from the university is necessary. Enforcing those policies that help reduce sexual violence, making necessary resources readily accessible on campus and reducing the barriers of reporting sexual violence to the university are the next steps towards making the Concordia campuses safer for all students and staff.

At the end of the day, this training is for the Concordia community. Part of this week’s editorial is dedicated to hearing from the community. We asked Concordia students about their thoughts on the training.

“Even as someone who considers myself fairly educated on consent and sexual assault awareness, I found the training super informative,” said fourth-year student Candice Pye. “It was also extremely easy to follow and quick to do. While a lot still needs to be done in terms of properly supporting survivors and preventing sexual violence at Concordia, I definitely think it’s a step in the right direction”

“I think it was a great idea and they did a good job at explaining what you should do in specific situations,” said second-year student Isabela Brandão. “I like the fact that they included what you should do to help someone that went through something like that and that they had slides for multiple types of situations. It was more than I expected. I thought it would be focus on strategies to avoid sexual assault (as it usually is) but they had information like, how to tell if your partner is unable to consent, different types of consent and for the most part the presentation was gender neutral. Overall, I think they did a fantastic job.”

“I think these trainings are always better in person due to their sensitive nature, however due to the size of the university I understand how that’s not possible,” said fourth-year student Becki Seguin. “I think sexual assault is difficult to navigate because there’s so many different components to try and include. That being said I think they did a great job. It was definitely prevention-based, but could have still touched a little more on victim support.”

Concordia implemented its most recent policies on sexual violence in September. Now’s the time to see if the university will deliver on action, as well as education.


Photo by Alex Hutchins

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