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Circles keep the beat to stay connected to Earth's life force

She calls it the "Circle of Souls" _ a group of people drawn, like her, to the cadence and comfort of the drum.

"We are getting back in touch with the very basic qualities of our lives," said Linda Hushen, a South Florida drum maker who will give a free, interactive presentation today on music making, chanting and storytelling. "Drumming started with a heartbeat and brings us back into connection with the Earth and with people around us."

For eight years, Hushen's drumming circle has met in South Florida. Now, what began solely as New Moon ceremonies for women has spawned co-ed drumming circles at cancer outreach centers and other community facilities.

"We all have our religion and, for me, this is a way of praying," said Hushen, who lives in Coral Springs. "It's another way of sending out positive messages into the universe."

In the early 1990s, Hushen worked as a reporter and anchor for WTSP-Ch. 10 in Tampa/St. Petersburg. She is currently the creative director of a private production company.

Over the past decade, Hushen has learned the traditional methods for making Native American "frame drums," with hoops of yellow Alaskan cedar and hides from deer, elk and buffalo.

"In many ways, this is about bringing the spirit of an animal back to life," said Hushen, who selects hides based on the significance of the drum she is making _ cow hide for a deeper connection to the Earth, elk for strength and stamina. "We help to create a tighter circle of life by remembering animals are part of the community."

On Sunday, Hushen will be the featured leader at The Pines Community Drum Circle, a group started in June by Ronette Snyder of Brooksville.

Since Snyder began the monthly drumming circle in June, the former women's group facilitator said she has found a community for exploring the organic side of percussion.

"Drumming is still something that is relatively "out there' for a lot of people in this area," said Snyder, who hails from Buffalo, N.Y. "If I were with my daughter in Seattle or my son in California, it would make more sense, but down here it may take a while."

Still, each month brings a new crop of African djembe players or American Indian drum enthusiasts or absolute beginners, Snyder said.

"We get different people each month for different reasons," Snyder said. "I enjoy that constantly changing complexion."

Hushen will give a presentation at 4:30 p.m. today, then lead the monthly drumming circle from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday. Both events are at the Pines Conference Center, 7029 Cedar Lane, in Brooksville.

Anyone is welcome to either event and encouraged to bring lawn chairs, drums, percussion and rhythm instruments to the drumming circle. Admission is free for both events, but donations are accepted. Call 796-4457 or 544-5669.

_ Joy Davis-Platt can be reached at (352) 848-1435. Send e-mail to joysptimes.com.

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