Music News

A Drum Circle Has Been Taking Over the Red Rocks Stage

Denver Drum and Dance
Denver Drum and Dance Juliana Boelen
The drummers who participate in Denver Drum and Dance’s weekly drum circle typically gather at Denver Art Society on Sunday evenings. But for April, they have been spending Sunday afternoons drumming on the Red Rocks Amphitheatre stage.

Todd Dooley, the circle’s organizer, arrived in Colorado five years ago from Illinois, where he hosted similar events. He organized Denver Drum and Dance a little over three years ago.

“There are Latin and African rhythms out there that are all sheet music, and it can feel restraining,” he says. “[At Denver Drum and Dance], no one is going to interrupt to tell you you’re playing a song wrong. I believe in trying to just provide space for us to come together.”

click to enlarge Denver Drum and Dance - BOB PARNICKY
Denver Drum and Dance
Bob Parnicky
Bob Parnicky, a regular Denver Drum and Dance participant, has been involved in drum circles since 1997. He was living in Manhattan at the time and was good friends with the owners of the Yasgur farm, where the first Woodstock was held. A large part of the annual Woodstock reunion festival was an open drum circle, and from there, he was hooked. When he relocated to Colorado from the East Coast, he was glad to find Denver Drum and Dance.

Parnicky appreciates how open and welcoming the group is. He is mainly a guitar player and doesn't consider himself a drummer — but he still has fun playing the instruments each week.

“We make it very open,” he says. “There is no membership card for Denver Drum and Dance, I’ll tell you that. We openly invite people from the crowd [at Red Rocks]. There are a ton of little kids. They love banging on drums, and they come and go throughout the course of the afternoon.”

click to enlarge Denver Drum and Dance - JULIANA BOELEN
Denver Drum and Dance
Juliana Boelen
For Parnicky, playing on the Red Rocks stage is a big deal. He's noticed that the number of drummers has grown from week to week. Whether they play for minutes or stay the whole afternoon, everyone is having a good time, he says. “We’re all just regular people. It’s just such a rush to be performing on that stage with all the history behind it.

"All the people exercising on the stairs [at Red Rocks] have been giving us standing ovations,” he adds. “It’s a great feeling. It’s like hitting a home run out of the ballpark or something."

Denver Drum and Dance, 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 29, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 18300 West Alameda Parkway, Morrison, 720-865-2494.
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Riley Cowing has been writing with Westword since July 2016. She is originally from Kansas City and graduated from the journalism school at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She enjoys connecting with local artists, drinking all types of espresso and loves any excuse to watch The Devil Wears Prada.
Contact: Riley Cowing