Drum circle leader heading to Iraqi
By Eric Horchy
FLORIDA, — Akin to how creating music can be
accomplished regardless of linguistic barriers,
improving upon many human social behaviors, such as
a group's ability to work together toward a shared
goal, can benefit similarly.
Steve Turner of Clearwater will be part of a small,
international assemblage aiming to meld both
objectives when he travels to the northern Iraqi
region of Kurdistan later this year.
Turner is the owner and founder of Giving Tree Music
Inc., an operation that allows the 37-year-old to
channel his dual passions for creating music and
fostering a sense of community to others through the
formation of drum circles.
"I believe what I offer people is the opportunity to
share in a vehicle for building communities," he
said of his drum circles, which range in size from
10 to hundreds of participants. "The natural human
inclination to belong shows itself in the drum
circle. When people come together, when they create
something larger than themselves, it's so obvious
right there within moments."
Steve Turner of Giving Tree Music helps foster
community ties, teamwork and all-around togetherness
by leading drum circles throughout the region,
country and state. Those services will be going
global in November when Turner travels with a small
group to the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq's
For more than five years
Turner has regularly traveled all around the
Suncoast, state and country with an arsenal of more
than 650 percussion instruments. He facilitates drum
circles to groups that range from children at summer
camp to adults at corporate events.
In November, the Dunedin High School alumnus will
add the Middle East to his travels and Iraqis of
varying local tribes and sects to those whom he has
Turner was invited earlier this year to take part in
the trip by Christine Stevens of San Diego-based
UpBeat Drum Circles. Stevens, a music therapist,
author and speaker, leads an overseas initiative
called Ashgi, which means peace in Kurdish. November
will mark the fourth time Stevens has traveled to
the Kurdistan region of Iraq to take part in "a
musical peace corps experience" and help train
locals to lead their own drum circles.
During a telephone interview Wednesday, Stevens said
she is happy to have Turner as a team member after
working with him on previous occasions in Florida.
"What I recognize in Steve is his purpose and his
passion. He's a very talented drummer, but it's his
passion to share music with others that stands out.
"He will bring his Florida drumming spirit all the
way to Iraq."
Much of the team's effort will focus on aiding the
Kurdistan Save the Children Fund. Turner is putting
together fundraising events before the trip. He
wants to bring a sizeable donation that will help
those they train acquire the needed resources to
implement drum circles within their community.
Despite barriers of language, ethnicity, nationality
or religious background, Turner said the same
concepts and emotions that are passed onto and
shared by a group of West Floridian drum circle
participants can be felt and absorbed by a group of
Iraqi Kurds with nothing lost in translation.
"I think it can create bridges for people to learn
about community, learn tolerance, and it's a
fantastic tool for conflict management," he said.
Bringing a wealth of
The setting will be markedly different come
November, but the overriding message and goal will
remain consistent with what Turner does three to
four times a day locally.
Prior to transforming Giving Tree Music into what it
is today, Turner launched the business 10 years ago
as a way to sell his handmade West African Djembe
and Ashiko drums, traveling to festivals and shows
Five years later Turner began noticing "a really
powerful magic" coalescing when he would have people
play his drums in unison. Placing himself and his
style into the middle of the action then made for
the ideal business venture.
"What I think has validated my program to people and
allowed it to grow to the level it has is that they
can sense when I am inside of that circle, I am
enjoying myself so thoroughly and so entirely," he
While the audience my feel it is the sole recipient
of the synergic experience of working together
toward the goal of making music, its facilitator
with a pay-it-forward mentality walks away gaining
"I really think the more you give, the more you
get," Turner said about his proclivity to offer
services. "It's a fascinating sociological
experience for me every single time watching a
circle come together. You can see it and watch it
develop and it's really cool."
Nowhere does he enjoy seeing that develop more than
on his frequent visits to Lighthouse for the Blind
kids and to a youth detention center in Tampa.
"I love all my groups, but I do have a place where
my heart sits strongest," Turner said of the two
Because of his drum circles at the detention center,
a number of the boys formed a group named Bright
Residents Using Drums As Salvation. The BRUDAS were
allowed to get out into the community to do outreach
drum circles toward the end of their sentences.
It's that type of reaction and result that Turner
said keeps him inspired from day to day and event to
event - and it's all in giving people drums,
empowering them to open up and adding a little
"Whatever the experience that needs to happen can
happen in that it creates a safe supportive
environment among peers or strangers," he said. "I
find it fascinating. I've yet to find another
activity that people do together besides a religious
one that can create that atmosphere."
For more information on Giving Tree Music and Steve
Turner, go to the Giving Tree Music website or call
727-736-7789. The company Facebook page can also be
accessed by searching Giving Tree Music.
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