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 Drum circle leader heading to Iraqi Kurdistan region

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Drum circle leader heading to Iraqi Kurdistan region  31.7.2010  
By Eric Horchy 

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July 31, 2010

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 north.
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.

Going international

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 reached out.

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 experience

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 nationwide.

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 high-energy,
www.ekurd.nethigh-enthusiasm 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 said.

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 equal gratification.

"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 locations.

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 energetic encouragement.

"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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