August 9, 2013

Moving to the beat of their own drum


---- — My son Charles is a member of Sheltered Reality, a national drumming group with sites in 11 states across the nation.

The mission of the group is not only to entertain with a mixture of upbeat and catchy music, but to share messages about believing in yourself, taking chances and never giving up.

Topics discussed in between playing songs during shows include personal empowerment, success at living out life dreams, and anti-bullying. This year’s focus is “being legit.”

The Frankfort site, thanks to Mary Kay Baker, is the only one in Indiana. Formed in 2010, we started with five drummers and now have 20.

On the last weekend in July, Frankfort hosted the 2013 Sheltered Reality Summer Drummer Bash. There were approximately 600 people in attendance at the outdoor show at St. Matthew United Methodist Church.

Along with practicing the songs together during a seven hour rehearsal on Saturday, the drummers, 93 of them from nine states, presented a two-hour show on Sunday, drumming and dancing away to “YMCA” and “Grease Lightning,” just to name a few.

But the best part about the weekend, according to my son, was the service work completed on Friday.

Because the founder of the group, Iowa native Steve Schlosser, wants the members to think beyond themselves, he places a great deal of importance on service work, touching lives in a hands-on way, and making the world a better place.

Charles and his group spent five hours weeding the grounds and washing windows at Parkview Home in Frankfort, while the other groups volunteered at nine other mission sights in Kokomo and Indianapolis. They all met back at TPA Park to collect and bag twigs and branches. In the process, they worked together for the common good, all the while making new friends, and enjoying life outside of themselves.

By all accounts, there was much rejoicing. Friends were made. Stories were shared. Lives were changed. Memories were stored away.

It doesn’t get much better than the good folks from Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas, Ohio, South Dakota, Missouri, and Iowa helping out the good folks living in Indiana.

And it probably didn’t get much better for Schlosser in 1996 when he had an idea while in graduate school at the University of Iowa that drumming could be used to change lives and empower people.

“I had hooked up with a great professor and she and I talked about intrinsic motivation, and how emotions play a part in motivating all of us to act or to not act,” Schlosser said. “As we talked about this I told her music is so very motivational and emotional to me, and I wanted to see if it could be a tool to motivate people to become involved in helping people.”

Schlosser added that the importance of the mission component is two-fold. “If we are going to be motivating the audience to go and help others, we need to lead by example. It is also my way of trying to keep all of our egos in check. The performance is the side benefit!”

Schlosser never finished work on that dissertation part of his PhD research. Instead, he left the world of academia, believed in himself, and took a chance. And 17 years later, Schlosser’s idea continues to be a reality. Sheltered Reality to be exact, a place where all are accepted and where all are offered encouragement.

I have probably attended 20 shows since my son joined Sheltered Reality.

And each and every time, I continue to be amazed at how two drumsticks in the hands of one person can make a difference.

Alvia Lewis Frey is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at