Drum and sing-along class livens the social life of residents at The Palace in Coral Gables


Drum circles and music programs are growing in popularity at senior centers as a way of building community and improving coordination and balance.


For more information on music programs at senior centers, contact Michael Cloyes at 937-308-6114.

Rum-pum-pum. Rum-pum-pum-pum. Pum-pum…pum-pum-pum.

Bang those sticks. Hear those drums. Feel that beat.

At the Sunday afternoon drum and sing-along class at The Palace in Coral Gables, music is the great healer. It eases niggling worries, soothes aching joints, mends grieving hearts, restores fickle memory.

“Music takes you to a good place,” says instructor Michael Cloyes, owner of Servant Response Entertainment.“It brings back happy memories, happy times. Who doesn’t like to sing?”

Apparently no one. The Lake Worth resident offers his one-hour drumming/singing/music trivia program at retirement communities around South Florida from Miami to Fort Pierce and west to Pahokee. But better than a chance to play drums or name that tune, Cloyes offers retirees something more valuable: a chance to stroll down memory lane without the eye-rolling impatience of those who don’t understand how a few notes can make the burdens of old age disappear.

Drum circles are usually held in public places — beaches, parks and festivals — and aren’t constrained by skill or talent or musical education. A similar concept has now hit the world of senior centers, retirement homes and assisted living facilities. And while the jam sessions are probably shorter and more informal when offered to seniors, the objectives are similar: to build community and foster feelings of well-being. The extra bonus for seniors is that drumming improves balance and coordination.

Plus, it’s fun.

“Everybody at one point or another in their life has wanted to play drums,” Cloyes says, “but had parents who said no. They didn’t want all the noise and the banging.”

At The Palace on a recent Sunday, Cloyes, 52, begins with a quick lesson on how to hold drumsticks and how to coax different sounds from the instrument. There’s only one rule, he tells the class: “Don’t hit anybody with your drumsticks.” Apparently even among the more mature crowd, a student or two can get frisky.

Cloyes supplies the drums and the drumssticks. He leads on keyboard. The class doesn’t sit in an actual circle, but in rows, with the more eager residents up front and the timid sticking to the back of the room.

Cloyes plays waltzes, cha-chas and nursery rhymes that invite dancing. He warms up the audience in the second-floor theater by playing a few notes of a country music favorite on his keyboard and asking them to guess the title.

“The Tennessee Waltz,” the class shouts in unison.

He segues to such all-time favorites as “Hello, Dolly” and “I’m Looking Over a Four-leaf Clover,” and then romances the crowd with Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.” The more songs Cloyes sings, the rowdier the audience gets. The participants are here to have a good time — and by golly they’re going to have it.

“When do we go on the road?” yells one woman.

Another jokes that the group should try out for American Idol.

Cloyes’ appreciation for the music of his parents’ generation is contagious. “They don’t make music like this anymore, do they?” he asks.

The residents respond by hooting and banging their drums.

Their enthusiasm is a welcome sight for Palace social director Pamela Parker. “We have residents who haven’t participated in anything because they feel that they can’t,” she says. “But then they come to this class with the music and the singing, and it changes them.”

This is Cloyes’ second class at The Palace, and there are more than two dozen residents in attendance, almost double the number in the first class two weeks earlier. Word has gotten around.

“Heard they had a good time last class so I decided to come,” said Bicky Goldszer, who, at 90, quickly picked up a knack for twirling her drumsticks. “It makes you feel like you can still have a good time.”

The Palace residents have come with their walkers and canes and hearing aids. Some drift into the theater midway through the class, after hearing the music in the hallway. Elegantly coiffed, the women — who outnumber the men by more than three to one — wear lipstick and earrings. Their eye shadow matches their clothes.

“It’s a way for us to get together on a Sunday afternoon,” says Angela Pickett, 85, who shares a drum with husband Mic, 87. “And it’s fun. The songs he plays we all know. They’re from when we were young.”

Indeed. Cloyes’ repertoire isn’t one you hear much anymore.

“Baby face,” he croons. “You've got the cutest little baby face. There ain't nobody can ever take your place…”

The crowd keeps the beat on the drums. They mouth the words with surprising abandon. They sway in their seats and shuffle their feet. Parker watches from a corner of the room, grinning. She says she has learned the meaning of joie de vivre from observing the residents as they participate. The class, she adds, “is not only fun, it’s also therapeutic.”

Goldszer agrees. “You know what it does? It makes all your aches and pains, all the problems with your family, go away.”

Cloyes brings his drums and his keyboard to The Palace every other week, but Parker, the social director, is thinking of offering the class more often.

“I’ve witnessed what it does for my residents,” she says. “They come up to me and ask, ‘When are we doing this next?’”

Read more Ana Veciana Suarez stories from the Miami Herald

  • In My Opinion

    #ThrowbackThursday, #FlashbackFriday: Nostalgia that keeps us grounded

    I’m not one to indulge in nostalgia, yet I’m intrigued by all those old pictures that keep popping up in my social media feeds. You know the ones — pre-digital photos that are stamp-dated by bouffant hairdos and bushy sideburns. Photos that, before they were uploaded and posted, tagged and shared, were stripped from a yellowing page of an ancient scrapbook.

 <span class="cutline_leadin">ATTRACTING ATTENTION:</span> In its new ad campaign, Dear Kate features prominent tech women posing in its bras and panties. The collection is called the Ada Collection, named after the mathematician Ada Lovelace who wrote the first algorithm back in the 1800s.

    In My Opinion

    Ana Veciana-Suarez: Underwear ads do nothing to empower tech women

    The advertising photos are meant to be empowering, feminist even, a thumb-in-the-eye response to the well-documented sexism of the tech world. Yet, I glance at these beautiful and beautifully talented women posing in their skivvies and think, This ain’t the way to get respect, sisters.

 <span class="cutline_leadin">MOMENTS BEFORE TRAGEDY:</span> A  video  shows the girl, in pink shorts and braided ponytail, with her hands clutched around the grip of the submachine gun.

    In My Opinion

    Ana Veciana-Suarez: A 9-year-old with an Uzi? That’s crazy

    There is nothing, absolutely nothing logical or sensible or worthwhile in having a 9-year-old learn to use an Uzi. No reason, none whatsoever, for a child to handle a fully automatic gun.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category