At a time when most activities at long-term care residences are on hold, Vankleek Hill drum teacher Will Laurin is looking to combine modern technology and old-fashioned simplicity in order to bring music to seniors.

The drummer for Canadian blues legend JW Jones and popular rock band Rude Mood had been teaching and holding drum circles at seniors facilities throughout Prescott-Russell before being shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic last year. With seniors in residences now starved for entertainment, Laurin wants to bring live online Zoom drum lessons directly to them, and has started an online fundraiser at GoFundMe in order to raise money for equipment.

“I’m thinking about their wellbeing and I’m hearing on the news about how during the pandemic, the mental decline in (long-term care) residents is huge,” says Laurin, who also holds community drum circles and group lessons in schools. “I want to raise some money and get some community support so I can buy enough instruments to facilitate multiple drum circles in different homes rather than going there.”

Laurin has all kinds of percussion instruments he can bring to in-person sessions, but to for seniors to learn online , residences need equipment to be on site. The gear must be simple, easily sanitized and able to be stored without taking up much space. For that Laurin has found a simple solution.

The money raised through GoFundMe will go towards purchasing a product called Remo Rhythm Lid Skindeep Drumheads. Using synthetic skins and with a 3” wooden rim, they are designed to fit on most standard five, six and seven-gallon plastic pails. Laurin figures he needs 30 drums in total to cover seniors at several residences throughout the area. He has already purchased 15 of the units with his own funds and the $2,000 goal will allow him to buy the remainder.

Of course, playing online is not the same as being there live. There are delay issues, and it is difficult for Laurin to play along with the residents. To overcome those, he is using technology to create various music tracks to which the participants can play along.

“I explain the beats and what we are going to do and then to emulate the whole jamming experience I have created a music track,” explains Laurin, who held a January online drum session with residents of Heritage Lodge in Vankleek Hill. “I share my screen and then everyone can play together.”

His project for seniors has already received a great deal of support. Laurin is set up for drum circles online with Heritage Lodge and has two other contracts with Chartwell Retirement Residences. He expects the project to expand into facilities as far away as Ottawa.

“It’s snowballing for sure, and I just have to make sure I have enough equipment to make this happen.”

Over the next few months, Laurin will also be hosting community Zoom drum circles online. The sessions are free, but participants will be asked to donate what they wish towards the seniors project. Upcoming events will be listed on Laurin’s Sound Vibe Circles Facebook page