Find Your Rhythm with Stephen Henesian

Who are you? Tell me a bit about yourself.

“I’m Stephen Henesian. I’m 28, married, and have one child. We moved here from California beginning of 2017. I graduated from Sonoma State University in 2015 with my B.S in Finance. I currently work at Ford Audio Video in Oklahoma City in purchasing.

I’ve been a musician for most of my life. My family is very musical. My siblings and my Dad all play guitar, and my mom has taken a few years of piano lessons. Since we’re Armenian and go to the Armenian Orthodox Apostolic Church, my family has been playing Middle Eastern music for around 40 years. The band has always been my Grandma Ronnie on keyboard, my Grandpa Aram on clarinet, and my Dad used to play Alto Sax, but now plays the Oud (My dad was in the jazz and pep bands at Santa Clara University during the late 60s/early 70s and played Alto Sax), and a close family friend played doumbek. My parents actually met because my family was playing on-stage at a church function, and my Dad saw my Mom in the crowd.

I started taking piano lessons at 7 years old, and started in Band in 5th grade in percussion. I thought that you had to either be in choir, orchestra, or band, so I chose percussion because I didn’t want to learn how to play a wind instrument. I played percussion in band all the way from 5th grade to high school, and on and off in college, as a non-music major.

My Dad got me a drum set when I was in 6th grade, and I started to learn how to play the drum set, which is still at my parent’s house today. I was also learning how to play doumbek at the same time on an metal doumbek. The first time I remember playing doumbek was at St. Andrew’s Armenian Church in Cupertino, CA.

Every year, we played around 2-3 times for the various Food Fairs/Bazaars. We have also played for Arabic belly dancers a couple of times. We have been doing that every year until I left CA for Oklahoma at the end of 2016. I’ve gone between playing Middle Eastern rhythms on full drum set to playing doumbek, and back and forth many times.”

What events do you offer at The Loop?

“I offer a free drum circle to the community every other Sunday from 1-3 PM. I am not interested in using it to earn money, unless I have to. It is facilitated in a structured fashion that is different to other groups. Everyone has a chance to play a rhythm that they want, if it has a solid downbeat that can help keep us all on the same page. Everyone also has a chance to play a solo during every round. During the rounds, I call out everyone’s name, and they have several phrases to solo, while we all quiet down to hear their solo.”

 When did you find your passion for drumming?

“I think I found my passion for drumming around Middle School. I was always a nerdy kid, and found my real joy in music. When I was in High School Band, I marched in drumline for the Fall season of parades, and football games, then another set of drumline competition in the Spring season. Having music tremendously helped me get through school. Playing in pep band during football games was sort of like a drum circle. We brought the old set of drums, and toy instruments, then played around and switched instruments every song. Sometimes, I was on a drum, or I was wailing away on a cowbell or shaker playing a Beatles tune.”

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What was it that triggered that passion?

“I guess just the feeling of having somewhere to belong with like-minded individuals who enjoyed drumming and whom also were striving to get better and better every day at drumming.”

What is your favorite thing about drumming?

“My favorite thing about drumming is that it is an activity that is incredibly fun and enjoyable that connects all of us to each other at a deep emotional level while escaping from the woes of society. It can be said that drumming is like an active meditation, because there is no more room for thoughts in your mind when everyone is in the groove and playing together.”

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What do you hope the community gains from your classes?

“I hope the community gains an appreciation for the positive impact that music can have upon you. Even though it is a no-stress environment, and completely open to beginners, I hope that people are interested in progressing and expanding their musical abilities and talents. I know that most people just want to come and jam, and aren’t too interested in becoming a more skilled and well-rounded musician, but I hope to stir that in people.I encourage getting out of the comfort zone of the drum that they brought with them, and pick up someone else’s drum and the different toy instruments that are available to play.

I’ve also found that it brings like-minded individuals together. At our class on April 15, two students met and learned that one of the students’ husband works with the other student at the same hospital. Two other students connected because of the mutual professional work that they do.

One of my goals is to grow the Norman/OKC ethnic drumming community and provide more events for people to get out and play.”

What would you tell someone who was considering joining your events?

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner, or an experienced musician, this drum circle is an environment where you can come in and learn as much as you want, and have fun at the same time. The goal is to have fun, but I also encourage people to learn about and experience different instruments and music from different cultures.”

Want to join this amazing drum circle? Check out our calendar for upcoming meetings and come on out for a fun, social event you’re sure to love!

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