Recreational Music Center, a place where community comes to drum.
“From the outside you wouldn’t know that inside is a drum paradise,” says Mike DeMenno, manager of REMO Recreational Music Center (RMC) in North Hollywood, California. “People tell me all the time that, when they walk into REMO RMC, they instantly feel better.”
Filled wall to wall with drums, RMC is much like a community center for music, explains DeMenno, who runs the center with Jerry Zacarias. The public is welcome to come in and check out the wide variety of percussion instruments at the center. It’s for those that want to experience the joy and fun of creating “one big incredible rhythmic musical groove,” DeMenno says.
The center is the brainchild of Remo Belli, owner and founder of REMO, Inc., who sees the drum as a life enhancement tool that breaks down social, racial, and political barriers,
and builds communication and creativity. For him, RMC has become a laboratory in the study of how drums affect the human condition.
Drum circle participant Ingrid Oliansky, 45, a licensed marriage and family therapist, has been participating in drum circles since about 2002. “One of the benefits I got was to get into my own head, relax, trance out a bit and de-stress,” she says.
In 2008, a move to Van Nuys brought her to RMC for the first time. “At REMO they really strive to make it a community atmosphere,” she says. “This is for everybody, and nobody has to have a certain level of musicianship. It goes from infants to people in their 80s and 90s. When I first came here a few years ago, I felt immediately welcome.”
“The center grew from a weekly community drum circle,” says DeMenno. “We now offer conga, timbale, djembe, cajon, frame drum, daf, rik, and drum rudiment classes, and a variety of workshops.” There is also training for people who want to learn how to facilitate their own drum circles.
Fifty-seven-year-old Chris Ramirez, who began drumming as a teenager, discovered RMC and drum circles about 10 years ago. “I walked by and heard this pounding going on and I looked in and saw all these people. It was just a barren warehouse; since then it’s become a great thing—an outlet for music,” he adds. “REMO RMC is one of the best places on the planet. It is very close to my heart.”
Ramirez trained under pioneering drum circle facilitator Arthur Hull. “I started out not knowing anything about it. I just loved it when I saw it and I said, ‘Wow, that’s what I want to do,’” he recalls. “It’s really something how this recreational aspect to my musical career really turned me onto being a much better person. It’s made me feel alive.”
Ramirez, who is also a trainer for The Home Depot, now sees himself as a conduit, leading drum circles at festivals, camps, and even prisons through his own Freedom Drum Circles.
“I have to pinch myself when I think about where the drum took me and how amazing it is to work at a place like the RMC,” concludes DeMenno. “It’s amazing what positive creative reinforcement will do for someone. Some people come to the center and have such an incredible experience that they feel inspired enough to start playing guitar or piano again, or even decide to start painting or writing.”
REMO Recreational Music Center is open to the public six days per week, visit the website remormc.com for hours, directions, and a calendar of events.