Be the Change – Abbie Ehorn Drumming Up Confidence In Music Students Of All Ages

Abbie Ehorn started her career as a primary school teacher at Evergreen Elementary School in Cottonwood, CA, and her passion for music leaked into every lesson. Her instinctive talent for blending music with classroom lessons earned Abbie the privilege of reviving the elementary school’s long-dormant music program. She eagerly launched into a vibrant career of “providing children with joyful musical experiences that make them feel successful.”

In 2002, Evergreen Union School District asked Abbie to expand her program to the junior high level. As she prepared for the transition, Abbie considered what would immediately appeal to older kids. “I wanted something that would easily engage and excite middle schoolers, especially boys,” she reflects. “I knew drumming was highly tactile, primal and fun. It’s something that anyone can do and make beautiful music together quickly.” Upon centering her music curriculum on drumming, Abbie noticed a marked difference in her students’ behavior and engagement, especially those with attention difficulties. “That led me to research the positive impacts of group drumming on adolescents,” Abbie says. “I studied with Christine Stevens, Barry Bittman and Kalani Das, and I started to recognize positive therapeutic outcomes created by group drumming.”

The Tehama County Department of Mental health approached Abbie in 2008 to ask for her help in developing a drumming curriculum for at-risk groups. By then, Abbie’s conviction about the value of drumming had deep roots in her research and personal experience. As she puts it, “most instruments require a lot of practice before you can produce any nice sounds. With drums, people can very quickly have the successful experience of creating beautiful music together.” Abbie trained the department’s clinicians to lead group drumming for youth empowerment courses, counseling programs and services for drug and alcohol addictions. Licensed marriage and family therapist Hillary Lindauer, the current executive director of Red Bluff’s Family Counseling Center, describes Abbie as “amazingly versatile in her ability to work with any age or ability group, from toddlers to senior citizens, from exuberant children to those in wheelchairs. She has a gift for putting people at ease, drawing them out and helping them find their own musical expression.”

Expanding her drum education services beyond the traditional classroom, Abbie began finding more ways to influence the community through teaching drumming. Through a Dignity Health grant and a partnership with the Family Counseling Center, Abbie began using drumming as a “tool for wellness.” She attests that drumming reduces stress while offering a creative outlet. She says, “like meditation gets people out of their heads, it’s a healthy activity, and anybody can do it, whether they’re two or 102 – and I have actually had a 102-year-old student!” Abbie currently contracts with CalVet to help dementia patients maintain both large and fine motor skills and build camaraderie. She has also worked with Healthy Steps in Chico to encourage cancer patients and their caregivers. “Basically,” Abbie says, “I love spreading the joy of music to people in need. That act of service brings me a lot of joy.”

Despite her many avenues of community outreach, Abbie has not lost her original passion to use drumming in shaping children’s educational experiences. Abbie works to unify Evergreen Elementary School’s 650 kids through a school theme song, songs that encourage treating each other kindly and music from a wide array of cultures. “Music is a great tool for peacemaking and helping each other,” Abbie explains. “Music is our common language; it helps build understanding in a time when we need a lot of tolerance.”

Abbie has passed her love for teaching to her daughter, who is currently earning a master’s degree in education. Her son is also pursuing public service. Her children and her husband of 26 years have supported Abbie as she has drummed her way through the community. Abbie cites Karen Hafenstein as her “biggest cheerleader,” a friend and mentor who encouraged Abbie to go into teaching. Karen describes Abbie as “one of the finest music teachers I have ever known” and celebrates how Abbie has “spread her passion to hundreds of children and many in the community.” Abbie, for her part, encourages all people to share their passions. “Everyone benefits from your gifts – especially you – when you share. Do what you’re good at and what gives you joy, because what brings you joy will bring joy to others.”

To benefit from Abbie’s community workshops which she offers several times throughout the year to adults or families for a minimal fee, subscribe to her newsletter via her website, http://www.abbiesmusicbox.com. No music experience required!

The mission of our Be the Change column is to feature community members from the North State who are actively making a difference in community life. If you would like to nominate someone who is making a difference, please write to pn@northstateparent.com.

Jenna Christophersen
About Jenna Christophersen

Jenna Christophersen is a Chico native who loves her community and can never get quite enough of the arts. She supports fostering creativity in any venue, especially as a part of young people’s daily lives.

Comments

  1. Abbie is a joy to be around and a heart centred incredibly talented musician who truly inspires people to be the best they can be.

  2. Margaret and Bill Trapp says:

    Proud of you Abby! Margaret and Bill

  3. Claudia Hastings says:

    I especially love your use of the word “joy”, because that is actually how she lives her life.
    I have know her since she began teaching at Evergreen Elem. School. Abbie totally spreads joy in music and simply in being who she is.

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