Siesta Key Beach Drum Circle
Watch the sun set and listen to drummers in a festival-like atmosphere at one of the largest drum circles in the nation. A free weekly tradition since 1996, the Siesta Key Drum Circle takes place about one hour before sunset, just south of the main pavilion on Siesta Beach at 948 Beach Road, Siesta Key. The Siesta Key Drum Circle is a popular tradition that attracts big crowds of participants and onlookers for drumming and dancing on Siesta Beach. Drum circle regulars occasionally perform with swords and fire or offer flowers to onlookers, you may even see a belly dancer.
According to David Gittens, a 77-year-old retired industrial designer, who helped organize the drum circles on Siesta Beach, the drum circle “evolved out of a potlatch ceremony on the autumn equinox of 1996, and that came out of a creativity workshop sponsored by the Ringling School of the Arts. It continued for a number of years with people from local churches and members of the Native Descended Nation. They were very involved in the spiritual aspect of the drumming circle.”
It began by Beach Access 8 as a full moon drum circle attended by a gathering of friends. Eventually, it became so well attended, it was moved to the public beach and is now held every Sunday. Although the atmosphere has changed from sacred to popular, performers and onlookers can still appreciate the wonder of the setting sun accompanied by the soulful sound of communal drums. So, bring your rhythm and enjoy a beach sunset with an eclectic crowd. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to join in.
Here’s what Sunday evenings mean to people who frequent the drum circle:
“Here’s the key to the circle you see. It’s not a square or a triangle that has angles. This is a circle in which each degree has individuality, and personality, like every drummer and dancer you see. Even the audience becomes part of the circle you know, that’s part of our spirit soul.”
— Maji, 67, a retired substitute teacher who goes by one name. He wears tie-dyed clothes and a jester’s hat to Sunday evening drum circles on Siesta Key.
“I love hooping in a drum circle. You can feel the adrenaline and it’s nice to have that support. It’s so freeing and it’s such an outlet for my stress. It brings out my best self. It brings out my happiest side of life.”
— Jessie Greenberg, a 20-year-old Hula hooper from Sarasota.
“I’ve always loved playing the drums, even as a kid, so the first time I came out and felt the vibe I had to get myself a djembe and give it a try. You just get out there and start drumming. No questions asked. They welcome you.”
— Harry Glemser, 66, a cigar-smoking retired homicide detective from New Jersey. He’s been drumming and wearing a Native American headdress on the beach since moving to Sarasota.
“For me, it’s a great way to end the week. I have a stressful job, so it’s nice to be able to cut loose. I love dancing and the rhythms are great, as you can hear. And I can’t think of anything else that’s free for all ages in such a beautiful setting. This is a very unique thing.”
“It’s a chance to feel free and be a part of something. There’s a structure to it, but no one’s leading it. You can bring your drum, or not, and you can dance or just take it all in. It’s like a little community. Whole generations of kids have grown up with the drum circles and now they bring their own kids. It’s kind of cool.”
— Dr. Marguerite Barnett, 61, who dances in colorful costumes each Sunday. She’s been part of the Siesta drum circles for two decades.