Jennifer Merlich has been a student of the drum for over 25 years. Starting out as a kitchen drummer banging on pots and pans, Jennifer soon graduated to playing snare drum and various other percussive instruments in school band. Jennifer later heard the call of the drum again in her early twenties, when she discovered the djembe, and began studying African, Middle Eastern, and Latin American rhythms and techniques. A student of Babatunde Olatunji's Gun Go Do method, Jennifer played in a performance ensemble aptly called the New World Drummers. Under the guidance of mentor/friend Karuna Warren and his wife Marie, the New World Drummers performed throughout the desert southwest at schools, coffee houses, nightclubs, sporting events, cultural fairs, parties and theaters. Audiences varied from small groups of party-goers or school children, to thousands gathered for sporting events or outdoor summertime concerts. Jennifer's time with Karuna and the New World Drummers proved to be pivotal in her life story, allowing her the freedom to explore the dynamics of organized ensemble drumming, as well as the sometimes chaotic, occasionally frustrating and often comical realities of performing live in front of an audience.
Jennifer has studied or played with drum masters from all over the world, including Babatunde Olatunji himself. Jennifer now teaches Baba's Gun Go Do method, reminding students of his credo, "If you can say it, you can play it." Jennifer's classes promote creativity, acceptance, harmony, and a very healthy dose of fun, prompting one student to exclaim recently of Jennifer, "Olatunji lives through you!" But Jennifer is quick to point out that Olatunji, our drumming ancestors, and the true spirit of the drum live on through all of us who choose to embark upon our own rhythmic journeys. As Baba so eloquently put it, "the new day of the drum has come".
"Playing within the context of a drum circle or ensemble gives us the opportunity to be a part of something that is much bigger than ourselves, but still completely dependent upon the contributions of each individual. It allows us to creatively explore our role in the greater picture, while at the same time providing the opportunity for us to grow as a team. This awareness of ourselves and our role in the circle spills over into other aspects of life and helps us maintain a sense of harmony within our own unique realities. " ~Jennifer Merlich