Students beat drums, raise cancer awareness


Photo by Lucia Wallace

Andrew Beals (left) and Miles Phillipi (right) drum together in the annual DrumStrong program to raise awareness for cancer.

Story by Cole Johnson, Staff Writer

Imagine yourself surrounded by rhythm. Vibrations course through your body. Now think of this rhythm magnified by fifty or more people, all around you doing the same thing: drumming.

Every May, people band together in a program called DrumStrong and play drums up to 30 hours straight to help raise awareness for cancer. For the past five years, junior Andrew Beals has been one of these drummers.

DrumStrong is a global program started by Scott Swimmer, a drummer, in 2006. Swimmer’s son, Mason, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer, and survived after 10 months of treatments and seven surgeries. Afterwards, Swimmer wanted to find a way to help families that went through what he did and created DrumStrong.

The program raises awareness and funds for cancer-related organizations all over the world by drumming for long periods of time to mainly African music. Sponsors pledge money per hour drummed, and the money earned at the end is distributed to local cancer related organizations.

Beals joined DrumStrong with his mom, Jill Hall, who was diagnosed with cancer in Mar. 2011. While battling cancer, Hall found the DrumStrong program through a Novant Support house.

“My mom really enjoyed when she was there and it really helps,” Beals said.
DrumStrong reaches people all over, from survivors at the drumming stage, to patients lying in a hospital bed watching the livestream and drumming along with it.

“You forget why you’re there and drum and relax,” Beals said.

While participating in these events, Beals encouraged his friend junior Miles Phillipi, who is a percussionist, to come with him; Phillipi has gone ever since.

“It’s very calming and destressing,” Phillipi said, “and [it’s] a good way to bring the community together for a good cause.”

After a couple of years participating, Hall passed away from colon cancer on April 5, 2015. But that doesn’t mean the journey ends there. Beals continues with DrumStrong, attending every May as well as the organization’s monthly meetings. The fast pace and high energy events remind him of his mom and provide a way for him to honor her memory through service.

“My mom was not letting cancer slow her down and she lived her life to the fullest,” Beals said.