Today we’d like to introduce you to Suzy Turner.
Hi Suzy, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
Hello! My name is Suzy Turner and I’m a drummer and Drum Circle Facilitator.
Reflecting on the winding road that brought me here still fills my heart with joy.
When I arrived in Austin with my husband and newborn baby, I was excited for a fresh start with my little family in a brand new city. Unfortunately, by the time my son approached a year old, it became evident that I was in a toxic relationship and could no longer deny the depressing reality that the abusive situation was becoming worse by the day. From there, it took another year of my then-husband’s increasingly volatile behavior and a physical assault for me to fully accept that my life was in danger. During this time, I had made the decision to attend my first ever djembe class with a group of complete strangers because I missed making music with others. I believed a creative outlet could help heal my weary soul. I’d always been drawn to hand drums and world music and fondly remembered participating in drum circles on the beach during happier times in my life. I knew that taking this opportunity to do something meaningful for myself was important. This was undeniable as the ‘strangers’ from drum class quickly transformed into my support system, although they still didn’t know anything about the pain I was enduring at home. Drumming had become an incredibly enjoyable and therapeutic release for me during these difficult times and so once a week, no matter what, that old djembe and I made our way to drum class. Some days were harder than others. Some weeks I had to fight my way out of the house. Some nights, I brought my son with me, terrified at the thought of leaving him in an unstable environment alone with his father.
This new found circle of rhythm evolved into a welcome escape, gifting me with instant peace as we laughed and learned our way through the complex polyrhythmic patterns that create the musical landscape of West African drumming. I continuously found myself lost in the rhythm and deeply connected to my drum. She was always there when I needed her. I began to crave the feel of the well-worn drum skin beneath my hands and found myself creating more time to play, an activity my young son and I could even do together! My teacher was kind, patient and firm. She quickly acknowledged my aptitude and openly encouraged my playing. In the circle, in addition to drumming, I loved listening to the stories the women shared – anecdotes of wisdom from lives well lived. I was the ‘baby’ of the group and I knew I was learning so much from these women who had struggled and survived. After my divorce, the transition to co-parenting with my ex was challenging and terrifying. I drummed more. My life became a series of difficult decisions through uncharted terrain that often left me feeling like I was only making mistakes. I sought refuge in the rhythms. As my love for drumming grew, so did my confidence.
Our group began performing at festivals and farmers markets, at weddings and church events, private parties and prisons. My connection to the rhythms deepened, soothing my anxious mind as I lay my head and heart to rest each night. I began to feel proud and empowered when I saw my son smiling up at me from the crowd during our performances, realizing that my passion and commitment to drumming was actually helping me be the strong mother he needed. Twelve years later, as I reflect on this traumatic and transformational time in my life, I continue to be moved by the profound impact of that little djembe. The drum led me upward toward my purpose, along a path of love, support, and encouragement. I continue to educate myself and learn more and more about the research behind the incredibly real, healing power of rhythm. I’ve trained with skilled leaders and witnessed first-hand the tremendous positive effect that drumming can have on our health – from moving past trauma to recovering from addiction, and emerging from isolation and pain.
As my rhythmic journey unfolds I am filled with gratitude for that first drum. As a Trained Drum & Rhythm Facilitator, my drum family has had the addition of many new members. With my organization, Soulshine Rhythm Experience, my drums and I have had the great honor of being welcomed into a diverse variety of environments to share the joy and healing power of rhythmic connection. From schools, assisted living communities, recovery support groups, correctional facilities, community events, private celebrations and so much more, it has become evident that the universal language of rhythm speaks loud and clear to all of us. Hearing the affirmations from drum circle participants who share their pleasant surprise at what they experience during a rhythm event continues to inspire my work. The sheer delight I feel in my heart when I see someone light up with joy is unexplainable. What a blessing to be able to share my gifts in a way that can empower people to connect with their inner rhythm and actually help them move through the healing process. Along the way, I continue to learn and grow not only as a facilitator, but in my own healing journey as well.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
As I look back on the journey, I see that those obstacles really were the stepping stones that helped elevate me to where I am today. After leaving my abusive relationship, there was much healing to do and at the same time, I was raising a child in a city that was new to me. No family, few friends and suddenly I was alone. But I was driven by pure love. In retrospect, I can see that the mama bear instinct kicked in and it was all about providing a safe, secure home for my child and I did what needed to be done. Probably, the biggest challenge was the ongoing balance of working enough to make ends meet while being available to my child. Daycare wasn’t an option, as far as I was concerned. I would do everything in my power to raise my child by being present. This meant getting creative and learning how to ask for help. Those early years were filled with guardian angels, the kindness of strangers and a true awakening of recognizing my own strength and mental fortitude. As my son grew, I grew with him. My sacrifices strengthened our bond as the years went by and by the time he was 10 years old, I had endured being sued for custody by my ex-husband, job loss, homelessness, and plenty of self-doubt. However, the sparkling silver lining in all of this, was the clarity of my purpose that emerged. I was clear in my value system and of what mattered to me most as a human and as a mother. It was then that I realized, with my drum, my gift of joy and the support of some very special friendships, I had everything I needed to move forward with my mission.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I’ve been an artist all my life but didn’t really know it. First as a musician, then photographer and back to my music roots as a drummer. My role as Drum & Rhythm Facilitator gives me an opportunity to help people get out of their head and into their body. I use drumming as a tool for creating connection, creativity, relaxation, bonding and so much more. As for what sets me apart, people often tell me that they appreciate my authenticity and genuine welcoming nature. I love people and I love hearing their stories. I have a gift for making folks feel seen and heard and I believe that comes from the fact that I truly care. One of the biggest compliments I’ve received was from a participant at one of my events. She said that ‘Suzy doesn’t know strangers. She makes everyone feel like a friend.’ That level of inclusion is what I strive for. All are welcome, all are capable and everyone matters.
What matters most to you?
Truth. Authenticity. Love. Health. If we are aware of who we are and we embrace it fully, we are able to live more authentically, love more honestly and take good care of ourselves and the people we choose to surround ourselves with. This isn’t easy. It takes work. It takes time. And it’s a lifelong journey filled with reward and setback. I believe we are always a work in progress and that’s a good thing. Especially when we do it honestly.
- Email: Suzysoulshine@yahoo.com
- Website: www.soulshinerhythm.com
- Instagram: Soulshinerhythm
- Facebook: Soulshine Rhythm Experience
Summer Miles Photography Donny Greenway Photography