Moment in the Sun: Ensuring the beat goes on

When nobody else stepped forward, Sheila Toupal took it upon herself to ensure somebody would provide the beat of the drum.

Toupal, 45, can be found most Saturday mornings at Creekside Community Center, drumming during the classic country music jam. Several musicians – primarily guitarists – gather on Saturday mornings to play the country classics, songs you won’t find on country music radio stations in the Twin Cities. Dozens more gather each week to listen.

Most of the musicians are as old as the songs they perform, likewise for the audience. Toupal found her way to Creekside a few years ago, primarily for her mother’s benefit.

After the death of her father, Toupal’s mother Lillian moved into Toupal’s Bloomington home. Toupal wanted to find activities for her mother to enjoy in Bloomington, so the duo found its way to Creekside one Saturday morning to see what the weekly jam was all about. They enjoyed the music and made it a Saturday morning routine, Toupal explained.

There are always plenty of guitarists on hand during any given Saturday, but drummers are harder to come by. Toupal suspects that the labor involved with hauling and setting up a drum kit each week is part of the reason that drummers are few and far between. “It’s a lot of work,” she said. And she knows that from experience.

When Creekside’s primary drummer could no longer participate on a regular basis, Toupal took it upon herself to fill the void.

So, as a 44-year-old rookie, Toupal purchased drums, took a few lessons and asked for tips and instruction from former drummers that attend the Saturday morning jams. Within a few weeks she was up in front of the audience, providing a basic beat for the morning jam.

Creekside drumming
Sheila Toupal of Bloomington drums most Saturday mornings during the classic country music jam at Creekside Community Center. She had never been a drummer, but quickly learned in order to become the regular jam session drummer. (Sun staff photo by Mike Hanks)

With no musical background to speak of,  the insurance company claims adjuster is not only a regular presence on Saturday mornings, she also participates in monthly jam sessions in Blaine and Rogers along with other musicians who frequent the weekly jams at Creekside.

Learning to keep a simple beat suffices for the jam sessions, but Toupal isn’t satisfied with her basic drumming skills.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement,” she said.

To that end, she is looking at purchasing a second drum kit so that she can keep one kit set up in her home for practice and the second kit ready to haul in and out of her vehicle for her jam session gigs.

The weekly jam session is 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the community center, 9801 Penn Ave. S.

It traces its roots back to 1954, when musicians would gather at Suneson Music Center in Minneapolis for Saturday morning jams. When the longtime music store closed its doors a decade ago, Mack Sirois, one of the founding members of the weekly jam, brought it to Bloomington.

Sirois continues to emcee, sing and play guitar during the weekly gathering and praised Toupal for her contribution since taking over as the regular weekly drummer.

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