Currently, I have been to five retreats including one in Istanbul where I got to revive my Turkish! All I can say is: “Wow! What an experience!” I have reached an age where you don’t grow quickly anymore; but, Raquy changed that in many ways. She was able to facilitate amazing technical growth as well as providing a cultural/rhythmic education and fostering real love for an instrument. And, the retreat was an equally impressive experience where I was surrounded by people of all ages and abilities united by their love for the dumbek! It has been fun to watch myself and other dumbek students grow. The dumbek is accessible in a way that many other instruments are not. With just one hand and the syllables for which it’s named, you can create a world of rhythm and communication. With two hands (preferably Raquy’s) you can have some real fun!
The retreat is nothing but a natural high. Not only do you get instruction from someone who has dedicated her life to improving on her instrument and teaching as many people as she can reach, you get to hang out with Raquy, Rami, and more amazing players and people who seem to gravitate to Raquy and the retreats. There's amazing, super healthy food by chef Rami, and an always super, diverse group of people from all walks of life. Plus there's the beautiful, wide open grounds, nearby river and hiking path. My favorite part of the retreat is the nighttime jam by the fire that can go for hours, when the stars really start to shine, and people play the rhythms of their souls, TOGETHER.
Raquy's Retreats are unique opportunities to enjoy drumming and learning experiences like no other and make lifelong friends in a beautiful environment. But the experience is much deeper and more difficult to put into words than that. I'm originally from Los Angeles and have lived in New York City and the leafy NYC suburb of Irvington, NY, for many years. I've been attending one or more Raquy Retreats at the Empowerment Center every year for six years—since discovering the dumbek and taking one of Raquy's beginner classes in NYC. The wonderful people who come to the retreats are like family, a big, loving, supportive family of comrades-in-learning and drumming. Raquy is the enchantress who puts it all together, organizes the packed schedule, gives most of the lessons and workshops, and writes the piece we learn and play together at the final performance. Rami is the dumbek wizard/chef who keeps us well fed, often with meals created from produce just picked at Harmony Farm where the Empowerment Center is located. The stellar guest artists—including Marla Leigh, David Kuckhermann and Glen Velez—have introduced us Raquy students to their inspiring percussive styles and techniques, which have led many of us into new musical directions and travels. The Sisters of Charity who run the Empowerment Center are loyal supporters who make the enterprise possible, at low cost, and attend our performances, even in freak October snowstorms and by candlelight at temporary-blackout-producing July thunderstorms. I'm a graphic designer and writer, but learning to drum with Raquy has added a whole new dimension to my life, which now includes playing frame drum and dumbek in the most rockin' synagogue band in Manhattan, marching in parades, leading drum circles for formerly homeless residents of a shelter—and just enjoying the challenge of practicing new dumbek techniques and the therapeutic effect of putting myself into a trance with the vibrations of the frame drum. It's all good, and, trust me, no matter your background or skill level or age, will bring magic into your life, too.
I want to take a moment to share my experiences from past Raquy retreats: I have now been to at least 6 retreats over the past 2 years. I've lost count! From the very first retreat, I felt like I was immediately part of a community....or even better, part of a family. The atmosphere is amazing at these gatherings. It is very relaxed, but at the same time, full of a magical energy that comes from so many talented and creative people, brought together for a single purpose: to become better drummers. No matter what your ability level, you will find others who will be eager to help you and practice with you. Raquy gives generously of her time and energy to give us the tools we need to perform together. The retreat center itself is peaceful and spacious. The food is OUTSTANDING! It has been my pleasure to work in the kitchen with Chef Rami, who is another amazing musician. I can't imagine NOT being a part of the kitchen staff at these retreats. I have truly bonded with my fellow drummers at Raquy's retreats....we are now close friends and always will be. Not only have I learned to better play the dumbek, but I've GROWN. I am a music teacher in the public schools, and everything I've learned with Raquy has enhanced what I do in my work. I've learned to relax....breathe....listen...smile....and play. And of course my drumming chops have vastly improved! Thank you, Raquy, for being my mentor and my dear friend. Thank you for bringing us all together. Thank you for creating these opportunities for all of us. Seni seviyorum!!!
Carmine T Guida
I want to take a moment to give a shout-out to Raquy Danziger... (story time): Many years ago, I saw her teaching in Tribal Sounds music store. I called her and asked about lessons, she said "I'm starting a new class on Sunday at Makor. Why don't you come and surprise me"... so on my first day, I had my drum and she said, "Well that's actually a small djembe and not a doumbek" ... after a bunch of months I went on my first retreat... I went in there a boy and came out a man! She gave me a lot opportunities to accompany her and I learned so much just from sitting next to her and Rami ElAasser all those Sundays at Figaro.
Attending a Raquy retreat is a catalyst to a new adventure. I walked into my first one with barely a clue about the doumbek and knowing nobody there. By the end of that retreat I was reading notation, learned and performed a piece with the group, and had made wonderful new friendships. Who could have imagined that just a few years later I would be studying in Istanbul with Raquy and other wonderful students met along the path? Raquy is a talented, engaging and whimsical teacher. The students and guest performers who attend the retreats are interesting people of all ages and skill levels, from all walks of life. Come sit around the table with new friends and share laughter and music while enjoying a wonderful meal created by Rami. Take the first step down a new road.....
If you're someone who loves drumming, and practicing, Raquy's retreat is paradise on many levels!
The beautiful natural surroundings, people and music will make you say, hey I wish every day was like this, and maybe when you go home, your life will be a little more heavenly!
Raquy has such a light touch with things, you may not realize just how much you are being challenged, and how much great stuff you'll have to play and chew on for the next few months or year, till you get to go back to the Catskills (or Turkey!) for another retreat.
The food is vegetarian so really gives your body a break if you're not into that all the time. The retreat center is a deeply peaceful place, you can tell that peace has been cultivated there for many years by the nuns who empower the Empowerment center.
Thanks and gratitude to them, Raquy, Rami, and the many retreaters I've met over the past few retreats for a very special energy that we all take with us into the future when we leave. : )