Rhythm Is Going to
Feel the beat for education
Article posted on DallasChild Magazine
Rhythm Is Going to Get You
Feel the beat for education
Local families are gathering
their djembes and joining traditional African drumming classes.
What’s that, you ask? Health experts and families alike are
discovering the fun and enriching qualities of drumming, from
building self-esteem to math skills.
It’s no longer just leftover hippies and, well, Matthew
McConaughey, who like to take up their drums and jam. African
drumming is a family-friendly and often-overlooked form of
entertainment and even therapy. And it’s quite popular here in
North Texas … if you know where to look.
Drumming’s benefits reach far beyond learning simple rhythms.
Experts have found drumming has many positive effects, including
mood elevation, stress relief, free expression, sense of
accomplishment and lessons in cooperation and focus. And that’s
just the short term. Long-term benefits include learning math
skills, improving eye-hand coordination, synchronization,
midline balance, increasing self-worth and self-confidence and
creating a sense of community for participants.
Finding the Beat
Michael Kenny, a Dallas area MMT, MT-BC, works with a variety of
special needs and at-risk children and adults. He has witnessed
first-hand the positive effects of using traditional drumming
with therapeutic goals.
“I have been in detention centers where there’s always a kid
sitting back in his chair, arms across his chest, and he’s just
holding down the chair. By the end of the drumming class, this
same kid is smiling, tapping his feet and bent over a drum. I’ve
even seen geriatric patients slumped in their wheelchairs come
alive and get up to dance,” Kenny states.
And, the benefits don’t stop there. Two scientific,
evidence-based studies headed by Dr. Barry Bittman, neurologist
and medical director of Pennsylvania-based The Mind-Body
Wellness Center, reveal drumming participants experience
significant increases in immune activity and decreases in stress
and burn out.
“The Power of Percussion”
Drumming’s unique benefits may stem from the fact that it is
essentially accessible to everyone. Anyone can tap out beats on
a table top, but it’s the sense of community that come with
group drumming that seems to breed success and confidence. Based
on the West African oral tradition of teaching rhythms, everyone
can quickly learn drum accompaniments. It takes little time for
a group to form a piece of feet-tapping, get-up-and-dance music.
The two most active groups teaching African drumming in the
Dallas area are Cross Timbers Youth Orchestra (CTYO) and Drums
Not Guns (DNG).
Beat It: D-FW Drumming
Grab your bongos — there are plenty of drum groups carving out
their own beats in the Dallas area. Whether you want to take in
a performance or get in on the action, here are some resources
to get started:
Drums Not Guns Drumming Workshop
Old Settlers Recreation Center, McKinney
Tweneboa Family Drumming Orchestra
Cross Timbers Youth Orchestra
World Music, African Drumming and Stories
Allen, Dallas, McKinney
These nonprofit organizations offer families opportunities to
experience the joy and benefits of drumming; hippie attire not
CTYO’s programs include the Tweneboa Family Drumming Orchestra
and Drum Fun at the Samaritan Inn. Tweneboa is designed to unite
families in a musical experience, learning and performing
together regularly. Dr. Jeffrey Walter, CTYO’s artistic
director, acknowledges this family drumming orchestra could be
the only one of its kind in North Texas.
“We live in a world where we drop one child off at soccer
practice then run across town to take another to piano lessons.
Parents don’t get the time to enjoy the activities with their
children. This is why we’ve created Tweneboa. Family members
learn together, practice together, perform together and then
celebrate success together,” Dr. Walter comments.
Additionally, CTYO offers an outreach and community service
program called Drum Fun to children living in Samaritan Inn,
Collin County’s only homeless shelter. Instructor Allie Lang,
music specialist at Slaughter Elementary, meets with the
children weekly to create traditional music.
According to Lang, “Drum Fun gives kids an opportunity to come
together and make music in a safe environment. The joy is in
working together as a team and everyone pitching in to make sure
even the smallest member is successful in each activity.”
The rhythm and order of drumming even provides a creative outlet
for the city’s most at-risk youth. Dallas-based Drums Not Guns
is devoted to increasing peace by providing creative ways to
re-channel negative energy, diffuse anger and build team spirit
through the power of percussion. DNG provides free Saturday
workshops in McKinney along with a variety of other drumming
opportunities throughout the Dallas area. These informal
gatherings bring children and adults together in a fun-filled,
cooperative environment where they build community, create music
and learn a new skill that they can even take away and share
with their friends.
DNG leader Randy Harp says these classes are designed to provide
quality drumming lessons, as well as life lessons, which remain
long after the class ends.
“What I’ve seen from the people who do learn the rhythm is they
realize they can do something that they never would have
believed they could have done. Something clicks that makes them
feel more confident and better about themselves. There are many
life metaphors in drumming. Drumming brings people to life,”
comments Randy Harp.
Lucy Parker Watkins is a freelance writer, editor and drummer in
Pounding home their message
Not Guns works to steer youths from violence
08:16 AM CST
on Friday, February 10, 2006
The members of Drums Not Guns start with simple combinations
of tone and bass hand slaps. Leading a group of beginners in a
drum circle, they slowly work toward greater complexity. Soon,
the rhythm takes off.
Photos by BRIAN HARKIN/DMN
Melody McDonald, 7, of McKinney caught a glimpse of
participants practicing with Drums Not Guns.
The air thrums with energy. Windows
buzz. Heads begin to sway. Expressions of concentration break
into grins and laughter. And when the drumming suddenly stops, a
palpable silence lingers.
"There's a pretty tremendous impact when a group gets a
rhythm going," Drums Not Guns member Randy Harp said, wiping
sweat from his face. "People that thought they had no ability to
play the drums suddenly find themselves doing it."
The lesson, held Saturday at McKinney's Old Settlers' Park
Recreation Center, was the second in a series of workshops
sponsored by the Dallas-based nonprofit group and the McKinney
"We've been very active in Dallas, but not so much in the
surrounding counties," Mr. Harp said. "We saw an opportunity to
move our mission into the northern suburbs."
Founded in 1994 by Dallas resident Happy Shel, Drums Not Guns
has worked with at-risk teenagers across the area to spread "the
power of percussion" as an alternative to violence. Mr. Shel
found his inspiration on a bus painted with the message "Food
"Suddenly – shazam! – the earth moved," he said. "Why not
Drums Not Guns? We could give kids a positive alternative to all
the bad things they face."
The group hosts drum circles and workshops, marketing
drumming as an avenue of expression and a way to work off
tension. Members have brought drums with names like djembe,
doumbek and dununs to orphanages, festivals and
"Drumming is a language we can all speak, and we can hear
each individual part," Mr. Shel said. "I want kids to come and
join the 'drum gang.' "
McKinney resident Seamus McKenna understands the physical
release drumming can provide. The 49-year-old started drumming
with the group in September and was thrilled to learn about the
program near his home.
"You would imagine that drumming is very energetic," he said.
"But actually, my breathing slows down once we get into a
rhythm. I get very calm and enter an almost meditative state."
For 13-year-old Christopher Dunlap, the chance to bang on a
drum just sounded like fun.
"I thought it was something that looked interesting," he
said. "I'm learning a lot."
The group plans to cap off the McKinney workshops May 20 with
the Soli Drum Festival, featuring drummers from across the
Southwest and students from the classes.
"It's just a really easy way to earn a sense of
accomplishment," Mr. Harp said. "The effect is almost spiritual.
It seems to open up people to the possibilities of life."
Jeremy Roebuck is a Dallas-based freelance writer.
MEXICO Swaps Computers for Guns - March 27, 2007
Following this link
will lead to some interesting articles on Drumming
http://healing.about.com/od/drums/index_r.htm. This is an auto-magically
updated list of the About.com articles on drumming ordered with the most
recent first, so you may wish to visit it occasionally to see if there is
Austin: The Beat of the
drum April 1, 2005
Hey, Hey, Hey, Dante Dominick has written an article about what drum circles
mean to different people. It can be accessed online at
February 15, 2005
Drum circles are becoming a popular way for people to
get in tune with the body's rhythms
Story and Page Design n by Leah J. Simmons
Story last updated at 4:00 AM on November 7, 2004
Therapists put art to work in healing, Fall, 2004
Advances in Mind-Body
Medicine, Fall/Winter, 2003, just published.
The study is entitled,
Recreational Music-making, A cost-effective group interdisciplinary
strategy for reducing burnout and improving mood states in long-term care
workers - insights and potential economic impact by Barry B. Bittman, MD,
Karl T Bruhn, Christine K. Stevens, MSW, MT-BC, James Westengard, BS and
Paulo O. Umbach, M.A.
The research team studied
the effect of a Recreational Music-making protocol using REMO drums and the
YAMAHA Clavinova with staff from different departments within the Wesbury
United Methodist Long-Term Care Center in Meadville, PA. The study found a
statistically significant reduction in burn-out and improvement in mood in
the group which participated in the 6-week program of weekly one hour
sessions. Additionally, an economic impact analysis showed an annual
savings of $89,100 for a typical 100-bed facility, demonstrating for the
first time the cost-effectiveness of a Recreational Music-making (RMM)
intervention involving group drumming and keyboard. It is estimated that
implementing RMM programs for employee wellness could potentially save the
long-term care industry 1.46 billion dollars.
The RMM program involved an enhanced variation of the HealthRHYTHMS
group empowerment drumming protocol, which included a wellness exercise and
the use of the keyboard to provide melodic accompaniment to the drumming.
To learn more, please
click on Latest Research, or visit
www.mind-body.org for more information on the study.
http://www.remo.com/health/index.cfm?ObjectID=71 - here is the
Christine Stevens, MT-BC, MSW
Director of Music Therapy and Wellness Programs, Remo Inc.
IN TOUCH MAGAZINE, "The Good Health Guide To Cancer Prevention and
Treatment" recently featured the research of Dr. Barry Bittman who
conducted the first scientific evidence based study on the impact of group
drumming on health, sponsored by Remo, Inc. The article also included
interviews with music therapists Barb Reuer and Rachel Jacobsen, as well as
drum circle facilitators such as Steven Angel and myself, who are working
with cancer patients and survivors with group drumming.
The article on page 46 of the July 2002 issue, entitled "Drumming Up Good
Health" can be accessed through their
In Touch Magazine goes to over 30,000 Oncology specialists and 6,000 cancer
centers at medical and university settings. Often seen in waiting rooms,
this new magazine is fast becoming a standard in over 3,000 patient advocacy
groups around the USA. The article on group drumming appeared in a section
entitled, InSync: Mind/Body Connection, making a strong statement of our
philosophy and moving forward the scientific use of group drumming as one
component of an integrative medical strategy for cancer treatment and
Michael Drake, E-mail
To view articles,
books, and workshops on shamanic drumming, please visit his web site,
Talking Drum Publications at:
subscribe to the FREE Talking Drum Newsletter, just send a blank email
firstname.lastname@example.org New subscribers receive the FREE etext,
The Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees.
Shamanic Drumming Circles
(c) 2002 by Michael Drake
"Drum fever is sweeping the country as people discover the physical,
psychological and spiritual rewards ... even for those who can't read a note
of music," wrote Claudia Ricci recently in the New York Times. All over
America, people of all ages are taking up drumming in astounding numbers. At
a grass roots level, small drumming circles are gathering in communities all
across the country. Since there are no prerequisites to
drumming, anyone can join in and explore rhythms with hands and drumsticks
as an exhilarating way of communing. While some drumming circles are content
to jam and make a lot of rhythmic noise, others prefer to explore intricate
patterns of rhythm, and still others gather for shamanic drumming.
Shamanic drumming is a time-honored method of healing
and helping others. Shamanic drumming circles provide the opportunity for
people of like mind to unite for the attainment of a shared objective. There
is power in drumming alone, but that power recombines and multiplies on many
simultaneous levels in a group of drummers. The drums draw individual
energies together, unifying them into a consolidated force. Synchronized
drumming is the most effective, so individuals should alternate the
responsibility of setting the tempo and leading the group. The basic steps
that I find most effective are as follows:
1. Simply join together, forming a circle. By creating a circle, you are
structuring an energy pattern that will contain, focus, and amplify the
power generated by drumming.
2. Next, you should smudge the space and all participants. This can easily
be accomplished by passing a smudge bowl clockwise around the circle. The
drummers can then smudge themselves and their drums. Smudging cleanses the
mind and environment in preparation for spiritual or inner work. The sacred
smoke dispels any stagnant or unwanted energy, opens the energy channels of
your body, and raises your personal power or windhorse. According to
Mongolian shamanism, windhorse can be increased through smudging, drumming,
and other forms of shamanic practice in order to accomplish significant
aims. Sage, cedar, thyme, and sweetgrass are traditionally used for
smudging, but any dried herb is acceptable. Light
the herbs in a fire-resistant receptacle and then blow out the flames. Then
use a feather or your hands to draw the smoke over your heart, throat, and
face to purify the body, mind, and spirit. Next, smudge your drum by passing
it through the smoke. Conclude the smudging by thanking the plant whose body
made the cleansing possible.
3. At this point, you may wish to invoke the powers of the four directions.
Invoking the four directions or elements is an ancient shamanic rite
practiced cross-culturally to access and honor the powers of creation. The
facilitator can lead the group in this process. I like
to have the participants stand and face each direction in unison. Rotate
clockwise, facing first the East, then South, then West, then North,
inviting each direction to participate and assist in the ceremony. If you
wish, you can include Father Sky above and Mother Earth below as the fifth
and sixth directions.
4. Having invoked the four directions, it is important to form the group's
collective intention or goal-what you desire or expect to accomplish. Intent
is a kind of decision making that directs the focus of our attention. It is
through our attention that we influence and direct
the aspects of our experience and the world around us.
5. The next step is to commence the first or "prayer" round of drumming. All
participants should focus their attention on the group intention or goal
during this round of drumming. It is the responsibility of the facilitator
to set the tempo. A steady, metronome-like pattern with precisely regular
intervals, at around 180 beats per minute (or three beats per second), is
the most effective. This rapid "eagle-beat" creates the sensation of inner
movement, which, if you allow it, will carry you along. It is projective in
nature and carries your intention, prayers, and awareness into the spirit
world that underlies and sustains our
physical reality. All forms and events in the material world have their
source in the spirit world.
6. The timeframe, however, varies from ceremony to ceremony. It is best to
trust your intuition in this process. When leading a group, I move the
beater around the drumhead until I find the sweet spot and my drum begins to
sing and hum. Eventually, I can hear the sound of my drum moving around the
circle, resonating through each person's drum. The drums begin to sing in
unison and the experience is indescribable. I sense that each
person is connected to the spirit world. I try to hold this energy dynamic
for as long as possible. This climactic phase eventually wanes, and the
drums start doing their own thing again. This is usually the point where I
signal the end of the first round of drumming with four thundering beats of
7. Once the group intention has been introduced, commence the second or
"healing" round by drumming the pulsating lub-dub, lub-dub of a heartbeat
rhythm. Stroke a steady heartbeat rhythm at around 180 beats per minute (or
90 heartbeats per minute since one-heartbeat equals two beats). This
magnetic pulse draws power from the spirit world into the drum circle.
Each participant should clear his or her mind of everything. You must
surrender all attachment to the desired outcome to achieve success. It is
best to close your eyes and focus on the sound of the drums. Let the drums
do the healing. The drums will shape available energy into a powerful vortex
that will spiral out into the fibers of Mother Earth's
8. When you feel the power ebbing, signal the end of the second round of
drumming with four booming beats.
9. Commence the final or "thank you" round of drumming with the even cadence
of the eagle-beat. Sustain a tempo of 180 beats per minute for one to five
minutes. Participants should give thanks for the needs met and the needs
they are asking to be met.
10. Finally, signal the end of the drumming with four resounding beats. It
is important to conclude the drumming circle by rotating counterclockwise,
thanking each of the directions for their participation and assistance. This
counterclockwise movement will close the energy vortex and signal that the
sacred time of focus is ended.
The basic steps in the preceding exercise are:
1. Join together, forming a circle.
2. Create sacred space by smudging.
3. Invoke the four directions.
4. Formulate the group intention.
5. Drum the eagle-beat and focus on the group intention.
6. End the prayer round with four thundering beats.
7. Drum the heartbeat and focus on the sound of the drums.
8. When the power ebbs, signal end of healing round with four booming
9. Drum the eagle-beat, offering thanks.
10. End the drumming with four resounding beats.
I have found these basic steps be very effective in a myriad of
situations. Feel free, however, to adapt them to serve your own needs.
Rhythm is a very personal thing. Experiment with different tempos and
rhythms. My intention is to provide a foundation upon which the reader can
Drumming circles open portals to alternate realities. They
facilitate a merging of the physical and spiritual realms. They expedite
communication with helping spirits and draw them in. The drumming circle
also links the consciousness of each participant to the entire web of life.
It develops a continuous, shared consciousness with all our relations. Even
groups of people of one mind, one purpose, and fully attuned through the
drums can transform the world and manifest what is needed to benefit all
A recent medical research study indicates that drumming circles
boost the immune system. Led by renowned cancer expert Barry Bittman, MD,
the study demonstrates that group drumming actually increases cancer-killing
cells, which help the body combat cancer as well as other viruses, including
AIDS. According to Dr. Bittman, "Group drumming tunes our biology,
orchestrates our immunity, and enables healing to begin." Other studies have
demonstrated the calming, focusing, and healing effects of group drumming on
Alzheimer's patients, autistic children, emotionally disturbed teens,
substance abusers, trauma patients, and prison and homeless populations. The
primitive drumming circle is emerging as a
significant therapeutic tool in the modern technological age.
Michael Drake is a writer, rhythmist, and ceremonial drummer of
Cherokee descent. He is a member of the United Lumbee Nation and author of
The Shamanic Drum: A Guide to Sacred Drumming and I Ching: The Tao of
Drumming. He has studied with master drummers from the Native American and
Mongolian shamanic traditions. Michael lectures and gives workshops around
the country. Through his work, he has guided thousands in the
healing art of ceremonial drumming. To learn more,
please log onto Michael's web site at:
Buy the book,
The Shamanic Drum