Prezi presentation from American Music Therapy Association National Conference 2010, November 21, 2010.
The information in this outline is partly based on information I developed into a course curriculum for using drums and percussion in music therapy. The course curriculum is based on the idea that teaching students usable drum skills and providing them with multiple opportunities to practice leading drum circles and percussion activities in a supportive environment will lead to increased confidence, decreased anxiety and a greater likelihood that the students will use drumming interventions in the future.
1. Adapt! - Drum circles usually ebb and flow, changing as new beats and sounds are introduced or faded out. Every drum circle has a different set of people or moods, so you can never go in thinking that you want a certain sound or outcome. It is okay to start with a theme or even some prompted rhythms, but pay attention to the ability levels of the participants and take advantage of moments when you hear a cool beat or sound develop.
2. Experiment! - In my class I have encouraged the students to try out different instruments, sounds, singing, movements, etc. Drum circles are an amazing setting where so many things are possible in a supportive and non-judgmental environment.
3. Listen! - It is important to take time to listen while you are facilitating. You don't always have to be providing guidance. Listen for complimentary rhythms or interesting crossings of timbres. These can be your chance to facilitate and direct the circle into another direction.
4. Live the beat! - Allow the drumming to go where it wants to go. Don't prematurely end a drumming experience unless time is an issue. A drum circle will usually come to a close on its own or settle down to a point when it can easily be facilitated to finish. Just enjoy it while it lasts!
5. Engage your whole body. - Use your whole body to facilitate and not just your hands. Sometimes stomping works or a simple wink in a person's direction. You will want to find a comfortable way to dance to the beat as you are facilitating. Dancing energizes the circle and visually grounds the pulse.
6. Act like you're having fun! - Hopefully you ARE having fun! The point is not to stress about what you are doing. There is not a right and wrong way to facilitate a drum circle, just helpful strategies that experienced people have provided to help you be more successful. Drum circles should provide a supportive environment for many types of personalities and people who want to facilitate.
7. Watch for the "whites of their eyes!" - Good eye contact with the participants is a key to success. Try and look at all the different people and not just concentrate on a few. Their faces will tell you a lot about how they are feeling and what kind of experience they might be having. Obtaining eye contact is also vital before you provide non-verbal instructions or "sculpt" the drumming experience.
8. Start with "Passion" - Stop with "Clarity!" - You should approach a drum circle with a purpose and objective just like any other therapeutic intervention. Drum circles are powerful and can open up a world of emotion and thoughtful reflection for participants. Be prepared to process thoughts and feelings after the drum circle is over. This tip also reminds you to demonstrate excitement for the drum circle before it begins and to be in charge when the drum circle has reached the end of its natural life.
9. Mix and Match! - When possible, provide plenty of different types of drums, shakers and bell sounds mixed all over the drum circle. It is also a good idea to have at least two of each timbre so that everyone has a "partner" and doesn't feel like they stick out when playing a certain instrument. The availability of different timbres will also help you to facilitate when you are using techniques like Arthur Hull's "sculpting" ideas.
10. Make a Transfer! - What is this, you ask? Be prepared to relate something you learned or experienced in the drum circle to something meaningful in real life. It is nice to sit and drum for awhile and we do benefit while engaged in the experience, but hopefully we can take some essence of the circle with us when we go. A short discussion or processing of the drum circle experience after it ends can often spark an idea that can apply to another setting.
**Selected Drumming Bibliography**
American Music Therapy Association (2008). AMTA professional competencies. Retrieved April 23, 2010, from http://www.musictherapy.org/competencies.html
Bittman, B., Snyder, C., Bruhn, K., Liebfreid, F., Stevens, C. K., & Westengard, B. S. (2004). Recreational music-making: An integrative group intervention for reducing burnout and improving mood states in first year associate degree nursing students: Insight and economic impact. International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, 1, 12.
Bittman, M. D., Berk, L. S., Felten, D. L., Westengard, J., Simonton, O. D., Pappas, J., Ninehouser, M. (2001) Composite effects of group drumming music therapy on modulation of neuroendocrine-immune parameters in normal subjects. Alternative Therapy Health Medicine, 7, 38-47.
Friedman, R. L. (2000). The healing power of the drum. Reno, NV: White Cliffs Media.
Jaques-Dalcroze, E. (1921). Rhythm, music, and education. London: Chatto and Windus.
Kalani (2004). Together in rhythm: A facilitator's guide to drum circle music. Los Angeles, CA: Alfred Publishing.
Lewis, A. G. (1972). Listen, look, and sing. Morristown, NJ: Silver Burdett.
Matney, B. B. (2007). Tataku : The use of percussion in music therapy. Denton, TX: Sarsen Publishing.
Radocy, R., & Boyle, J. (2003). Psychological foundations of musical behavior (4th ed.). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publisher, Ltd.
Stevens, C. (2003). The art and heart of drum circles. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard.
Tousignant, M., & DesMarchais, J. E. (2002). Accuracy of student self-assessment ability compared to their own performance in a problem-based learning medical program: A correlation study. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 7, 19-27.