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 Vision Canvass -  a Traveling Cumulative Community Visioning          

Drumming in Wellness and Community

by Mary Ellen Edwards, LCSW

Your heart is beating and your hands moving, creating a sound that is both penetrating and pulsating.  It’s not just the sound that is filling the room, but a sense of connection to each other.  It’s a connection so tangible that time seems suspended and all there is the “groove”; a unified one-ness co-created from the unique contributions of all together.


Men and women, some whom have never played a musical instrument before, pick up the shakers, wood blocks, bells and the hand drums before them, and through listening and feeling the pulse laid out before them, explore how they can add their voice to the developing rhythmic community before them. This is a community drum circle.


It’s not about playing a drum. Well, actually it is part of that and that is pretty fun, especially if in many ways, you thought having fun musically was outside of your skills.  But it is so much more. There is something incredible that happens when your hand bounces off the skin of the drum and the sound vibrates out and in, like your own heartbeat.  Playing hand drums and other small percussion instruments in a community drum circle for many across the country has become more than a recreational past-time; it’s become a passion.  Playing soft and slow, hard and fast, men and women   At times, whole are joining in.  No experience necessary.  While some, more ingrained in the “drumming community”, may play a familiar rhythm and encourage others to join in or play counter-rhythms, many of the emerging community drum circles invite people to come and simply put their hands on a drum or maybe a shaker, and just start.


Hand drumming has been found to be beneficial for one’s health and increasingly studies and articles are being published attesting to drumming’s positive effects on health.  For a partial listing of those articles, visit the www.Remo.com website, “HEALTHRhythms” section on the internet. Wellness articles on drumming have shown up in many places, including in Time, USA Today, Alternative Health magazine, and even local newspapers.  Hand drums have been used in many if not most cultures in celebration, ritual and for communication, even today.


Drumming can be very healing.   It is a holistic activity, the embodiment of the connection between mind, body and spirit.


But it is much more.   Whether you are improvising a simple pattern or playing a specific cultural rhythm, drumming in a drum circle is also about the connection to each other.  It’s about expressing your self with no right or wrong.  It’s about co-creating that pulsating one-ness by adding your own voice.  And then, in a facilitated circle, the facilitator lowers the pitch on your side and you hear. You hear the rhythm you’ve been a part of and, while you stopped playing, the rhythm beats in your head and in your heart.  The facilitator brings you back in and lowers the other side.  It is your turn and you go; your hands moving to the rhythm your body feels inside and in the spaces of the room.  Everybody has rhythm in their bodies; we just let our heads get in the way.


Drum circles have been used in psychiatric hospitals. Drumming can help lift depression, relieve anxiety, facilitate grieving.  Drumming is a great stress reliever. It is empowering. It is connecting, and it’s therapeutic without trying.   Drum circles are used with troubled adolescents and with handicapped individuals; with substance abusers and individuals who are deaf. Drum Circles as a team building experience, has turned coat and tie, dress and heels Corporate America into a common you-are-just-as-important-as-me one.  And then the facilitator of the drum circle makes a motion to raise the tempo.  Hands are going, seemingly on their own.  Heads are up. Smiles are ear to ear. The cowbell rat-a-tat tat tat pierces the rhythm and calls for a response. All join in rat-a-tat tat tat.  Several more calls and responses, then just the shakers or maybe just the bells and drums. The facilitator signals the rhythm to start again; only it’s a new rhythm, maybe a variation of the last or maybe something unrelated, born out of the energy and spirit in the room, but all in the room are there; Until, maybe minutes later, maybe hours later, it’s hard to tell, a common sensing it’s time and all join in fading out or building up to a crescendo and then, silence……


You’ve just become part of the rhythmaculture explosion in America!

         "Living Well" Newsletter | "A Therapist's Creed"

Contact:  (626) 390-7304

  or (no therapy client or potential client e-mail please):   Mary@MaryEllenEdwards.com