Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Drum Circles Facilitation Info - Drumming With Groups

Information on facilitated drum circles for all ages, groups, and venues. Parties, events, and churches, to seniors, special needs groups, kids, schools, and the general public. If hand drums and percussion instruments are provided, all you need is a heartbeat, and some chairs. If you can text, you can learn to play drum circle rhythms. (Even if you're one of those people that think they don't have rhythm.)

I teach beginner to intermediate djembe or doumbek lessons by the hour for $40. (Reasonable rates!) A few pointers on hand technique, we start out a few rhythms and away we go. Use your drum, or I provide a few. It can be just a drumming lesson, a jam session, or both. (Adding an additional person is $10 more.) If you want drum circle facilitation lessons, I offer that as well. I can combine the two if you like.

Visit the other styles of drum circles for various groups by checking out my home page at drumcircles.net. It has ideas and suggestions for drum circles with kids, adults, seniors, special needs, spiritual, healing, team building, clubs, pubs, and more.



Below are printable some lists of various drum circle rhythms I enjoy playing, and various ways to read - teach drum music, get rhythms started and lots more. It's my interpretation of them, and it's free. Read and/or print them out if you want to. There's a few different ways I like to notate, and/or and vocalize the start of a drum circle rhythm. I enjoy helping people to have more fun drumming. The list might make a good guideline, set list, or just some fun stuff for you and your friends to use. Check both of them out. About 4 and 7 pages each, Microsoft Word document.

Printable - Various Ways to Read, Notate, and Teach Drum Music (Printable Word.doc)


Printable - Longer List Of Notated Drum Circle Rhythms and Set List (Printable Word.doc)


The intent of my page is to offer facilitated drum circles, but also to share ideas and suggestions for others. Briefly put, drum circle facilitation by me is taking a group of people who (mostly) have never touched a drum before in their lives, and I make a band out of them. They all discover they can indeed make music, and in the process even overcome inner social fears. We make up spontaneous rhythms, as well as play various culturally specific rhythms from around the world, all done by using only musical cues. It is very organic, and every drum circle is different depending on the group’s dynamic. I hope my page helps you to enjoy drumming more.

I facilitate drum circles, but I'm also available to work as a percussionist for band gigs, as a performer with singer songwriters, or as a solo percussionist for just about anything. From belly dancers, fire spinners, weddings, spiritual gatherings, yoga, spoken word, and teaching, or just about anything where you need a drummer. I'm open to last minute fill ins, and requests, as I can rely on classical training and experience to pick up music, and rhythms by ear

When Inquiring About Having A Facilitated Drum Circle, please provide some of the particulars, and what you have in mind: such as the amount of time, type of organization, location, approx. amount of people, and any specific requirements. There’s an average pricing list and rates I’ve compiled over the years from around the country at my website also so you don’t get overcharged.

I don't really get into selling drums, nor do I endorse any drum manufactures, companies, or have sponsored ads. If you're looking to buy a drum, it's important to find the one that's right for you. I am always happy to offer an opinion, or suggest a few places I've bought some of mine from. If you are new to drumming, choosing a 1st drum can be a bit confusing.

At my blog, Drum Circle Blog at blogspot.com I go into this in more detail. Please look for the post, "Choosing That First Drum To Buy". If you are looking to start a drum circle. or get into drum circle facilitating, check out my post on a few ways to get free drum circle facilitation training. Even if you have never touched a drum before, and want to start a drum circle up just for fun, it should help get you started. The way things are these days, not everyone can afford to get training, or leave the area they live in. Running a drum circle is something you can learn to do. I hope my posts help you along with your drumming journey, and I'm here if you ever need to ask a question.

Can you drum even if you have never played one before, and think you have no rhythm at all? The answer is Yes. In a matter of a few minutes, you can be playing drum rhythms, & making some beautiful music with your hands. The nice thing about drumming, is you can begin at any age and still have fun with it. And best of all, you only have to buy a drum once, and it will last you forever if you take care of it. All most people need is one lesson, and they are off and drumming. You can enjoy drumming alone or with friends. Playing a drum feels good if you are happy or down.

I have had people tell me that they are under the impression that drum circle facilitators have to be certified. Okay, doctors, dentists, lawyers, yes. I wouldn't want to use one that hadn't gone through the process of accreditation and/or licensing. But, facilitators don't have any kind of official governing body. Anyone can decide to teach, hold workshops, etc. and then give out a certificate. But, all it means is that the person spent some money on training in one style of facilitation. Like in any other field, some are better than others. Is certification necessary to facilitate drum circles? Are there specific protocols that need to be followed? Is there a universally accepted accreditation process?

Some would like to think so, but no. Do some of them help, are some of them good? Yes. You can learn a few things, but most of them are expensive, and go on for weeks. Their logo looks good on your resume, and sure it adds some credibility to you. Most of them cost a lot also. Do you need certification by someone to work and earn a living? No. Individuals and companies both offer their own brand of facilitation. One isn't necessarily better than another, some are promoted more, and widely known than others. Practically speaking even if you are a newcomer you can buy a few books on the subject, watch a few videos, and get out there and host a drum circle just fine. I think you can learn the most just by doing, and going to some drum circles. Go out and watch, then participate, have some fun, and observe what the other facilitators do, and how they do it.


My 2 Hour 101 Drum Circle Rhythms DVD

An effective way to keep a drumming program, or drum circle interesting, is to have a wide variety of rhythms to draw from. My 2 hour DVD of 120 hand drum rhythms makes ideal reference material. At my website it's $10 and includes a free drum circle jam CD. It’s a few bucks more on Amazon or Ebay.

The 120 rhythms are also on 2 audio CD's for $10. The link is below for both of them. They are also available in mp3 format at most online retailers such as CDbaby for $10, as well as iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and most others. 

2 Hour DVD 101 Drum Circle Rhythms Link


More on facilitating drum circles, or having a drumming program.

Natural rhythm flows within us all. Our hearts beat to a rhythm, we walk to a rhythm, many aspects of our daily lives are done to a rhythm. You even make love to a rhythm, (hopefully). Whenever we hear drumming, we begin to move to the universal rhythm inside us all. The drum can connect your heart to your hands, and all of a sudden you are improvising, and talking with a drum. We become the instrument, the drum becomes our voice. With drum circles we connect beyond the music being played. The nice thing about drumming is that anyone, no matter how old they are, can sit right down and have fun jamming on a drum with other people.

To briefly describe drum circle facilitation by me, it's putting a bunch of people together and making music. It's fun to play like a kid again for a day. Friends, strangers, co-workers, beginners, or even with pros...

I like to begin a drumming session by letting everyone just choose something, sit down in the circle, and start playing. This approach helps everyone to relax before the formal welcome, introductions, and then into organized rhythms. The reason I encourage everyone to play first is the nerves, and the barriers just begin to melt away. Later as the rhythms join together, everyone joins together. We join together musically. The result is there is no distinction between you or me. We just all sense the feeling of the one song we are creating in the moment. This was the tried and true approach of the elders who would begin their gatherings, and ceremonies in this fashion. They've been drumming that way for over 5000 years, so you kind of have to figure it's cool, right?

I think ideally, a fun drum circle is a bunch of drums, and then a good jam session. The emphasis with me is on having a good time. I believe in not telling people how, when, or what to play, ever. I like to focus more on self discovery. I provide the tools for you to figure out the task. Here's some of them for you to do it with:

The thing some don't get about drum circles, is that it's more about the people, than it is the drumming. Many facilitators agree with me on this, some don't. The quality of the music produced in a drum circle isn't really based on the musical experience of the players, but on the developing quality of the relationships of the people that emerge. As a facilitator I help people to empower themselves through drumming, music, and fun. They need no experience at all to play in a drum circle. I encourage individual creativity, and group dynamics. I do 90% of my facilitating through the music. It's an art form that takes years to develop.


My E-book, "A Practical Guide To Hand Drumming And Drum Circles" - $8 on Kindle or Nook

If your desire is to get much more in depth with this, please consider picking up my book. It goes into starting a drum circle, or drumming program, and how to keep it fresh and interesting for all different kinds of groups. I cover all of that, and much more in great detail. The page link for it is below. It's in the Kindle book share program so you can share it with some friends.

A Practical Guide To Hand Drumming And Drum Circles Book Link


Small Business, Team Building Or Company Drum Circles?

It's becoming a more and more common idea. Host a drum circle for your business, company, or group of friends.

Drum circles are an excellent activity for any group, and for all ages. But especially as a tool for team building. Letting people express themselves through drumming and then seeing how that can build to a musical performance is at the heart of team effort. Learning to let go of self involvement in order to synchronize with others is the essence.

Not everyone can or will play the drums the same way, just as they don't do their jobs exactly the same way. And those slight differences, if done from each person's strengths, are what make the musical result magical. People learn that playing/working together is something that is its own reward because the results are beyond what any individual can do.

Drum circles can be extremely effective for companies that want to enhance the generation of new ideas and better team work. When people discover that they can collectively produce a good sound without any musical training or background, they start to realize that they can be more effective at work by putting their heads together and working as a team.

Also, drumming uses the brain in a different pattern than the linear thought process that is usually needed in the work environment. For example, when suggesting a drum circle rhythm, I like to vocalize the first few measures before we play it. The logical analytical side of the brain can process it quicker, which then frees up the creative intuitive side. People can then play what they feel, rather than over thinking it.

ie: The Heartbeat drum rhythm: Boom Boom chicka-chicka Boom Boom (pause, & repeat)

A drum circle brings the group to a more open mental and psychological process, which can be carried over to the production of new and better ways of working. An excellent tool to kick off any kind of brainstorming session and optimize the quantity and quality of new ideas. In other words, your team improvises and is more creative.

Click the link below for more detailed information on having a corporate, company, or a small business drum circle. Please keep in mind that an assistant needs to be hired for larger groups, and that costs more.

Corporate Company & Small Business Drum Circles Link



A drum circle is a rhythm based experience where a variety of world percussion hand drums from different cultures are brought together. Ethnic drumming rhythms from many different parts of the world are explored. That's part of the beauty of it. The Rhythms change, evolve and morph in a magical unpredictable way. The result is spontaneous, beautiful music created by everyone involved. It's a musical event that everyone can participate in. It's a place for everyone to express themselves with drums, and other percussion instruments. The level of experience doesn’t matter. A person can participate fully, and freely, with no skill or technique at all.


Drumming Outdoors...

Whenever it's possible, I like to host drum circles outdoors connected with nature. Nature has a natural rhythm to it, and so do we. Hand drumming brings us back to that fundamental rhythm of nature. I can help you, or your group to host a drum circle anywhere - indoors or outside.



More About Drumming And Drum Circles...

The phrase "drum circle" is a rather broad term. It can mean a variety of things to different people. Interestingly, drum circles are never the same, even with the same group. It is always fresh, enlightening, and it's an exciting event for entire families. Here is an activity where parents and their children can do something fun together. Teens can be doing something cool - yet positive. People with disabilities can just be one of the guys at the drum circle. The feelings of fun and euphoria are hard to describe when the group dynamic is created. It only takes about ten or fifteen minutes to start happening. Drum circles are fun! They combine recreation, with therapeutic music. I feel what works the best, is to bridge the gap between the facilitated drum circles, and the more open freestyle community drum circles. I bring you the best of both worlds. This allows individuals to experience self discovery and musicality at their own pace. Then the whole experience is much more meaningful to them, and even more effective.

Very little is planned in advance except maybe a list of rhythms to suggest. All the rest is improvised on the spot. Most of the "facilitating" can be done through the music. I believe that is the best way to do it. The musical communication, supporting of the beat, and ending points to a jam, are usually done with the drumming. Sometimes even transition points in the drumming just naturally occur. The recognizing, and supporting the group's expression is a key element, because, since drum circles are so organic in nature, that to an onlooker, there are times that look like absolute chaos is going on...but it's an organized chaos. It levels out into a group song, and it uniquely theirs. They created it. Usually there is a transition point, or a time to just move on to a new rhythm. It takes time to trust in the natural process of creating a group vibe. A lot of people WANT there to be lots of rules, true in business world, true in art world, so it's not surprising to find it here in the drumming world.

 Let the rhythm move you.

So to try and sum up the difference: In my opinion, a freestyle or lightly facilitated drum circle is more open, improvised, and more spontaneous. Interactive drumming is more planned, structured, and directed - a little heavier in the facilitation department. It's mainly facilitated with everyone focused on following the leader's instructions. I think as soon as you start to present rhythm games or activities, it's no longer a drum circle but, an interactive drumming thing. And that's ok and all. But people are now following instructions, and doing a more structured activity other than improv. I think a little of both of these styles makes it the most enjoyable drum circle experience overall.
One way to get established is to be visible in your community. Get a weekly circle started at a cafe, night club, new age shop, comedy clubs, museums, yoga groups, and recreation art centers. At city parks, even at the beach. Try to get any venue you can think of.

A weekly circle is better than monthly, because people tend to forget what week it is being held. You may only make $100 a circle, a commission, tips, or even need to do it for free, but it will give you a home base, plus you will be doing something positive for your community. It may take 4 or 5 circles to get things rolling, but once you do, medical professionals, event planners, and even the media will eventually find you. That leads to higher paying gigs. You might even get jobs working for your city, or county at festivals, etc. Also, visit your local chamber of commerce, and/or arts center to see if they can be of any help.

Another way many facilitators earn a decent living is to approach your city, county, state arts council. Depending on the city you live in, they can possibly hook you up with city events, festivals, art shows, and even get work in the school system. If another drum circle facilitator gets to your arts council before you, that can be a problem.

Some end up getting non profit corporations going. They get donations from local businesses, and make a nice living that way. Some medical, special needs facilities, and schools can apply for grants to help you to fund your work, but you may have to work for free for awhile in order to prove yourself first. Try things like your chamber of commerce, arts centers, and etc. Try to put together a professional looking press pack, and be creative in thought. Follow up in a couple weeks. Many gigs take 2 or 3 tries. Not everyone knows what a drum circle is, or can do to help people.



And The Beat Goes On...Boom ShaKa La Ka

The techniques and skills needed to host a drum circle for a particular group can be taught, if you want them. And that is one of the key things I like to do when I'm hired to host a drum circle for you. I can show you and the staff how to continue the process on your own when you feel you are ready to take over. It's not necessary to have any musical training in order to learn the essential basics, although those who have a musical background do have an edge. I do this at no cost beyond what I am being paid to facilitate a drum circle. Drum circles need to be customized sometimes, to fit the particular needs of the people, or group it's being held for.

I've worked with everything from highly professional musicians, to adults and children with mental or physical restrictions. And, each individual group needs a slightly different approach, since everyone has their own skills, limitations, and quirks. It can take anywhere from just a single drum circle to as many as four to work out the ideal approach for a specific group. However, I never require any kind of contract beyond a single day at a time.

In addition to demonstrating how to host a drum circle by my doing it, I am happy to spend some time with the staff to answer questions and help them to work out their own way of facilitating for their own group as soon as possible. I provide drum rhythms CD's - DVDs and drumming rhythms notations as reference material, free of charge. I'm also happy to share with you the various places I buy my drums from. Different types of drums work for different types of people.

It doesn't matter whether or not the music itself sounds good, although it usually does. What matters is letting the participants know they can just be themselves and find their own inner rhythms. By letting people discover themselves, and knowing they have the freedom to make mistakes, takes them on a journey where I only act as a sort of a tour guide, and they find that feeling of safety from being in a community made up of the other drummers. I help to provide that by being constantly tuned in to the group and the individuals, so they can have a good time. Helping someone who says, " I have no rhythm " to find their own inner sense of rhythm takes very little guidance and can be done spontaneously right in the middle of an ongoing beat. You can see the light turn on in their face.

A fun idea is to get some hula hoops, and add hula hooping or dance to your drum circle for something to connect to.

Drum circles are great for seniors, and spiritual gatherings. Try laying down with your eyes closed for a minute in the center of the circle, and feel the energy. The beauty of drum circles is that they bring people from all paths together. I love to celebrate my spirituality by being around the positive energy of them.

Hand drumming is fun, rewarding, and can be therapeutic for everyone. From kids to elders. I am also available for private hand drumming lessons in person, in the Saint Louis area. It's even a great way to add music education for those who home school. From beginner to intermediate. All ages. $40 for an hour, no minimum, and personalized lessons. I provide the drums, (or use yours) and will travel to you, or can come over to my studio. Please email me for more info.


The Earth Day Drum Circle at Honeymoon Island

This drum circle event was a blend of local musicians, the general community, and a special needs group. A key part of the intent of groups that are oriented toward those with physical and/or mental restrictions is finding ways to bring them into general society as much as possible. It has been my experience that drum circles are an excellent path to this goal. The guiding of a special needs group in our community led to exactly that, a two hour performance on a big stage in front of 100's of people, where they were wildly applauded, appreciated, and sounded great. It was a proud moment for them, and for me. I believe that real personal growth comes from the inner expression of each individual, and their self discovery. The photos speak for themselves.

I believe in seeing abilities in people, not disabilities. Click below for more photos, and a video set to drum circle audio.

Earth Day Drum Circle Link


A drum circle is hardly ever a professional ensemble playing prepared music, or a drumming class. It’s a unique event that is created by just a hodge podge of real people, preferably with the help of a host, or facilitator, who acts as a musical guide to make it easier for the group to achieve it’s goal. I don't want you to be a drummer. I just want you to be able to enjoy drumming.

For me, this is about taking the gift of music that God gave me and sharing it with other people. One of the beautiful things about drum circles and drumming together, is that it can bring people from all different paths together, and even learn to respect each others faith. I love to celebrate my spirituality by being around the positive energy of drum circles. Drumming brings a certain beauty into the world. And I believe I was put on this earth to share that gift. A life is not measured by what we have, but what we give.



A little history on hand drumming. It dates back 1000's of years.

Community drumming has been an ancient musical tradition for 1000’s of years in almost every part of the world. Drum playing is probably as old as intelligent man. Cavemen probably jammed on wooden logs. The idea of banging on something to make noise is second nature to us. As for me, my parents got me my first drum so I would stop making drums out of things in the kitchen.

As far as I could tell, the oldest recorded drum discovery is from 6000 BC excavated from a Neolithic Era archeological dig. Small drums used for ceremonies have been found in Egyptian tombs. See that? King Tut was probably jamming out. Many caves in Peru contain wall carvings depicting drums in various aspects of societal life. Indian drums from the Middle East are as old as 5000 BC, and Mesopotamian ruins have yielded cylindrical drums as old as 3000 BC. Native American Indians have a rich history with drums made of gourds, and wood for celebrations, ceremonies, and music. Many of the same styles of these drums are still used to this day.

Drums and percussion were the first musical tools people made for use in group music. Drumming was used for a variety of purposes, including communication. In Africa for example, drumming was not just a form of music, it was used as a speech. A rhythmic pattern of beats played a certain way could communicate a variety of information. Drums were used for things such as a language to communicate, for fertility, new birth, healing, grieving, emotional release, various types of ceremonies, and building communities.


What's My Role As A Drum Circle Host Or Facilitator?

I facilitate the drum circle, and provide all the necessary drums and other smaller instruments for you. All we need is some chairs, and shade. My fee is for the cost of the equipment, wear and tear, and the hauling of all the drums. The playing part I pretty much do for free. Because I love doing this. It's that simple. I was hoping I had you sold on the idea by now, but here it is again in a little bit more detail. Some people think the drums just magically appear, and they can play them.

Trust me, they don't, and they are expensive. I provide the drums for you, and I create a welcoming, enjoyable atmosphere that helps everyone to make music together. Or simply put, to help make it easy for everyone to enjoy creating a group musical song.

I’m there to help guide and make it easier to participate, not to manipulate. I’m trained to help everyone feel comfortable in the group setting, and act as a rhythm starter when needed. Then everyone begins to experience their own creativity, fun, and excitement as they begin to improvise on the support rhythm. After a brief warm up, and demonstration of some basic hand technique, a variety of easy to play along rhythms from various cultures are explored, including our own.

The chairs are arranged in concentric circles, with an arrangement of professional level drums for people to choose from. I believe everyone should experience the real thing in a musical instrument. Especially someone new to drumming. There are huge differences in sound. You can't experience the full range of sound, tones, and enjoyment on a poorly made drum. Cheap drums, give you cheap sounds. I want people to sound as good as they possibly can.


Understanding Notated Drum Circle Rhythms and Suggesting A Drum Beat To Start Drummers

There's a variety of different ways I like to use to notate a drum rhythm. It's really a matter of personal preference, and what ever you find the easiest for you to use. Here's some various ways I've seen to notate a drum rhythm. Using one of these methods, you can quickly and clearly transcribe a drum rhythm to save it for another day.

The accented strokes, (or slaps) are all in caps. Most rhythms at drum circles are in 4/4 time, or 6/8 time.

Here's an example with the basic "Fanga" drum rhythm in 4/4 time notated a few different ways:

Gun go-do-go Gun-Dun go-Do (Also, pa & ta are used in some rhythms.)
(As far as I know, a style taught by Babatunde Olatunji. Probably the most common, and well known method.)
-------------------------------------------------------
Doum tek-ka-tek Doum-Doum tek-Ka (Middle Eastern style)
(or in shorthand = D t-k-t D-D t-K)
-------------------------------------------------------
Boom chickaChick Boom-Boom chicKa
-------------------------------------------------------
B o-o-o B-B o-O
-------------------------------------------------------
Bass=B, Slap=S, Rim Shot=R, Open Tone=O, Closed Tone=C, Muffled Bass=M (I don't use this one very much)
-------------------------------------------------------
If it's dark, and I'm in a hurry, which is usually the case: I use Morse Code _ ... __..
-------------------------------------------------------
I've seen some others use this method: R l-r-l R-L r-L
-------------------------------------------------------
Or, very basic: B= bass tone, T= tone note, S= slap note, lower case letter for softer tones.
-------------------------------------------------------
Jazz scatting - Just write down what it sounds like.
Boom sha-ka-la Boom-Boom sha-Ka, or Ba-Dum BaDay Ba-Dum BaDum, etc. Maybe even make up your own method.


When I'm suggesting a rhythm to play. I like to vocalize the first few bars of it before I begin playing it, and I start it out very slowly, then I can gradually bring it up to the desired tempo (speed) once they are comfortable with it. I always mention that this is just a starting point, and you don't have to play this support rhythm, play whatever you feel fits.

Interestingly, I've found that most people can wrap their heads around it quicker if I vocalize sounds with a "K" in them.

ie: Boom chicka-boom Chick. Or, Doum tekka-doum Tek. Or, I just "scat" them out jazz style any way I can think of.

Another idea is drumming to common word phrases, rhymes or well known commercial jingles to get things rolling.

ie: "Yum, Yum, tastes like chic-ken" (D, D, t k t-k) or try "pep-per-oni-Piz-Za" (t-k-t-k D D) 2 bass, 4 tones.


When I'm working with beginners I like to use this style, and explain the different sounds like this:

Doum (D) – Right hand, clear, low tone, (from center of drum – like you’re bouncing a basketball, or on a trampoline)

Tek (t) & Ka (k) – Right & Left hand, crisp high tone (sharply striking the edge of the drum head) I've heard some say to pretend like you are hitting the bottom of a hot frying pan or stove burner. I don't like to say that, because right away, it associates drumming with pain. That's not something I want to do, especially with beginners.

Tek (T) - is usually played with the dominant hand. Reverse hands if you are left-handed, like me. The accented strokes (or slaps) are in caps.

I hope this helps you to notate rhythms a little faster, and makes it a little easier to suggest rhythms to your group.


More On Hand Drumming, Drum Circle Advice, And Opinions

I do have a 300 page book for sale on these subjects. It would help out if you bought it from me, but I'm happy to offer any advice, or give my opinion, and answer questions on anything hand drumming, or drum circle related.

I teach 1 on 1 hand drumming lessons a lot. I think more important than the lessons, is finding the right drum for yourself. One that's right for your hands, for your body, and your soul. I heard someone else say, "You need to find that soulmate drum." That is so right. Many of us buy drums for years before finding it. No matter what your musical skill level is, 90% of the people I work with only actually need one drumming lesson to get them started and off on their drumming journey. But it's more important that they find the proper drum that is right for them. Different styles of drums work for different kinds of people. There is one out there that's right for you, or someone you know. I am more than happy to give you my opinion on what might be the right drum for you. My DVD or CD of rhythms is an ideal resource to practice with. Then it's off to the drum circle where you get the very best drumming lessons. Just learn from watching what the others do. That's how many of us got started.

If you live out of the St. Louis area, and need some advice, suggestions, ideas, or anything at all about hosting any form of drum circle, I am more than happy to try and help you along. I like to try and give back a little, and help anyone in the drumming community. If you look around my site, you will find lots of ideas and helpful information. Even if you aren't sure what kind of drum might be right for you, or your group, just email me and I will try to help you along. I don't sell many drums, but I do have years of experience with most major brands, styles, and retailers. I can recommend the places to you that I buy mine from. If you are wanting to host or facilitate drum circles, I think this art form has evolved a lot in the last ten years alone. All art forms can be very subjective. There used to be only one or two recognized accepted ways to facilitate drum circles. Now there are dozens of styles all around the world, because this is an ever evolving art form.


My Biography

I've been a performing artist for most of my life. I've been playing the drums since 1968. My love for drumming started as an outlet for childhood hyperactivity, and I went on to be the lead snare drummer in the school marching band, then the percussionist in a symphony.

After moving to Florida in 1975, I played percussion in various bands and orchestras,
toured and recorded with a number of them, plus worked as a session musician.

I also started my acting career while in Florida. I moved to New York briefly, then on to Los Angeles, where, for 15 years, I worked as a musician, and a character actor. I appeared in a number of TV shows, films, and commercials. I was also a frequent guest performer on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" for 8 seasons. I'm a member of AFTRA/SAG, the two major performing arts unions.

I've been attending and facilitating drum circles for over 30 years. I think it helps to keep me sane. I've facilitated drumming events for the U.S. ARMY Chief Of Chaplains Religious Education Conference, Music Festivals, County State Fairs, The Florida Festivals & Events Association's Convention Trade Show, as well as many other major groups and companies, including OSI Restaurant Partners, Outback, on over to smaller groups, such as churches, college sorority reunions, weddings, and special needs groups. I was also a faculty member who taught drumming at The Dunedin Fine Arts Center.

I have trained with a number of highly respected hand drumming instructors. My drum circle hosting, and facilitation style is influenced by what I've learned from various top rated drummers, and drum circle facilitators, including Bill Summers, Babatunde Olatunji, Christine Stevens, Kalani, Jim Greiner, Arthur Hull, and Jim Donovan. But mostly by just attending lots of drum circles, learning by doing, watching and working with others.

If you have never been to a drum circle, just go. It's the best way to learn drumming. Watch, listen, and play along to the regulars. You showed up so everyone figures you are cool. Nobody really cares how good you are, unless you touch somebody else's drum without asking first.

Here's some references and testimonials:

Testimonials, Letters of Recommendation, & Resume

Please note that as of 2013, I'm no longer in Florida. I live in St. Louis, Missouri now.

My mission statement is: To help people discover their own sense of rhythm, at their own pace.

I've got some ink in my blood. Both my adoptive, and biological parents were writers, so it was important to me to write a good book in their honor. I have published two books available on Kindle (both in book share). One on drumming, and drum circles. The other book is about me in the acting business. I'm also a contributing author in a few other books, and various newspapers. I've released a hand drum rhythms instructional DVD, and multiple CD's worldwide.

The title of the drumming book is, "A Practical Guide To Hand Drumming And Drum Circles". It's 300 pages of text. The Kindle or Nook E Book is $8. It is self-published, and only available for purchase new directly from me here, or on Amazon.

My website started as a drum circle article back in 1997 in the Santa Monica Outlook, LA Times, and just grew up from there. Scope out my site's global drum circle finder, and locate drum circles near you. Even just as an observer, it is an interesting social activity. Please also consider my 2 hour DVD "101 Drum Circle Rhythms".

Thanks in advance for considering my books / DVD / CD's, and for helping to support an independent artist.


Drum Circle Finder - Locate A Drum Circle Near You

Find a drum circle near you in the USA, and Worldwide with my drum circle finder. 1000's of drum circles listed around the globe. It's a free service to the drumming and dancing community. I established it back in 1999. Drum circles are becoming more popular, there's probably a few in your state. The drum circle finder is updated monthly.

USA Drum Circle Finder Link



Visit my drumcircles.net FaceBook Page:

If you are on FaceBook, my page has a variety of notated drum circle rhythms you can scroll through, and try out a few at your drum circle, or with your group. To find it, search on FaceBook for the "drumcircles.net" page, or use the link below.

drumcircles.net | Promote Your Page Too




 DrumCircles.net  Blog

Lots of Helpful hints, ideas, suggestions, stories, and drumming tips. Drum circle rhythm notations, and much more.

Some of the topics include: Choosing that first djembe drum. Improving your drum circle facilitating or hosting style on a budget. Ways to get the word out and promote your drum circle. Trying to earn a living hosting drum circles. What that first drum circle was really like. Various ways to notate, vocalize, and start a drum circle rhythm. Reading written drum music. A long list of notated rhythms to try out in different styles. Drumming Via Webcam, And With Special Needs Kids. The 3 lyric Version Of Fanga. How to start up a drum circle. The social, physical & mental benefits of drum circles. Choosing a first drum for your child, various ways to get free drum circle facilitation experience. Drumming in the Winter, and Summer. Tuning a lug tuned djembe, conga, or doumbek, and replacing a drum head. Ways to mark your drum. Finding a good doumbek drum on a budget, and ways to tell the quality of them. Tips on sitting in with bands and drumming groups, and learning to play by ear. My latest post is on special needs drum circles, and those with limitations. Plus lots more to help you enjoy drumming more. I try to post something new each month.

Drum Circle Blog at blogspot.com


Check out my drumcircles.net Twitter Feed: @drumcircles I try to put interesting stuff out there daily.




My Flickr Photostream, A whole bunch of pretty good drum circle and dancer photos:

drumcircles.net Flickr Photostream


Check out my SoundCloud music page, lots of cool drum circle jams & strange ones also:

drumcircles.net SoundCloud page


A few cool drumming videos of mine, and quite a few from other people, at my YouTube channel:

drumcircles.net at YouTube


Check out the drumcircles.net MySpace page. For some reason, it's still there:

drumcircles.net on MySpace


My 101 Drum Circle Rhythms DVD is also available as an instant download at Amazon.com ($8.)

An effective way to keep a drumming program, or drum circle interesting, is to have a wide variety of rhythms to draw from. My 2 hour hand drum rhythms video makes ideal reference material. It's $10 and includes a free drum circle jam CD. You can also pick it up at Amazon.com for a bit more. Great for your TV, iPad, tablet, or phone.

The 120 rhythms are also on 2 audio CD's for $10. The link below is for both of them. They are also available in mp3 format at most online retailers such as CDbaby for $10, as well as iTunes, Amazon, and most others.

2 Hour DVD 101 Drum Circle Rhythms Link

Check out these 7 drum circle rhythms in this YouTube video. Please keep in mind that this is only 7 minutes from my two hour DVD. The DVD title is 101 Drum Circle Rhythms. Actually, there is 120 of them, but who's counting. I hope you enjoy one or two, and these help to get you in the groove. On the DVD there are lots of fun ethnic drum beats from around the world to explore, have fun with, and make them your own. Over 2 hours of them will keep you in the drumming mood for a long time. Each rhythm is about a minute long.





I do some charity work around our local area. There is some wear and tear on the musical instruments that I provide for use at these events. I don't receive any funding now or in the past. The proceeds from the sales of my drumming CD's, DVDs, and drum circle book help me to finance the repairs, and to be able to continue working for organizations with limited recreational budgets. (Who benefit from it the most.)



There is increasing recognition of the health benefits of music therapy, particularly facilitated hand drumming, which is what I do for a living. Unfortunately, places where the people who benefit the most, such as senior centers and special needs can not afford to pay for this.



As an independent artist, money is tight, so I always appreciate a product that is a good value for the cost. That's the idea behind my book, DVD, and CD's. If you choose to purchase something from me, thanks in advance for helping out with drum repairs, and expenses. (Please visit the links to see my DVD, CD's, 300 page book, "A Practical Guide To Hand Drumming And Drum Circles". $8.


Drum Circle Merch: Goodies for drummers dancers on CafePress - t Shirts, cups, phone cases, etc. (Link)


"This Is Your Brain On Drums" My Interview about drum circles on AM Talk Radio

Would a board-certified neurologist really prescribe drum circles for some of his patients?

Listen to this past national AM radio syndicated broadcast of the Healthy Talk Radio Show, featuring Deborah Ray, Neurologist Doctor Hammesfahr, and myself, to find out why. It's interesting to hear his perspective on drum circles and their benefits. (It's 55 minutes long -- a 25MB mp3)

This is follow up interview number 2, taped a few months later, (posted below this one). This interview features Doctor Knaus, Doctor Hammesfahr, and myself. We discuss the benefits of theraputic drumming, and how it can bring you back to the rhythm of nature, and the earth. We also talk about the resonant frequency of the planet, the human brain, and how similar they are. It's a pretty fascinating interview. (It's 30 minutes long -- a 12MB mp3)

Drum Circles on AM Talk Radio download

Drum Circles on AM Talk Radio download 2


My Other Book About The Acting Biz, "An Actor's Face" - $3.

As I'm sure you're aware, many musicians, singers, dancers, and other artists, cross over into the acting business. My other book is titled, "An Actor's Face" - It's on Amazon Kindle for $3 and it's in the bookshare program. Have a look at my actor page, and see some of the kinds of roles you end up doing as a working actor. I got all the glamor stuff. See if the acting field is something you might want to explore. A lot of people are hurting out there these days, and it's a way to possibly supplement your income no matter where you live. Here's the Amazon link:

An Actor's Face Book Link


Drum Circle Music Mp3's

I hope you enjoyed your visit to my site. Please consider picking up a set of my drum rhythms, or drum circle CD's. A 2 disc set (2.5 hours) is ten bucks at most online retailers. Hours of live drum circle jams to put in your phone, mp3 player, iPod, iPad, or any other mp3 compatible device. It's some fun listening, and a pretty good deal! Here's the page link:

To the Drum Circle MP3's Page


If you're a filmmaker or video / TV producer all of my drumming and drum circle music tracks are licensed. Check out CDBaby.com & listen to a few. There's a wide variety of cultures, styles, and tempos to choose from. Over 10 hours worth to choose from. A good drumming track helps to set that perfect mood for a scene. Here's the website url:

http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/SLRatigan

Or, click the CDbaby.com link below:

My CD Baby Artist Page



Some timeless quotes by Babatunde Olatunji :

"I am the drum...you are the drum...we are the drum..." -- Babatunde Olatunji

"Rhythm is the soul of life. The whole universe revolves in rhythm. Everything & every human action revolves in rhythm." -- Babatunde Olatunji


"Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That's why we call it the present." -- Babatunde Olatunji


“A Drum in Every Kitchen!” -- Babatunde Olatunji


"The evocative power of the drum can be compared to the Trinity. The drum's frame comes from the trunk of a tree, and that tree has a spirit. It is not dead wood. There is also spirit in the animal skin. If there wasn't, it would not produce sound. Those, plus the spirit of the person playing become an irresistible force." -- Babatunde Olatunji


"Whether you realize it or not, we are engaging in a cultural revolution. We are bringing people from all levels of life, understanding and background together. That's the wonderful thing about drumming." -- Babatunde Olatunji


"Drumming is the simplest thing that we can do to bring us together." -- Babatunde Olatunji


"The Creator wants us to drum. He wants us to corrupt the world with drum, dance and chants. After all, we have already corrupted the world with power and greed....which hasn't gotten us anywhere - now's the time to corrupt the world with drum, dance and chants." -- Babatunde Olatunji


To the drumcircles.net Home Page
Drum Rhythm CD's, Drum Circle Finder, & More


Got a comment, or a question about something drumming related? Email me below. I respect your privacy, and I never give email addresses out to anyone. It may take me a day or so to get back to you, but I will.

My Contact Email: drumcircles_net(at)hotmail.com

This Website Copyright © Shannon Ratigan 1999 - 2017 All Rights Reserved.






































Thursday, August 3, 2017

Special Needs Drum Circles - Disabled Group Drumming

I think the most difficult, yet the most satisfying work I can do as a drum circle facilitator, host, or a drumming teacher, is special needs drum circles. Whether it’s with one child, a lot of children, or a group of adults with developmental disabilities.

Hand drumming reaches people on so many deep levels, and of course me as well. This kind of work touches me very deeply. Emotionally, it just tugs at my heart. And reaches me on such a deep personal level that I can’t even describe the feeling and how much I am affected by it. Especially afterwards when I sort of debrief myself, and reflect on things for an hour or two. I think about what they enjoyed the most, what worked well, what fell flat, and what I just learned from the session, and from them. Each time I come away with something new. That first time, I just went there to help everyone drum some, and have fun together at a holiday party. I came home profoundly affected.

For the most part I found all I needed to do fundamentally, was just start out rhythms like I usually do, and let the music go where it goes. Maybe add in a few games or fun things people can do just be spontaneous and have fun with. It is more of a challenge to facilitate though the music. I knew that with some conditions, you needed to speak slowly and clearly. To be very patient and give people a chance to work into the present time. The repetition of the drum beat rhythm allows that, even if their condition forces them to live ten seconds in the past, they can catch up. I noticed the social changes in the group positively improve as well.

Some administrators love the drum circle environment. They have told me that it’s rare for the parents and patients to have a fun activity they can do together. This is something they rarely get to do. Just to have some fun and improvise without worry and have a good time…together…and without it feeling a little uncomfortable. Because when you drum, even with physical, or mental conditions, all you think about is drumming.

I think the current politically correct term now is “special needs”, it was learning disabilities last year, some may even remember the term mental retardation. I don’t see disabilities in people. I see abilities. I feel it is wrong to try and categorize people like this. One administrator explained to me that most of the people in his group had an IQ of below 70, or problems with adapting, and/or socializing. The average IQ for a person is 100, measured by tests. Most of us have taken one at some time or another. The Wechsler test is one of them.

You just need to very patient, caring, and compassionate, while having fun. More often than not, you will need to modify your approach when working with special needs a little bit. Both with the drumming, and, more importantly, the rapport you build with them. I like to focus more on the individual relationships with each person. Because if they like you, and enjoy hanging out and drumming with you, that’s the goal I have in mind. We are just regular people having a good time. Having fun as a group, is my goal to help empower them.

If you are having fun, they can see it, feel it, and they begin to have fun also. The same goes with confidence in yourself. You need to be able to hold the support beat solid for them sometimes. Especially, at a first drum circle session. Later on, you can lay back here and there. Even let someone else start out a beat, and support it. It may work, it may fall to pieces. If you have a fun personality, and something goes flat, you can just joke about it. “Oops, my fault. Let’s start a new rhythm out.”
One important thing to keep in mind as explained to me by a neurologist was that almost all of the patients, regardless of their individual condition, one thing most all of them have in common, is that they are essentially normal, intelligent, highly functional people. They just live five, or ten seconds in the past. I didn’t know that.

This is why drumming can be so effective. The repetitive nature of a drum beat makes it easy, and comfortable for them to catch up, or find their place in the beat, and feel normal for a change. Verbal communication is the same. This is a little trickier obviously. You need to speak clearly, and slowly. I speak as little as possible with short sentences, and facilitate through the music more, because of this. I usually speak only at the beginning, or end of a musical piece. I always have my radar up for a non-verbal cue from someone. I do use hand and arm gestures to get everyone’s attention in the center of the circle if I need to for this. But I usually still facilitate from the edge of the circle, like I always do. We’re there to have fun and drum, not to talk. If I do need to explain something, I use photos, or speak very clearly, choose my words carefully, and talk just a tad slower than I normally would. Memory capacity can be more limited with some of these participants.

A few things I have learned, is just because someone may appear to be not having fun, or may have their head down, it does not necessarily mean they are not into it. Early on working with special needs groups, I learned that many people in these groups mask their feelings, so I need to be aware of that before I subtly try to address it with a cool percussion gadget from my gig bag. An expression like looking bored, scared, joyful, digging it, a happy or sad, can be easily misinterpreted.

Sometimes a person will have a bored look on their face, but in reality they might be having a ball. I’ve seen this, and I can’t address it in front of the group because it might embarrass them. At the end of the circle the guy comes up to me and says, “I had a wonderful time, thanks for letting me just be me.” That was a profound moment. The next drum circle he did the same thing, but eventually the rhythms got him to play on his own. He played when he was ready to play, and did so at his own pace. I learned not to push people.

Often I like to begin a drum circle with a gong that I keep in my gig bag. It’s about 14 inches wide. I use a soft mallet, and walk around the interior of the circle and let each person bang the gong once, or twice if they don‘t get a good gong on it. (If they want to.) Usually it’s smiles from ear to ear every time. Very few have ever turned it down. It’s a fun way to begin, and develop a rapport with each person, and it gives you a chance to see their individual hand coordination a little bit. Try to think up fun ideas like that.

I find the simplest heartbeat rhythm seems to be a good way to begin the drumming, or the “We Will Rock You“ beat again. I start it out very slowly, hold it steady, and let them play whatever they want. Whatever feels natural to them. We will let the rhythm go wherever it feels it wants to go, just like at a regular drum circle. They may just want me to hold it slow and steady, or ramp it up and play fast and exciting. They may just want to enjoy a good sounding groove for awhile. You don’t know really, until you get there.

But you can prepare a little bit. You can sense what a group wants to do, after you have worked with these populations for a while. Especially, in a very short time, you can assess the group’s skill level. I just go with it. With the slower rhythms the time seems to just fly by, and I hardly ever get even half way through my set list. The amount of time becomes a non-issue to everyone, and they all keep happily busy. The most simple heartbeat rhythm will do this if played for more than 10 minutes at the same tempo and volume level. We play lots of other fun rhythms, and have many different endings for them. Anticipating the end of what a rhythm will be as you are playing it, is sometimes fun. So during almost every drum circle I’m at, I have 4 or 5 different endings I like to use during the drumming session.

I sometimes just say, “A great rhythm needs a great ending to it.” So then I will show whatever it is to them, (1 or 2 bars or so) then I ask to please do it with me a couple of times, like 6 times over so everyone has it. Then we just play a rhythm for 10 minutes or so and I count them down to do that big ending, that we planned in advance.

There is a traditional drum phrase break that signals an upcoming change or ending at a drum circle. That one works great, but is a bit more complex one. Bum Ba DumDum, Ba Dum Dum BaDa. (pause) Boom!

A Latin drum break works well also. Or make something up, as a nice ending to a good jam. The phrase Mississippi River makes a nice little jam starting point.

One cool ending I like to use with these groups also, is to have everyone play 9 equal up tempo tones, and then two big bass notes. Then repeat it like 10 times, and I count them down as we go. 4-3-2-1- ooooooooo B B, ooooooooo B B etc. Or try this one - five tones, then 3 bass notes. ooooo BBB, repeat. There is what I refer to as a “drum circle set list” like bands use on my site. There are dozens of notated drum rhythms to try out. Please feel free to check it out.

When you feel the group has come to the ending, or attention span of a rhythm is ending, try slowing and quieting the rhythm down over a 30 second period…then play slower and slower, until the rhythm ends in super slow motion. Like the Six Million Dollar Man or something. Like one of those old vinyl records slowing down after you unplugged it. (Remember those?) A rumble after that is always good.

Obviously rumbles are always good. I like to let members of the group get to do the ending rumble. Usually it’s whoever raises their hand when I ask, “Who wants to end the rhythm?” Then they get a turn ending a rhythm. I have a magic wand I made up for that. It has colorful ribbons on it. They can wave it around and direct the volume, direction, etc. A couple of minutes is good on that one. Let each of them that want to direct rumbles so they each get a chance to do it. For some this is the first time they ever get to be a leader. It helps to empower them, and build self esteem.

I let them try out unique percussion items periodically, by pulling them out, demonstrating how they work, and asking between jams, “Who would like to try this one out?” I just let them have fun. But I do go in with a prepared set list program. Which is usually changed all around depending on the group vibe I’m feeling. You can tell if a particular rhythm is working, or not feeling right. So can they. I laugh it off and we start another one.

You don’t even need to show people what a rumble is, when they have a drum in their lap. They can figure it out instinctively when you do it, and telegraph it a little at the end of a rhythm. That’s part of the fun. Figuring things out on your own. It gives you a better feeling of self accomplishment.

Eventually I realized that almost everything for them is focused on their disability, and that has to get very frustrating for them, so they can use something for an outlet. A drum circle is a fun way that they can express their feelings, that will build their confidence. A drum circle? You should see their eyes light up.

But back to rumbles. Sometimes to teach a rumble easily to everyone, I say ok here are two rules. If I put my hands in the air you can play as fast and as loud as you like. When my hands come down you stop. Then I show them a lot of variations they can try, and mention it is ok if you think up your own ways to direct the rumble endings.

It’s nice if you can speak to administrators before the drum circle and ask them questions about their vision, and how they would like things to go. It isn’t always possible. Do they want to begin a certain way? Do they seat everyone, or start exactly at a given time? What are some of the medical conditions? Are there any in wheelchairs? (Frame drums or tambourines, shakers and bells seem to work well for them.) What is it they hope to see, achieve? Are there potentially any people that might need extra attention, or need the assistance of the staff? Some of these facilities only have one recreation director, and there is no extra staff available.

I research the mission statement; get an idea of who they are from their website always first thing, just like with any other group I work with. Sometimes that is all the information I’ve had to go on. It happens.

I try to brief the staff before the start about them intervening. I ask them to let me do the crowd control. Do please join in as yourself and please don't try to show anyone how to do it, or what to do with it. I get this sometimes, with staff who mean well. But please don’t. The reason is, they sometimes get in there and want to demonstrate to a person how to do this or that. That’s not good. It embarrasses them, or worse.

At one special needs group gig, I didn’t know anybody there, and had no access to talk to the staff beforehand. It was a quickly booked job, and many of them happen that way, so there just isn’t time to find out individual needs. All of a sudden people are arriving in droves. Parents, family, and patients all mixed in together. To be honest, a few people I could recognize had certain conditions, but I really had no idea who was a patient, and who were family members? What should I do with this one? So I had to toss my list right out, and improvise.

Sometimes that is the most fun - improvising. Just play or do whatever feels right at the time. Rarely do I end up doing what I planned the night before. And I try not being afraid to do something I might feel is risky. I wear a samba whistle just in case, and demonstrate it in the beginning, to imprint the meaning of it in case things go chaotic at a later part. It’s a good back up tool if things get a little out of hand, and it does happen sometimes. But I usually don’t need it. (Unless I forget to bring it of course.)

The drum circle went great and everyone loved it. The patients got to interact with their family members, and do something fun and positive together. This is pretty rare for some families with special needs family members. Later the staff told me they had three patients that have never even left the housing building before, for any activities. Period. The staff said they watched them looking out the window for awhile and saw everyone else drumming and having a good ol’ time, and came out and joined in. They told me how remarkable that was. That feels pretty good, that the drum circle coaxed them to come out and play.

It’s been my experience these types of groups become more involved and want to participate, when the drum rhythm changes their perceptions enough that they pay more attention to what is going on, and they even want more.

At another special needs gig, the patients and the staff got a kick out of it. They were stunned that I managed to get everyone to participate without even saying anything, other than, “ 1-2-3-Lets Play!” When I booked the job, the staff again said to me, only a few of our people will want to do this. I thought, ok this has happened before. Same deal, they all participated because it was fun. It was something a little bit different than group bowling. The director wrote me afterward, that since the drumming program, there has been a tremendous benefit from it. The drum circle gave them a new outlet that they never had before. It gets them thinking, experimenting, and making music, which is great! Now they have a regular weekly drumming program.

Most of the mission statements seem to be something like to integrate people back into society. A drum circle is the perfect vehicle for that. After we had worked together every couple of weeks for 6 months, one group of special needs adults all became comfortable drumming, and being around me. So I offered to the staff to bring them out to an indoor public venue, with a little more manageable open drum circle, that I was hosting.

It was better than I could have imagined. They just blended in beautifully, and few even knew they were special needs patients. All they want to do is have fun, and not be treated or feel treated “special”. They just want to be treated like one of the guys. Just one of the group. Not special. The staff told me that their only recreational outings were always things like bowling, and that they would always go with only other special needs patients in a “closed to the public” setting. So the drum circle was perfect. I’ve been bringing this group to open community functions to drum for a long time, and both the staff and I have seen remarkable improvements in all kinds of areas. Here they are, musically, socially, physically, interacting with the public.

The guiding of this particular special needs group in our community led to a two hour performance on a big stage in front of 100's of people at an Earth Day festival, where they were wildly applauded, appreciated, and sounded great. It was a proud moment for them, and for me.

This was a beautiful drum circle. It was a blend of our general community, a special needs group, and we were all together jamming. We had a blast being up on the big stage drumming out some great rhythms, and engaging a huge crowd to join in with us.

A key part of the intent of groups that are oriented toward those with physical and/or mental restrictions is finding ways to bring them into general society as much as possible. It has been my experience that drum circles are an excellent path to this goal. This is the kind of work I believe I was put on this earth to do. Working with special needs individually, or in groups touches my heart very deeply, especially when I get home and have some time to reflect on the experience.

With this particular group, after a few drum circles at their facility, I invited them to a public drum circle at a cafe where I was hosting a weekly drum circle. They were comfortable drumming with me at that point, and it worked out great.

Months later, when I was asked to host this Earth Day drum circle show on the big stage, I asked the staff and them if they would like to drum at this event. They jumped at the chance. Sure it was a little risky, but that's what life is about. Taking chances. We played for over an hour and a half, the crowd didn't want us to stop, two encores and everything. It was like a dream come true. I was booked for 45 minutes, but it was going so well the organizers asked us to keep going, so we did. All of this happened in less than 6 months. It just kind of all fell together like it was meant to be.

The crowd never even knew there was a special needs group playing with the other drummers. The group was thrilled because for one of the first times in their lives they were just seen as regular people, and not as "special". We were all just musicians that day.

I believe that real personal growth comes from the inner expression of each individual, and their self discovery. And the real beauty with hand drumming is that with almost all special needs conditions, is the repetition of the rhythms. We do them over and over, so if they get lost, or feel lost, that safety net of the foundational beat is there for them to rely on, or fall back on if they need it. Even if they live five, or ten seconds in the past, they do eventually pick it up, or find it, and sound great. The repetition is what does it. It is such a feeling of accomplishment to witness this in so many people.

Many of you already know this, but there is something called entrainment (not entertainment) that can happen to one individual or to an entire group. This occurs when the brain synchronizes to an external stimulus, such as the drum beat. This can be very therapeutic and, while it can happen to anyone or any group, it has a much more significant impact on those with special needs.

A few different medical doctors have explained to me that with most conditions, like Down Syndrome patients for example, they do indeed live a few seconds, to a few minutes in the past. So I just need to allow time for them to catch up. Imagine if you lived a few seconds in the past, and just couldn’t process information that quickly. You need to talk slowly and clearly in short sentences. Start rhythms out nice and slow and hold them there until everyone has it locked in.

Sometimes I run into a person that simply can’t hold still. They seem to need to bang, or fidget constantly. It’s a challenge keeping them focused. Until they experience some sort of entrainment. For purposes of this post, a definition of entrainment is basically when the person’s brainwaves get into a pattern of synchronization with an external beat. This helps the brain synchronize internally as well. It can be very therapeutic. A staff member explained this to me. Getting them to that point of entrainment is most of my goal. Once they are in there, I can almost just sit on the side and jam with them. It almost always takes 5 or 10 minutes to do it. And sometimes it feels like it was an hour. But it was only 5 minutes.

Hula hoops work great with some groups, or a ribbon or scarf so they can get in the center if they want to and wave it around in the breeze as they move or dance around to the beat. You can try giving away little 99 cent store goodies to entice people to hoop in the center for two minutes. It works every time. Just ask them to be mindful of the people around them. I like to keep the center of the drum circle as big as I can without hurting the musical connection from one side to the other.

Laying out the 2 towels in the center so they can feel the beat of the drum rhythms, way into their bodies works great. I don’t need to tell people about the healing power of the drum when they try that. They can feel it in their bones. It’s very powerful. Try it for yourself if you never have. Lie down on your back in the center of a drum circle and then close your eyes for one minute while everyone is playing a rhythm.

Both are great ideas for almost any drum circle group, and I use them both all the time.

There are so many different developmental disabilities; I can’t get too much into it. That’s why the input from the staff members is so useful. I have no medical degrees, and I’m not a healer, (although sometimes it happens by default.) I’m not there to treat them. I’m just there to help them have a little fun. Sometimes I have no idea who has what condition. That’s just the way it is. There simply isn’t time for the staff to go through all the individual conditions each person has, so I have to use an overall group approach. Due to the repetitive nature of a drum rhythm, they all eventually catch on or catch up. That’s why this is so effective. After a short while everyone is in synch and feels like an equal part of the group. I always come away having learned something new when working with these groups. And just like that, I become some kind of healer by default. They teach me things I never dreamed of. It never ceases to amaze me.

I had to experiment some with ideas, ask the advice of staff, doctors, and others. Here’s some of what I’ve found out and learned. Again, I try to treat them like regular everyday normal people. The worst thing to do is treat them or talk to them like they are handicapped. Would you like that? I wouldn’t. The staff usually tells me if there are any concerns to be aware of. I may need to enunciate a bit more, talk a little clearer and slower but that’s about it.

Many of them are very sensitive to pressure. I encourage them to join in when they feel comfortable. That way they can join in with no pressure, on their own. I do have to do a bit more leading and starting out the rhythms. The support beat thing. The comfort of the bottom beat is there for them.

Their attention span, and loud noise are an issue. I deal with this by keeping the volume lower, and by giving them lots of choices of percussion instruments to play. I lay them on a table outside the circle, or down right next to them, or on the floor in front of them. Just a pile of goodies to play, and experiment with. They usually end up liking one of them. Most of them don't want you pushing an instrument in their face, to get them to play this, or that particular one. I just smile and with an offering facial expression, lay it down near them. If they like it and want it, they will pick it up when the drum beat gets going. I just need to keep in mind of the volume.

I see shy people become less shy. I see people who play it safe, begin to take risks. I see people who have nothing else in common, becoming deeply connected with one another on a non-verbal level. I know there is something very good going on in these drum circles.

Here are a few ideas and thoughts, on a couple of particular conditions. Again, I’m a musician, not a medical expert. Most of this is from my experiences, and/or the staff and doctors advising me over the years. And again, I usually have no idea who has what, so I have to be ready to react at all times.

Attention Deficit Disorder and Autism

When I know there are people with attention deficit disorder I usually just put a variety of percussion items by them so they can choose and try out all different kinds of things to keep them busy and occupied. I just give them lots of choices and let them pick. It almost always works, it just creates more of a mess to clean up. Who cares? Part of the job. Keep the volume down.

Cerebral Palsy

Usually I can spot this condition, because many have a weak arm (or arms). Some I can spot because they are in wheel chairs, but, other than that, most can function just fine. I have a couple of good friends with this condition so I know a little bit about it from experience drumming with them. They told me the drums they preferred. It was Bongos, because the weak hand doesn’t have to work so hard, they can just tap with it, until they strengthen it up a little more. They can set them on their lap, or a chair or table in front of them. It’s important to remember that most of these people with many of these various conditions, are highly intelligent, still very functional, and can be very musical human beings. The ones I have become closer friends with tell me they just want to be treated as regular people. When that happens, it’s easier for them to open up socially, even in a in a public setting, such as a public drum circle. Sometimes it takes a few weeks, don’t expect to see vast improvement in one drum circle. Overcoming the stigma from the general public is usually the problem, not them. Best of all, over time the drumming does strengthen their weak arm. Drumming does heal, emotionally and physically.

The lighter weight polymer shell Djembes and Bongos with synthetic heads work the best. Anything like those big 15 pound Bongos get a bit heavy just sitting on your legs for long periods of time. Even for one friend I have who has no feeling in his legs. He has somewhat limited movement in one hand. But he loves playing the Bongos, and plays them quite well now. I’m so impressed how he has improved in motor function, finger movements, and musically. He went from just sort of flopping his hands down to keeping good time, and playing entire rhythms perfectly in about six months. Frame drums and tambourines work real well for some people also. Especially if they have only the ability to just tap their fingers a little. They can lay it on their lap, and tap away, and be an important part of the group. Just part of the gang.

Down Syndrome

I’m no expert, and I have no medical degree as a music therapist, but I have worked with a lot of people with it before. Apparently the distinction is, drumming therapy - you need a degree to do that. Therapeutic drumming - no degree needed. I've seen a few music therapists who didn’t seem to establish a good rapport with people and they weren’t very empathetic or intuitive with their patients. On the other hand, I have also seen some beginner drum circle facilitators who are born with the gift of intuition and people skills, who leave a session with each individual feeling a sense of real accomplishment.

Usually with Down Syndrome they are open and enthusiastic. That's all you really need. It doesn't hurt to have a few of the percussion toys around them, so they have some choices. While some of them will be able to follow a simple rhythm, several will not be able to. They want to do their "own thing", and that's okay too. But with children, volume is a serious consideration, before the short attention span. Loud noise can be a real problem, so you have to constantly monitor the volume.

Some drum circles begin with total chaos. Man, it happens almost every time at the beginning. It kind of freaked me out, early on, when I started working with special needs groups. I just let it go for 5 minutes if I feel the need to and usually it levels out when the group feels the musical group dynamic. Then it always comes together. It takes a while to have the confidence that it will happen, because it feels like it never will unless I intervene. But I rarely ever need to. The group feels like they corrected it. And guess what? They did. I don't try to correct or modify what they are doing even if it is a train wreck. I had to learn to trust myself it would come together. I feel it was a success if all of them are actively participating in some kind of drumming. No matter how chaotic, offbeat, or bad it may seem to me. And because they corrected it themselves, it has a much strong empowerment effect.

Sometimes it may seem they may not appear to be enjoying it. You might think you perceive it in someone’s face. Most always all of them are, especially if they're doing it of their own choice. Some like to just sit and take it all in for a little while. Just play on.

I often tell them how great they sound and how well they are doing with lots of smiles. I just don’t over do it so it becomes obvious or soupy. These groups thrive on approval, appreciation, accomplishment, and acceptance. I try to give them lots of positive acknowledgement.

If I get a particular person that is so disruptive to the rest of the group, and I have no staff to assist me. I always bring along a small paint set, and offer to let them paint the music for us.

A craft project of some sort is another good idea. I bring a few of those big vitamin bottles and ask them make shakers for me. “I need a couple of shakers made, can you help me make one and decorate it up?” It worked great. Now, the staff saves the empty bottles for me when I come to drum with them. I bring some shaker materials, like popcorn, beads, and macaroni. Colorful things work the best. One time a guy spent the entire hour and a half sorting just the right colors to put in the shaker. He left the group to make some music, yet he was still involved. I had colored tape for him to decorate it up with. When it was done he was so proud of it, he played along with us near the end. Be sure to ask the staff if they can keep it.

Here’s another idea, speaking of painting art. Have them do a painting, or create a mural, painting the music. Almost a music appreciation thing, or a "how does music make me feel" painting. I get a big pad of paper, like you might put on an artist’s easel. I always bring a few big sheets of paper, sometimes a big artist’s pad. We try using different mediums, markers, water colors, crayons, or pastels.

They can either paint their own, or do a group painting. Sometimes I will ask who wants to drum, and who wants to paint the music. Mostly I will get half the group painting a mural, and the other half playing the drums. Then switch it up later, so they all get a turn at both the drumming, and the mural. I ask them to express their feelings in art as they listen to the music. Some get displayed in the facilities to this day.

Sometimes when working with special needs kids, many are scared of noise, I learned from a staff member to get them in there early, and let them explore the drums a little on their own. (And the percussion items.) In many cases, when they're in charge of the noise, they're happy to make it loud. I sometimes have a dancing rhythm going when they enter the room, and do the egg shaker on each chair thing.

We play a rhythm together and they can move around or whatever. It gives them a sense of making music before the drumming starts. For the first time with a group, I don't expect much of a groove, but be ready for it, because it happens if you anchor it for them with a nice support rhythm. It is important to have stuff that can be played with one hand. I have this basket of fruit shaped shakers I use a lot with them. Expect to spend a little time finding the right instrument for each person, and let them choose something different later on. Make it fun, and interesting for them.

Some have physical limitations, so I bring buffalo drums, frame drums, drums they can lay on their laps and play. I try to avoid things played with sticks or mallets, because some will just start bashing them wildly, disrupting the rhythm of everyone else, and possibly put one through a drum head or someone else’s head. I keep them stashed away and use them sparingly. I bring a few Djembe stands or taller drums to accommodate those who might need one. Even those who you may think can only bash away, will get the repetition of a drum rhythm, and catch on eventually. It’s a good idea to have some soft beaters for those who can't use their hands very well.

Make sure that your kit is safe. No sharp edge drums like on some Darbukas etc. Think of your players as vulnerable children with the size and power of adults. Avoid taking anything fragile. The first drum circle with a special needs group can be very challenging. Expect some total chaos to happen. It gets a lot easier the second time. In my experience some of these people have problems judging how hard to strike a body drum, and could hurt their hands by playing it too hard. Show them a few pointers on good hand technique after the warm up jam.

As I said, loud noise is my biggest concern. The healthy noise limit is about 85 decibels (Db.) I think that is the legal safety limit as well. That’s what the cop said when he broke up a public drum circle in a park. (This wasn’t a special needs group.) He had his little decibel meter, and showed me the reading on it. We were up in the 120 Db. range. The neighbors called them on us. Actually, he was pretty cool about it. As a radio operator I’m familiar with decibels of gain, etc. but I researched this a little, and here’s what I found. A normal conversation is about 60 Db, up to the threshold of discomfort, that is the 120 Db range.

A bunch of people drumming together indoors can easily reach into the 115 to 120 Db range. About 150 Db, is the pain threshold. You can get a decibel meter relatively inexpensively. I think Maplin makes one. Keeping the volume level down takes some skill, and experience to pull it off. But it is possible. And this is even more important when dealing with special needs people.

Create a volume down signal, or just start to play your drum quieter, more often than not, they will be there right with you. It works just great. And as an added bonus, the participants get to hear each other. But if you use it too much it can have a negative effect. It’s something to keep in mind, some of the beginners get way into it, and are often getting their issues out.

Here’s some advice from a friend of mine. When he does big gigs with 100 people, the Db level can be huge. So he brings enough cheap earplugs to go around. As far as I know, if you warn them, and offer protection, you've done your job. I keep a few dozen of them in my gig bag.

A few final thoughts. This new atmosphere of spontaneous drumming can be overwhelming to some people. The one thing I don’t want to do is have people feel threatened, scared, overwhelmed, or lost. Trying to do complicated rhythms can do that. Lots of positive comments from you during the drum circle helps a lot. “Hey, we sounded great on that one didn’t we?” Smile a lot, thumbs up! If they are there, they are participating. Starting some spontaneous applause after a jam goes a long way.

A few things I bring besides my earplugs in my gig bag, are some padded tape, first aid, hand creams, anti-bacterial wipes, etc. for anyone who just might ask. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with epilepsy, in case someone has a seizure. It’s the staff’s responsibility, but you should know what’s going on. It’s nice if you can speak with the staff beforehand about any possible issues, but as I mentioned, that’s not always possible. So I need to be ready for anything.

Remember to try and speak with the staff afterwards for some feedback. And at the next time you are there. (Hopefully) Or, leave them a feedback form to fill out, with a self addressed envelope and a stamp on it. I gathered a lot of useful information with a simple feedback form. The medical staff knows a lot more than I do about medical conditions.

Also remember there are heavy restrictions on photography in most cases, so be sure to get permission, preferably in writing, if you want to take photos.

If the group takes a break for lemonade or something, make sure they don’t come back to the drumming area before they are all finished. Goatskin drum heads still make terrible coasters.

Ultimately, I just let people play. We drum up some fun. Let your personality out, and with your calm and reassuring manner, watch the volume, and they will quickly enjoy playing together, and connecting with you.

One thing some don't understand about drum circles, is that it's more about the people, than it is the actual drumming. Many facilitators agree with me on this, some don't. The quality of the music produced in a drum circle isn't really based on the musical experience of the players, but on the developing quality of the relationships of the people that emerge. As a facilitator I help people to empower themselves through drumming, music, and fun.

People really need no experience at all to play in a drum circle. I encourage individual creativity, and group dynamics.

I hope some of this is helpful to you, and it gives you a few ideas working with special needs individuals and groups – young or adult. Please keep in mind that these are just my opinions, and based on my experiences. If you would like to read some more about my approach to drum circles, please consider picking up my book, “A Practical Guide To Hand Drumming And Drum Circles” It’s 300 pages, and $8 on Amazon Kindle or Nook.

More About Special needs Drum Circles

I recently had the opportunity to facilitate a series of drum circles for groups of children at a K – 9 school in Florissant with a local music therapist. It’s in the same school district about 2 miles North of Ferguson here in St. Louis. It was a wonderful experience bringing the joy of making music to many of these children, and helping our community to heal a little bit.

The school is very diverse, the staff and kids from all different backgrounds and cultures. It was mostly special needs kids, and children with various developmental, and physical limitations. I was co-facilitating in what was being called, “drum circle day” for the faculty and all the kids in the school. After what happened near that community, we both wanted to do something positive, do a small part for these kids, and just help to rebuild a little.

The way they wanted it structured was like this: First, a drum circle for the teachers, and faculty at 8:20. Then one after another, 5 different groups of kids, 2 classes each, about 30 to 50 in each group, (The perfect amount, actually.) We had about 50 minutes with each group, one coming in pretty much right after the other. We went with the 2 concentric circles of chairs set up, with two yard wide entrances leading in.

The drum circles were held in the gym, not the most ideal place for drum circles, but if you find the spot with the least echo, it’s not too bad. I use the clap my hands loud test as soon as I enter the gym before setting up. I can find the sweet place with the least echo that way. Often, I can’t see it in advance, and usually it’s at the far end of the basketball court, centered, starting about 10 yards from the wall. So I asked that they set the chairs up there.

We set the circle about 20 feet across, so one side can hear the other, and you don’t get that disconnect, but still leaving room for self expression in the center. As we find our group dynamic, the hula hoops, and colorful scarves come out. I do move around the interior of the circle slowly a few times as I’m verbalizing the beginning of a rhythm, not making eye contact, as not to pressure them, but letting each of them see my hands up close so they can then figure out how they want to play. I do this for maybe 4 – 12 measures and play along as I verbalize it. Playing it nice and slow until we are getting that rhythm to lock in, and then I go back to my chair and fade out, or hold it steady, until it’s time to rumble end it, and move on to a new rhythm. I would do 2 rhythms, my partner would do 2, and we would take turns holding the downbeat steady for each other. It worked out great, because the kids could either play the support beat, and/or improvise. They could explore their drums during that 50 minutes, and find it’s unique different sounds and nuances.

There just isn’t enough time with each group to use up swapping instruments, or drum circle games, pie slices, or any of that. Just play baby. If there’s another drum circle day, we can get into other things, but for today we just make music.

I think it’s important to have a variety of drums representing different countries and cultures, as well as play rhythms from the kids. So we have congas, various doumbeks and djembes, some light bongos, and frame drums, plus a few things for those in wheelchairs, and/or with physical limitations so that they can still have fun and be a part of it. With a few exceptions, most of my kit is a wide variety of used drums I’ve bought over the years, most purchased one at a time.

Anyway, at the start, we positioned ourselves against the far side wall seats so we can see everything that’s going on, and who’s coming into the room as things are happening. Often times with multiple drum circles like this some come in late. A few kids, or a group will need to be transitioned in, sometimes during an ongoing rhythm. But more importantly, I position there so the bass note resonates more. It helps the kids (and adults) to easily hear, and feel the downbeat, and if they need it, that anchor is there to take any early pressure off them.

I like to make it a visually appealing sight when the kids enter the playing area, so I decorate it up a bit beforehand. It takes me longer, but it makes a difference if you have the time. The drums are colorful and inviting by themselves, but I have this huge 20 foot across and 8 foot tall pastel tapestry from India that has this amazing hand stitched embroidery all across the top foot of it. It’s some sort of silk mix fabric, and it drapes so beautifully. It sets a real nice mood, and a tone that this is going to be a fun experience. Maybe I’ve watched too much “Project Runway” with my wife, and some of it rubbed off on me. It does look like it came from “Mood”. Actually it was a yard sale treasure that I found a few years ago. It makes a beautiful colorful backdrop hanging up on the wall behind the drum circle, and just says, this is going to be fun.

So, we had one drum circle for the faculty, and then 5 drum circles after that. Very often with this type of thing, the groups are scheduled 5 – 10 minutes apart. Just barely enough time to re-set the chairs and drums, get a few sips of water, take a few breaths, and in comes the next group, it’s go time. Our strategy going in was to pre-set the drums in front of, or on top of each chair, have them single file in, get them all seated, play now, and talk later. We only had a limited amount of time (50 minutes) with each group, and we wanted them to have as much playing, fun, and self discovery time as possible.

The plan was a tried and true method. Get them quickly seated with a drum they like, and get a warm up jam going for 5 minutes or so, and end it with a big rumble. Usually it’s a basic rhythm like Boom sha la-ka, Boom sha la-ka, & etc. Or, the “We Will We Will Rock You”, Boom Boom tone or, a default drum circle rhythm: Boom Boom tone tone tone (rest) A lot of it depended on the vibe we got as they were getting seated.

The music therapist and I had never worked together before, so there was a little concern in the back of my mind. As luck would have it, our skill sets meshed together beautifully. Both of us prefer the organic approach to facilitating drum circles. In other words, the better the music sounds, the more fun it is, and the better it feels. No games, no waiting for the other side to play and then get a turn, none of that. Just get them playing a warm up rhythm quickly so the nerves, and the “what if’s” fade away. Then it’s easy to move on to the more interesting world rhythms.

With our first group, the faculty, we knew they all had a full day of teaching ahead of them and had to get them having fun quickly, so that’s what we did. But at the same time we wanted them to experience a shortened version of our curriculum.

Quick 15 second demonstration: Bass note is the elephant. Right and left hand tone are tiger, and the lion. After a Latin-ish warm up rhythm, we got into a Native American Heartbeat rhythm. They got such a good groove going on that, we went to a funky sort of Fanga, and then wrapped it up with belly dance Beledi. By then, they were pretty jazzed. We got a lot of fun packed into that 25 minutes. Rumbled and wrapped it, they left, and in came the first group of children.

Here was the breakdown for the day:

Schedule and Type of Groups

8:20-8:45: Staff Warm-Up Drum Circle

9:15: 26 Students + approximately 20 staff. The info given was that most of these students had Autism, and were lower functioning. The grade range: K-8. We were informed that a few would be able to follow start and stop directions, but most would have trouble sustaining attention and following directions. Most of the students were non-verbal. There was a lot of sensory issues with this group, including a few students who did not tolerate loud noise well.

So, we kept the volume down, and slow and steady. All the kids got into it really nicely. That warm up rhythm really sets the tone. Is this going to be a classroom type thing? Or, is this going to be fun? The music gave direction, they sensed and felt where the endings were, it was a breeze. The nice thing about verbalizing a rhythm is it can be processed faster. If I say, “Yum Yum, Tastes Like Chick-en” (2 bass notes, the rest tones.) I say it slowly maybe four times and play while I say it. Then drop the vocals and let it jam, possibly bring up the tempo if it’s sounding good. With Heartbeat, some of them fall of count and it goes into a Row Row Row Your Boat kind of jam, it still works, and they usually find their way back on time.

10:15: 27 students + approximately 17 staff. This was the lowest functioning group with 18 of the students in a wheelchair. Info given was that most of these students are mainly working on making wants and needs known. All are non-verbal, and loud noise may be disturbing to some.

Again, low volume. Kept the rhythms mostly soulful, spiritual, and grooving. They all found their places in it. With groups such as this during the warm up I start it very slow and steady, and keep it there for a few minutes longer until the groove was established.

A neurologist friend of mine explained to me that despite many of their individual challenges, that most kids like this are highly functioning individuals. They just live a few seconds in the past. So, a drum circle rhythm, even unfamiliar to them, being repeated over and over works perfectly.

So, when they are ready, they will begin to play and fall right into the groove. For that reason when the staff asked a few questions in advance, I asked them not to intervene if someone is not participating. They will when they are ready, and when they feel comfortable. “Not all who wander, are really lost”, is the case sometimes also.

With each of the groups, during those first crucial minutes of the warm up jam I say to the kids, “Play whenever you feel like you want to, okay? Play whatever you want, just follow the beat.” (Everybody usually chuckles.) The point is to get them out of their heads, over thinking, and just experiment and explore their drum, and the sounds it can make.”

11:15 Lunch – Thanks I’m starving at this point.

12:15: 28 students + approximately 13 staff. This was a mixed diagnosis group of slightly higher functioning, more verbal students with Autism, Intellectual Disability and Emotional Disturbance. There was one student in a wheelchair.

Despite some of the challenges, it was apparent that with each group after about 10 minutes they started to "get it" and get out of their heads. Then they could just play and have fun with it. It was the perfect example of self discovery teaching without actually teaching. The Yum Yum, Tastes Like Chicken rhythm, the I Like to Eat Chocolate Cake jam, Heartbeat, Fanga, and Beledi all seemed to go great with all the groups, we got the energy up, and we got them improvising, and sounding pretty good. The main thing was, they were making music, and having fun. With all these groups, 50 minutes went by like it was 15.

1:15: 21 students + approximately 9 staff. This was a mixed group of students with Autism, Emotional Disturbance, Other Health Impairment or Intellectual Disability. They were verbal and higher functioning than the previous group.

Everything was working nicely, so we stuck with the basic curriculum. I keep a 36” long back polymer steamer trunk filled with curious percussion items. I call it the drum circle treasure chest. I keep the lid open and have it off to the side. It has a large inviting “Drum Circle” sign on it, and it has nothing that is played with sticks. Lots of colorful fun things, maracas, shakers, tambourines, guiros, and so on. Somehow a stick always finds its way to a goatskin drumhead. These kids were all well behaved, but I have done events like this before and the treasure chest is there just in case.

2:15: 30 students + 12 staff. This was the highest functioning group of students with mostly an Emotional Disturbance, a few with Other Health Impairment or Autism. These students were verbal and are right at or slightly below grade level. This group went last so we could have more flexibility to go an hour or more.

And so we did. These kids took to jamming and improvising right away, and had a great time, especially playing Beledi near the end. A few of the teachers got on the hula hoops, got in the center and hooped it up. It was a beautiful thing connecting to the music like that. And it happened with each group.

3:15: Pack it up. Wait for the school buses to clear so we could load up all the drums, and haul them home.

We were very busy, but throughout the day with each group I could see their eyes light up, and the smiles come out as we played the various rhythms. With these kinds of all day drum circles you have to pace yourself so you have enough left for the last group. They deserve as much energy as the first group got.

We were both pretty worn out, but at the same time it was so gratifying knowing we are doing some good in our community, healing, inspiring to improvise, and building the self confidence in these kids, all the while having fun.

I hope this drum circle day catches on and more St. Louis area schools, (and others around the country) will give it a try. I've worked with various groups over the years, and for me, the area I really feel like I am doing the most good is with school kids. This was the kind of thing that inspired me to make music a part of my life, and it has helped me throughout it.

We brought the kids (and the teachers) a great music making experience, and it was a good time learning for them as well. We were honored to have the pleasure to do this. It was visionary thing for the school to try - and see the joy in their faces.




I hope you enjoyed reading my page, and if you facilitate drum circles, some of my methods and writing helps you.



The proceeds from the sales of my drumming CD's, DVD's, and drum circle book helps me to do this kind of work in our community, and keep the website going. I try to provide them at as reasonable a cost as possible. As an independent artist, money is tight, so I always appreciate a product that is a good value for the cost. That's the idea behind my book, CD's and DVD.



There is increasing recognition of the health benefits of music therapy, particularly facilitated hand drumming. Below I offer my drum circle book, 101 rhythms DVD, and drum circle jam music for sale. Unfortunately, places where the people who benefit from what I do the most, have very limited budgets. I've never received any grants, assistance, or funding, and I don't endorse drum companies.

If you would be willing to make a purchase of any amount to help me continue to provide therapeutic music to groups in St. Louis, it would help out a little. Please click on the purchase links below. Thanks in advance if you can pitch in a little. My book & DVD are solid if you are facilitating drum circles, or thinking about starting one up for your area, or group.

My 101 Drum Circle Rhythms video on Amazon. Over 2 hours of them. The full download to 2 devices is $8.

Here's a clip & the link, or search on the title. 101 Drum Circle Rhythms (The DVD disc is a few bucks more.)

Drum Circle Rhythms Sample

101 Drum Circle Rhythms Download Link

My 300 page drum circle book: "A Practical Guide Hand Drumming and Drum Circles" is also $8.

Drum Circle Book On Amazon Kindle

CdBaby link (Digital drum circle jam music) - They have "Wild Drum Circles" (This set is not on iTunes yet)

Drum Circle Music Download at CD Baby

iTunes drum circle jam music link (Has most of my digital drum circle music)

Drum Circle Jam Music at iTunes



If you're a filmmaker, game designer, or video / TV producer, all of my drumming & drum circle music tracks are licensed. Check CDBaby.com & listen to a few. There's a wide variety of cultures, styles, and tempos to choose from. Helps to set that perfect mood for a scene. Here's the website url:

http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/SLRatigan

Or, click the CDbaby.com link below:

My CD Baby Artist Page

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Shannon Ratigan

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