If you're looking for a new way to draw customers to your store, market within your community, or energize and synergize your employees, it may be time to rhythmatize! Drum circles are one of America's fastest growing holistic health trends. They're inclusive, attracting people of all ages, spiritual beliefs, and abilities.

"Drumming allows me to personally fall into a meditative state more easily," says Mary Lynn Callahan, owner of The Herb Store in Jackson Hole, Wyo. "The drum circle has helped maintain customers and increase the variety of healing modalities offered for body, mind, and spirit."

Drumming is delivering a powerful experience in joy, healing, health, and wellness at unexpected locales such as FEMA trailer parks in New Orleans and corporate boardrooms at Toyota Motor Corporation. Churches, hospitals, spas, fitness clubs, yoga rooms, senior centers, and bookstores are resonating with the growing movement of drum circles.

Like the roots of an old oak tree, the roots of drumming intertwine down through the centuries. According to world-famous percussionist Mickey Hart, the oldest percussion instruments were made of bones, scrapers, and rattles dating as early as 35,000 years ago. Drumming developed across many different cultures for four key purposes: spirituality, community, attunement with nature, and healing. Author and drummer Layne Redmond contends that women were the first drummers, playing frame drums for spiritual ceremonies in ancient Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) and Sumer. Today, drum circles continue to resonate with the purpose of these ancient practices.

In my work over the past 15 years leading drum circles, I've seen many incredible stories come to life. I have watched a 64-year-old woman fulfill her lifelong desire to play the drum at Bodhi Tree Bookstore (www.bodhitree.com), an 18-year-old girl able to cry for the first time after the Columbine High School shooting at a drum circle, and a therapist in New Orleans using drumming to rejuvenate her spirit and reconnect with the energy she needed to help others while rebuilding her own life after Hurricane Katrina.

For the New Age retail store, drums represent sales, but they offer so much more. Associating drumming with a retail store brings opportunities for ongoing community programs and invigorating employee team-building activities. Consider the success of places such as East West Bookstore (www.eastwest.com) and Bodhi Tree Bookstore. People have even found rhythm in the aisles of health food markets such as Whole Foods Market (www.wholefoods market.com).

Sound business
With sales projected beyond one trillion dollars over the next decade, the wellness market is growing at an increasingly high rate. The yoga market alone is seeing an estimated 26-percent annual growth. Sales of hand drums and percussion also have grown globally, driven by the beat of the recreational drum circle movement.

According to predictions from Remo Belli, founder of Remo (www.remo.com), the world's largest drum company, "in the next decade, an estimated 25 percent of any general population will become interested in recreational music-making because of its life enhancement benefit." That's 75 million people in the U.S.! In addition, Remo predicts that 75 percent of that population (59 million people) will be most involved in group drumming. He estimates that 20 percent of that group will purchase a drum annually, creating an estimated need for 11 million drums annually in the U.S. alone.

"There's been an exciting rise in sales of drums and musical instruments, more than 20 percent in just the past year in the New Age market," says Greg Kundrat, president of Mid-East Manufacturing (www.mid-east.com).

Healthy benefits
Scientists are now documenting the wisdom of the ancients. In a groundbreaking study published by Barry Bittman, M.D., non-drummer subjects were able to strengthen their immune systems on a cellular level after one hour of group drumming. To put it a little less scientifically, drumming meets the needs of a growing wellness- and spirituality-focused population. Benefits include:

   • stress reduction
   • team building
   • self expression
   • spirituality
   • exercise
   • creativity
   • nurturing and support
   • relaxation and meditation
   • energy

Drum circles have been shown to save money for employers and provide major benefits to employees. In a second study, featured on CNN, Bittman demonstrated how employee burnout was significantly reduced by drumming. Workers showed improved moods and morale after a brief series of drumming sessions. An economic analysis projected that the program could reduce turnover and save an institution as much as $89,000 a year. (Visit www.remo.com/health for more information.)

Boosting morale in your employees can certainly improve the bottom line of your business. Incorporate what I call RDA (Recommended Drumming Allowance) into your store's regular schedule.

RDA 1: Roll Call
To welcome new staff, honor departing staff, or recognize excellence in a team member, have the group drum the rhythm of the person's name repeatedly, creating a unique personalized beat.

RDA 2: Team Tune
Start the next staff meeting with a five-minute groove! Have an upbeat rhythmical CD playing as the team arrives. Nicely display drums and percussion instruments in the center of the table or room, or invite staff to bring in their personal percussion instruments. Play along with the CD until the group has a solid beat, then fade out the CD and allow the groove to continue.

RDA 3: Drum Massage
If a staff member needs an instant refresher after a hectic afternoon of sales, try a quick sonic massage. Choose a hand drum, buffalo drum, or frame drum with a beater or mallet. Hold the drum so the belly is facing the participant's body as the vibration of the drum comes through the base, or bottom, side. For a nice resonant sound, play the drum by using the beater slightly off the center point. Start at the crown, and drum down the body on both sides.

Successful elements
To start a public drum circle program at your store or support local drum circles in your community, you need three main components:

1. Drum circle facilitator. Find a local drummer, music therapist, or drum circle facilitator (www.dcfg.net or www.musictherapy.org), or consider attending a drum circle facilitation training program (www.drumcircle.com or www.remo.com/health).

2. Instruments. There are five types of sounds for the drum circle: drums, rattles and shakers, bells, wood sounds, and melody instruments. Native American flutes, singing bowls, and chimes add beauty and texture.

3. Place. Create a place for drumming where it won't be too disturbing to other customers — perhaps a nearby workshop or outdoor space. Control the volume by drumming with finger tips and hands, or use soft beaters.

Drum roll, please
You've prepared the fundamentals, but before you pick up the beat, take into account these tips for hosting a flawless drumming event:

   • Choose a great occasion or purpose for the drum circle. It might coincide with a store anniversary or relevant workshop or tie in with a consciousness-raising event for a charity organization or global purpose.
   • Set up chairs in a circle. Form an inside circle with floor pillows for those playing smaller drums and percussion.
   • Display drums and percussion instruments in the center of the circle or on a table nearby for participants who don't own a drum.
Always invite people to bring their own.
   • Assign greeters to welcome people and help them choose drums.
   • Remind participants to remove their rings before hand drumming — this protects the jewelry and the drums.
   • Acknowledge and thank the ancestors and cultures that have been practicing group drumming for centuries.
   • Start a groove. Use a play-along CD or play a strong, medium-tempo, simple beat on a low resonant drum.
   • Invite people to close their eyes and join the beat. Continue to jam until you sense it's time to stop. Ask
someone in the circle to start the next groove.
   • End with a song, a prayer, or a poem. I inspire a "one-word symphony” by going around the circle and inviting each person to share one word about their experience in the drum circle.
   • Ask everyone to come back and do it again! Make sure to get contact information from each person and have a plan for the next gathering.

Drum 101
As a sideline product, many different types of drums are available at varying price points. If you're ready to stock up on rhythm, it's helpful to learn about the various kinds of instruments so you can answer customer questions accurately. To name just a few:

   • Native American hoop drum — often used for ceremonial and shamanic drumming, painted with icons and animal images. Played with a mallet.
   • Frame drums (and tambourine) — one of the oldest drums. A circular frame with a skin and sometimes jingles. Made popular through master drummers such as Layne Redmond and Glen Velez. Sized from 10 to 22 inches; played by hand.
   • Ocean — a double-headed circular drum filled with beads to emulate the ocean waves.
   • Djembe — healing drum from West Africa, played by hand.
   • Doumbek — goblet-shaped hand drum for Middle Eastern playing, belly-dance music, and Pagan drum circles.
   • Conga — cone-shaped Cuban drum.

Beat it!
Now that you've had a crash course in drumming, it's time to find your own rhythm. Check out my list of recommended wholesale companies, books, and CDs (p. 68) for help on stocking your shelves and rockin' the aisle in your own style of percussion persuasion.