Top 10 Tips for Facilitating Drum Circles by Christine Stevens

There are some great things you can do to prepare to facilitate a drum circle.
christine in desert

1. Discover your own rhythm first. – From playing along with a recording to building up your confidence in expressing yourself musically, you can do a lot to demonstrate your love of music and inspire the circle. Don’t be self-conscious and don’t expect to “teach” anyone anything.

***Remember, its about people discovering the rhythm that’s already within them!

2. Get the gear you need. – Outfit your group in good equipment. World percussion instruments by Remo are the perfect drum circle tools because they are light-weight, hold their pitch, and sound GREAT. It’s important to have many different timbres:

- Bass (djembes, buffalo drums)
- Middle (bongos, smaller djembes)
- High (shakers)
- Nature sounds (thunder tube, and ocean drum)

3. Invite people to bring their own drums and percussion, emphasizing what type of instruments you want there. Don’t be afraid of found sounds or melodic pitched instruments like flutes or xylophones. Everything is really a percussion instrument.

4. Create the space. – The drum circle actually begins long before anyone arrives. It is your job to set up the circle in your own personal way. Make it welcoming. Pay attention to your surroundings and make sure there’s water available and ample space for a spontaneous dancer in the center. (To really encourage dancing – have a few shawls available!)

5. Be prepared to stop the group. – In any new sport, we always learn how to stop before we go. If you were new at roller-blading, you would want to know how to stop before the harrowing task of skating down a mountain.

Using your voice to cue a stop over a group of drummers can be futile. Even the loudest, “1-2-3-4- STOP” can’t be heard over a group of drummers. So, try cueing the group without using words. Your body becomes the conducting instrument. Experiment with this exercise.

***Stand in a quiet, comfortable posture. At the count of three, move quickly into a pose that demonstrates “stop.” Come back to neutral and try it again, making each one bigger and clearer as your experiment and find your own personal way to signal a group to stop.

6. Use dynamics. – In music, there is an ebb and flow of volume changes called “dynamics.” By raising and lowering your hands, you can successfully cue the group to play louder or softer.

7. Make people LAUGH! – Sometimes people are nervous about making music. They actually believed all those bad messages that, “they weren’t musical,” or that “they didn’t have rhythm.” To help people overcome these lies, find ways to help them laugh at themselves.

8. Encourage “Heads-Up” drumming. – It’s easy to get more into your own beat than noticing the group around you. Encourage people to steal rhythmic ideas from one-another, to learn from the exchange of rhythms within the circle. This creates more synchronicity and more connection.

9. Try not leading at all. – A lot of time, there is no need for a facilitator. A group can often successfully jam together without a conductor. This is the ultimate. Don’t try to do more than what the group needs you to do.

10. Be yourself – Incorporate your unique gifts in the drum circle. From tap-dancing, playing a saxophone, singing, and dancing, bring all of your personality into your experience.

Top 10 Tips to Run a Successful Drum Circle by Christine Stevens

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Top 10 Tips to Run a Successful Drum Circle

1. Have participants remove their rings before playing hand drums. This protects their rings AND the drums.

2. If you use chairs – make sure they don’t have arm rests to best facilitate drumming.

3. Identify “Welcomers” and “Greeters” who help people choose drums and get seated.

4. Have Remo drums and percussion instruments beautifully displayed to allow people to discover the instrument that best fits their unique personality

5. Be clear about the purpose and intention of the drum circle…what it is and what it isn’t. Drum Circles are not a cure, but rather a tool that gets defined by the individual experience. Drum Circle

6. Start with a strong beat that isn’t too fast to follow. Often a low bass drum goes a long way to hold down the rhythm.

7. Try having people add into a groove one at a time. The rhythm will naturally build and it allows people the opportunity to really listen to each other.

8. Acknowledge the Ancestors and Cultures that have been practicing group drumming for centuries.

9. End the circle with a “one-word symphony.” Have each person stand up and say one word about their experience in the drum circle. Let the group find their own rhythm of speaking their word. Conclude with everyone standing.

10. Ask them if they want to come back and do it again!

Peace Drum Circle on Hiroshima Anniversary in Japan by Christine Stevens

Global Resonance; Nagoya holds Global Drum Circle on Hiroshima Anniversary
August 6


 

 

 

 

 

Children danced while a balloon of the world floated about the rhythms of Japan, Iraq, Native America and India. Rhythm is about timing; taking a sad occasion and turning it into a beat of transformation.

At the recent Japanese Peace Drum Circle held in Nagoya, over one hundred Japanese, American, and invited guests from India and Nepal took the sadness and shock of the Hiroshima bombing in 1945 which killed 140,000 Japanese and transformed it into a celebration of Peace through drumming on the anniversary day!

According to Ms. Yasuyo, “it was beautiful to have families participate for the first time with everyone playing together. In the temples we pray alone, but through the drum circle we got to pray together.”

Christine Stevens of UpBeat Drum Circles www.ubdrumcircles.com brought rhythms from Native American to Iraq to be played in the intention of peace for the world. According to Stevens, “We practiced peace-building using a protocol developed in Iraq that wove drum circles with cultural sharing.”

The event was created by Ms. Yasuyo of Music Together of West Nagoya and Happy Beat Drum Circles (www.happyb.blog33.fc2.com ; www.hello2u.web.fc2.com) and supported by Yamaha Music Trading, Drum Circle Facilitator Association of Japan, and REMO.

“We feel this is a global trend of cultural peace-building through drum circles. I look forward to seeing more and more in the world as we move towards peace, joy, and creativity!,” said Stevens.

Drumming for Peace Building in Iraq by Christine Stevens

You cannot imagine.

 Our lives in Mosul are terrible; this is like a dream for us.

We have come together to share and learn”.

iraq childChristine in Iraqred_girlsilluminators

 

These were the words of a 23-year old student of English from Mosul, Iraq. The student was one of 38 hand-picked participants from seven different governances in Kurdish Iraq in a five-day conflict-resolution and leadership training program using recreational music making in the form of drum circles.

A contagious rhythm broke out in Northern Iraq this past November, 2007. The five-day drum circle leadership training program hosted by Kurdistan Save the Children (KSC) (www.ksc-kcf.com) with support from ACDI-VOCA, (www.acdivoca.org) marking the first time international relief organizations have used music making for conflict-resolution, economic development, youth empowerment, therapy, and peace-making.

The American training team was led by author and music therapist, Christine Stevens, who has been leading drum circles for disaster recovery work and corporate team building worldwide for over fifteen years. The team also included Constantine Alatzas and Mark Montygierd.

According to principle organizer of the project Melinda Witter, Community Economic Development Director for ACDI-VOCA, “we were able to see the group from a diversity of religious and ethnic sects, unite into a bonded community. They discovered and implemented key leadership skills within the drum circle program to address elements of peace-making, youth empowerment, economic development, alternative health applications and preservation of drumming which is indigenous in the Iraq culture.”

Most sessions were conducted in a local youth center. The group also made a visit to a rehabilitation center, where children suffering from crippling disabilities were able to participate in a shared activity with their friends and families. Christine’s team also held a youth activity day for 45 young teenagers with Kurdistan Save the Children and a local drumming group that just recently returned from a tour in Italy.

In the course of the training program, leaders became drummers and drummers became leaders. The final activity was a demonstration of drumming by the group for friends, family, and local politicians. The event had a surprise visit by the first lady of Iraq, Mrs. Hero Ibrahim Ahmad, wife of President Jalal Talabani

The participants shared their comments at the end of the training. “I never realized the power of people making music together. Everyone can make music! This program has been the best five days of my life.”

Many were moved by the experience of working with people from many different areas of Iraq. “Travel has become too dangerous, so meeting people from Tikrit, from Kirkuk, from Sulaymaniya is a wonderful thing for us. We can share our lives and cultures”.

Results

With a ninety-two percent satisfaction rate, the participants clearly enjoyed the training and found it very beneficial. Many participants would be enemies with one another simply by definition of race and religion, yet they demonstrated an 80% level of connection with their fellow trainees. Through group drumming, clearly peace-making did occur.

Following the training, drum circles are starting in the following places. Specific locations are withheld for security reasons.

  • Seven youth activity centers in northern Iraq will begin weekly drum circles for over 300 children.
  • A children’s rehabilitation center will offer weekly drum circles for staff and for patients and families.
  • A cultural center will begin drum circles.
  • An orphanage will begin drum circles for thousands of children who’ve lost their parents in the war.
  • A performance ensemble of drummers will offer drum circles in their community and integrate drum circles into their performances.
  • A university will offer drum circles for students.

In the words of an officer for Kurdistan Save the Children, “This program is good for conflict resolution and reconstruction for our people. The drums create a new way of talking to each other. Through drum circles, we will bring more people together.” Ribbon ceremony.kids ashti.drum.2

Drum your Prayers – Spirituality and Creativity – by Christine Stevens

“Life can become boring when the spark of creative fire is not lit in the soul of our spirit.”- Music Medicine, the science and spirit of healing yourself with sound

Christine Stevens and the Healing Drum KitWe all listen to music. Many of us dream of playing an instrument, yet most of us don’t. How do we move from being only consumers of music to becoming music creators?
Creativity is our birthright, an organic medicine of healing. No matter where these limiting beliefs originated, you are the one who can remove them and take action! Otherwise, you may never express the song of your soul that wants to be sung. As the old saying goes, don’t die with the music inside you.

The Science of Creativity – Mind & Body

In a study using functional magnetic resonance imagining (fMRI) to look at brain activity, surgeon and jazz pianist CJ Limb compared improvised piano playing to a rendition of a rehearsed piece of music. The results showed that when musicians used their own creativity, a very specific small area of the brain’s frontal cortex — the medial prefrontal cortex — became activated. This part of the brain functions in self-reflection, introspection, personal sharing, and self-expression; it is often thought to be the seat of consciousness. The medial prefrontal cortex area is also activated when we talk about ourselves, telling our personal story. Simultaneously, a deactivation occurred. The two larger areas of the frontal cortex — the lateral prefrontal cortex and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — were deactivated. These areas deal with self-monitoring, judgment, and self-criticism. It’s a paradox; the larger parts of the brain inhibit our self-expression, while the smaller part reveals the greater self. No wonder it’s a challenge to express ourselves creatively in music.
Are you ready to begin to be a creator; not just a consumer? Try these guided practices and awaken your Creative Spirit through rhythm.
This video demonstrates creativity. Done in collaboration with a friend, this shows a nice balance of masculine and feminine. This is improvisational and multi-cultural. Our prayer is for the beauty of dialogue of cultures, in this case of middle east and Native American. Music is the dancing ground in the center that unites people.

Here are a few more ideas to enhance your creativity;
1. Dance to the Beat of your own drum
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Idu4Zt_kHy

Drumming is an immediate portal into musical expression. Everyone can be successful immediately. Whether you are more comfortable drumming or dancing; both are great tools for awakening your musical creativity.

www.soundstrue.com/musicmedicine

Select Rhythm (Chapter 3). Scroll to the bottom and play the last two tracks: Reviving Rhythms and Beauty Groove play-along tracks. Get out a drum, rattle, or homemade percussion sound and play-a-long, improvising the beat that only you can play. Each track is more than seven minutes, giving you time to get out of your head and into your drum. Remember, there is no right or wrong here; simply the joyful feeling of self-expression.

2. Tone your note
Toning comes from “tone,” a single note that is an inner sounding. Give yourself permission to sing your note, whatever it may be, and let it resonate your whole being. Trust yourself. Don’t think about it. Just take a deep belly breath and exhale a note. Now, sing the same note only louder! Repeat. When you complete the toning of your note, allow yourself time to sit with the vibration. Feel the resonance of creativity, of musical freedom reverberating through your body, mind, and spirit.

~~~
Christine Stevens, MSW, MT-BC is an author, music therapy consultant to REMO drums, and founder of UpBeat Drum Circles. Her new book, Music Medicine (Sounds True, August, 2012) includes more than 40 guided practices and 50 audio tracks of healing music. www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUGTmeDh8E8

Group Prayer Ceremony at Shambhala Mountain Retreat Center

Group Prayer Ceremony at Shambhala Mountain Retreat Center

 

Drum Circles for Healing Veterans, by Christine Stevens

Archie slowly wheeled himself over to the drum tent. Despite a large white cast extending a few inches in the direction where his foot used to be, Archie was tapping his good leg to the beat. He pointed to a drum he wanted, and we immediately brought it to him.

What happened next was truly miraculous. We all watched as Archie’s face transformed from a pain-stricken victim to a liberated warrior, powerfully playing his drum with a mallet and slowly beginning to smile. The other veterans cheered him on as Archie played a solo. When the circle closed, Archie exclaimed, “it’s the first time I felt GOOD.”

According to Mr. Sadhu Khalsa, MSW, founder of the Healing the Warrior Program in New Mexico, “true lasting healing must include the body, mind, and spirit.” He states that approximately 30% of the Armed services veterans coming back from Iraq and almost 80% of the National Guard are experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. According to Khalsa, “there are 26 million veterans in the United States from all wars. Medicine today focuses primarily on symptom abatement. But we need to get to the core and address the spiritual aspects of the healing process.” Perhaps it’s time to bring mind-body medicine to V.A. treatment, for the recovery of Iraq soldiers returning with wounds both visible and invisible. We face our greatest humanitarian crisis in America as we seek to support the healing and recovery of our veterans. Tapping into all areas of mind, body, and spirit, drumming can play a key role in an integrative program within a patient-centered approach to recovery, healing, and wellness.

Why drumming with Veterans?
There are three evidence-based benefits of group drumming that apply to treating veterans.
• 1. Self-expression
For veterans, the drum becomes a voice of emotions for which words alone cannot express.
• 2. Camaraderie
Soldiers train in groups or platoons, go to war in groups, and then return to their individual lives alone. They miss a sense of camaraderie needed for recovery.
• 3. Empowerment
The drum is the instrument of the warrior. Strong. Percussive. Loud. It harkens to our strength with its tough skin stretched over a circular frame. The drum empowers veterans to transform themselves from disabled to capable.

One Beat at a Time – case in point
On a warm Los Angeles day in August, veterans gathered in an open area of the V.A. Hospital for a program sponsored by Brentwood Presbyterian Church organizer Richard Urrea. The event featured a shared drum circle tent where the sound of the drums amplified the powerful effect on the veterans and volunteers.

“It was beautiful. I loved it. I could hear us making music from the building. Please come back again. We need all the help we can get,” was the response from Robert Ramirez of Monrovia. According to Roy Clark of Las Vegas, “I think its fabulous. It makes you feel rejuvenated and puts you in touch with Nature.”

Volunteers from the Brentwood Church who had never experienced drumming commented, “It was synergistic. It carried what the message of the event was about. Coming together for community.” Volunteer Dick Hilquist commented “It was inspiring to everybody. To me. To the veterans. The drum circle brought everybody into mutual action.”

Drumming volunteers were equally moved by the experience. “The drum circle created a new found willingness and desire to converse and socialize. The veterans shared their personal stories and thanked us,” stated Susan Hall from San Diego, founder of Rhythm Works. According to John Lacques of Ventura, founder of Drum Time, “both the verbal and non-verbal conversations that I personally experienced were profound. It was humbling to be in the presence of men and women that have experienced things that I cannot imagine, and then have this healing experience unite and uplift all of our spirits!”

Director and Founder of Arts & Services for Disabled, Helen Dolas, commented “at one point, veterans in wheelchairs and holding canes formed a line playing shakers and maracas. Nothing stopped the sheer drive to be part of the music and let go of the pain.”

Extra Precautions
PTSD symptoms, according to Dr. John Burt, PhD, MT, can be provoked and triggered by loud drum sounds. Therefore, avoid the sound of loud banging drums. Enhance the drumming with melodic instruments; such an xylophone, flute, guitar, and even reed or brass instrument. As one veteran gun-man commented, “This doesn’t bother me at all. This is MUSIC; not WAR.” Secondly, be mindful of the physical concerns and pace the group to avoid over-excursion that can cause pain. And thirdly, leave a space in the set up of chairs in the circle for individuals with wheelchairs. Make sure to choose appropriate drums and shakers for individuals in wheelchairs experiencing physical limitations. Find ways to ensure that every person, no matter how limited they may appear, participates fully and recognizes that they are an important part of the drum circle.
lead drummer.loresVA Hospital Drum Circle 050man in wheelchair 2

You Are Musical – by Christine Stevens

Christine celebrating her musical spirit in Santa Fe NM

Christine celebrating her musical spirit in Santa Fe NM

The UpBeat Philosophy
You Are Muscial!

Being musical does not have to be difficult.
The ability to be musical comes from within.

You don’t have to play an instrument to be musical.
You already ARE an instrument.

You are a naturally born musical being.
As a child, you made up songs.
You explored the world of sound and rhythm daily.
There is musical spirit waiting to be rediscovered in you.
Musical expression is everyone’s birthright.

Music is not reserved for concert halls.
It can be an everyday event in everyday places.
Your performance in the shower or car is what matters most.

Making music is within your grasp.
It’s about living a creative and spirited life.
It’s about the choice to awaken your musical spirit
and create harmony in your life.

This is for everyone who was ever told they were not musical,
Not good enough,
Silenced and excluded from music-making,
Yet still yearning for musical expression.

Unlock your musical spirit,
Quench the longing to bring music into your life,
Create harmony in your life and reconnect with the music
that allows your soul to sing.

Silent Drum – tips for rhythmic meditation, by Christine Stevens

“Drumming may be the oldest form of active meditation known to humanity.”

What could meditation and drumming possibly have in common? I’ve been asking myself this question ever since I heard world-famous sound healing expert Jill Purce say “The purpose of sound is silence.”

First, both meditation and drumming help us get out of our heads and into our hearts. They just go about it in different ways. In meditation, placing our attention on the breath occupies the mind. In drumming, the rhythm becomes a mantra that captures our attention. You can’t drum while thinking. Both act as mind sweepers; to clear the mental space of worries and negative thought patterns.

Second, both meditation and drumming are practices that focus on remembering rather than learning. Meditative states are quite natural and simple, but not easy. Drumming is similar. Within the rhythm, we encounter remembering of heartbeats in the womb and rhythms our bodies long to express.

Third, both meditation and drumming are tools to connect with spiritual realms and the non-physical. We travel along both the silence and rhythm paths as portals into the spiritual space where we breathe deeply, relax and re-connect with the heart and soul.

But there is one difference.

Drumming just may get you there quicker. Drumming just may be bretter suited for hyper, over-active, ADHD types of people, like me! After a drum circle at the Teton Wellness Festival, a participant came up to me and shared that drumming helped her “drop in” to her meditation practice immediately.

Here are some tips on how to drum your way into silence;

Create a sacred space where you can settle in.
Prepare to drum by placing your hand over your heart. Take a deep breath. Breath into an intention for your meditation. Place your open hand on the drum and rub the drum in a circular fashion, infusing your intention into the drum.
Now you are ready to drum. Play a simple pulse, rhythm or whatever feels good to you. Don’t think. Don’t think. Don’t think. You may use a play-along CD as well, like The Healing Drum Kit which includes twenty-seven play-along rhythms for specific intentions. The specific rhythm is not as important as releasing all self-criticism and allowing yourself to liberate your creative spirit.
Give yourself at least a minimum of four minutes to fall into the beat. Significant biological signs of relaxation typically occur after four minutes of drumming.
When you are ready, come to a stop by fading your drumming into silence.
Put down your drum and focus on your breath. Feel the rhythm of your breath gently drumming your body. Stay in this meditative state for as long as you desire in a sitting meditation.
Complete your practice by gently returning and honoring your drum.

Christine Stevens, MSW, MT-BC, MA holds masters degrees in both social work and music therapy. She is author of Music Medicine, The Healing Drum Kit and The Art and Heart of Drum Circles. The founder of UpBeat Drum Circles, she has appeared on NBC, PBS, KTLA, and is a featured speaker in the DVD Discover the Gift. She has trained facilitators from more than twenty-five countries in the evidence-based REMO group drumming HealthRHYTHMS program. Christine has worked with many Fortune 500 companies, survivors of Katrina, students at Ground Zero and most recently, led the first drum circle training in a war-zone in northern Iraq. Website – www.ubdrumcircles.comchristine in desert

Group Drumming for Public Health

“I have found this protocol to be not only fun, but also instrumental in improving the health of vulnerable, hard to reach populations. ”
- Dr. Jessie Jones, Chair of Cal State Fullerton’s Health Science Department

“Introducing HealthRHYTHMS to our health care partners provides yet another innovative and powerful wellness tool to help our members and community.”
- Sandra Rose, director of Community Relations, CalOptima.

As the health care landscape changes, CalOptima, a public agency that provides health coverage, is exploring drumming as an evidence-based tool to reduce stress and boost well-being in the diverse Orange County, Calif., communities that the agency serves.

“Working together with community organizations and agencies is essential for our members as it provides them with additional resources in our community,” says Sandra Rose, director of Community Relations, CalOptima. CalOptima provides health care coverage to one in seven Orange County residents and a third of Orange County’s children. Health plans include Medi-Cal for low-income families, children, seniors and people with disabilities; OneCare (HMO SNP) for low-income seniors and people with disabilities; and the Healthy Families Program for children of lower-income families who do not qualify for Medi-Cal.

It Takes an Orchestra
A unique symphony of agencies worked in harmony with Cal State Fullerton Department of Health Sciences to create the HealthRHYTHMS™ weekend training program for over 35 health care professionals and community leaders working with diverse populations from delinquent youth to breast cancer survivors to Latinos, Pacific Islanders, and chronic pain. The participating organizations included;
• CalOptima
• Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA)
• Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure
• REMO HealthRHYTHMS™
Dr. Jessie Jones, Professor and Chair of Cal State Fullerton’s Health Science Department and expert on senior wellness programs, gave a presentation on HealthRHYTHMS for more than four hundred health care providers at a conference in June, 2011 that inspired Cal Optima to collaborate on bringing HealthRHYTHMS to their members.

The Science of Rhythmacology
“Health Rhythms is a true and tested activity that demonstrates that the use of music and drums in particular can add to the well being of the human condition,” stated Remo Belli, founder of Remo Drum Company, the parent organization to HealthRHYTHMS. HealthRHYTHMS™ is an evidence-based approach to whole person care that weaves together proven health strategies with group drumming. In controlled research studies published in peer-reviewed journals, HealthRHYTHMS has been shown to enhance immune function, decrease employee burnout, build a sense of community across diverse populations, and reduce anger in at-risk teens.

The Beat Goes On
Following the training, CalOptima hosted a forum on Creative Strategies for Healthy Living through Movement and Music where over 100 health and social service providers experienced components of the HealthRHYTHMS program. Cal Optima trained facilitators helped lead, uplifting the crowd with their enthusiasm. Inspired by the presentation, Nancy Hendrickson, program manager of the Braille Institute in Orange County, brought HealthRHYTHMS to the annual conference for over one hundred teachers, staff, and volunteers of all five branches of the Braille Institute.

Trained facilitators brought the program to staff, clients, and agencies. DeAnna Carpenter, MS led HealthRHYTHMS at the Orange County Juvenile Hall, middle and high schools throughout Orange County and Girls Inc. of Orange County board of directors meeting. Lola Sablan Santos led HealthRHYTHMS with Chamorro breast cancer survivors, patient navigators and women who are rebuilding their lives due to a divorce, death or other personal tragedies. Youth Development Director Caryn Blanton brought HealthRHYTHMS to Costa Mesa low-income, immigrant families, in an innovative health program; Creating Our Selves, for self-esteem, self expression, self image, and communication style. She also led 8 drumming programs a day at a summer camp in Big Bear, serving kids from San Diego and Compton.

Dr. Jones continues to facilitate HealthRHYTHMS with women veterans. She stated, “When I asked the women to express something on their drum about their experience in the military, the thunder of drums and the release of pent-up emotional filled the room. The release of emotion was cathartic and the healing process clearly began.”

Group drum circle training at Cal Optima

Group drum circle training at Cal Optima

Music Making Deprivation – Consumers versus Creators? by Christine Stevens

“Life can become boring when the spark of creative fire is not lit in the soul of our spirit.”

We all listen to music.  Many of us dream of playing an instrument, yet most of us don’t.  How do we move from being only consumers of music to becoming music creators?

A “sound check” of the status of music making in America shows how common this is.    A 2006 Gallup poll indicated that only 7.6 percent of Americans over the age of eighteen had played an instrument in the past year. That’s 92 percent who felt they were not musical!  The same Gallup poll found that eighty-five percent of people wished that they could play an instrument. Guess who is among this majority? President Barack Obama, who told Barbara Walters in an interview of Ten Personal Questions that he wishes he could play a musical instrument.

If music is such a universal language, why are we so tongue-tied?  For many people, music has been a challenge.  All it takes is one critical statement from some authority figure to silences us.  We get told we “can’t carry a tune in a bucket” or that we should “just move our lips” in the choir concert, and we stop making music.

Guess what? Sir Paul McCartney was kicked out of the choir.  Luciano Pavarotti was told he needed to change his sound to be more like the “operatic greats.” At the age of fifteen, George Gershwin was told it was too late to start playing piano. Imagine how many McCartney’s have been lost because of musical criticism that silenced them when they gave up on their music.

Creativity is our birthright, an organic medicine of healing. No matter where these limiting beliefs originated, you are the one who can remove them and take action!  Otherwise, you may never express the song of your soul that wants to be sung. As the old saying goes, don’t die with the music inside you.

The Science of Creativity – Mind & Body

In a study using functional magnetic resonance imagining (fMRI) to look at brain activity, surgeon and jazz pianist CJ Limb compared improvised piano playing to a rendition of a rehearsed piece of music.  The results showed that when musicians used their own creativity, a very specific small area of the brain’s frontal cortex — the medial prefrontal cortex — became activated. This part of the brain functions in self-reflection, introspection, personal sharing, and self-expression; it is often thought to be the seat of consciousness. The medial prefrontal cortex area is also activated when we talk about ourselves, telling our personal story.  Simultaneously, a deactivation occurred. The two larger areas of the frontal cortex — the lateral prefrontal cortex and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — were deactivated. These areas deal with self-monitoring, judgment, and self-criticism. It’s a paradox; the larger parts of the brain inhibit our self-expression, while the smaller part reveals the greater self.  No wonder it’s a challenge to express ourselves creatively in music. http://www.ted.com/talks/charles_limb_your_brain_on_improv.html

Barry Bittman, MD, echoed the importance of creative self-expression in a study.  He used subjects who drummed in a drum circle designed for wellness as compared with another group who only listened to drum music. All subjects had no prior musical training.  They were complete novices! By screening out experienced drummers, the study clearly demonstrated that we all have the capacity to express ourselves creatively through rhythm. Results showed that active drumming resulted in greater biological changes compared to just listening to music, a result created through exercise, self-expression, and a sense of support.  http://remo.com/portal/pages/hr/research/Immune+System.html

Are you ready to begin to be a creator; not just a consumer?  Try these guided practices and awaken your Creative Spirit through sound.

1.  Dance to the Beat of your own drum

Drumming is an immediate portal into musical expression.  Everyone can be successful immediately.  Whether you are more comfortable drumming or dancing; both are great tools for awakening your musical creativity. Listen to the free play along track at www.soundstrue.com/musicmedicine  Select Rhythm (Chapter 3).  Scroll to the bottom and play the last two tracks: Reviving Rhythms and Beauty Groove  play-along tracks.  Get out a drum, rattle, or homemade percussion sound and play-a-long, improvising the beat that only you can play.  Each track is more than seven minutes, giving you time to get out of your head and into your drum.  Remember, there is no right or wrong here; simply the joyful feeling of self-expression.

2.  Tone your note

Toning comes from “tone,” a single note that is an inner sounding.  Give yourself permission to sing your note, whatever it may be, and let it resonate your whole being. Trust yourself. Don’t think about it.  Just take a deep belly breath and exhale a note.  Now, sing the same note only louder!  Repeat. When you complete the toning of your note, allow yourself time to sit with the vibration.  Feel the resonance of creativity, of musical freedom reverberating through your body, mind, and spirit.

Christine Stevens, MSW, MT-BC is an author, music therapy consultant to REMO drums, and founder of UpBeat Drum Circles.  Her new book, Music Medicine (Sounds True, August, 2012) includes more than 40 guided practices and 50 audio tracks of healing music.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUGTmeDh8E8

Edited by Jeff Newman