Group Drumming Research – Summary of Six Studies

1. Group Drumming Strengthens Immune System
Composite Effects of Group Drumming Music Therapy on Modulation of Neuroendocrine-Immune Parameters in Normal Subjects (2001) Journal of Alternative Therapy. Jan, 2001. p. 38-47. Bittman BB, Berk LS, Felten DL, Westengard J, Simonton OD, Pappas J, Ninehouser M

• N=111 non-drummers. Tested five conditions: Listening Control, Drum circle, Impact Drumming, Shamanic, Composite Drumming
• Natural Killer NK cell activity was boosted in subjects who drummed compared to controls.
• Natural Killer cell activity stimulated by Cytokines (Interleukin II and Gamma Interferon – Helper (Th1) cells) was boosted in subjects who drummed compared to controls.
• Drumming changed cellular biology and reversed the stress response.

2. Group Drumming Reduces Employee Burnout
Recreational Music-Making: A Cost-Effective Group Interdisciplinary Strategy for Reducing Burnout and Improving Mood States in Long-Term Care Workers (2003)
Advances in Mind-Body Medicine. Fall/Winter, 2003. p.4-15. Bittman MD, Karl T. Bruhn, Christine Stevens, MSW, MT-BC, James Westengard, Paul O Umbach, MA

• N=112 employees in Long Term Care. Interdisciplinary teams drumming once a week for one hour for a 6-week series.
• Significantly decreased burnout on Maslac Burnout Scale.
• Improved employee mood states by 46% on POMS Profile of Mood States – sustained effect of 62% six weeks post intervention.
• Economic Impact – saved $89,000 for typical 100-bed medical facility through employee retention and reduced turnover.
• Total annual savings to the industry based on an 18.3% decrease in turnover at every long-term care facility is therefore projected at $1.46 billion.

3. Group Drumming Reduces Nursing Student Burnout
Recreational Music-Making: An Integrative Group Intervention for Reducing Burnout and Improving Mood States in First Year Associate Degree Nursing Students: Insights and Economic Impact. (2004) Bittman et al. International Journal of Nursing Education and Scholarship. Vol. 1 Article 12.

• N = 75 first year associate degree nursing students.
• Improved mood states by 28.1% on POMS Profile of Mood States.
• Economic Impact projections – retention of 2 students annually per a typical 105-student program, resulting in a projected annual savings of $29.1 million to US Nursing Schools.
• Projected cost savings of $322,000 for the typical acute care hospital, and more than 1.5 billion for the US healthcare industry.

4. Group Drumming strengthens Immune System in Japanese employees
Recreational music-making modulates natural killer cell activity, cytokines, and mood states in corporate employees. Wachi, et al. (2007) Medical Science Monitor. 13(2): p. 57-70.

• N = 40 Yamaha employees. The RMM group demonstrated enhanced mood, lower gene expression levels of the stress-induced cytokine interleukin-10, and higher NK cell activity when compared to the control.

5. Group Drumming reduces Instrumental Anger in Adolescents.
Creative Musical Expression as a Catalyst for Quality of life Improvement in Inner-city Adolescents Placed in a Court-referred Residential Treatment Program (Bittman, et al) ADVANCES Spring 2009,VOL. 24, NO. 1 Creative Musical Expression
• Adapted HealthRHYTHMS™ program
• N = 52 ages 12 to 18. Pre/Post test matched controls.
• Measured Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale (CAFAS)
Adolescent Psychopathology Scale (APS), Adolescent Anger Rating Scale (AARS), Reynolds Adolescent Depression Scale, 2nd edition (RADS 2)
• Improved scores in school/work role performance, total depression, anhedonia/negative affect, negative self-evaluation, and instrumental anger.
• Extended impact – improvements 6 weeks after completion of the protocol.

6. Keyboard playing Reverses Stress on Genomic Level
Recreational Music-Making Modulates the Human Stress Response. Bittman et al. (2005) Medical Science Monitor.

• Applied Biosystems and Yamaha.
• Reversed 19 of 45 gene markers of stress response versus 6 of 45 in resting control and 0 of 45 in continued stress condition.
• First study to develop an individualized genomic stress-induction signature.

Vitamin D – Vitamin Drum – Drumming for Health, by Christine Stevens

Christine celebrating her musical spirit in Santa Fe NM

Christine celebrating her musical spirit in Santa Fe NM

A young woman sits in a circle of empty chairs playing her djembe, a West African healing drum. Gradually other women arrive. They join the song, playing their own rhythms on a variety of different drums. No two rhythms are alike, and yet somehow they all go together. Over thirty people are now playing an amazing rhythmical symphony, painted above the driving rhythm of the first pattern. Their shoulders relax, their breathing becomes deeper, and their minds become calm and present. On the leader’s cue they all end together. 1-2-3-4-BOOM. Silence.

This drum circle empowers their spirits and heals their hearts. They are transforming themselves in the deepest way: without speaking, through music and rhythm. They leave refreshed, re-inspired, and re-connected.

Sound Health

“Sound” is within the very definition of health. According to Webster’s Dictionary, health is “being sound in mind and body.” Other terms, such as being at a “higher vibration” and being “in tune” point towards the role of music in wellness. The drum is a vibrational tuning fork, offering a mirror of what is truly inside our hearts, a rhythm that has been within us since our birth.

And the process of group drumming is quite possibly the next big method of creative fitness for stress reduction. There is healing value in playing music, expressing oneself rhythmically, and connecting with others. In fact, in a controlled study of 111 normal subjects, just one hour of group drumming showed a significant increase in circulating white blood cells and two specific cytokines, markers of cellular immune function (Bittman et al., Alternative Therapy, January 2001). Drumming successfully boosted the immune system.

For centuries, drumming has been valued as a tool of personal and community well-being. Shaman, healers in many cultures, rode the rhythms of their drums to the invisible worlds to bring back antidotes and totems for healing. Doctor and drummer were one and the same.

Modern day shaman called music therapists continue to lead their patients on vision quests of musical expression to their own inner healing resources. Used in this way, drumming is not so much a cure as it is a preventative measure, a vehicle of life-enhancement, spirituality, and empowerment.

Making music is becoming an integral part of the wellness movement, not as entertainment, but as a tool for healing, self-expression, and connection. Today, drum circles can be found in community centers, music stores, churches, festivals, and local parks. Some may be specifically for women or cancer survivors, while others reflect the truest diversity of humanity – young, old, disabled, able-bodied, all within a multi-cultural mix.

Why not begin today by rhythmatizing your life? Even on your own, you can include rhythm and drumming in your everyday health practice. Consider it the recommended daily allowance for achieving your highest functioning.

Getting Your RDA – Rhythmical Daily Allowance

#1: Get the Beat
The beat in music is the driving force, the contagious element, the energy. Choose a song with a beat you love to begin your day. Drive to work moving to the beat. Tap your fingers and feet to the beat of the song. When you’re at home, play a drum to the tune. When the tune has finished – and this is the essential part – don’t stop. Keep going; take that beat and make it your own. Improvise, play around with it, challenge it, allow yourself some freedom. Use the beat as a spring-board for your own improvisation.

#2: Modulate Your Rhythms
All day long, we adjust our tempos. We wait in traffic on the way to work, speed up to meet a deadline, or slow down if we’re tired and need to recuperate. Today, listen, look, and feel the rhythms around you. Listen to the rhythm in your speech and that of others. Look at the tempo of people’s walking. Feel your breath. Then take time to control and change the tempo and rhythm of these biological beats.

Whatever rhythm seems to feel most comfortable, put it onto your drum. Just take a few moments to be with the music and PLAY out your day. Put all the tempo and rhythm changes onto the drum, and then end with the steady place you found for yourself.

#3: Daily Decrescendo
Begin by sitting in front of your drum. Imagine any worries, concerns, issues that are causing stress in your life. Using your fingertips, nervously tap on the drum. Allow the sound to represent the issues boiling up inside you, pestering you, tapping at you. As you inhale your next breath, allow your tapping to become full hands-on drum rolling. Now, at the next exhale, change your playing to represent that exhale by rubbing your drum with your full hand in a swirling motion. Listen to the sound this creates on the drum. This sound, like wind rushing by, is a representation of the exhale of the breath, of the releasing of stress. Now, in a calm state, gradually begin to play your own rhythm. Notice what comes out of your hands when you maintain a calm state.

#4: Heartbeat Harmonics
Lub-dub, Lub-dub, Lub-dub. What happens when we take the rhythm of the heartbeat and play it on the drum? The external sound links to our internal state. We play a pattern that is so familiar to us, it pre-dates our consciousness and our birth. Today, take time to listen to your human pulse. Then play the heart-beat rhythm on your drum. Use this heart-beat rhythm as a meditation, as a return to the heart-centered place of healing and well-being. Allow it to connect your mind, body and spirit.

#5: Knocking on the Door
Whenever we knock on the door, we usually have our own rhythmic phrase, our unique rhythmical introduction. Today, begin your day with a tap on your drum. Introduce yourself with five minutes of playing, as if it were your unique way of saying “good morning,” knocking on the door of your life.

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 –

Drumming with Oncology Patients & Cancer Survivors, by Christine Stevens

On a Saturday morning in Santa Monica, Californiaupbeat photos sedona logo 027, two separate groups joined together for an experience that was unique, powerful and impactful. A group of twelve volunteer drummers from the Remo Percussion Center brought the joy and spirit they found in drumming to a group of cancer patients at The Wellness Community. In the joining of the two groups, there was a common chord of health and wellness, achieved through the experience of recreational music making.

It began with a basket of fruit shakers in the center of a circle. Out of the quiet anxiety of a group of strangers meeting for the first time, first a chuckle and then some laughter began as one by one, people chose a shaker and started making music. But it went deeper than that. Participants commented on the meaning of letting go and giving themselves permission to not be perfect, lessons important for all of us.

Through a series of rhythm activities geared towards putting people at ease with the process of making music, the group became more comfortable and relaxed. In one hour, they were playing their hearts out on the drums, creating moments of expression unrivaled by any words.

The session ended with an experience called guided imagery drumming where participants closed their eyes and drummed to a story. As a meditative activity, the drumming created a distraction from the chatter of the critical and worrying mind. After the drum circle, one patient commented that it was the first time she forgot about her cancer. She began to feel good again.

In the words of Nikki Fiske, a mother, teacher, cancer patient, and a first time drummer?

“It felt so relaxing and freeing to concentrate on the rhythms and be completely in the moment. Without judgment, without pressure? we each drummed to our own internal rhythms, yet we worked together as a group to create a unique and harmonious sound. There was a lot of laughter, sharing and mutual applause. When I left, after two hours of drumming, it was with spirit, heart and courage lifted up!”

Drumming also has important biological effects. According to a study (111 normal subjects) performed at the Mind-Body Wellness Center in Meadville, PA, one hour of group drumming following a protocol entitled, Group Empowerment Drumming™ was shown to significantly increase circulating white blood cells called natural killer (NK) cells that seek out and destroy cancer and virally infected cells. (Bittman et al. Alternative Therapy, January, 2001).

James Gordon, MD of the Mind-Body Center in Washington D.C. states “Oncologists should be open to group drumming if their patients are interested in it. Drumming can put people in a state of relaxation. It was used as a healing technique 1,000 years ago. Why not now?” (MAMM Magazine, July/August, 2001)

Remo drum volunteers agreed that they received more from the experience than they gave. Professional drummer Sam Kestenholtz commented, “Seeing and feeling the spirits of the participants being lifted as the group played together was an experience like no other. It was like a room full of strangers became a community of one.”

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 –

What is a drum circle? by Christine Stevens

The drum circle brings people together in a unique rhythmic experience that transcends language and cultural barriers. It is energizing, spontaneous, fun, creative, and synergizing for body, mind, and spirit.

How does a drum circle work?
A drum circle works because of the principle of “entrainment” – when a strong rhythm exists, the other rhythms around it fall in sync. Everyone can feel the pull of a strong beat, and can easily play along, provided they dont try too hard, essentially interfering in what is natural. The result is an experience in collaborative creativity that is accessible, inclusive and sounds really great!

Why do people go to drum circles?
People are drumming for a lot of great reasons. Not to become the next famous rock drummer, but because they want to feel good, reduce stress and reconnect with community. It becomes part of their recreational routine. We now have scientific evidence that group drumming may improve our health through boosting our immune system. (see Should Drums Be Sold in Pharmacies?).

What if I don’t have any musical talent?
It is a law of life that everyone is rhythmical. Beginning with our heartbeat, rhythm is something that all people have inside them. Because of that, everyone can participate in the drum circle. Even if you’ve never played an instrument before, you can contribute to the drum circle and discover the music inside you. (see You ARE Musical!)

What is the role of the drum circle facilitator?
The drum circle facilitator weaves together two main tasks – building the group cohesiveness while bringing out the musical potential. Drum circles are “facilitated” by individuals who have a good knowledge of drumming, rhythm, and music, and can empower a community of people to have fun and be connected. Today, there are training programs for people who want to facilitate drum circles and even a list-serve of e-mail dialogues across the world between drum circle facilitators.

Are there different types of drum circles?
There are many different types of drum circles for specific purposes. · Recreational drum circles – in community parks for playing together. · Corporate drum circles – to build teamwork and morale, using the metaphor to improve corporate functioning. · Diversity drum circles – to educate and demonstrate using music to build unity and appreciate differences. · Conference drum circles – as an general session or keynote. · Health and Wellness drum circles – at medical and wellness centers and senior living facilities, often facilitated by music therapists. · Music Store drum circles -for recreational drumming enthusiasts.

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 –

Creating a Musically Accessible Culture by Christine Stevens

Christine at New World Fair.1It’s like creating handicap-parking spots.
It’s like building on-ramps.
It’s like making reachable doorknobs.

We live in a culture of musical disability. “Music is healing” a message we’ve inherited from indigenous tribal people seems to be rarely shared. We live within the myth that music is a complicated, discipline-oriented task, filled with grueling practice, lengthy time commitments, constant critiques, and frustration. We have high expectations and we fall short.

Guess what? There is a paradigm shift occurring. It’s time to return music making to the accessibility it enjoyed in hootenannies and jamborees, to its purpose beyond entertainment and performance. It’s about creating safe, success-oriented, fun, playful musical experiences. We call this recreational music making. According to Merriam Webster, the term “recreatio” actually means “restoration to health.”

It just may be the most important revolution our culture has ever witnessed – the revolution of musicality.

Constructing On-Ramps

To create musical accessibility we need to build on-ramps, ways for people to enter music more gradually, instead of struggling up a long, steep staircase. Such construction is already happening in two main areas.

  1. A growing number of music coaches – facilitators of the new paradigm. The names of the professions are many; music therapists, drum circle facilitators, ORFF educators, and Music for People facilitators. They work within their stated professions to create musical accessibility. But imagine the impact of a more concerted effort. Imagine yourself belonging to this inter-disciplinary organization of troubadours, musical coaches, and visionaries of musical accessibility. Notice the difference?

    When you think of what it truly takes to change a paradigm, you begin to appreciate the connections. Last November, in a period of one week, I attended both the ORFF and Music Therapy conferences. It appeared amazingly synchronous. Is it any coincidence that only a few days later, a 200-person drum circle took place at the Percussive Arts Society Conference? Imagine three separate conferences with a similar desired outcome.

  2. Quick-start musical products – More and more user-friendly, non-intimidating instruments are being created. From paddle drums to electric keyboards that light up; boomwhackers to strum-sticks. But perhaps the simplest, most immediate access ramps are the drums. Offering the experience of community rhythm, many untrained people are entering the benefits of active music making. We are no longer limited to noisy kazoos! The quick-start instrument market is growing. Keep an eye out for the newest ideas.

Making Reachable Doorknobs

How many times have you heard people say, “Music is out of my reach?” The ORFF teacher’s pentatonic scale and the drum circle facilitator’s heartbeat rhythm. Both are portals into music making. Both create reachable doorknobs.

When we look across the various disciplines of musical coaches, some overall principles can be identified which create reachable doorknobs.

  1. Improvisation is KEY. Improvising seems to be easier for the “non-musician” and more challenging for the trained musician. How ironic!
  2. Musical development does not require an instrument from the start. Musical development begins with the music within and extends to singing, clapping, banging around in the kitchen, and eventually playing an instrument.
  3. Community support is critical. As opposed to individual lessons, which isolate the musical experience and force a state of self-conscious attention on the “student,” in community music making and group experiences, there is a feeling of belonging, support, and camaraderie.
  4. Musical skills development may not be the primary outcome. Music making extends beyond entertainment, into health, recreation, fitness, and spirituality. Let’s continue discovering and sharing these benefits of music making.
  5. The first music lesson in school is NOT the first experience with music. Children have been singing and playing for YEARS already. Let’s not treat them as if they are inexperienced. Let’s recognize and celebrate the experience they bring through their playfulness in music.

Rebuilding Society

I’m proposing we broaden our professional identity. Envision the larger perspective of musical accessibility, a culture rich with hootenanny-consciousness that once permeated barns, churches and parks of the 1920’s in the Adirondacks and Blue Ridge Mountains. Music making can become part of every medical center’s treatment program, every long-term care center’s activities, every fitness center’s creativity component, and every school’s requirements in every grade. Imagine families playing together, kids drumming together after school in the playground. Councils in every community made up of an inter-disciplinary team of doctors, teachers, musicians, and facilitators working together to create musical accessibility in their neighborhoods.

I leave you with this story. Two stone-cutters were asked what they were doing. The first stated, “I use tools to cut down the stone to form a brick.” The second one stated, “I am part of a team that’s building a castle.”

The next time you facilitate a musical event, in your home, school, or workplace, remember you’re not just creating one brick after the other. You’re part of a team that’s building a castle, an incredible culture of musical accessibility. As our team builds more ramps, more parking spots and more reachable doorknobs, we are witnessing the recreational music making revolution here and now.

Happy Revolutionizing. See you in the watchtower.

Could Drum Circles be the next Ropes Course? by Christine Stevens & Christofer DeGraal

Drum Circles capture the cadence of the new economy
while shaking up traditional notions about team-building.
- M. Kathleen Pratt,


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If you’ve attended a teambuilding retreat in the past ten years, you’ve probably experienced the benefits of the popular “ropes course.” With its characteristic features; challenge by choice, low and high elements, and trust games, ropes courses have been a standard in corporate teambuilding. But if you’ve been there and done that, what happens next? Is the ropes course paradigm still meeting the needs of today’s corporate clients, or do we need other options?

We live in an era of innovation and creativity, two primary aspects necessary for survival in the post-millennium economy. “Challenge” is being redefined beyond simply rising to a difficult task. Constantly creating and re-assessing a corporate and personal vision and discovering new e-commerce paradigms are among today’s challenges. And if you aren’t part of an employee’s personal and professional growth and happiness, they’ll leave or even worse, they’ll burn out.

What is this thing called the drum circle? Who is using this new leadership and teambuilding strategy and for what purpose? How does the drum circle paradigm meet the demands of today’s new leadership teams and corporate culture needs?

Similar to the ropes course, the drum circle is facilitated by trained professionals who are adept at not only leading the music and group activities, but also in de-briefing and processing the experience in a way that is useful for the client. Metaphors are processed and applied to corporate culture following the rhythmical activities.

But there are key differences.

Traditional ropes courses have been defined by three major elements. First is an established goal that drives a group’s performance and provides a tool for evaluation. Secondly are the limited resources that surround the group’s specific challenge; whether a time constraint, amount of materials, or number of people. This is meant to simulate the stress of daily tasks. Thirdly, there are established rules to obey, which are set by the facilitator.

In contrast, the drum circle has very different defining elements. First, the goal is constantly evolving according to the unique contributions of the players. Secondly, the group discovers its unlimited resources; internal and external, through the process of being supported in their creative expression. Thirdly, rules are created in the moment by the team, according to the discovery of what’s needed to reach their highest potential.

Apple Computer, Hallmark, AOL/Time Warner, Hewlett Packard, EMD, Dupont and Sony are part of a growing list of corporations turning to drum circles to assist in teambuilding strategies that fit the new corporate era. Guy Baker, founder of Catalyst Event Management, based in London with satellite offices in USA and Australia, has been successfully using drumming events for corporations for over six years. According to Baker, “In the ropes courses there are a few people at risk up on the ropes with the rest of the team standing on the ground yelling encouragement. But in a drum circle, everyone is at risk together, creating the rhythmic music. They all succeed or fail together. We are bridging the technology of ropes courses into the arts, which present a deeper, more affective and social challenge to teams.”

Perhaps the drum circle is a modern day embodiment of the philosophies that are being devoured by today’s successful creative leadership. According to Margaret Wheatley in Leadership and the New Science, “we need to develop new approaches – not management but encouragement, not control but genesis. Innovation arises from ongoing circles of exchange, where information is not just accumulated or stored, but created.”

At Internet World, 2001, a drum circle at the annual VIC party (Venice Interactive Community) erupted into a cathartic experience in self-expression, stress-reduction, and community building for the Dotcom industry executives who had survived a difficult economic year. According to Brad Nye, “the drum circle helped inspire a downbeat technology community to feel the power of rhythm and professional connection through our drumming.” The event was featured on as a demonstration of the power of collaborative creativity and a much-needed morale building experience.

Perhaps there is a modern-day application of the wisdom of the ancients who practiced drum circles in order to strengthen the tribe, develop their creativity, connect to spirituality, and inspire and honor their gifts. And perhaps this modern day application has a place in corporate culture where tribal change is frequent and challenging. The drum circle certainly has all the makings to be the next rope’s course.


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 –

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

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.

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.

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