Drum Circles: An Ancient Methodology for a Modern World

How group drumming is being used as a tool for wellness and community building.

“Now, more than ever before, people throughout the world are investing time and energy taking better care of themselves. As a health-conscious society, we’re searching for meaningful and enjoyable ways to live full, vital and productive lives.” Remo Belli

Have you ever sat down at the piano at the end of a hard day to let off some steam? The benefits are obvious. It’s not about performance, it’s about feeling better. But for some people who have never learned how to make their own music, there’s an alternative that provides a means of stress-reduction and enjoyment and involves music making.

There is a cultural phenomenon that has recently been featured in such publications as Time Magazine, Prevention, Discovery, and even Natural Beauty and Health. Drum circles are probably one of the most ancient forms of community building known to man, but today’s press is just beginning to report on the proliferation of group drumming and the application for health & wellness. Drum circles have led to a much larger recreational music making movement that is going on worldwide. The scope of recreational music making is vast; however, the focus of this article is on the percussion aspect.

In the drum circle, people who are not necessarily professional musicians come together to create an improvised composition that becomes the score for their own lives. The drum circle provides a portal into musical expression, making it an accessible experience for anyone at any age or level of ability. In it’s simplest form, the drum is an accessible tool for creative expression.

Percussion is not a new phenomenon. As we re-discover the wisdom of the ancients, we continue to learn how to weave ancient practice with modern science. Based upon a recent study, the medical community is beginning to embrace this application of music and medicine. Dr. Bittman, CEO of the Meadville Medical Center and his research team discovered that a specific group drumming approach significantly increased the disease fighting activity of circulating white blood cells (Natural Killer cells) that seek out and destroy cancer cells and virally-infected cells. The study included 111 normal subjects, all of whom were non-musicians. Along with conventional medical strategies, Dr. Bittman includes group drumming in all of his disease-based programs at the Mind-Body Wellness Center.

Drum circles are happening in many places. This demonstrates the importance of establishing a rhythmaculture in our Western world. People attend these events not to become better percussionists, but to reduce stress, build community, and have fun. It is a recreational activity that engages the mind, body, and spirit. Arthur Hull, father of the modern day drum circle, developed his unique approach to facilitating drum circles in the 1980s through an observation of the need that extended beyond percussion skill development. According to Arthur, “when we drum together, it changes our relationships and helps us cope with whatever challenges life hands us.”

With attraction in many different arenas, drum circles may be seen in corporations for teambuilding, hospitals for music therapy, and music stores for community building. At the Remo Percussion Center in North Hollywood, we are exploring the application and value of weekly drum gatherings for social well-being and personal health. A recent survey of sixty participants showed that the most common reason for attending the weekly drum circles was “stress reduction.” The fact that people are now making their own music for Believing in the need for music making to maintain health demonstrates a paradigm shift – that musical expression may actually be necessary – more than for entertainment, but for its health promoting value.

The HealthRHYTHMS division at Remo was created with the focus of integrating drumming and wellness in order to share information, insights, articles and develop user-friendly instruments that can be used in health care settings globally. Our efforts are intended to help people integrate drumming as a tool for enhancing their lives, reconnecting with their community, and maintaining their health.

The Remo Percussion Center holds free community drum circles every Tuesday night at 7208 Coldwater Canyon in North Hollywood. For more information, please visit http://www.remo.com, click on HealthRHYTHMS or contact Christine Stevens at cstevens@remo.com, or 661-294-5698.

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Written by Remo Belli

Explore Wellness in 2021