Drum circles in the broadest sense have been around since the first caveman started beating on a log. There is something about drumming that is both primal and cathartic. Unlike most other instruments, it is possible for anyone – including non-musicians – to play rhythms on a drum (or any percussion instrument) immediately and join others in a music-making experience. Of course, there’s also no limit to the level of musical expertise one can achieve as a percussionist.
About ten years ago, I had a friend come to our company to facilitate a drum circle for our employees. The friend is Arthur Hull, who many consider the “father of the modern drum circle”. Arthur has a wonderful way of getting the shyest people to come out of their shell and join the fun. I saw the results of his event immediately which included lots of smiles. The lasting effect is a renewed spirit of community and teamwork among participants.
From time to time, I have the opportunity to conduct drum circles myself, primarily for non-musicians who are connected with my company. The most recent was at our company headquarters here in the Hudson Valley.
While the temperature outside was in single digits, indoors things began to heat up as the drumming commenced. There were forty of us with hundreds of instruments available in my percussion studio. The drum circle included a short review of “rules” such as “no wearing rings” if you are playing drums and to remember to listen to each other. Then we did a few exercises to get comfortable with playing such as how to get a good sound out of the bells, shakers, blocks, xylophone and drums. We tried different rhythmic patterns at different volumes from soft to loud and practiced “call and response”. We ended by “performing” an improvisation with many of these elements. The result was fun, interactive and a nice break from our daily routine. Here are a few video excerpts of that session.
Last year, I was challenged to facilitate a very large drum circle in Atlanta. The group consisted of people who sell Woodstock Chimes throughout the US and other manufacturers within the gift industry. I say challenging because “conducting” a group of that magnitude (150 participants) who are playing drums is like herding cats. Imagine that many people playing instruments which are capable of producing serious levels of sound in a somewhat small indoor conference room. The results were incredible though. Everyone participated and left the event fully charged to conquer the world and put Woodstock Chimes in every home!