Saturday, June 9, 2007

The Circle of Life: Children and Drum Circles

What would you say if your child asked you for a drum for his birthday? The picture that comes to your mind might be of the child going crazy at a drumset, beating away loudly with no apparent rhythm... maybe even headbanging!
But try imagining something different... your child, sitting in a circle with other drummers, peacefully beating out his own special rhythm, which blends beautifully with the unique rhythms of the other drummers.
What I've just described is a drum circle. A drum circle is any group of people... whether it is you and a friend in your living room, or 100 or more people in a park somewhere... gather to play hand drums and other percussion instruments together. They don't play to perform... although in a public place they may gather an audience. In a community drum circle, everyone is welcome to play. The rhythms are spontaneous, different every time.
As Mickey Hart, drummer for the Grateful Dead, who helped make drum circles more popular with his books Planet Drum and Drumming At The Edge of Magic, explained it, "Typically, people gather to drum in drum 'circles' with others from the surrounding community. The drum circle offers equality because there is no head or tail. It includes people of all ages. The main objective is to share rhythm and get in tune with each other and themselves. To form a group consciousness. To entrain and resonate. By entrainment, I mean that a new voice, a collective voice, emerges from the group as they drum together."
Sound a little too new-agey for you? Well, consider this: Research has shown that participating in drum circles can boost the immune system, speed up healing, and can ease the symptoms of high blood pressure, asthma, chronic pain, arthritis, migraines, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and other afflictions. Many hospitals host drum circles for their patients! In fact, its been found that a specific type of group drumming stimulates white blood cells, which destroy cancer cells and virally-infected cells.That's not all. Drumming has neorological and psychological benefits, too! Places like prisons, mental health clinics, and support groups have started using drum circles as a way of healing and soothing. And some companies and corporations have started using drum circles for things like team building, breaking the ice at conferences or meetings, dealing with stress in the middle of the day, and celebrating accomplishments. There are now many drum circle facilitators that get paid to go into businesses and get drum circles started for the employees!
For kids, drum circles can have even more benefits. Drum circles teach children about teamwork and discipline, and listening skills, and build their self-confidence. They can provide an expressive outlet for kids, including kids with behavior problems, ADHD, or other special needs. (Kids with ADHD or autism spectrum disorders are often especially drawn to the rhythm of drum circles!) Drumming with family members can be a positive, bonding experience, too.
Plus... its just fun!
Want to try a drum circle with your children? Here are some links to help you find one in your area. Most drum circles are family-friendly by definition, but there are some drum circles facilitated by serious drummers who want perfection... so you might want to contact different drum circles first, to find out what the atmosphere there will be like.
Drum Directory's Directory

Drum circles specifically for children might be harder to find, as these are usually run by businesses and organizations, and facilitated on a by-hire basis, instead of just being drop-ins. But if you can't find one... why not start one yourself? You might want to go to a few regular drum circles first, to see how they work. Then, just find a place to meet, gather up all the percussion instruments (or coffee cans, trash cans, rattles, and whatever you can find), spread the word, and have fun!

For your viewing pleasure, here's a short video about a children's drum circle!

And if you're looking to buy some real quality percussion instruments for your kids, try this video:


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