Pa Rum Pa Pum Pum

During the school year, my second grader studied Japan. He learned to eat with chop sticks, tie an obi on a kimono, write his name in Kanji and was basically electrified by the topic. The culmination was a visit to a Taiko Drumming exhibit where he not only got to listen but he also got to play one. His enthusiasm was contagious and probably raised my awareness to notice that our Wellness Community offered an evening drumming circle.

Frank Thompson of AZ Rhythm Connection

Knowing that the Wellness Community grounds their program offerings in research regarding health outcomes, I not only calendared the drumming circle but I also perused the medical studies that address recreational music making. Sure enough. One such study focused on drumming as a corporate wellness program. The results demonstrated enhanced mood, lower gene expression levels of the stress-induced cytokine interleukin-10, and higher Natural Killer cell activity amongst those who participated when compared to a control group that did not drum. The second study concluded that drumming is a complex composite intervention with the potential to modulate specific neuroendocrine and neuroimmune parameters. In other words, participation in a drumming circle can alleviate stress and strengthen the immune system.

These were reasons enough for me to pursue this but I had no idea what to expect. Frank Thompson, Founder of AZ Rhythm Connection leads this particular circle. In his van, he totes a modicum of percussion paraphernalia and it appears to bring him pleasure to share it with others. I sat in a circle of 20+ individuals none of whom I’d ever met. When Frank had us introduce ourselves by creating a personal drum roll, our reasons for being there were never duplicative. “I’m here to alleviate stress.”  “I come as part of my overall wellness routine.”  “I’m Native American and in my tribe, women are not allowed to play drums.”  “I have MS and believe this can be part of my healing.”

What followed was an awesome sychronization of rhythm and spirit.  Within a short period of time, perfect strangers had attained perfect collaboration.  Our individual drum beats fell into a shared rhythm that helped beat back illness and create natural killer cells. And, regardless of the rhythms, the joy that erupted on the face of each participant as they pounded out their stress was clearly evident. In one or two cases, a drummer let loose a howl of satisfaction.

I’m not certain how often my schedule will align with the opportunity to attend the drumming circle but am certain that when it can, I will benefit.

Have you tried anything new lately that gave you a different perspective?

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62 Comments

  1. What a great story. My youngest son is now working in Japan, teaching English, the only place he could find a job after graduation. It all began with Taiko at elementary school and continued as he graduated from college with a minor in Japanese. Keep that interest going!

    Reply
    • Your son’s story is pretty great too. Yes, my youngest has a genuine fascination with Japanese culture – he’s even taking seaweed in his lunch box!

      Reply
  2. Lisa H

     /  June 7, 2011

    What a great idea! Once again, music is shown to have a healing effect (something I think we all somehow know instinctively). I hope you find the time to attend more drumming circles!

    Reply
  3. What a great experience!

    Reply
  4. Drumming is primeval: it matches our heartbeat: I’d love to see a scan of electrical activity in the brain when it’s happening, especially in a group.

    This was such a new door to open, Tammy :-D I will be thinking about it for the rest of the day…thanks, as always….

    Reply
    • Yes, in fact, I’m disappointed that I didn’t think to reference the heartbeat bit. It is really an authentic charge.

      Reply
  5. I heard a fabulous NPR piece once about drumming and heart health. I thought, I should do this for my heart. Maybe dance to it, maybe drum. Maybe I should do it?

    Reply
  6. My youngest son (now 26 years old) plays the drums. He’s very good, but it took hours and hours and hours of practice when he was growing up. I think that’s why I’m half deaf now. lol! I can, however, identify quite a few popular songs by the drum parts alone.

    This sounds like a great experience (and much less stressful than listening to an 11-year-old pound on his drum set). :)

    Reply
  7. Wonderful post!

    Reply
  8. Very cool thing, Tammy! I totally believe in the healing powers of music, and while I’ve never drummed, I play the piano a lot and have experienced some awesome improvements from it. I know it’s good for mental flexibility and memory, but what was absolutely unexpected was a sudden (within 2 or 3 months) healing of my elbow joint which has severe cartilage damage due to an inflammation and counterproductive treatment and was supposed to get worse gradually and would have to be fixated (i.e., sinews cut through) to stop the pain and ongoing inflammation. Now I don’t have any problems with it anymore, and I totally owe that to the piano. Another reason to just go on playing. :)

    Reply
  9. We attended a drum circle in November. Very soothing . . .

    http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/bang-the-drum-slowly/

    When we attend to the moment, we attend eternity. Bang the drum slowly.

    Reply
  10. Drumming is very powerful. One of my favorite (and that of others, too) teambuilding / retreat activities with my staff was a drum circle. It was a really neat thing to do in a work situation—lots of laughs and then, beautiful collaboration. Alas, on the question of what I’ve done recently to change my perspective, probably not much! I’ll have to work on that!
    Eleanor

    Reply
    • I love that you did this for a team building. I think it’s a great idea – probably a bit silly and awkward at first and everyone comes away with a collaborative smile.

      Reply
  11. I also, like kath believe in the healing powers of music. Good for you to take your son’s interest and try something new. I love how Children can inspire our lives daily.

    sweetlife

    Reply
  12. This was so beautiful Tammy. I love how you went and tried it . . .and found it to be worthwhile! Makes me wonder how many things are out there that would bless us and help us as alternatives to stress.
    Something that we’ve been doing for awhile, so not new really, is horse therapy for my daughter. Only I feel like it ministers to me just as much. ha! Just being around the horses, petting them, brushing them, makes my life better.

    Reply
    • Horse therapy is something that I’ve read about and I have a childhood friend who is supposed to be an expert in it now. That’s great.

      Reply
  13. Interesting post! I hadn’t encountered that before.

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  14. There’s almost always a Taiko performance at the National Folk Festival here in Canberra; I love how it thrums through you. Good luck fitting it into your schedule! :)

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  15. Wow, I wish there was a drumming circle near me! That’s awesome!

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  16. I love beats and drums. Music is medicine. I cannot live without it!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    Reply
  17. Sally Mom

     /  June 8, 2011

    Awesome post, Tammy. In the spiritual community I study and practice, music, involving drumming and guitar plus, and voice, always begins our service, like most churches.
    It brings out so much love and relieves so many burdens from our minds. It is exciting that your young man is turned on to this great instrument of sound. I am looking forward to hearing more.
    Super blog!

    Reply
  18. Tammy, these fabulous pockets of goodness that exist – how do we tap into them and enjoy their benefits?

    Thank goodness for blogging. Becoming aware of the healthy offerings in our community is priceless.

    Reply
  19. taking a hike up a mountain always gives me a different perspective – it’s such a nice time to unwind from everything else and enjoy the sun!

    Reply
  20. Joan Z

     /  June 9, 2011

    Last year, my 7th grade son Matt had to do a big project. Pick your topic and study it in depth. He made drums. First he took a class at a center like the one you describe. He made a drum from a wood ring w/dyed deer skin. It took all day and it is awesome. From that he decided to design his own. He made a whole set from various size clay flower pots and deer skin he bought on the internet. Clamped the skin down with an adjustable plumbing pipe clamp he got at the hardware store. Then studied the various sounds they make. We also have a whole drum set. Thankfully, piano is also a percussion instrument. It adds variety to the constant pa rum pa pum pum in my house. :)

    Reply
    • Great idea to make a drum Joan. And, I never knew that piano is a percussion instrument but guess I should have.

      Reply
  21. What a wonderful story! My daughter is in the Navy and plans to visit Japan at a later date. Drums can add so much to music………….blessings,Kathleen

    Reply
  22. Such a great post! Music do have healing properties, yes.
    Im no drummer, but im a singer and a grade 0 guitarist. I find it quite relaxing to sing and strum the guitar when im low or exhausted, after work on a weekday. It really lifts me up.

    Reply
  23. Last year, for his significant Zero birthday, I got Bill a Djembe (His interest in this drum had been sparked by the movie, The Visitor) I cannot tell you how much joy he gets from it–especially after he found a teacher and drumming circle. more than a stress release (which he desperately needed from his work) it stirs something ancient, primal; all the drummers creatively connecting at a soul level.

    Reply
  24. As a dj I’m very aware of the healing power of music. Drums and bass create a sychronization of rhythm and spirit. Wonderful.

    Reply
    • I bet you are. It would be very cool if you could document what you see over time.

      Reply
  25. It has been AGES since I’ve heard of drumming circles. I really never understood their purpose because, well…I guess I never cared enough to read about them. I got lost in your write up and now I’m very curious. Unfortunately, it’s doubtful that our area offers a drumming circle. It will be worth researching.

    Reply
    • Remind me of where you live – I bet you’d be surprised. It is a really cool experience.

      Reply
  26. What an awesome story! Unfortunately, the closest I get to healing is pilates.

    Reply
  27. How awesome that you participated! I went to a Taiko Drumming show once and loved it. It was so mesmerizing. I imagine it would relieve stress.

    Reply
  28. Wow! There is something truly magical about drumming–about all sounds, I suppose, but drums truly resonate and reverberate inside outside and all around you.

    -b

    Reply
  29. Thanks for this great work on the healing power of drumming! I’ve been drumming for many years and thank the rhythm for keeping me young, vital and alive through life’s changes! Keep up the goodness!

    Cheri Shanti
    Author of Muse Power: How recreational Music Making Heals us from Depression

    Reply

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