I’m honored to have master rhythm maker and fellow Atlantan (before I became a San Diegan) Dave Holland post today! Here’s what he has to share:

Let’s face it, if you’re a music therapist, drum circle facilitator, or music educator, there’s a lot to consider everyday: lesson plans, scheduling, billing, marketing, individual practice, logistics, instruments, etc. But at the end of that long ‘to do’ list, there’s one truth about what we do that continues to surface for me – that we are in the relationship business.

The simple equation I use to create successful rhythm making sessions through relationships is this:

ME + YOU = WEEEE!!! Here’s the break down…

ME – This is the relationship a participant has with his/her self and the instrument they are playing. As a facilitator, we can quickly put a new rhythm maker at ease with the following steps:

  • Create a welcoming environment by greeting each participant personally and inviting them to choice from a variety of instruments.
  • Make participants feel Included by acknowledging their presence (& presents!) in the circle and their choice of instrument and/or rhythm.
  • Create a safe environment for self expression by reminding participants that there are ‘no mistakes’, suggesting safety tips (removing rings, etc.) and modeling instrument playing techniques.

YOU – This is the relationship a participant has with one other person in the group. These single links are essential to building a strong rhythm chain! Here are some steps to facilitating these ‘one on one’ interactions:

  • Create interaction and cooperation by inviting participants to introduce themselves to one other person or to share their instrument with the person next to them.
  • Create rhythmic dialogue by handing out complimentary parts or encourage participants to leave some space in their rhythm so they can ‘hear what the person next to them is saying’.
  • Introduce rhythm games or body beat activities into your session that encourage ‘one on one’ interaction. (Foley in Kalani’s Amazing Jamnasium is one great example! )

WEEEE!!! – This is the relationship each participant has with the group at large and the feeling we all get when rhythmic synergy happens! Here are a few things we can do to facilitate this ‘big picture’ relationship:

  • Celebrate the community ‘rhythm song’ by showcasing timbre groups.
  • Integrate movement/dance and song into the rhythm making experience.
  • Hand the experience over to the group by slowly moving yourself out of the role of facilitator and into the role of community rhythm maker!

The more we do to help participants create relationships with the instrument they’re playing, the other folks around them and the experience as a whole, the more successful we are at doing what we love; bringing people together in rhythm! And it begins to put that long ‘to do’ list into proper perspective!

Big thanks to Kat for providing the opportunity to share!

Happy Rhythm Making!

Dave Holland is a nationally recognized world percussionist, drum circle facilitator and workshop presenter. He is the owner of Beatin’ Path Rhythm Events and author of Drumagination: A Rhythm Playbook for Music Teachers, Music Therapists and Drum Circle Facilitators.

Find out more about Dave’s work as a facilitator and teaching artist, as well as his rhythm products for kids. Also, find out more about Dave’s workshops for the rhythm making professional and other professional development resources.

Be sure to join Dave at the upcoming International Percussive Arts Conference in Indianapolis for the Drum Circle Facilitator Workshop!

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