So You Wanna Be A Drum Circle Facilitator…?

I got a letter from Julie, a music therapy student, asking about facilitating drum circles.

Click play below to hear my 6 action steps to get on the fast track to become an effective drum circle facilitator. (The first 3 you can start doing right NOW.)

You can find out more about drum circles in general with Drum Circle Spirit by Arthur Hull. You can get more specific information about drum circle facilitation with Arthur’s book Drum Circle Facilitation. Both of these books are AWESOME resources.

And finally, my hands-down, MOST favorite resource on facilitating drum circles with KIDS is Dave Holland’s Drumagination. This book and DVD will blow your mind so hard that you will start doing backflips. Warn your neighbors.

I bring you these resources through my partnership with Amazon.

Now, as for workshops, Dave Holland is gracing Indianapolis with his presence on Saturday, March 24. You gotta go. It’s too good to miss.

You know, I’m definitely not a know-it-all. Partner-in-crime, yes. But guru, no. Sooooooo, I’m dying to know what you would say to someone who wants to be a drum circle facilitator?

29 Responses to So You Wanna Be A Drum Circle Facilitator…?

  1. Greg Whitt March 12, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    Kat – these are all great tips! I, too, heartily recommend the books and videos available from Arthur Hull, Christine Stevens, Kalani, Dave Holland, and several others. All are excellent resources. And be sure to check out the info at All of these materials are great indicators that there’s a lot of theory behind all the slicing and dicing you might see a facilitator doing in the middle of the drum circle.

    Another great way to whet your appetite is to JOB SHADOW with a professional facilitator like ones you may find at the Drum Circle Facilitators Guild website: Most of us would be glad to have you spend an event or a day with us. This way you can experience the whole shebang – not just the glamour in the circle, but the calendaring, negotiating, contracts, travel, gear management and schlepping that accompany the time actually spent in the circle.

    Though many facilitators first develop some chops as drummers, the best facilitators develop their skills working with group dynamics. You can take that even further with some understanding of creative process (see books by Twyla Tharp, Benjamin Zander, and the like).

    Since I use a lot of folkloric instruments in my drum circle work, I also like to have a good understanding of the history and uses of those tools so that I can honor the traditions from which they originated. Even without teaching culturually-specific music, this can add a lot of depth to the metaphors you might share in a community drum circle.

    in rhythm,


    • Kat Fulton March 12, 2012 at 8:09 am #

      GREAT resources here, Greg. Thanks for sharing! You’ve got some very helpful gems listed.

  2. Natalie Mullis, MT-BC March 12, 2012 at 8:26 am #

    Love this Kat! My best tip is to DO IT! Just like with a music therapy session, come in over prepared and let the magic happen.

    • Kat Fulton March 12, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

      Yeah! I’m with you on this one, Natalie. Over-prepared and let it happen. Yes!

  3. Debi Kret- Melton March 12, 2012 at 10:06 am #

    Another great post Kat! I have done drum circles with kids from Preschool through High School (mostly special education) But as Nat says above – Just Do it! The process of getting the drums out and playing starts out as cacophony, but morphs as if by magic into a group process of rhythmic goodness!

    • Kat Fulton March 12, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

      Awesome, Debi! Sometimes just doing it is the thing we’ve got to do. =)

  4. JoAnn Jordan March 12, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    Love the list, Kat. I would also suggest that just incorporating facilitated drumming within a group can be a way to develop your comfort and your repertoire. (BTW, I LOVE Dave Holland’s resources. They are easy to use and can modify to meet your groups needs/abilities.)

    • Kat Fulton March 12, 2012 at 6:02 pm #

      Hi JoAnn! I agree – Dave is amazing! And good point about the repertoire. I never thought of it like that, but it makes sense… You incorporate a song with some drumming, and it’ll sound like you’ve never heard it before….

  5. Merritt March 12, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    Just be there and begin with a slow heart beat, gradually increasing the tempo and watch what happens.

    • Kat Fulton March 12, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

      Merritt – very wise. See you tomorrow! Claude gave me some good feedback that I’m using to shake things up a bit. Hope you are doing great.

  6. Rachel Rilinger March 12, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    great post! I love drumming and do it all the time in my work. There are so many ways to “start” a drum circle, and I find that it can differ depending on the needs and size of the group. Some groups can be more abstract, and others more concrete… but I def. agree that you just need to do it and try it and make mistakes! (that truly aren’t) 🙂

    • Kat Fulton March 12, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

      Thanks for your input here, Rachel. Mistakes are just part of the journey, right? 😉

  7. Lulu Leathley March 12, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    Hi Kat,
    Another great resource is the the yahoo list where there are over 1500 facilitators from around the world asking for ideas and giving great advice.
    Next year’s Drum Circle Facilitator’s Guild Conference is going to be on the west coast so hopefully a lot of you will join us there! It’s a terrific Conference for both facilitators and people getting into facilitating on the last weekend of Feb. 2013. ( soon to be on the DCFG website)

    The other great event is the Seattle World Percussion Society’s World Rhythm Festival in April. It’s a free event with over 150 presentations and a lot of us facilitators are there. Arthur Hull presents workshops on facilitating…,,and it’s free…and then does a huge drum circle with everyone on Sat. night…not to be missed!

    I’ve been facilitating for 15 years and find that being flexible, getting out of the way and asking the participants involved in the circle is great for me.

    Hope to see you in Seattle of somewhere soon!
    Lulu :^))

    • Kat Fulton March 12, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

      Lulu – Ah! I can count on you for AWESOME resources and ideas – Thank you!

  8. muzikjam March 13, 2012 at 8:59 am #

    With some groups, esp. intergenerational, we’ve used an echo chant (thanks to Lynn Stevens). The facilitator starts, then trade leadership around the group. The “caller” may stand or sit in the center of the circle:

    “All you drummers that I see,

    Play what I play after me…”

    Group echoes a simple pattern in repitition according to the group dynamic or pre-decided # of “turns”
    The facilitator can read that the group and determine when it’s time for a new person to lead.

    • Kat Fulton March 13, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

      Hey Muzikjam! Great idea – thank you for sharing! I love working with intergenerational groups. I’ll have to try this next week!

  9. Peta Minter March 13, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    Kat, the books by Arthur Hull, Christine Stevens and Kalani are a great source of information for music lovers and of course drum circle facilitators. I had the honor of meeting Arthur in 2010, Hawaii Playshop – it was a life changing positive experience for me and I’m excited to be attending this year Hawaii Playshop in August.

    I get so excited when I hear great drum circle facilitator information new and not so new. Once again thanks Kat for keeping me up to date with the new.

    Cheer Peta

  10. Kat Fulton March 13, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

    Peta! Hey there – I did Arthur Hull in 2008. I swear I’m going to do it again soon…. Wish I was going this year. Have a *wonderful* time. Thanks for the note here. I’m glad the content is engaging.

  11. Rachelle Norman March 14, 2012 at 8:07 am #

    My #1 tip? Make sure you teach the group how to stop. 😉

    Seriously, though, it’s relatively easy for a group to learn to rumble and stop together, and it’s always an amazing feeling to realize that, yes, you are playing music together.

    • Kat Fulton March 14, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

      Yes! Agreed! No matter what the background or experience – It’s so invigorating every time. Thanks for your tip there Rachelle.

  12. JeniDrummm March 14, 2012 at 9:07 am #

    Awesome as always Kat! I’m so sharing this. Thanks for your contribution to this field.

    • Kat Fulton March 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

      Hi Jeni, and thanks for being one of the most awesome drum circle facilitators on the planet! My pleasure to pay due respect to the DCFers out there.

  13. Eddie O Neill March 15, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    Hi guys,

    Just listen, feel, smile and facilitate the GROOVE…..not the people!!! Enjoy!

    • Kat Fulton March 16, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

      Right on, Eddie. Thanks for passing on your wisdom here.

  14. Beverly Nadelman April 2, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    I am in total agreement with what you said and with the resources you and Greg recommended.

    I would add only that when attending non-facilitated circles, think about what you might do if you were facilitating to make the circle better and when attending circles where you think the facilitator is doing a less than splendid job (as I did last weekend) remember that you can always learn what NOT to do in similar circumstances. Finally, never facilitate without permission.


  15. Jacob August 18, 2015 at 2:23 pm #

    This video was awesome! I’m about to start facilitating community drum circles with a business partner and the tips here are really helpful. Thank you! 🙂

    • Kat Fulton August 18, 2015 at 2:44 pm #

      Fantastic! Great to hear from you Jacob =)

  16. Debbie Helman April 4, 2016 at 7:25 am #

    Enjoyed your video. Thanks for the great resources!

  17. Sparrow June 4, 2016 at 7:34 pm #

    Wonderful vibe you have. Thank you

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