Even as we understand the drum and its unique contribution to the cultural need for quality of life and connection, it should not be mistaken as a cure. Taking vitamins will not cure your cold. They will, however, help your system build its defenses against its susceptibility to viruses. Drumming is not a panacea. Even penicillin does not help every person. The drum is not like a pill. You can’t just take two and call someone in the morning. It is the process of participation that creates change. We are learning more about the form of group drumming and the skills of the facilitator that are most useful in the life-enhancement paradigm of music-making. The use of world percussion instruments seems to be a key.
Playing with our hands or a single mallet makes drumming most accessible The crucial element seems to be the focus on fun, self-expression, support, and connection. These are much more important than whether people can read a sheet of music, play a paradiddle, or count out different metric signs. In fact, without any knowledge of specific rhythms, I have seen many music-therapy clients play amazing rhythms. I remember one drum circle with a group of Alzheimer’s patients in which a woman started a rhythm in 5/4. As if that wasn’t amazing enough, the whole group followed along, completely unaware of the complexity of what they were doing – sounding fantastic and having a blast!
A pharmacy exists in my mind where drums are shelved next to St. John’s Wart as a homeopathic mood-enhancer. Where a directory of “rhythmic health facilitators” sits on the counter at which you pick up your prescriptions. Where a pharmacist hands customers an information page listing local drum circles in the community.