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Listen! There is Music in that Breakfast You are Focusing On!

music, drum set

I am a music lover. I have found that in life, there is always music if you listen for it.

There is music in the rain and in the wind, music in my old Volvo that had no radio but the windshield wipers that kept the tempo and the old, squeaking chassis that played a melody, and around here, even the crickets play Reggae.

As far back as I can remember, I have been drumming on things. Drumming on pots and pans, on books and on desks, on lampposts and flagpoles, or setting up sleeping bags and sleeping pads like full percussion racks in the back of my family’s old Volkswagon Microbus on long car rides to and returning home from camping trips. Basically, I drummed on anything I could find, and still do. I find that it has a calming effect on me and has helped me to focus.

As an educator, I have found that weaving the things that I am passionate about and love doing into my work for and with other people, not only keeps my work fresh and alive and real, but also may be helpful to people in other ways as well. Around the time we were writing Focus Your Locus: Activities that Focus the Power of Individuals and Groups, I began doing more drumming with some of the groups we were working with for team building and group cohesion, as well as for personal empowerment of the individuals within the groups. I began to notice that rhythm and music, particularly drumming, and especially group drumming can have a profound focusing quality.

Drumming has been used in every culture; the world over, since someone stumbled over a hollow log thousands of years ago and discovered it had a really good tone! Group drumming has shown to have many profound benefits, including focus. Through the use of biofeedback, research has shown that the drumbeat can alter the brain’s wave patterns, increasing Alpha waves, which are light, meditative brainwaves, as well as reduce stress. Talk about a healthy alternative to pharmaceuticals! How great would it be if rather than prescribing medications and treatments for stress doctors gave you a prescription for a djembe and weekly follow-ups at the local drum circle? Now that is good medicine!

One of the biggest misperceptions of group drumming is that one has to be a musician to be able to play drums.

This is simply not true! Think back to when we were children, uninhibited, curious, and how we would bang or tap on things, exploring our rhythmic creativity and exploring sounds. We were all able on some level.

When I was about eighteen years old, I had the distinct pleasure to be able to attend a drum workshop given by the legendary Nigerian master drummer Babatunde Olatunji in Santa Cruz, California. Baba had a great catch phrase that has stuck with me, (and probably every drummer he played with over the years); “If you can say it, you can play it.” This is so simple and so true. We are all conditioned over time by society into our roles and into thinking that we can’t make music if we are not trained. This is simply not the case. Try it! Start by saying your name, first and last, and take note of the meter of how your name is said. Now, as you say your name, tap it out at the same time alternating your hands with each tap. It’s that simple.

We have used this in our programming with great success, even taking it as far as to have the group pick words, phrases or concepts from their decided upon group norms or “Full Value Commitments” and drum them at the same time to begin the groove.

It is just that simple. Plus, once people realize that they can play what they can say, they are empowered to try new things, to follow along on new beats and new rhythms, and there isn’t anything much more powerful than a group of people deep in a groove together. Drumming can be almost hypnotizing when groups get to that point. Deep focus. A common shared physical and rhythmical experience. The world music mirror neuron party!

For breakfast this morning, as I listened to the rain rat-ta-tap a beat out on the windows in my kitchen, the initial drips of the brewing coffee rang like bells before settling into the gurgles and hisses of steaming percolation releasing the aroma of the rich roast that hit my nostrils like sweet music to my ears. The toaster clicked and popped the rhythm of a lightly toasted bagel, accompanied by the crackling of an egg, fried over easy, and filled my senses, my belly, and my soul with this musical morning meal.

Author Profile: @justinmcglamery

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