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Music for All and Bongo Boy Music partnered to host The “Art” of Drum Circle Facilitation with IPS arts educators on September 7 at Bongo Boy Music School, a private percussion music school located in the Castleton area of Indianapolis. The event was part of an ongoing effort to bring nontraditional music-making to Indianapolis Public Schools. The pilot for this project began with an IPS professional development session on July 26, during which John Fitzgerald from Remo, Inc. gave the keynote address.

Having had my first drum circle experience at our most recent Summer Symposium, I was excited to be back in such a welcoming environment, where creativity reigns. Lisa Colleen and Ed Gaus of Bongo Boy Music led the drum circle that included 11 arts educators and four of our staff from Music for All. I decided to observe the learning process through my camera.

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Everyone began to participate in the drum circle, with call and response techniques where the leader or participants play a rhythm and everyone else plays it back; and sculpting where a certain group or individual is playing in order to hear the different rhythms that ultimately turn into one harmonious rhythm. They even used their voices as the beat!

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Drum circles are an excellent way for people to come together in a space that is “inclusive and non-judgmental.” What it did for me was strengthen my communication with others, verbally and non-verbally. In fact, that was the main point discussed at the drum circle, learning how communicate effectively.

These arts educators came to this session to learn different techniques on communicating with their students. Bringing drum circles into the classroom, while unconventional, can aid in classroom management and engagement, and has proven to keep students focused. Also, instruments are not necessarily required in a drum circle, as you can contribute your body and voice to the group. There are students that do not have access to instruments nor prior knowledge of the traditional elements of music education. Inside the drum circle, while the teachers are creating musical life-changing experiences, the students can play what they’re feeling in the moment.

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The session was small enough that people in the group had the opportunity to demonstrate techniques and ask questions. It was interesting to see them demonstrate their unique techniques of facilitating a drum circle. An interesting point Lisa Colleen brought up during the session was that each person has to lead their drum circle in their own way that works for them. Attempting to mimic the way someone else facilitates a session simply doesn’t work.

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At the end of the session, everyone joined in on the community drum circle that takes place every week on Thursday night. People brought friends, family, and even their kids to join in on the fun. Every person in the session, including myself couldn’t stop smiling. As someone who is incredibly passionate about music and the advocacy of it, I was moved watching everyone come together. Drum circles are a place to learn and a place to feel the rhythm of who you truly are.

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