Drum Circles

Community Drum Circle at Green Heiress Holistic Health

Community Drum Circle at Green Heiress Holistic Health


Humans are naturally rhythmic beings. There is constant rhythm in our breath, our heart, and in the workings of our body systems. Rhythm surrounds us in cycles as large as our planet’s revolution around the sun and as small as a nanosecond. It is no surprise that rhythm and drumming have played an important role in shaping our world.

Drumming and drum circles have been a part of many cultures for a considerable part of human history. Their uses vary widely, but it is clear that within any given culture the drum can and has played a significant role. We can find examples of the drum used in ritual, healing, celebration, sacrifice, and transformation. The role of the drum may be related to war, communication, work, trance-induction, expression, or play. 

Today, not only does the drum remain an integral part of sacred ceremonies, rituals, and celebrations across the globe; the concept of group drumming has expanded and found new life in a variety of settings. Drum circles can be found in places such as corporate team building sessions, memorial services, personal growth events, hospitals, community centers, correctional facilities, and practically anyplace people gather together. 

Some of the benefits of group drumming include self-expression, stress reduction, community building, support, family connection, fun, and exercise for the body, mind, and spirit. Drumming has been shown to be an effective tool to reduce burnout and increase positive mood in health care employees. Participating in a group drumming event can also benefit the immune system in the body, increasing the activity of disease-fighting cells.

Types of Drum Circles

Drum circles vary widely in structure, focus, and intent. Some circles focus on learning traditional rhythms from different cultures. Others gather to drum with a specific group or intent in mind, such as women’s or men’s drum circles or drumming for trance or meditation. Drum circles can also be as freeform as a group of people gathering to make music with no specific intent other than to enjoy each other’s music and companionship.

Many drum circles are led by a drum circle facilitator. The facilitator’s role is to serve as a guide for those attending the drum circle, helping to create a successful and rewarding experience while monitoring the needs of the group. Facilitated drum circles are the most commonly used form in therapeutic settings.

Therapeutic application

Group drumming can be used to:

  • Stimulate the body and the brain

  • Promote verbal and non-verbal interaction among peers

  • Provide a container for appropriate release of emotions and stress

  • Increase self-esteem

  • Provide the experience and feeling of being part of a group

  • Bring a common focus

  • Energize a group or individual

  • Teach relaxation skills

  • Promote physical rehabilitation

  • Allow for exploration of social patterns and behaviors

  • Serve as a catalyst for discussion and exploration of a topic or theme

  • Have FUN!

Therapeutic interventions through drumming can easily be tailored to meet the needs of groups both large and small. Drum circles can be specifically designed to address a wide variety of issues including team building, stress management, community enrichment and more.  Drumming in a group has the potential to meet the needs of individuals on many different levels of functioning at the same time. It can be simultaneously verbal and non-verbal, structured and unstructured, active and passive. Group drumming can be a fun and rewarding experience for all!

Group drumming can also assist in working with deeper and more emotionally charged issues. “Conscious Drumming,” developed by James Borling and Robert Miller, is a model for the use of drumming and the drum circle that may address these types of issues for groups, be they clients, community-based groups, institution-based groups or beyond. This model provides a structure within which individuals will have an opportunity to speak their “truth” as it exists for them on a given topic and to have this truth “witnessed” by the circle participants (community). With consideration given to both the process of ritual and the need for rhythmic structure and containment, the Conscious Drumming model is a model that may lend support to a variety of situations from memorials to celebrations.

Drum Circle Facilitation

Locally, Robert and Stephanie have facilitated circles with:

  • Allegheny County DHS Office of Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities

  • Community Life of Tarentum

  • Duquense University

  • Jewish Association on Aging

  • Manor Care

  • Oncology Nursing Society

  • Slippery Rock University

  • UPMC HealthPlan

Robert is also available to present to organizations about the benefits and applications of group drumming.

For more information or to discuss how a drum circle can be tailored to meet your needs, please send an e-mail to bob@musicforlifepgh.com.

Thank you Nicky Dunlap for allowing us to use many of the photos below. The photos are from Awaken! 2019 event created by Kim Chestney of Mystic Studios.
To contact Nicky please visit: https://bellamusa.wordpress.com/contact/