Author: Ashley Tisdale
I was listening to my Broadway Station on Pandora while I was typing ("Hamilton" frequently gets my thumbs up) and I was drawn to percussion in middle school because of the variety of instruments and the opportunity to challenge myself.
I recently had the pleasure of attending my 3rd Drum Circle Facilitators Conference and Village Music Circle East Coast Playshop from February 24th through March 3rd. As a percussion primary, I personally feel at home with this group of drummers. It's quite the get together and every year for the last 7 years, this group of drumming professionals get together in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a rockin' time!
In this blog, I wanted to share my experience at both the DCF Conference and the VMC Playshop so as to encourage other music therapists to "jump in", learn some new skills, and collaborate with other professionals. Friday morning, before the conference started, I was part of a group of facilitators who went to a local elementary school to facilitate 6 drum circles with children from Kindergarten to 4th grade. We got in early, schlepped in our drums, set our circles, and before we knew it our first groups were coming in.
The first group I had the pleasure of tag teaming with a few other facilitators, was a group of 2nd graders, then a group of 4th graders, and lastly a group of Kindergartners. Now, one of the things that kept popping in my head was a quote from the great Arthur Hull:
If you ever want to test your facilitation skills and clarity - take it to the kids
So I did just that. I made clear stop cuts, rumbled to a groove, sculpted by instrument timbre, marked the pulse, and did a little bit of call and response. There were a few bumpy moments in the 4th grade group where I had to think to myself more inspiration from Arthur Hull:
What is working & what needs work
After we finished the circles and loaded back up the cars, we met to have a short lunch where we spoke about our various experiences with the groups. In that lunch I learned a bit more about what could have worked differently, given various circumstances, and then in a jiffy, we were off to the opening drum circle for the 12th Annual Drum Circle Facilitators Conference!
The room was alive with drums and handheld percussion. I believe there were close to 50 people there. Various facilitators jumped in the circle to facilitate and welcome us, and then jumped back on their drums. With a rumbling stop cut, the opening drum circle ended and the first presenter was up.
At this conference, there were more creative arts therapies represented than in previous years - as a whole the conference was very well balanced with their presentations. There were sessions on utilizing movement with youth, boomwhacker games, an introduction to West African drumming, a session on drumBEAT protocol and how it helps at-risk youth, and so much more. The late nights were rockin'; and everyone made such beautiful music together.
If you would like more information about the Drum Circle Facilitators Guild, here's the link. Membership is affordable and it comes with other benefits!
After the DCF conference, I attended the Village Music Circle East Coast 6-Day Facilitators Playshop. This Playshop was led by Arthur Hull and Dr. Jane Bentley (a drum circle facilitator from Scotland who actually got her doctorate degree, studying drum circles! HOW COOL IS THAT??) and organized by Nellie Hill and Jeanne Thompson. Here's the link to the Village Music Circles website.
As this was not my first time at Arthur's facilitator's training, I was part of what is called the "challenge" group. Myself and two other ladies (one a fellow music therapist and the other a social worker) were expected to push ourselves and to experiment with the facilitation techniques we had already learned in previous settings. Early on in this Playshop, I was tasked with "Drum Call", the opening drum circle of the morning. I set the circle the night before, paying particular attention to the pitches of each timbre of hand held percussion and drums, I placed a bass drum in each of my 4 sections, and had a good balance of instruments to "sculpt a song". I had all my ducks in a row and the next morning, a few of the drummers replaced the drums that were preset with their own, high pitched djembes. A learning moment: people will bring their own gifts... In turn you have to accept their gifts and work with them. This holds true to my sessions. I can go in with a session plan in mind, but my clients might not be on the same level as what I'm expecting them to be. Take what they give you, adapt, and assist.
In this training, I also found myself offering help to the basic participants and assisting one of the challenge participants in her review of what Arthur calls "Running the Map" (that's when you start with basic facilitation technique and guide the group through interventions to where they are making music without you facilitating). We had several opportunities to test our skills and push ourselves through what is called "jump time" and to learn new skills and tools for us to take home in "breakout sessions". I could go on and on about the details of both the DCF conference and the VMC Playshop, but if I had to sum up both of the experiences into a few short words it would be these:
In the center of the circle, you will find yourself. Self-discovery awaits. Arthur Hull
These words ring through to my core. In the center of the circle I found out what works, what needs work, what my strengths are as a facilitator, and what knowledge I have than I can give to those around me.
I personally feel that more music therapists could benefit from these trainings. Even if you're not active in local community circles, you can still facilitate groups in session. Goal areas include improving group cohesion, attendance to task, sequencing, active listening skills, short term memory recall... And more!
VMC even offers a continuing education option for MT's (worth 45 credits!!!) for the 6 day intensive training. Which leads me to my final note... drum roll... Next month I will be sharing my percussion and facilitation knowledge at a continuing education class at Queens University of Charlotte with another music therapist Christa Buff, MT-BC on April 22nd, 2017. Check out the MTANC Website to learn more and register!
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Providing music therapy services for early childhood to older adults, music instruction and enrichment plus continuing music therapy education in Greater Charlotte Area of the Carolinas