People of all kinds are gravitating towards community drumming as a format for reaching a number of non-music-related goals and objectives. These can include things such as developing a sense of belonging, increasing self-confidence, becoming more disciplined, increasing team working abilities, and so on.
Not all forms of community drumming operate under the same philosophical principles however. Some deemphasize musical skills and focus more on creating feelings of unity through rhythmic entrainment, often through playing simple rhythms and following the in-the-moment directions of a leader. Other approaches focus on reaching specific emotional states through things like guided imagery and humor. Below is a list of what I consider to be some of the main features of what I call an Achievement-Based approach to Community Drumming.
The term ‘achievement’ is used because in these models, the focus is on the acquisition and development of personal skills as the primary vehicle for individual and community development.
Qualities of an Achievement-Based Approach
Educational in Nature
Participants learn from a trained and experienced teacher who has achieved a level of mastery in the art form that is sufficient to guide them from a very basic to an advanced level. Participants are taught about the craft of drumming within a curriculum that is designed to gently push them forward as they strive to reach new levels of skill. Studies show that personal achievement is what drives most people to engage in activities they find personally rewarding.
Focuses on Developing Skills
By developing skills, the participants gain confidence as they practice and play together. When someone reaches a new level of skill, they generally feel a great sense of accomplishment, which is reenforcing to the process of learning. Participants need to develop skills in order to stay motivated to participate and to reach deep into the music, which will further provide positive reinforcement to individuals and the group as a whole.
Honors Musical Traditions
Working within musical traditions, wether they be from one’s own culture or another, provides a broad and deep resource from which to draw. Music traditions connect participants with each other and those outside of their culture, creating a global network of musicians. Because most musical traditions feature a multitude of skill- and knowledge-based techniques and practices, they provide virtually unlimited opportunities for musical growth and development.
Any craft or art form requires a certain amount of discipline to develop. Discipline is a necessary life skill and is a shared trait among high-functioning people. The time one spends practicing and developing the craft of drumming (or playing any instrument) is time that he/she is conditioning him/herself to be someone with the focus and discipline to achieve his/her goals – no matter what they are.
Allows for Diversity of Skills
Because everyone is different, with different strengths, needs, and experience, a community-oriented program must accommodate multiple degrees of skill and various areas of interest. Most drumming traditions offer a variety of options for participation, including playing simple rhythms on basic instruments to directing the group and soling on drums and melodic instruments. As players gain skills, they are able to move from basic to advanced activities, thereby allowing them to remain on a developmental curve that meets their personal needs for meeting level-appropriate challenges.
The drumming program includes multiple goal levels that can include various aspects of music, such as playing specific sounds and patterns, learning various sequences of patterns, creating various textures and musical arrangements, performing at various functions (private or public), and adding other skills such as singing, dance, and performing.
Celebrates Personal Achievement
Students are acknowledged for attaining various degrees of skill and knowledge as they work through the program. Honoring achievement promotes a healthy environment where participants value work, strive to reach new levels, and celebrate themselves and each other. Honors are often granted through public ceremony, where teachers, peers, and families have an opportunity to show their appreciation. Celebrations add to someone’s personal sense of accomplishment and self-esteem.
Connects Members Through a Shared Community Experience
Participants study, practice, help each other, and perform in a group; thereby strengthening interpersonal relationships, providing opportunities for sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings, and generally creating a sense of camaraderie between group members. By achieving progressive levels of performance as a group, every member may take pride in his/her achievement.
Achievement-Based Community Drumming Programs offer participants with myriad opportunities for personal and community growth through a shared musical experience. Sessions are curriculum-based and educational in nature, honor musical traditions, take place over several sessions, are progressive and developmental, accommodate various levels of skill, celebrate achievement, develop discipline, and connect members.
ABCD programs may take place in schools, recreational facilities, places of business, retreat centers, and used within educational, recreational, developmental, and therapeutic programs. They are presented by someone with adequate drumming experience, as evidenced by training, degrees, certifications, public performances, recordings, publications, teaching experience, and references.