Drumming – the heartbeat of God
Drumming is one of the oldest form of music on our planet and is a sophisticated community art.
Rhythm comes natural and people of all age groups and backgrounds just love playing drums and learn it very quickly.
Drumming is both, a lot of fun as well as educational, and it has successfully been used in schools, team building, festivals, community and youth projects as well as in therapeutic groups.
Everybody can drum and it is a lot of fun. Drumming is is also energising as well as relaxing!
Drums and Percussions
Drums and percussions are the musical instruments used to play rhythmic patterns and structures. Drums are instruments in which an animal skin is stretched tightly across a frame or container of wood or metal to produce a percussive and resonating sound when struck either with hands or sticks. Percussion instruments are bells, gongs, shakers, or any resonant objects available. Drums and percussions are played usually in an ensemble and there is a great variety of instruments from many different cultures. The most popular drum today is the goblet shaped Djembe drum from West-Africa due to its fantastic sound range.
Humans are poly-rhythmic beings living in a poly-rhythmic world. Our personal rhythms created by our heartbeat, our breathing, our brawniness and the trembling of cells as well as the rhythms of sleeping and waking, eating and digesting, working and resting, are inseparably connected to the rhythm cycles of our planet like the returning of day and night, the waxing and waning of the moon, the rising and falling of tides, the turning of the seasons and the moving of the sun and the stars. The marriage of dancing and drumming is in its essence a process of embodying the rhythms of life, nature and the universe through movement and sound.
By celebrating life’s and nature’s cycles man re-creates the interdependence and interconnection of all existence. Today’s alienation from nature, caused by industrialisation, economic growth and technology, and the resulting frantic western life style makes many of us now searching for a rhythm that feels natural and relates harmoniously to our personal pulses. The awakening rhythm-consciousness can be seen as a healing response to the loss of even rhythms in our disruptive and fast changing culture.
Drumming – a musical skill and more
Everybody can learn to drum and it is easy to get started, because everybody got rhythm! Drumming is a lot of fun and very empowering. After only a few hours of playing people are drumming already together with confidence and are sounding great. With a bit of practice everyone can progress fast and will soon be able to join musicians playing various types of music. Drumming allows the players to express themselves in a creative way and is also a physical non-hurtful way of releasing tension and aggression.
Drum spirit – spirit drum
In tribal societies all over the world the shaman’s drum is a tool for transportation between the worlds of ordinary and non-ordinary or spiritual reality. The loud and constant sound of the drum enables the shaman’s consciousness to enter a state of trance and to travel out of his body into the timeless realm of the spirit world. It is the task of the shaman on these ethereal journeys to find visions and answers that help them to restore or retain balance for their people. The shaman might undertake a journey to find better grazing land for the animals, or enter the spirit world to retrieve the soul of a sick person or to restore the harmony and well being of the tribe.
All over the world drumming is or has been an essential accompaniment to ritual and ceremonial dances marking important transitions in the lives of individuals and communities. The occasions can be to celebrate the cycles of nature like planting and harvesting, or birth, initiation, marriage and death of a member of the community.
Communal drumming allows the individual to connect with each other and resonate physically, emotionally and spiritually through rhythm.
In the western world drumming in groups is meanwhile used a lot in schools, community and youth projects as well as in therapeutic groups. It is a musical team building tool to facilitate interaction and relating in a group. It also encourages participation and social integration in a playful way which is an important aspect in education.
Healing sounds and vibrations
The drum has been used for healing purposes world-wide for thousands of years in tribal societies with their shamanic traditions to communicate with the spirit world as well as a tool for social integration and to restore harmony. According to West-African wisdom teachings, emotional disturbances manifest as an irregular rhythm and are bad vibrations that block the vital physical processes. As regular even rhythms are regarded as a sign of health, these rhythms can heal a patient in an immediate and powerful way, removing blockages and releasing tension. Drumming and dancing thus is also a preventive remedy as it helps to become more conscious and balanced.
The healing sounds of drums as well as Tibetan singing bowls are meanwhile also used in the west to treat a lot of conditions with good results where previously other methods might not have been very successful. Drumming works with the life force itself in a profound way on all levels, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
Special Needs Music Workshops
(Feedback and Evaluations)
Every special needs music workshop is a unique experience and there is no off-the-shelf method. Here are some general observations and evaluation reports.
Drumming workshops at Co-Action Bantry 2002, process and progress:
Drumming is a musical team effort. Individuals, including those in marginal situations, can be often very much focused on their own actions and quite unaware of what is going on for others in a group. In a drumming circle everybody can hear the degree of co-operation by listening to the music produced. It will either sound together and structured or chaotic and disconnected. The participants are listening out for a rhythmic structure or a group “groove” that is created by them. They recognise the “groove” with excitement when it comes about and enjoy being united through rhythm in a group.
During the drumming session the participants develop the ability to relate and interact with each other in a playful way. The natural and spontaneous musicality is also uncovered which is inside of each human being and which is a primal expression of joy and happiness, often being shut down by upbringing and education. Children are often conditioned from early age to be quiet and not to utter any sounds or to act musically outside a set conventional musical frame work (“Why do you always sing out of tune?”,” Stop drumming on the table”, Don’t make these silly noises”, etc.)
Drumming today is therapeutically used as a means of self expression to empower people to play music and use their voices in a complex and free way as well as to encourage appropriate spontaneous musical actions within a group situation. Each individual in a drumming group acts in an expressive way as a part of the community and contributes what they have to offer according to their individual ability and skill.
Progress in a group is determined by each individual’s ability to open up, relate, and interact in the group as well as getting in touch with the own musicality as a fundamental form of personal self-expression. The concrete progress in any group will always depend on the team effort, the individual participation, and the appropriate interaction of the group members. This again will depend on the individuals momentary state, condition and form.
Drumming as a team effort works mainly on a feeling level which makes it an ideal tool to work with people of all ages, backgrounds, and conditions. People learn drumming in a playful hands-on way and progress fast without being intellectually aware or stressed about the process of learning on a personal, social and musical level. Through drumming people relax and move on at all levels. This progress and development deepens the more often people play together in a drum circle as they get more comfortable and familiar with the situation. Having a safe space to express personal emotions in a group through drumming in a playful and non-violent way is an empowering group experience and simply a lot of fun, which is essential for any personal development.
Rehab Care in Bantry, summer 2003: Experience and projection
All the above has been proven at Rehab Care in Bantry once again. The group is progressing socially and musically very well, everybody participates and enjoys the drumming circle, 3 or 4 show a real talent for drumming. My projection for the groups is that the progress will continue as well as the personal and social awareness will rise to a higher level. Carrying on with the drumming circle is definitely recommended.
Evaluation Report of Drumming Workshops at Co-Action Bantry, 2/12/04, facilitated by Thomas Wiegandt
I have run a series of drumming workshops with a group of around eight clients on average. The clients I worked with have wide spectrum of various disabilities.
I worked on learning to feel a musical pulse or a beat and play it on the provided drums and percussion instruments, progressing then into rhythmic patterns and poly-rhythms.
The clients participated very well and achieved the given tasks in a joyful and playful way. They particularly enjoyed singing African inspired call and response songs, giving the workshops a community feel. They also danced to the music they created.
The workshops have been very successful not only in the sense of musical education but as well that the clients could express their emotions in a playful way.
I think it would be good to continue with the drumming workshops, as they are very beneficial as well for a positive social interaction.
Team building workshops at Health Board Conference, Kilkenny Castle, 14-10-03, email:
Many thanks for your participation at the conference. The Directors were
impressed and it is likely that they will be looking for you in the future
for team days etc. The address here is The Arches Adult Counselling
Service, 21 Church Street, Tullamore, Co. Offaly.
With kind regards.
Drumming Workshops at St.Mary’s Secondary School, Mallow, Co. Cork, 3-2-2005
Thomas has given several percussion workshops in our school over the past few years, to all classes from first years to D.C.A’s to transition years, to leaving certs.
The students have always thoroughly enjoyed the workshops. They have been hugely valuable in developing their sense of rhythm and appreciation of percussion instruments as well as being imaginative and fun for the students. Thomas is a true professional in his whole approach to the workshops and I would highly recommend them for primary or secondary schools.
Maura Mc Auliffe, St. Mary’s Secondaty School, Mallow.
Drumming Workshops at Desertserges National School, Enniskeane, Co. Cork, 16-5-2003, letter:
I’m writing on behalf of all the pupils, staff and parents of Desertserges National School, who recently took part in your drumming workshop at the school. It was thoroughly enjoyed by all of us regardless of age, it was wonderful to see even the small children very involved and contributing to the overall musical achievement. The large variety of instruments available for use ensured that the childrens attention was held at all times.
Thank you for a most enjoyable and productive day, and we hope to see you again in the not too distant future.
Wendy Sweeney, Principal
Drumming Workshops at Co Action West Cork, Bantry, Co.Cork from December 2004 to January 2005
To whom it may concern.
We at Co Action have had Thomas Wiegandt from the Drumming Centre West Cork coming to the Bantry work centre to do drumming sessions with a group of adults with learning disabilities. Our service users all have learning disabilities of varying degrees ranging from mild to profound. We have found that the drumming sessions with Thomas to be very beneficial to everyone involved. We particularly found that the mixture of groups taking part and the enthusiasm to participate was very noticeable and very beneficial. We found that the trainees with speech impairments took a lot out of these sessions while enjoying themselves at the same time. Thomas built an excellent relationship with the participants right from the first session, which put them totally at ease with him, It is obvious to us at Co Action that Thomas is very capable of working with people with learning disabilities. After saying this we would highly recommend him to any other organisation or school as he works equally well with all ages. We look forward to continuing sessions of drumming from Thomas in 2005′.
Con Lucey and Sheila Deasy, Recreation staff Co Action Bantry
Evaluation of Drumming Sessions at Rehab Care, Bantry with Tomas Wiegandt from February 2003 until June 2003.
From: “deirdre carter” firstname.lastname@example.org
To: ‘Thomas Wiegandt’
Date: Mon, Feb 16, 2004, 11:30 AM
Thomas came to Rehab Care to teach Drumming to our clients here. The clients
he worked in my unit have intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities
and mental health problems. Tomas began the sessions with introducing
sounds, pulse patterns, rhythms, Native American chants and gave the
participants many opportunities for self expression. This first session was
a great success and all the clients enjoyed it immensely. This session took
place in the conference room at the centre and the overall effect in the
premises was very uplifting and all present enjoyed the sound of the beat
Every week Thomas introduced a new element to the session with an emphasis on
group participation, integration and teamwork.
In the sixth week due to beautiful weather we took the drumming outside to
an enclosed area beside our supported housing complex. In the centre of the
complex there is a circular area which allowed us to form a complete
drumming circle. This session produced fantastic spontaneous rhythms,
fostered a wonderful community feeling and everyone participated with great
spirit. The following week we joined with the physical and sensory group
whom Tomas was teaching also in the centre. This was very successful as
previously both groups did not mix very well. The P & S clients found the
noise of the drums very loud when in-house, however playing outside was a
great success in terms of the loudness factor for these people.
In terms of individual participation some of our clients progressed very
We have found in our centre some of our clients can be very focused on their
actions and are unaware of what is going on for others in the group. In the
drumming circle everyone can hear the degree of co-operation by listening to
the music produced. It can sound together or chaotic and disconnected.
People, when they recognise the beat and the sound of unison can really
begin to enjoy playing and the united feeling that accompanies this. This
happened particularly in relation to a client of ours, this person became
focused and interested in all aspects of the workshop and began to notice
other participants and join in a proactive way in all the drumming sessions.
A decision was made at the penultimate drumming class to perform in Bantry
Square on Fairday. This proved to be a challenge in terms of logistics,
transport, drums, chairs etc. However we all gathered in the square and gave
a fantastic performance. The drumming group drew a lot of interest form
people out enjoying the Fair. All our clients really enjoyed performing for
an audience. For many it was the first time to perform in public and in
terms of confidence building and self esteem it proved to be a great
Tomas interacted in a very positive and proactive with all our clients and
developed good relationships with them. Due to the positive response Tomas
has expressed desire to continue working with our clients.
Deirdre Carter, Programme Supervisor, Rehab Care Bantry
Schizophrenia Ireland, sound meditation and drumming workshop, Macroom, Co.Cork 22-4-06
Many thanks for the wonderful workshop you ran for relatives and carers in Macroom. All who took part in the event were full of praise for you.
Miriam Murphy, Schizophrenia Ireland, Regional Development Officer Southern Area
Team building workshop with ESB (Group Human Resources) in Clonakilty, April 2008, email:
With regard to feedback comments the response from the group to the event was very good.
I haven’t talked to all the group since coming back but there was general agreement that there was a good fun element to the drumming sessions.
The feedback was also useful in that it put the spotlight on the group as a working team while still allowing for individual creativity within the group (if this is not too grandiose a word for what we were producing!).
Sean told me that he felt it worked better this year than last year (we had pottery last year) because we “gelled” more as a team.
Mick said that you judged the mood of the group very well and that you managed the feedback sessions with great sensitivity – generally we are more likely to talk openly about the work aspects of our job than the personal aspects and you managed to get people to open up on the personal aspects. Also, some of the people were quite new to the Group and this workshop served as a good introduction.
I know that you put a lot of effort into making the workshops an enjoyable and worthwhile experience for everyone and would like to personally express my appreciation to you. It’s always a little daunting organising an event in case it doesn’t measure up to people’s expectations but there was a “feel good” factor during this event which I am sure will contribute positively to the workplace and to the individuals themselves. Many thanks.
Marie Feehan, Group Human Resources, ESB, 27 Lr. Fitzwilliam St., Dublin 2.
John Barron, Fun Drums from Waterford, 2009, email:
John here in Waterford, how are you? Long time since we spoke, hope life is good in West Cork!
I have wanted to write to you for some time to say Thanks and a big thanks for all those years ago when I first visited and did a workshop with you. I believe it had a lot to do with where I am today and influenced a lot of decisions I made. I really appreciate that and wanted to let you know.
I think sometimes in Ireland the drumming people and community keep themselves to themselves and it would be nice to see all of us get together a bit more, even if it was online! Looking forward to hearing from you