American Rhythms: Beating the Odds Documentary Film Trailer

American Rhythms: Beating the Odds is a film about a group of students at an inner-city elementary school who experience drumming as a life-transforming tool.

A community struggles to assimilate with the “American way” while holding fast to their cultural heritage enduring gang violence, poverty, and a lack of resources. Yet a rhythm of hope beats.  Throughout our history, humans have used the moving sound and vibration of drumming.  It has been a force of expression, communication, music, meditation and prayer.  And, now it finds its way into an elementary school in Northridge, California. The heart of this community is discovering that its benefits bring more than just a musical experience to these young children. Drumming at Napa Street Elementary School has become a transformative activity that may just help its students change the trajectory of their own lives and the community they are growing up in.

We follow Ms. Gilmore’s 5th grade class. Most of them have been at Napa since they were kindergarteners.  Now we find the little innocence these children have been afforded being eroded as they negotiate their lives and sense of future around more harsh environments.  We watch to see how these 10 year olds cope with their new position as the oldest kids on the playground, all the while anticipating becoming the youngest at the intimidating thousand-student middle school. Exposed to the focused drumming sessions, we see the powerful effects that being part of the drumbeat have on our little friends. We see how teachers and counselors use the drum to help children learn more about themselves, their peers and move beyond the stressors they face.

Beat the Odds is a program that integrates activities from contemporary drum circles and group counseling to teach skills such as focus and listening, team building, leadership, expressing feelings, managing anger/stress, empathy and gratitude. UCLA researchers have shown that Beat the Odds can significantly improve inattention, withdrawn/depressed behavior, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity, and oppositional defiance. Facilitator trainings are offered quarterly on our events page. A brief summary of the program, scientific studies, and other articles describing the program can be downloaded for free under the “Download Materials” link on this website.

UCLArts and Healing Upcoming Programs

The Impact of Group Drumming on Social-emotional Behavior in Low-income Children
Teaching Group Drumming to Mental Health Professionals
Out of the Box: Positive Development and Social Change through the Arts, using Beat the Odds as a case study
Beat the Odds: A Brief Summary of an Evidence-Based Program
REMO Recreational Music Center
Rock the Rhythm: Beat the Odds – 6-minute film clip
Radio interview on Beat the Odds with Judith Pinkerton

related videos


Beat the Odds: Facilitator Training

This edited clip shows a wide variety of participants at a training for Beat the Odds: Social Emotional Skill Building Delivered in a Framework of Drumming, as they share their reasons for being there and demonstrate facilitating rhythmic activities.


Beat the Odds: 4/3/11 Facilitator Training

At our April 3, 2011 training, we captured footage of three trainees with entirely different facilitation styles. This footage shows the infinite possibilities for facilitation using nonverbal communication, self expression, & individual creativity.