In academic year 2004-2005, with support from the Salamander Fund, I initiated a free, monthly educational program in Arts and Healing at UCLA to explore ways in which various art forms can enhance emotional and physical health. The program on drumming was attended by 80 people despite one of the worst storms in L.A. history. UCLA outreach efforts attracted the attention of Karen Timko, Director of Program Improvement Primary Intervention Counseling for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), who attended the program on therapeutic drumming along with several of her staff. This ultimately led Ms. Timko to take several staff for intensive weekend training in therapeutic drumming and, later, to provide full-day training in June 2005 for her entire elementary counseling staff (the staff totals 130). I obtained funds from a private donor so that each counselor could each receive an instructional book with rhythmic CD and a drum.
During the training, I administered pre-post surveys in order to determine the effect of the one-day program on counselor perceptions of the benefits of drumming, their likelihood of implementing a drumming program on campus, and perceived barriers to implementation. Ninety people completed the pretest; 49 completed pre- and posttests, for a 54% response rate. Results of the surveys show a significant increase in the likelihood of offering drumming during the school day (from a median of 2 to 6 on a scale of 1 – 7; p <.04) or after school (from a median of 2 to 5; p < .001). Results also showed a significant improvement in the mood of participants as a result of the program (from a median of 5 to 7; p < .001). Major reported benefits for students included: stress reduction, self-expression, emotional release/management, cooperation, self-esteem, centering, and focus. Major benefits for staff included: stress reduction, team building, and burnout prevention. Funding for the drums was the greatest perceived challenge, with obtaining support from administration and other staff as the next highest challenge.
An interesting side observation was that there were several male counselors whose participation increased exponentially when asked to dance in the center of the drum circle.
I believe that if we can document the effectiveness of drumming, we can facilitate administrative support for such programs in schools.
The counselor training was held on June 8, 2005 at the REMO Recreational Center in Burbank, owned by Remo Belli, founder of REMO, Inc., the world’s leading manufacturer of drums. Remo, an active philanthropist in Los Angeles, subsequently expressed the desire to collaborate with UCLA in a study of drumming.