I. Am. A. Professional. Animal.
That statement is much more than a reference to the Muppets. When I touch my drum, I am touching the history of mankind. I am going back to when drums were the first instruments ever invented, when drums became a form of personal expression, when drums established community, when drums helped develop our brains as we evolved from animals into humans… I am in touch with my animalistic side. I am in touch with the rhythm inside of me and the need to release it. I want to touch others with my music and I want others to share their music with me.
I am a performing & visual arts instructor, but I also have experience teaching English, mostly Creative Writing. I am a percussionist performer, which includes drum set, mallets, rudimentary snare, and much more. I also have experience as a music video filmmaker and a composer for films. My work is primarily from Washington, DC and Austin, Texas, but now I reside in Munich, Germany.
I am working on my Master’s at Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, one of Europe’s premiere academic and research institutions. Between now and Spring 2019, I will be examining the role of live performing arts in North American versus European culture and society in the 20th and 21st Centuries. My goal is to explore ways in which to reinvigorate the role of theatre, music, and dance as, once again, a defining element of civilization.
There are plenty of impressive artists and teaching artists, but few that recognize how the creative process and even the process in which we experience the product are rituals with transformative effects for both the performer and the audience. These are rituals that should be highly praised and celebrated, whether they are intended as a profession or just as a hobby. In regards to percussion, of those effects, I’m particularly drawn to the therapeutic benefits, the social benefits, and what I like to refer to as the “brain benefits.” This “About Me” page really should be named “About The Powers Of Percussion” as I attempt here to categorize these benefits, which bleed into each other. There are hundreds of books out there that go into much greater detail, including how to maximize the effects, so what you are about to read is just a very crude summary.
Let’s start with the personal benefits… The therapeutic benefits. As you can see from the video, drumming is much more than just a source of personal expression. Research has shown that rhythm can help a variety of illnesses and conditions, even the immune system. As a child, drums was a great solution for my issues with aggression and my inability to focus. I have several students with similar internal conflicts as well as stress, burnout, depression, self harm, and low self-esteem.
Although my work can be considered therapeutic, “Drumming should not be considered a stand-alone cure for any major health problem” writes Christine Stevens, certified music therapist and masters level social worker. “It is a complementary strategy that can be customized to meet your own individual needs. The drum alone cannot heal anyone. Healing, like rhythm, does not come from the drum; it comes from within you.” (The Healing Drum Kit Guidebook, page 27) I am not a doctor and recommend anyone with a major health problem who deeply wants to use music as their primarily strategy, to reach out to music therapists and programs such as Austin Music Therapy.
Left, photo taken by interviewer Osei Bonsu. Right, photo take by Eric Morales for an interview with Blue Kabuki.
If you meet an egotistical drummer, he/she is already a terrible drummer. The job of the drummer is not “to keep the beat,” but to compliment the other musicians and unify them. The drummer may be a leader, but he/she, above all, is a servant to the music. If you meet a humble, modest drummer, you have met a very skilled drummer.
Moving onto benefits drumming will have in your community… The social benefits. The best percussionists in the world aren’t the ones with the fastest hands, but the ones with the biggest ears. By that I mean, percussionists who are critical thinkers are open to the sounds surrounding them and open-minded to where, how, when, and why those sounds were created. They truly understand the role of the “rhythm section,” how the drummer holds it all together, by absorbing those sounds, using abstract and mathematical means to organize them and compliment them. In other words, percussionists are skilled communicators because they are great listeners and improvisers, great allies and leaders. I have experience teaching students all across the Social and Emotional Learning chart, working towards becoming great critical thinkers, allies and leaders through self and social awareness, self-management and relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
In parallel… My favorite percussionists are not only the ones who live in the moment, but those that have their own unique style. In other words, their life isn’t dedicated to being the next Buddy Rich, but to discovering inspirations from all over the world to influence their own unique style. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Buddy Rich!) Thus, perhaps the greatest social benefit is to improve creativity in collaboration!
And now for the brain benefits! Scientists are fascinated with the complexities of a drummer’s brain! It thrills me that more and more studies and findings come out every year, including this recent story with Mickey Hart from Grateful Dead.
In the first video on this page, Dr. Aniruddh Patel with The Neurosciences Institute explains how learning the universal language of music will improve your ability to master languages in general. How else does drumming make you a smarter person? Well, it’s been proven that practicing multi-tasking and hand-eye coordination will definitely make you smarter. In researching these effects, I found two almost identical articles on the internet, “It’s Official, Drummers are smarter than you (and everyone else)” by Ben Kaye and “Science Shows How Drummers’ Brains are Different from Everybody Elses” by Jordan Taylor Sloan, both published in May 2014 after a study in Stockholm finding the link between drumming and creative problem-solving skills.
This quote below is was the most memorable part of reading Kaye’s article and the perfect way to sum up all the benefits!
“Researchers at the University of Oxford discovered that drummers produce a natural “high” when playing [individually or] together, heightening both their happiness and their pain thresholds. The researchers extrapolated that this rhythmic euphoria may have been pivotal in mankind establishing communities and society. Essentially, drum circles were the very foundation that made human society possible.” – Ben Kaye
I believe drumming is an innate quality in all humans. If you have a heartbeat, you can drum. We need rhythm to survive and those who embrace drums as a method of survival will not only be healthy, happy individuals and members of society, but will always be young at heart. To conclude…
ANYONE WHO WANTS TO DRUM, CAN DRUM. (Why would anyone not want to drum?)
When I was little I was told I could not drum because I was a girl, hence why I cut my hair short and I started calling myself Dannie, as oppose to Danielle. With a tomboy mother, I knew having a vagina was a silly reason to not play drums, and from there I developed the mentality that anyone can drum. Well, let’s be honest… I didn’t completely embrace this philosophy till my late twenties. When I was first teaching, I was adamant that there was the “perfect” instrument for everyone, and drums just wasn’t it for some folks. Then two things happened. One, my uncle said to me, “When you should me, I’ll should you.” (Probably my favorite quote ever.) He’s right, I’m not sure I have the right to tell any student, “Actually, yeah, you should try guitar instead,” no matter what his/her strengths and weaknesses are or what my professional experience is. Two, I started to meet more drummers like Eveyln Glennie, who is a deaf percussionist, and Dean Zimmer, who is described as a “handicapable drummer”. See their videos below!
Again, if you have a heartbeat, you can drum. By meeting these artists, I learned that no matter what your abilities are, even if another instrument might be easier for you… If you want to learn drums, I will teach you. Please visit my contact page.