Rhythm Nation: Drumming Is Source of Healing for People with Disabilities

As I sit at my computer, I'm grooving to a mix of techno, Brazilian and Rat Pack jams, and it occurs to me that music is the common denominator among the human race. Music transcends race, gender, creed — and disabilities.

This is in no way an original notion. Many have incorporated the very idea to unite groups worldwide. Concerts, such as Live 8, Farm Aid and MTV's World AIDS Day concert, promote awareness and raise funds for specific causes.

Listen to a drum beat and you will think of your own heartbeat — that essential rhythm of life. You may think of a parent's or loved one's heartbeat as they held you close for comfort. Drumming promotes that same sense of relaxation and safety. These feelings enable music therapy to touch people's lives.

The Disabled Drummers Association (DDA), located in Miami, earned certification by the state of Florida in 2001 to conduct Continuing Education courses on music therapy. According to the association's Web site, music therapy using drums targets range of motion, coordination and applied repetition to gain strength. Drumming, specifically, helps with "focus of attention, memory skills, hand-eye coordination and concept development." Other benefits include comfort, the relief of anxiety, mental awareness, and strength in the hands, wrists, arms and shoulders.

DDA asserts that if physical therapy is necessary, why not make it fun?

Why not, indeed? "Rhythm is the central power of our life," says master percussionist Reinhard Flatischler. "It connects us all." Embrace the healing powers of music, or just rock out for fun, with the help of the following organizations:

  • Disabled Drummers Association
    A Web site dedicated to creating public awareness to eliminate the stereotype of the disabled musician. Features include a marketplace to buy, sell and trade equipment, information on music therapy courses, and membership enrollment. Members get a membership card, a member directory and quarterly newsletters.
    A site started by Rob Richard, a drummer with cerebral palsy. The content is created by and for disabled drummers. Drummer profiles, articles, products, links and discussion forums are just a few of the highlights. Also find helpful tips like this one: Drummers with upper body balance issues should try a backrest drum throne for stability.
    A site dedicated to online drum lessons via video. Watch Andrew Hewitt teach his unique style of drumming.
  • The Raven Drum Foundation
    The foundation was developed by Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen to encourage the healing powers of drumming. Healing circles help individuals work through life transition, illness, and physical and developmental disabilities.
  • Coalition for Disabled Musicians, Inc.
    A forum for disabled musicians across a wide range of disabilities, the site connects musicians and facilitates studio time and recording. Check out the adaptive gear section for ideas on improving your techniques.
  • Paralinks
    A comprehensive list includes links to sites of disabled musicians and organizations promoting wellness through music.

This article originally appeared in the January 2006 issue of Mobility Management.

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