Thursday, December 19, 2013

Where I'm Going—Update

Setting up the Intergenerational Beatwell Playshop

I'm excited and relieved to announce that I passed the National Counselor Exam last week! Once I pass a state law test I will become a Licensed Graduate Professional Counselor (LGPC) in Maryland. This means I can provide supervised psychotherapy and counseling.

I'm eager to use these credentials and expanded opportunities to advocate for the healing properties of drumming and music-making!

Beatwell rolls on with 3 Playshops next Monday and Tuesday at the Owings Mills JCC. I look forward to sharing community building drum circles with over 60 kids from kindergarten through 5th grade!

I have also begun providing consultation work at Sheppard Pratt's Hannah More School in Reisterstown, MD. The school has a great supply of drums and percussion and a full time therapist who is passionate about incorporating music-making into her sessions, but lacks experience. I've been having a great time helping her and the students explore the therapeutic benefits of drumming.

Until next time, I hope you have a joyful and healthy holiday!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Where I am, where I'm going.

I haven't been fulfilling my goal of posting here weekly. Just as habits are hard to break, they too are hard to form—sometimes, I suppose.

I have been busy though. Studying this 600+ page book:

On Thursday, I will take the National Counselor Exam, one of the final two steps to becoming a licensed counselor in Maryland. A state law exam follows.

With this credential (LGPC), I will continue my path to eventually providing mental health counseling services independently (as an LCPC).

These credentials will also help legitimize the drumming work I do within the field and the community.

No one's path is completely clear.

Often times the destination changes, and even more so the roads we take have unexpected turns, detours and dead ends.

But I have my path to create.

I haven't posted a blog every week, but I have been working towards my larger goals and destinations.

And I'm okay with that.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Drumming is Universal (A Personal Photo Stream)

A suggestion for Congress...

I'm sitting in my brother's Hollywood apartment—a city bursting with diversity.

It's often easy to pay more attention to the differences between us.

Drumming helps me recognize the similarities.

When we connect through making music, we are connecting through our humanity.

Senior Home in Baltimore County
Community festival in South Baltimore

I shared a Beatwell Playshop a couple mornings ago with two very diverse populations:

16 seniors and 16 kindergarteners.

The seniors became kids again.

For this week's post, I want to share pictures from my drumming journey showing that music-making is truly universal. Enjoy!

Preschoolers in West Baltimore
HealthRHYTHMS training in Ft. Lauderdale
Adult Mental Health Program
Drum Festival in Greenbelt, MD

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Autism Residency and E-Book Announcement!

I took this picture minutes before my 18th and final Beatwell Playshop at The Auburn School in Lutherville, MD.

For nine weeks, I created and shared two weekly programs for the 26 students—one for elementary and one for the middle schoolers.

Although an Autism Spectrum diagnosis is not necessary for admittance, most of the students would meet criteria and be considered "high functioning."

This residency has been a creative high-point in my career. I have already been contacted by similar schools for consultation services!

I'm excited to announce that I plan to summarize this residency in an e-book that I will put up for free download. I will share tips for lesson planning and facilitating for this unique population. I will also go into detail about each of the nine programs and offer suggestions to help therapists and educators integrate the lessons and activities into their own work.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Baltimore STYLE Magazine!

The November issue of Baltimore STYLE Magazine has a feature on me and Beatwell!

You can preview the article HERE, pick up a copy at local retailers, or sign up for a free, 3 year subscription! (Drum puns included.)

The photo was from a Beatwell Playshop I shared at Record & Tape Traders in Towson, MD.

Check out the video recap from that day below:

Note: The article claims that I am a "certified" HealthRHYTHMS facilitator. A certification does not currently exist. I am a "trained HealthRHYTHMS facilitator."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Greenbelt Rhythm & Drum Festival

On Saturday I was invited to share a drum circle at the first annual Greenbelt Rhythm and Drum Festival.

The facilitation felt effortless and I will never forget the energy I received from the group.

I often use the word "magic" to describe group music-making.

This was magic.

This was my first time sharing with drummers and facilitators who have been doing this far longer than me. The warmth they shared was both validating and encouraging. I'm lucky to be a part of such a thriving and collaborative rhythm community!

I have video footage from the event which I will soon edit and share.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

An Education in Beatwell with Baltimore Lab

Thinking back on your childhood, which communities had the biggest impact on you? 

Your family of course, and maybe a group of friends or a sports team. 

I can also bet that your school community had a profound influence on your life.

Beatwell Playshop at Baltimore Lab School // October 9, 2013

When I share a Beatwell Playshop with an entire school, my focus is on the community.

To drum with just the students would be incomplete.

At Baltimore Lab, a school for children who learn differently, I made music with the students and faculty in unison. During the last 15 minutes of each assembly, their principal joined us on the largest drum. A fitting metaphor for the school's "leader."

My main message: Every community is made up of individuals with a unique voice and personal strengths (like the different instruments in the drum circle). When each person contributes towards the betterment of the group (the song being created), the school community will be most successful.

Baltimore Lab is an exceptional school community. 

I felt it in the music. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Beatwell On My Birthday

I turn 28 tomorrow. I will start my day by sharing two Beatwell Playshops with the students and staff at The Baltimore Lab School—a school for students who learn differently.

I've been quoted as saying the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) educational paradigm should be changed to STEAM to include art. I've since changed my position, because each of those disciplines are art forms. It takes artists—critical thinkers—to succeed in any field.

Baltimore Lab is rooted in the arts. I think they are doing education justice.

I welcome the opportunity tomorrow to bring the students, staff and principal together as a community through drumming. I hope to help them further discover the natural artist within. I hope to leave them knowing that they are part of a school community that will most succeed when each person is free to express their unique qualities while supporting the group.

If I can succeed in these goals, it will most certainly be a happy birthday.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Hot August Blues Video Recap

No excuses. I haven't posted in awhile.

I have been sharing Beatwell with thousands of people though!

Since last posting, I begin a 9-week, Beatwell Playshop residency at a school for children with autism.

Some more firsts: I shared Beatwell with 500 elementary school students on Friday and over 200 employees at area companies. I finally brought Beatwell to a senior home, I will be featured in the upcoming issue of Baltimore STYLE magazine and much, much more!

All of this will be documented here. Weekly. At least.

This was a sure highlight of the summer. Hot August Blues welcomed Beatwell with such spirit.

The video proof is below!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Breakout Drumming! WTMD 1st Thursdays

I crashed Baltimore's premier concert series last week.

It was awesome.

Here's my recap via What Weekly.

I bring Beatwell to Hot August Blues this Saturday at Oregon Ridge Park!

Expect plenty of videos and photos to follow.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hot August Blues 2013!

How does drumming among 6,000 of your music-loving neighbors sound? 

Yeah. Me too.

Come Beatwell with me at the Hot August Blues festival on Saturday, August 17th! 

For the second time this season, I'm making the 10 minute drive to Oregon Ridge Park—a perfect venue for an impressive festival lineup. The 3 stages of all-day music include headliners, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and Galactic! 

The festival is family friendly (the Beatwell Kid's Circle starts at 12:30pm). 

Come Beatwell by the Main Stage at 2:30 and 4:45!

For full schedule, tickets (prices increase on August 1), and more visit: and the Facebook event page.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Power of the Egg Shaker

"I usually feel panic when I'm in basements."

A participant disclosed this towards the end of a Beatwell Workshop. Although I was hired as a facilitator and teacher, she ended up teaching me the most.

This was my first time sharing my work with adults in an outpatient mental health clinic. Many of the clients had diagnoses like schizophrenia and bipolar. I had few expectations going into this new experience, but entered with intentions to have fun and to provide an opportunity to heal.

The adults that I was lucky to drum and connect with were more engaged and appreciative than even I expected.

"Trust in the drum."

This one lady's anxiety continued to grow after our session. She was in line, waiting to sign out, proving her participation in the workshop. She expressed how anxious she was becoming, but how relaxing the ocean drum activity was.

I handed her a simple egg shaker.

She immediately said it was calming just like the ocean drum. An incredible insight.

Her persistant anxiety, which often results in panic, was calmed by a simple egg shaker. Just another powerful reminder to always trust in the drum (and the egg shaker).

Thursday, June 13, 2013

"You get back what you put out."

Beatwell Workshop at Karmafest

By now this basic premise has become familiar in our culture. I decided to put it to the test four months ago. 

My girlfriend and I were on vacation and set to come home. I had just finished my last internship which had given me the opportunity each week to practice what I now call Beatwell Workshops. Aside from the work I had done at my two internships, I had shared this Beatwell work with a few different schools, group therapies and festivals. While proud of the accomplishments, I wondered what else would come.

I told her that once we got home, I would start creating quality content via this blog. 

You can see where this is going...

Almost immediately the opportunities started coming. And even more, it seems that each Beatwell Workshop leads to an even greater opportunity. 

A classroom presentation leads to a future school assembly; A graduate class training leads to a professional training; Buying a book to learn more about therapeutic drumming leads to actually finding my contact information in the book!

But it's been the past few days that I've really felt the shift. What has been a personal vision is truly becoming my reality. 

On Tuesday I shared a Beatwell Workshop with The Auburn School of Baltimore, a private elementary and middle school for bright children with various social difficulties—many on the Autism spectrum. The principal called me after reading The Jewish Times article and eagerly invited me to "Beatwell" with the 22 students.  After an hour of drumming, dancing and engaging in adult-like conversations, the principal remarked how amazing it was to see the kids remain so engaged as a group for that long. 

I always trust in the drum. 

Today was another first. I trained the therapeutic staff at a mental health clinic. Mind-blowing in that I'm sure many of the therapists have been practicing for as long as I've been alive. But they graciously welcomed me and for 90 minutes I led them through what I hope to have been an enlightening and fun training, leaving them with new tools to better serve their clients. 

The opportunities and feedback fuel my passion to continue sharing. With that, it seems that only more will come back in return.

"You get back what you put out."

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Record & Tape Video Recap

Growing up, Tuesday's at 2:30 p.m. meant two things: school was out and I was headed to Record and Tape Traders.

Record and Tape was "the" local record store chain in Maryland. Unfortunately—and like most other music retailers—they began disappearing.

But one remains...and I got to do this in it:

I was invited by Sam Silverman, a Record and Tape employee and someone I would bet money on succeeding in the music business.

This would be my first time drumming in any type of business and was intrigued at the idea of creating a "break-out" musical experience while customers enter unaware.

We drummed surrounded by vinyl records; the most perfect spot in the store. I sat facing the entrance, watching as each entering face lit up in confusion and excitement.

I led the group through different rhythm activities meant to be fun, relaxing and community-building.

Mission accomplished.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Head Start Recap

4-year-olds just drum.

That's why I was excited to share a Beatwell Workshop with two preschool groups last week. I was invited to Morgan State University's Head Start program by their mental health therapist, Nikki Smith, LGSW, MSW, M.Ed.

As most of us get older, we become more self-judgmental. Young kids play naturally, and I was there primarily for just that—to play music. However, in my work, we play with purpose. It was my intention to use group music-making to teach three specific concepts.

1. Individual Self-Expression

I explained to the kids that each instrument has its own sound, in the same way that each child has their own unique voice and gifts to share. They realized that it's possible to play different rhythms on their own instrument, while still contributing to one cohesive song. Which leads us to the next concept.

2. Community & Teamwork

In order for each individual "voice" to be effectively heard, working together was essential. I explained that throughout our lives we are members of different teams: classroom, family, sports team, community, etc. It is when we work together—in this case listening and contributing to the music—that the group is most successful. To tie the two concepts together, the group will work best when each individual contributes their best self.

3. Multicultural Diversity

Each instrument I brought has its own story of origin. Beatwell Workshops offer a great opportunity to experience how different cultures use music to strengthen community. Some African, Latin and Native American cultures—to name a few—make music each day socially. This is quite different from the musical experiences most Americans have. Too often in our consumeristic culture, we treat our art as a product; not as a tool of self-expression and community-building.

Drumming offered the opportunity to teach these important concepts to such young kids, while maintaining engagement. In fact, the number one compliment I seem to get from teachers and other adults is how engaged the children remain. I was glad to create some opportunities for learning, but between us, I was there to play.

And we did that—because 4-year-olds just drum.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mesh Baltimore Recap

Every community needs a monthly SkillShare.

Mesh Baltimore organizes this 3-hour event each month in Federal Hill.

The concept is simple: 12 locals share a unique expertise for 60 minutes. Each hour you pick from one of four offerings. In an afternoon you walk away with new knowledge and experiences, an expanded network of neighbors, and a belly full of pita chips and hummus.

I gladly accepted an invitation to lead a Beatwell Workshop at the April SkillShare. The Workshop was more educational in nature, during which I shared current research on the health benefits of group drumming and personal experiences as a therapeutic drummer and educator.

But we also "played" music. (The word "perform" is never used in a Beatwell Workshop.) Some attendees had never touched a drum, which always excites me. Within seconds the group was creating musical and memorable experiences together.

Here are some "still" memories from Mesh!
(Over the next month, Julian Haddad and I will be editing video from this and other Beatwell events to share with you all!)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Drum Circle at Record & Tape Traders

Baltimore County has one last, great record store.

Record and Tape Traders has endured as the music and media businesses have evolved. While all the other locations closed their doors (along with almost all of the national retailers), the Towson location remains.

I'm proud to be leading a Beatwell drum circle inside the store next Saturday, May 11! The event is free, open to all, and I'll be sharing drums and percussion. RSVP here.

Here's to creating some new, lasting memories at Record and Tape that could rival the hours standing in line for HFStival tickets in the late 90's!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Takoma Park Drummers

Wednesday night is officially "drum night" in Washington D.C.

Over the past year I've seen pictures and videos pop up on my Facebook feed every Thursday capturing the previous night's magic. I finally experienced it for myself last week.

The event, held at The Electric Maid in Takoma Park, offers a first-class opportunity for beginners and seasoned drummers alike to drum from 7-930 every Wednesday. (The spring season ends tonight with the weekly events returning this fall.)

As I drove past looking for parking, with four friends in tow, we could hear the loud rumbling of drums, even at a few minutes past seven. We were warmly greeted as we entered and encouraged to try the dozens of drums and percussion instruments the organizers graciously shared.

Many of the facilitators and drummers looked familiar as I've been to a number of similar events in the D.C. area. They are truly a unique and incredible music community. At the forefront is Katy Gaughan, a full-time percussionist and drum circle facilitator. I've known Katy for a few years now and her work is quite remarkable. (I plan to dedicate a future post to her story.)

My friends and I were led through a couple hours of joyous drumming, singing, and dancing. People of all ages and backgrounds celebrated tremendously, in what was an otherwise difficult week for our nation.

I wish every community had a weekly event like this. One of my friends, new to the drum circle experience said on the ride home, "That was exactly what I needed."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sharing Love With Pigtown

Just before I left for Monday afternoon's guitar lesson, the AP app on my phone flashed a message saying a couple explosions occurred in Boston.

About halfway through the lesson with the 8-year-old girl, her 10-year-old brother walked into the room. "Did you hear what happened at the marathon?" he asked.

I responded, "Yes, I heard there was an explosion," and intended to leave it at that. He insisted on learning more and turned on the computer. There I sat watching, for my first time and theirs, two bombs detonate among a sea of people. The girl asked me why someone would do that. She also asked why our Army wasn't able to stop it.

I had to share the harsh truth that we can't always stop bad people from doing bad things. However, what we do have control of are ourselves and the best way to contribute to a better world is to share our love. I told them of the incredible power that music holds in bringing people together in a positive, loving way. A perfect example being the drum circle I helped facilitate this past weekend. I showed them pictures, explaining that I went into a community where no one knew who I was. I helped provide the opportunity for people of all ages to make music together, most who had never played before. But the power of drums revealed itself instantly and without fail.

With love, I'd like to share some of the memories with you too.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pigtown's "Spring Into Health" Festival

Pigtown Spring Into Health Festival 2012

"Ketchup on my body, ketchup on my soul. Ketchup on everything!"

That's the line I'll remember most from last year's "Spring Into Health" Festival. During the two-hour drum circle I facilitated in the southwest Baltimore neighborhood, two preteen boys improvised a melody and lyric. We drummed in celebration of their condiment of choice.

This Saturday, I'll be returning to the annual community festival in Pigtown. The neighborhood is located right by the Ravens and Orioles stadiums, the B&O Railroad Museum, and is the birthplace of Babe Ruth. The festival is organized by Paul's Place, a community center well-known for its programs and services benefiting neighbors who need it most.

Jason of R:evolution Rhythm
This year I'm excited to be co-facilitating with Jason Armstrong Baker of R:evolution Rhythm. I met Jason during a group drumming demonstration he led at Sheppard Pratt in 2010. Jason is a board-certified music therapist and one of the first facilitators I connected with. We went to Princeton, NJ together that September to become trained in the evidenced-based, HealthRHYTHMS protocol. Jason currently runs a weekly workshop with teens at Paul's Place so he and I working together this weekend is a natural fit.

Last year I was joined by participants of all ages and walks of life. The community members, venders, and volunteers shared great feedback and seemed to appreciate my contributions. Many said that Beatwell provided the "heartbeat," injecting life and a positive pulse into the festival. I'm honored to be asked back and can only hope those two boys show up.

Ketchup on everything, indeed!

Pigtown Spring Into Health Festival 2012