Special Needs Drumming Circle

Official Dosomething.org Project

The Problem

The special needs students at my high school, Neuqua Valley in Naperville, Illinois, are not able to participate in our music program often enough. In 2005, the Neuqua music department had a drum-circle specialist Tom Gill from the Rhythm for Unity Organization lead a workshop with our special needs students. It was incredibly inspiring, and planted the seed for what has grown into our program today. Every Friday we hold a drumming circle and strive to create a comfortable environment for the students to work on various skills. Our activities reinforce goals of the special needs program such as: improving social interaction, motor skills, coordination, and following instructions. Most importantly, this musical experience helps them connect with others and express themselves. As a musician I have had numerous opportunities and experiences, but nothing can compare to introducing the power of music into the lives of these kids. Drumming circle has become a very important part of their routine each week. It is a time for them to work together and create something that is uniquely theirs. Each student is encouraged to participate in whatever way they can, and they are never forced to join in if they do not want to. We offer them the chance to be creative, which is an opportunity that is not offered very often in the Special Needs curriculum. It is always a joy to see everyone immersed in the beat of each song. It has also been very rewarding to watch each individual develop within the group and overcome their limitations.

Plan of Action

In the fall of 2009 a new high school in our district, Metea Valley, will be opening for it’s first class of students, including a population of students in the special needs program. I believe we should begin sharing or drum-circle experience with others, starting with those at Metea Valley. If we were to receive this grant we would buy a set of drums and donate them to Metea to be used in future Special Needs drumming circles. One of our band directors, Mr. Don Devaney, has been chosen as the Fine Arts Chair of Matea Valley. I have already spoken with him about continuing our legacy at the new high school and he is extremely enthusiastic about leading a program at the new highschool. Mr. Devaney is very interested in making music available to those who are not usually able to participate in the music program. He has been able to join us in our last few drumming circles, and he was amazed at their passion for drumming and just how strong the interaction is within the groups. Mr. Devaney is known for being very hard working and personable; I think he makes the perfect candidate for working with special needs students in future drum-circles.

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