Urban Wilde Drums

Urban Wilde Drums

Interview with Dr. Michael Winkleman
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Urban Wilde
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Ed Mikenas presented at the "CREATIVE IMPULSE IN THERAPY: A Holistic Approach" conference in 2001. It was attended by Dr. Michael Winkelman, a medical anthropologist on staff at Arizona State University. Dr. Winkelman was pursuing research funded by a NIDA grant designed to examine alternative approaches to treating substance abuse. He is the author of SHAMANISM: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing (Bergin and Garvey Pub. 2000). His interview with Ed following this conference is what follows:

Dr Michael Winkelman interviews Ed Mikenas / synopsis

Ed Mikenas and the Lynchburg Day Services Program

Ed Mikenas developed the Lynchburg Day Services Program in Lynchburg, Virginia. He has a background as a musician, Music Educator, and a Substance Abuse Counselor; he has also taken training in the Foundation for Shamanic Studies workshops. His use of drumming related to recovery began in the context of a group home for girls, where he was a substance abuse counselor. He discovered it had a positive effect upon kids. Mikenas’ interest in drumming preceded this program, with a concert for the Partnership for the Prevention of Substance Abuse. His current programs are provided in several contexts that include after-school programs, city government employees, psychology and addiction conferences; he is scheduled to teach a course on drumming and addiction for Radford University*. Mikenas teaches kids how to play drums, sometimes having them build drums as part of recovery. The drumming is used to reinforce both prevention and recovery in community context. He teaches kids to express themselves and rebuild their emotional health. Drumming is also used to help them address issues of violence and conflict by allowing them to express and integrate their emotions.


Mikenas introduces drumming in the context of Afro-centric traditions, particularly Afro-Cuban and Brazilian rhythms and the Afro-Caribbean Santeria religions, and the Yoruba gods (orishas). The gods are used as representations of archetypes to help people access their unconscious dynamics and connect their experiences with spiritual and community dynamics. These spiritual experiences can help people connect with a "higher power" and re-establish connections with our "natural selves." Mikenas’ use of drumming in substance abuse counseling involves using the processes of group drumming to exemplify the recovery process. The drumming approach works better in groups. Participation in group drumming as a leader or follower induces experiences that can mirror the recovery process-- confidence, uncertainty, insecurity in leading, security in following, desire for change or novelty. His drumming activities specifically focus on expressions of creativity and the spontaneous development of leadership skills in group activities. Mikenas emphasizes that there are two sides to drumming: 1) an altered state that you control, an entrainment, within you and with others; and 2) possession, which is part of the culture, where you draw the energy in and someone gets taken by it. The drummers don’t get possessed but are the motor that drives the possession. You loose consciousness and something else takes over entirely.

Mikenas takes an approach of exposing participants to a variety of percussion instruments and helping them learn to play these instruments, ranging from basic sounds and rhythms to complex polyrhythmic dances. The sessions begin with warm-ups on bass tones to give safe and easy exercises and coordinate the group. These are followed by edge tones at greater acceleration and use of stop and start signals. More complex movements (heel-toe, switching hands, slap tones) are then introduced, emphasizing the use of the non-dominant hand. Other rhythms are also introduced (.g., rhumba, clave and cascara), emphasizing the use of language sayings as a model for the rhythms. Once the group has learned to play these rhythms together, other techniques may be introduced (mandjiani, kuku, Haitian conga


The activities of drumming also provide opportunities for coordinating sound and movement that assist in mental, physical and emotional development processes. Drumming provides a pulse that helps coordinate activities and solves problems. Drumming provides an opportunity to learn leadership activities and discover one’s own potentials in a context that combines cooperation and self-expression. The drum’s sound and rhythms are energy that produces emotional experiences, bringing up emotional issues. But if you drum long enough it works as an "eraser." The high frequencies of the drums are a ‘food for the brain’. Drums work both sides of your brain; it integrates information across the corpus callosum. Drumming produces entrainment, when the brain waves of all of the people operate the same.

"With drumming, a group of people go from chaos and noise to feeling and hearing all the same. This helps bring out part of human nature, makes us feel more complete. Drumming helps kids express themselves and address the unhealthy emotional reactions that allow drugs to appear to meet emotional needs. The drumming (especially bass tones) fills your brains with frequencies, stimulating the pleasure centers of the brain. Drumming gives you pleasurable feelings without having to rely upon addictive substances. Drumming is interaction, visceral and emotional, it makes you feel good.

Drumming helps the kids like learning from him because of their feelings towards him. They remember the things they learn about self-esteem and their relationships with people. Drumming teaches nurturing, respecting, having fun, participation, a personal relationships. Drumming may also address their "dis-ease," their uneasy feeling, making them easier to manage. Drumming helps you change speaking, feeling and acting. Drumming helps you address the feelings, the heart, and helps you learn to act from the heart. Drumming also helps you focus, and consequently get your needs met. The group drumming gives participants different roles that they have to coordinate, so they have to focus on others. It gives them an opportunity to work together with others in a structured way. It gives them a structured positive learning experience in lives that are often chaotic. It fills them up with good stuff. Drumming also has an aerobic connection, "running on your hands." Drumming helps us establish contact with and honor our irrational unknown selves. They connect with the collective consciousness. "I don’t use the term ASC, but that is what is happening. When they connect, it makes them glow. It helps people fit in."

Mikenas (2000) considers the benefits of drumming to include:

Physical dimensions-- enhanced sensorimotor coordination and integration, increased bodily awareness and attention span, and anxiety reduction

Communication-- non-verbal and verbal skills, group participation

Social skills-- leadership skills, coordination, relationship building,

Self-skills-- self-conscious development, social and emotional learning

The culture of drumming circles allows for shifts in leadership and following/coordination with others. These provide contexts for adaptive and generative learning

"We need to create a culture of drumming"

Mikenas, Ed. 2000. Drumming on the edge of leadership Hand drumming and leadership skills for the new millennium.

For Me: call this an implementation evaluation, formative evaluation?

See Ed Mikenas via google . com

Get the Nuts and bolts handout from him-- the "how to do"

Sharrie Edwards- Tiffin, Ohio-- brain chemicals and frequency of brain wave frequency book- ask Ed

??Urban Wilde- archetype? (The archetype that Mikenas connects with drumming)

See Christine Stevens Health Rhythm site at REMO

A book that throws cold water on the drumming and drugs approach?**

See Angeles Arrien, The Four-Fold Way (indigenous archetypes)

Search for "Drums not Drugs" on the Web--several sites also-Drumming on the Edge of Leadership

Alex Stahlcap-- physician and SAC

Scartelli, Joseph. 1993. A rationale for subcortical involvement in human response to music. Radford University.


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