I can only imagine what the hotel guests thought when they heard 40 people pounding on drums at 8:30 on a recent Thursday morning.

The Drum Café, a group of world class musicians from around the globe, kicked off our session with a bang. Each participant was given their own drum to beat and the Drum Café team guided the group through a jam session.

While there’s something inherently joyful about making such a racket early in the morning, there were a number of lessons we took away as well.

  • Stay connected to the bass beat: No matter what improvisation was going on, you can always come back to the steady beat that is the foundation of the performance. Everyone can find a way to participate.
  • Everyone has rhythm: This was best demonstrated when the leader of the Drum Café had everyone place their hands on their hearts. That’s a rhythm, and we all have one.
  • It’s fun to try something new: I don’t know how many people in the room had ever drummed before, but you could see the delight on everyone’s faces as they got used to banging their drums.
  • Listening is as important as drumming: Our participants took turns improvising three patterns. You had to listen closely to pick up the rhythm, so you could participate in the call and response.
  • Keep it simple: During that improvisation, one of our leaders offered up really complex patterns. No one could follow him, and the call and response fell apart. The big lesson was to keep it bite-sized, so it was easier to internalize and replicate.

What I loved best about this whole experience was the way the facilitators enabled the participants to be successful, while gently encouraging them to take risks. They taught us little bits that could be combined for the call and response, they created an environment where we could all try something a little new, and they gently guided the participants to find their way to contributing to the music making.