Photo courtesy of Mark and Lisa from Drum Pulse drumming workshop. See drumpulse.com for more. A group of top executives sits on stage in a conference hall full of hundreds of their employees. Instead of running through the first-quarter sales spreadsheets, though, these high flyers are leading a different type of session: a tribal drum circle! The rhythms build and soon everyone is drumming along. It is MAGICAL.
"Corporate drumming" is the latest trend in the Recreational Musicmaking scene, but it's also the most controversial. RM (go ahead and pronounce it "rim") isn't about making money or having sex with groupies, it's about having fun. If you're truly passionate about the sanctity of music, you qualify as a RM'er. However, some in the RM scene fear that the emergence of corporate drum circles is selling out the original spirit to help multinationals in their quest to build even more "synergy." "Drumming was an incredible adventure in team building for our associates," says associate development manager for Toyota USA, Ron "R.J." Johnson. Over 3,000 Toyota associates have participated in corporate drumming, and, according to Johnson, the results have been positive. "It is critical that we work in harmony, and I believe that we'll be successful because of this experience." Hang on a minute! Since when is jamming about improving job performance? It should be all about, as Arthur Hall of Village Music Circles succinctly states, "Those magical musical moments where one powerful voice is created out of the many." Uh-oh, Spaghetti-O. What's going on? Many trace it back to the Drum Cafe's conference performances in South Africa in the late 90s. What started as innocent entertainment for delegates soon became group-participation exercises, and the rest is history. As they themselves put it, "With the large amount of Multi-National Corporations holding their conferences in South Africa, the Drum Cafe started offering an African experience through interactive drum circles. From there the Drum Cafe developed a team-building aspect. Our corporate division has expanded to cover a wide spectrum of corporate events, from team building to conflict resolution." Much to Village Music's chagrin, Drum Cafe's success has spawned drum circles with execs at Coca-Cola, Siemens, Kodak, McDonald's, and Kellogg's. Who knows what the future of drum circles will be? Will it be brainless hippies "getting lost in the rhythm" or soulless yuppies "teaching everyone to feel the pulse of the company"? Let's all grab our bongos, look to the sky, and rhythmically pray that the best man wins.