Book Review – Faulkner, S. (Ed). (2018).

Faulkner, S. (Ed). (2018). How to Extend the Benefits of the Community Drum Circle to Specific Population Groups: A Brief Compendium. Melbourne, Australia: Rhythm2Recovery.

Reviewer: Heather Fletcher
BA (Hons), PGDip (Music Therapy), NZ RMTh, HCPC Registered Music Therapist (UK) West Coast District Health Board
President Emeritus, Music Therapy New Zealand

Rhythm and harmony enter most powerfully into the innermost part of the soul and lay forcible hands upon it, bearing grace with them, so making graceful him who is rightly trained. – Plato (Dickinson, 1931/2016)

Drumming is arguably one of the oldest forms of communication and can be found in virtually every culture around the world. In addition to cultural contexts and community music, drumming is a practice which is utilised by a range of health professions, including music therapy, counselling and psychology.

At the beginning of 2019, I attended Simon Faulkner’s two-day Rhythm2Recovery training workshop (1). This training, alongside his accompanying book Rhythm to Recovery: A Practical Guide to Using Rhythmic Music, Voice and Movement for Social and Emotional Development (Faulkner, 2017), provided some valuable strategies for the therapeutic tool-box, as well as more confidence to use drumming in my music therapy practice with children, adolescents and adults.

Faulkner is a skilled and experienced counsellor and drum-circle facilitator, qualities which come through clearly in his teaching and writing. He also makes it very clear he is not a music therapist and his work is not music therapy. Instead, he emphasises the importance of emotional and physical safety and the duty of care we have to the people we work with. Within this framework, there is much we can learn from each other’s practice.

The Compendium is an A4 book, comprising 71 pages, divided into 26 sections. Like any good health care professional, Faulkner starts with boundaries and ethics. In his introduction, Faulkner establishes that the Compendium is for “people trained in Drum-Circle Facilitation” (p.2). He acknowledges the influence of Arthur Hull, a pioneer of drum-circle facilitation techniques. Faulkner also emphasises the importance of safety in the work. In fact, section 2 is dedicated to duty of care. The three sections that follow address the other “nuts and bolts” of the work.

Sections 6 to 24 form the main body of the book, with each section addressing work with a different population group. There are sixteen different contributors, including Faulkner himself. The contributors were chosen because of their experience in a particular field, and contact details for each of them are provided. The sections share consistent subheadings: “Overview”, “Positive outcomes”, “Setting up for success”, “Common challenges and how to minimize them”, “Two examples of practical adaptations of the drum-circle”, “Additional advice”, and “Author’s biography”. The final two sections of the book include evaluation templates and suggestions for further reading.

Although the intended audience is trained drum-circle facilitators, this book is suitable for all levels of facilitator experience. For instance, the section “Setting up for success” is useful for facilitators new to the setting or population group. The examples given throughout the book are helpful for all skill levels of facilitators, and the adaptations provide new ideas and materials for the experienced facilitator. I found gems of wisdom in every section. I particularly enjoyed Christine Stevens’ section: “Wellness and Personal Growth”. In this section, Stevens introduces her three components of healing rhythms: intention, posture and expression, providing a different perspective on how to introduce and orientate people to drum-circle work.

There are several ways you can read this book. You can read it from start to finish, as I did; you can focus on specific population groups; or you can dip into specific sub-sections, e.g. “Setting up for success” or “Practical examples”. There is useful information in each section, regardless of whether or not you work with the intended population. Reading each section feels like opening a door and catching a glimpse of what’s beyond, with more to follow should you wish to expand on whatever area you are drawn to. This is facilitated by the suggested reading and useful websites included in each section. The range of population groups discussed is diverse, from
early childhood and youth to adults and seniors. Faulkner suggests exercises to address the physical, developmental, mental health, social, and emotional needs of clients such as refugees, prisoners, veterans, and people impacted by natural disasters. There are also sections relating to
Aboriginal, First Nations and other groups; spirituality and wellness; and corporate organisations.

From reading the authors’ biographies, it appears most are based in America, Australia, Canada or the UK; Faulkner himself is Australian. In writing about his work with Aboriginals, Faulkner addresses the potential issue of cultural appropriation and gives advice on cultural sensitivity when working with indigenous groups. Evidence of culturally informed practice can also be found in other sections of the book, with Christine Stevens acknowledging the importance of educating yourself “in cultural practices with respect to drumming, music and social norms” (p.26). While there are no examples of working in the New Zealand context, the cultural protocols adopted by many of the authors make this book relevant to the New Zealand drum-circle practitioner.

The book is slightly let down by an apparent lack of attention to detail at the editing stage. I noted several typos in the text, including crucially a video link that should read (p. 60).

Overall, I found this book easy and enjoyable to read, and packed with useful information, tips and advice. I recommend this as a worthwhile addition to the music therapist’s reading list.

(References are included in the full pdf of the journal.)

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