How the whole class succeeds through African Drumming?

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How the whole class succeeds through African Drumming?

As anyone who has listened to any group of musicians playing together will know, for the piece of music to be a success, all the contributors have to play their part.

The same applies to a class of school children learning African drumming together – for the music to work, the whole class needs to interact in a special way. So, how can this be achieved?

corporate team building activities

For many children, African rhythms are unlike anything else they have previously heard as it can include off-beats, unusual swings and phrases. For a novice, it can be difficult to understand the true feeling of this music. However, in our school African Drumming workshops, we introduce the rhythms bit by bit and there are always some children who grasp the concepts without much effort. My job is only part teacher - it is mainly facilitator. I scan the class for these children who are starting to ‘get it’ and tactfully facilitate these children to lead the others in the group. For certain subjects in school, copying is not encouraged, but in group drumming, peer to peer learning is essential.

with African Drumming the whole class succeeds together!

with African Drumming the whole class succeeds together!

How quickly the children pick up rhythms is not directly correlated with language, education or IQ (although other musical training can help). The leaders may not be the ‘usual suspects’ in a class – as a visitor to a school, I have no preconceptions about pupils and I often receive feedback from teachers that quieter members of the class have had an opportunity to shine. Discovering an unknown talent, especially in front of class-mates, can do wonders for the self-esteem of children who may not always be the most confident in their abilities.

African drumming becomes a superb example of team work, embracing all members of the team and allowing everyone to succeed.

African drumming becomes a superb example of team work, embracing all members of the team and allowing everyone to succeed.

The combination of facilitation and children learning from each other works to bring the whole group together and successfully master a multi-part rhythm in no time. This is why having the drums set up in a circle is such a powerful way for a group to learn challenging rhythms very quickly. Parents who attend a showcase assembly are genuinely surprised at what can be achieved in just one session. Using this model, African drumming becomes a superb example of team work, embracing all members of the team and allowing everyone to succeed.

If you would like to organise an African Drumming workshop and create a success factor for your class, please get in touch - we would love to hear from you!

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A Big Boomwhacker event with added 'Wow' factor!

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A Big Boomwhacker event with added 'Wow' factor!

Yes, that’s right, that really is a concorde plane in a giant hanger with people playing Boomwhackers underneath!

700 delegates playing Boomwhackers is already exciting enough - but try adding a real Concorde jet into the mix as well!

700 delegates playing Boomwhackers is already exciting enough - but try adding a real Concorde jet into the mix as well!

Leading a Boomwhacker session for 700 people under concorde has always been on my bucket list and now I can tick it off – hooray! Alright, not really - who knew such a thing was even possible! I was super excited when I heard about this potential gig via the 'Out There Events' company and had to visit the venue on a recce to see it with my own eyes. A genius idea to turn a redundant but world-famous aircraft into a venue! With carpet, seats, a buffet and everything else you may expect from a regular conference venue, but UNDERNEATH CONCORDE - this was a fantastic venue to get people playing Boomwhackers.

Facilitating this Boomwhacker event for so many people in such a unique venue was a really thrilling experience.

Facilitating this Boomwhacker event for so many people in such a unique venue was a really thrilling experience.

I love leading big gigs like this.  They are incredibly exciting and a little scary. In fact I need an adrenaline hit like this every once in a while -  I really thrive on the challenge. And there are challenges with such large gigs. The layout of the Boomwhackers must be carefully planned to ensure musical equality and harmony on the day. I need a large team and they need to know exactly what is going on. Inevitably, on the day things can change and numbers of people can fluctuate, but not to worry – we always pack spare Boomwhackers for this reason. The biggest challenge with such a large group is how to facilitate the live music being made as there can be a time delay between one side of the room and the other. There are various plans we put in place to mitigate this potential issue – careful planning of the location of the colours and positioning team members on stage to lead colours both really help. However, I need to really put my trust into the participants as well – I facilitate the music, but actually they are the ones who self-correct if the pulses start to go off-time.  It is a real testimony to the power of teamwork that when a big group of people really focus on a task they are able to come together in synergy and synchronicity - the success of this event really proved this theory.  There is more to these corporate events than you would originally think!

We would like to thank Out There Events for enabling this unique opportunity. They understand all the planning that goes in to such an event to make it really work and they communicate really well throughout the build-up to the big day. We would also like to thank the Concorde Conference Centre - we would love to be invited back any time! And finally, a big thank you to all the willing participants who made this one of our most memorable gigs yet.

If you have a conference event coming up and would like to make it a highly memorable success we'd love to hear from you.  To book an event or discuss your requirements please contact us - we will be delighted to help!

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Want to feel good in 2018? Try something new

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Want to feel good in 2018? Try something new

The beginning of another year. The time to take stock of your health, well-being and the way you spend your time. The time for reflection and consideration. How are you feeling? Do we feel great? Or sluggish after Christmas? Are you still weaning yourself off the festive over-indulgence lifestyle?

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Many people make new year’s resolutions about ‘getting fit’ or ‘losing weight’. Although aiming for health and fitness are laudable goals – there are many ways of achieving this – joining a gym is not the only route to feeling good about yourself. What about your mental health? Perhaps your resolution is about doing something to reduce your stress levels and relax? Yoga, mindfulness and other exercises are rightfully popular ways of helping with this, but they are not for everyone. Or perhaps you have decided to make this a year of meeting new people, forming new friendships and perhaps even finding someone special? Or maybe you feel the need to learn or sharpen a skill?

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I have been running African Drumming evening classes in Sheffield for 24 years now and I have experienced myself and witnessed in the many hundreds of people that I have taught, the many positives that people take away from the workshops.

Drumming is physical and certainly contributes to fitness. Stress relieving – absolutely – try it and you will see. Have you heard of being in ‘the flow’? Flow is “a mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity” (Wikipedia). Sound good? You can achieve the flow through African Drumming. With so many distractions in daily life now, achieving such a state for mental well-being is becoming more and more important. And, of course, in African Drumming you are not doing this alone; the beauty of it is you are in a group – the group works together to play rhythms and accomplish musical pieces. What better platform for building friendships? Many of my class attendees have chosen to socialise before or after workshops. And the final point on the potential for meeting someone special? Well, all I can say is my classes over the years have resulted in at least three long-term relationships and four children! (I would love to hear of more!)

January 2018 will be a new chapter for me too. I am intending to move my Thursday evening classes to a wonderful new community venue, right in the centre of Sheffield. ‘Union St’ is, as you might imagine, on Union St and is a ‘co-working’ space run by a Community Interest Company under the management of Matt Hill. The building over three floors offers event spaces, shared offices, bicycle repair, a variety of workshops, yoga, a different pop-up café every day and much more. When I met Matt at Union St last week and he said he would love to host a regular African Drumming workshop, I felt we had found our new home.

We are starting with a one-off taster session called ‘Why not give it a crack’ on Saturday 20th January 11:30-1pm. Tickets are £10 and refreshments included in the ticket price are available from 11am, plus there is an optional trip to the pub afterwards, so plenty of socialising opportunities. The session is open to beginners and those who have drummed before and I will provide all the drums as usual. For more details and to book see the event on the Union St Facebook page or contact Matt on 0114 3992270 / matt@union-st.org . Or of course you can give me a call to discuss if you have any queries - 0781 0406 501. I would love to see some new and familiar faces drumming together in 2018. Why not come along and just try it? There is little to lose and you might be surprised at what you gain.

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Breaking loneliness and isolation through music

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Breaking loneliness and isolation through music

As the nights start to draw in, some people do not look forward to the darker days of winter. Some people with mental health issues find winter particularly difficult, which has prompted me to write about the Boomwhacker session we delivered at a major mental health conference last month.

Music therapy to break loneliness and isolation

The Refocus on Recovery international conference (18-20 September), was the largest scientific conference in the world on recovery for people with mental health problems and included world class keynote speakers and a choice of a hundred parallel sessions. The event, held at Nottingham Conference Centre and organised by Institute of Mental Health (Nottingham) attracted more than 370 delegates from 25 countries.

So why were we asked to facilitate a Boomwacker conference ice-breaker at the conference? One of the themes contributing to mental health is isolation. The infectious music made by Boomwhackers and drumming simply cannot be made by one person alone. Personally I love music and one of the main reasons for is that I love the shared experience with other people. Our music making is a shared, group activity that is accessible and inclusive to all. Our message was that everyone can do this and everyone needs to take part for it to work. In a facilitated session, everyone will very quickly know what to do and be surprised how easy it is to take part and feel great about their contribution!

Our slot was scheduled as the post-lunch slot on the second day; often a sleepy slot – but not when we are involved – see for yourselves!

We could not have asked for better feedback?

“We really appreciated the Boomwhacker activity you ran – it worked amazingly in allowing 400 people from 25 countries to all suddenly speak the same new language! And what you said also helped our delegates to understand the importance of collective activity involving many voices. Many delegates made links between Boomwhackers and recovery in mental health (the theme of our conference) – so the activity generated engagement and connections between disparate people! Thank you for such a great contribution.”

Mike Slade, Professor of Mental Health Recovery and Social Inclusion, University of Nottingham

For more on how we can we can bring some positive Unbeatable Energy to your conference or event, see our corporate page or call us on 0114 2747527.

Want to discover a new way to socialise through a fun and invigorating activity?  Come to our African Drumming evening class.

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Stuck for a Staff Christmas party idea?

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Stuck for a Staff Christmas party idea?

So you have to organise a Christmas party that brings everyone together, mixes up the usual groups and is totally inclusive?

What are you going to do?

Let’s start by reminding ourselves what the reasons for a Christmas party are. We can use the example of a corporate work Christmas party, but the thinking also applies to family and social groups who get together at Christmas time. Reasons for a party?

  •       To have a fun social time together whilst not working!
  •       To get to know each other better
  •       As a ‘team-building’ activity
  •       As a ‘reward’ for working hard and achieving results – a thank you
  •       Tradition      

Traditional Christmas party ideas and activities.

1.       Go to the pub

2.       Go out for a meal, possibly followed by some dancing

3.       Have a buffet-style party at the office

All of these can be fun, and to some extent achieve the aims, but none of them do fully. Admit it, who do you sit next to at these type of events? Is it the same people you usually work with and speak to at work? Or do you really make an effort? Are hierarchical barriers really broken down and do people really mix? This is particularly difficult at a sit-down meal where you only talk to the few people around you for most of the evening.

Group Drumming for the Staff Christmas Party

And the world is changing. It is no longer acceptable to alienate members of staff who do not drink for personal, religious, cultural or health reasons. There is a risk that these people may not attend a traditional Christmas party, or may feel uncomfortable attending when everyone else is knocking back the alcohol. Is that achieving the aims of the party?

Don’t panic, we can help! Our group drumming activities are a solution to these issues.

Our experienced facilitators know just how to get everyone together on a level playing field to break down barriers. And don’t worry – we also know exactly how to make it fun for everyone - after all it is a Christmas party! We provide for everyone a genuine shared experience with other people. It is completely accessible and inclusive to all and musical talent is not required! We tailor our experience to any size of group and to any particular organisational need. We only suggest that our activities come before any drinking begins.  Just in case you still want to go for a drink afterwards, after we have warmed everyone up :-)

“Just brilliant for any get-together. Steve talks you through it and makes it easy; just for an hour you feel like a musician. I hoped, but honestly wasn't entirely sure, it would work at our celebration, but it went down a storm, and everyone loved it.”

Colin Hoskins - Party Organiser

“I have not known two hours to fly by so quickly. We have had away days in the past but I have never seen so much joy and heard so much laughter before. Laura is an excellent facilitator, with over thirty people in our group, she managed the whole session with a clarity, enthusiasm and lightness that affected us all. It was the perfect afternoon. Colleagues are still talking about it days later. I highly recommend any group wanting to have fun and bond to give Unbeatable Energy a try!”

Stephen Givnan -Sheffield Mencap and Gateway

Need more convincing? Read our testimonials here

The potential answer to your Christmas party concerns? Visit our main team building page to learn more or contact us to discuss - 0114 274 7527.

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African Drumming and Dance highlights at Underneath the Stars Folk Festival 2017

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African Drumming and Dance highlights at Underneath the Stars Folk Festival 2017

Summer madness is over and we are taking time to relax, look back and reflect on what has been a wonderful season of drumming bliss with some fantastic people.  This year was particularly special for some truly memorable community events such as the jubilant Sheffield Carnival on that beautiful bank holiday Monday; the big six-day 'Poacher' Scouts Jamboree in Lincolnshire and the 'Underneath the Stars' Festival in the beautiful surroundings of Cannon Hall Farm near Barnsley. 

A diverse mix of ages and backgrounds played a diverse mix of instruments at the African Drumming and Dance workshop at Underneath the Stars Festival at Cannon Hall Farm.

A diverse mix of ages and backgrounds played a diverse mix of instruments at the African Drumming and Dance workshop at Underneath the Stars Festival at Cannon Hall Farm.

Underneath the Stars Music and Arts Festival started as the brainchild of renowned folk singer Kate Rusby and her brother Joe in 2014. What more could a successful singer want except for her own festival surrounded by family, friends, great music and more! Now in its third year, it has really hit its stride and is the perfect size for a weekend festival. The programme is a nice mix of musical peformances and participatory activities. The event is super family-friendly, designed with the Rusby off-spring in mind. We brought our own children aged three and seven and there was so much for them to do and enjoy – everything from learning circus skills to watching a piece of theatre involving a giant inflatable slug! You are even free to wonder into another part of Cannon Hall to explore the Museum or visitor farm, but we found ourselves fully-occupied on-site!

The diversity of ages and backgrounds made for a perfect clientele for our African Drumming and Dance workshops. Both sessions were packed out with enthusiastic festival-goers 15 minutes before we were due to start! Everyone really got into the festival spirit and it was pretty toasty in the tent by the end of the sessions. This video captures some of the vibes.

As you will see here - it was a wonderful turnout for the session and it was so good to see so many different ages all sharing the power of the beat!  

Thank you Underneath the Stars for inviting us to share Unbeatable Energy with your audience! We are looking forward to working with you next year! 

Everybody loves to join the drum beat at festivals! Contact us to find out how we can bring everybody together through rhythm at your next festival or visit our Community Events page to find out more 

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