Drum Circles & Rhythm Events

Kim Atkinson & Micky Hart facilitating @ Earth Dance Festival held at Ya-Ka-Ama, Sonoma County CA
Looking out from the stage at the drum circle facilitate by Kim Atkinson & Micky Hart at The Earth Dance Festival held at Ya-Ka-Ama, Sonoma County CA

I am a professional rhythm event facilitator.  I have held workshops, classes, jams, drum circles and spontaneous music events since the 1980’s.  I work with all ages and abilities and I facilitate the group to its highest potential.

I’ve become masterful at reading the energy of a group of people and using the elements at hand to create unity, excitement, expansion, and a sense of discovery among the participants.

My most important job is to read the group.  I watch and listen for the signs the group is giving me as to when to add support, spice it up with counter rhythms, create an ending, make a transition to a new tempo or introduce a new game or concept.  The trick to lead without seeming like leading.  I’m really just the orchestra conductor.

We use vocal rhythm, word games, body rhythm, simple movement, drums, sticks, shakers, bells, marimbas, kalimbas, hand pan, tank drum, flutes, gongs, and other instruments to create a field of music/dance and relationship possibilities.

What is a business or corporate drumcircle?

Corporate and Business events can be

  • ice breakers (with or without drums) for meetings and parties
  • short body rhythm interludes for a break from mental work
  • one to two hour sessions with drums and percussion for recreation
  • longer sessions for immersion into the field of all possibilities

I meet with my corporate clients ahead of time to both evaluate the space and goals and to learn about their specific corporate culture and language.

When I get to the event, I then tailor my presentation to the group and use a combination of body language, words, and silence to communicate and conduct the group.

Picture this: You enter the meeting room and there is a circle of chairs for 30 people. (If there are more people, concentric rings)  Off to one side is a stack of drums, large and small.  On the chairs are brightly colored tubes of different lengths, and a stick. Some chairs have shakers on them. As the participants enter the room, they get the feeling that is going to be a different kind of team building event than they have been to before. You look over at your client, the human resources director of the organization and she nods as she sees the joy in each persons face as they pick up the instruments and start shaking or tapping the tube on their hand, their heads, on someone’s shoulders near them. Some of them picked up the stick first and are tapping the tube. The group has already rediscovered play!

Into this happy scene walks the facilitator who heads straight to the center of the circle with out speaking. There, out of a collection of tubes on the floor, he picks up one tube and starts tapping a simple rhythm pattern on it with the stick, exaggerating the movements and their relation to the beat. He turns around, smiling and getting everyone’s attention, and as they keep playing, he motions for them to sit, if they are not already. He grabs a shaker and reinforces the movement.  The groove continues as he keeps making eye contact with each individual and people add their own variations. This stew of sound cooks for a few minutes and when it is ready to end, Kim walks around his spot with large motions, arms raised, getting everyone’s attention. At the right moment, he jumps up, lands in time with the beat and stretches his arms out horizontally, (“safe”) to end the groove. With a shaker in one hand and a tube in the other, he initiates a new wave of sound, a roll of unmetered tones that everyone one picks up on and jumps into. Everyone who might have felt left out of the first groove can participate in this new wave of sound. The facilitator motions the sound volume down, then up, then one side up, the other side up, then everyone loud again. One final jump and cut and everyone ends together.

Again with out speaking he holds up one tube (they are all a different colors), points to it and starts a groove, quickly changes to another color tube, holds it up, points to it, and starts a different complimentary groove.  He senses how far he can stretch the group with different patterns and works with them accordingly. At the right time, he walks around his spot in large motions with arms raised, getting everyone’s attention, and when he senses everyone is with him, jumps up, lands in time with the beat, stretches his arms out horizontally, and ends the groove.

In the 10 to 15 minutes that have passed, the group has already learned many things: some cues and signals, the facilitators style, how each individual contributes to the sound and how each part is the basis for explorations and improvisation. As these experiences settle, the facilitator introduces himself (or is introduced), then offers an opening statement:

“We are here today to experience joy, powerful play, unity, community and more through the power of rhythm. We are all rhythmic beings in a vibrating universe. Everything is pulsing and waving from the sub atomic particle to the largest galaxy and beyond. Our love of percussion, drumming and rhythm is a natural outcome of life in the body.  I invite you to drum on your body.”

 Kim starts to drum on his thighs, then adds chest and a clap, a foot stomp. As the people join him they laugh at the silliness of it, and they experience the beneficial effects of body percussion, which is part of several healing traditions from around the world.

After a brief session of body rhythm Kim moves the group into vocal rhythms and combines them with simple movements.  At the end of this 2 or 3-minute segment, the group is probably warmed up and a window of communication may have opened. Kim takes that moment to deliver a metaphor regarding the specific business or personal issues at hand. Your group is now primed and ready for a full-on rhythmic team building event with improvisational music circle as it’s base.


For short events, ice breakers like this can be enough to catalyze an inspired group mind to approach the issues at hand.  For longer events, helpers can move drums into position for each participant, and for a more dramatic opening, I can start the whole event with drums and get everyone going in the same manner as described above, but with larger instruments. The effect of the drums, their frequency range and power effect peoples more deeply as the long waves penetrate the body, mind and spirit. The focus, attention and body awareness needed to hold the rhythm is available to everyone and is a transformative experience as well as being FUN!

I lead by example with minimum talking, however I am an expert and gifted teacher and if people want some instruction I can deliver it to them in a harmonious and un-threatening manner that will serve their needs and bring them success.

Some of my past corporate clients include:

McCann Erickson World Group of San Francisco, Dan Millman’s Peaceful Warrior Training, Preventative Medical Center of Marin, Sutter Hospice Workers Retreat, John Grinders NLP trainings, West County Health Clinic Staff, Redwood Care Givers Association, Athleta Staff Appreciation Day, and many birthday parties (5 to 70 years!) family reunions, festivals and parties.

I was a co facilitator with Micky Hart and friends at the Guinness book of World’s Record drum circle in 2004 of 4,374 people at the Earthdance festival in Northern CA USA.

Here is what some of our clients say:

I really appreciated your professional approach, even for such a relatively small event.  Your prep work in advance, in terms of understanding the audience and the set-up, leads me to believe that you are truly a professional.

Thanks so much for adding a unique element to an otherwise ordinary event.

I enjoyed the drumming.  It was nice how Kim handed instruments to those of us who did not join the circle and invited us to participate from our locations.

I enjoyed being a part of the entertainment and being entertained by my co-workers, supervisors, managers.  This was a new experience for me and it cannot be compare to having a DJ or band do the entertaining. Kim’s presentation reduced my level of stress.

What is a Drum Circle? 

Drum circles have gained immense popularity in recent years and are now found in corporate meetings and parties, staff retreats, team building groups, schools, churches, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, and more.

A drum circle is a group of people joined in a common goal of recreation, by expressing themselves through sound and rhythm, sharing joy and unity, celebrating and supporting each other.  In a drum circle, the music is created spontaneously, in the moment. We use hand drums and percussion instruments, it is not culturally specific and is inclusive of all.

The key elements are listening, respect, acceptance, patience and cooperation.  While these elements may be present without a leader, it often takes a facilitator, “one who make easy” to bring these out, balance and bring the group to its highest potential.

What is a Drum Circle with Kim Atkinson?

My groups are Facilitated Drum Circles.  I lead the group through games and sequences that create the unity and I read the group wordlessly offering ideas to keep the music flowing. I playfully embellish the music and step in to provide guidance at transition points. The rest of the time I play as part of the circle, supporting the groove.

The drum circle is empowering, uplifting and unifying in a kinesthetic way. Group drumming with a skilled and conscious facilitator is a community building activity that bypasses the mind and directly touches the heart.  We serve each other by creating space in the rhythm to inspire others to play.  The synergy that happens in drumcircle, as everyone vibrates together, is a fountain of joy, confirming and expanding our relationships with each other and the world.

Pulsewave
"I have been to a few other drum circles/classes and nothing even comes close to what you are trying to do in Drummunity. You and Kim are clearly coming in through the Spiritual Door and other people are not offering that. Thanks for creating that space -- there are moments when it really does work so beautifully and it is so awesome! And every time I have come I have experienced healing on some level. I know this is true for my daughter as well. We have talked about it a lot. I hope you guys will hang in there and keep offering it!  Peace and love!"
Pulsewave
"Drummunity: Kim Atkinson always delivers the grooves with his amazing ability to create a full drum circle that not just sounds like a "drum jam"; but an actual drum collage of beautiful musical textures that move the rhythmic soul. As a community drum leader and teacher,  Kim is one of Sonoma County's most revered musical treasures..."
Pulsewave
"I cannot imagine more wondrous, enchanting, and fulfilling group experiences than your sacred Drum circles. Your gift of unifying hundreds of folk, most of them unknown to one another, in a cohesive, life-affirming exploration of community-through-rhythm is truly awe-inspiring.

Your PulseWave website alludes to your training in group dynamic psychology and 'tribal' spirituality. Your healing capacity transcends even this evident life quest. By experiencing your playfulness, acceptance, and pure joy in the moment, I believe every person who participates in your Spirit circle is encouraged and empowered to open the door to her/his own heart realm. This is inspiration at it's finest."
Pulsewave
"Being there was such a soulful, heart-uplifting experience!
Your playful, bright spirit and rhythmic skill and enthusiasm had us all tapping into the pulse of joy of making music together. Everyone was rockin! It was so much fun! And we sounded great, too!  What a wonderful gift you gave to the community!  Bless you!"
Pulsewave
"I attended the New Year's Eve drum circle and was really quite amazed at the experience. When it first began it seemed like chaos and I was wondering just how this might unfold. This was my first participatory experience of you, also.

I loved the way you used your intention, your sense of rhythym, your musical/rhythmic vision and your body/communication to guide and shape and coordinate the forces. As a singer/songwriter, and percussionist/multi-instrumentalist, and also classically trained musician, and having studied composition and conducting, I loved this experience in all of its traditional and new-age dimensions, and also as an experience of creative expression in the moment!"
Pulsewave
"I feel like I got a part of my life back. It was that community feeling, like an instant loving community that I immediately felt a part of."