Recent Events & Articles (Our blog)


  • Let’s stop being ‘anti-bully’ and start being ‘pro-kindness’ – a lesson we can learn at any age

    music-304757_150A lot of people think my chosen field is new age-y.  Some think I’m a child care professional or a drum teacher.  When asked what I do and I explain that I ‘provide specialized interactive rhythm and music programs for all ages and abilities,’ the person usually responds with some form of, “well, we already have a music teacher” or “cool, I used to play percussion in marching band.”  Today let’s talk about what interactive rhythm and music programs have to offer besides generic music skills – namely, anti-bullying and pro-kindness skills:  no matter if you’re 5 or 95.  People will always need to improve their people skills at every stage of development, and rhythm is a totally accessible method for doing it.

    I talk a lot about when I was a child.  There are two reasons for this.  The first is that I had a pretty great childhood and I’m passionate about creating opportunities for today’s children to have some great and memorable experiences.  The second reason is because I was bullied, and it has affected my adult personality in ways I’m only beginning to realize.  Oh, you say that bullying doesn’t exist in your school, your company, your family, your organization?  Well, even if it’s not outright bullying with a capital “B,” I’ll tell you that at the very least, there is room for improvement in communications.

    The self-confidence crisis in schools

    cyber-bullying-122156_150When we mention “bullying,” the first thought is usually what happens in schools – ‘mean girls’ singling each other out, rough-looking boys beating kids up for lunch money, and the alarming statistics on teen suicide and school tragedies.  Yep, this is where it starts.  Kids are impressionable.  The same goes for their impressions of how to treat people.  Kids look at their teachers, parents, grandparents, friends, and imaginary TV pals to subconsciously determine how to act toward each other.  An unkind word from a classmate can have some pretty nasty effects if the responsible adults don’t or can’t act properly.  My bullies were my friends until middle school turned them into antagonizers (or silent by-standers); my loving and supportive parents weren’t able to protect me from the nasty words at school.  My well-meaning principal had no protocol in particular to follow. My self-confidence, never having wavered much before, was at an all-time low.

    The communication crisis in the workplace

    angry-46375_150I once worked for an organization (which remains anonymous) that had a dramatic blow-up in accounting.  A co-worker and a supervisor got into a heated argument and yelled at each other in the office, resulting in the firing of the irate employee, and also resulting in dramatic whispers about the incident by the rest of the employees – who loved their juicy gossip, I must say.

    Where was the communication in this scenario?  Was either employee making an effort to be an empathetic listener, and were any of the bystanders doing anything to improve communication?  These days, many people are experiencing a disconnect, feeling as if they are anonymous or aren’t being heard.  If you’ve never worked for a large company, watch the movie Office Space or an episode of Better Off Ted to get a dose of the communication disconnect. Corporate employees and medical care professionals especially experience the feeling that they don’t matter enough to their employers.  As a result, stress is high, tempers become short, and turnover happens at a rate that costs these companies money each year in new hire and training costs.

    A shift in mentality

    arrow resizedThrough my company Just Add Rhythm, I often talk about making a simple shift in individual and group mentality.  The shift can be as small as deciding to go for a walk twice a week, or as large as a company exploring new options for creating a more healthy environment for its employees.  By implementing these shifts on both a small and a large scale, our consciousness as a culture has the ability to improve drastically.  We shift our focus to ‘pro-kindness’ and ‘pro-respect.’

    The kid who was bullied in school doesn’t have to grow up to fit into the movie stereotype “recluse” or “resident nerd.”  The kid who did the bullying in school also doesn’t have to fit into a stereotype of office jerk.  Our shift in mentality requires a safe and respectful environment and open communication at all stages of development – from the classroom, to the university, to the workplace, even to the yoga studio or the local Target.

    Self- and group-empowerment

    exchange-of-ideas-222787_150I recently read a great post on LinkedIn about workplace archetypes.  The author made a point that it always seems that the person in charge of approving a big project or decision is “difficult” to work with in some way.  He also made the point that most of the employees know this but choose not to take action until the very last moment before a project is approved.  Why not take actions to prevent last-minute stressful decisions by having the necessary conversations in the beginning of the process?  Because most of us want to avoid conflict, and we hope it will magically go away if we don’t bring it up.

    Imagine if all company cultures were such that employees were encouraged to voice their opinions before the very last step of a project.  What if you, the employee, knew that in voicing a legitimate concern, you had the support of your colleagues and the ear of your supervisor every time?  Would you take the initiative more often?

    In my opinion, this is a culturally systemic issue that begins in childhood.  Whatever you believe in the nature vs. nurture debate, we are all to some extent shaped by our childhood experiences.  When we get angry or defensive about something, there is usually some underlying memory or trigger that floats up and determines our reaction.

    If we address the issue like a disease for which there is a vaccine, we can both treat the symptoms and the underlying cause.  Initiate conscious programming in schools that doesn’t just teach to the test but teaches to the experience.  This is the pro-kindness vaccine, the inoculation that will help prevent (not necessarily eradicate!  We are human, after all) an epidemic in adulthood.  For the symptoms that are occurring right now, we arm ourselves with resources for compassion and respect – the wellness consultants, the health initiatives, the team-building workshops, the communication seminars – and the drum circle facilitators.

    It’s amazing what a drum can do

    park-25667_150At Just Add Rhythm, we treat the symptoms and the underlying cause.  We treat the symptoms that are already present in this generation as a result of lack of systemic respect, and we treat the underlying cause starting with the next generation. We arm ourselves with drums and go into the schools, the community centers, the businesses, the conferences, the after-school programs, the summer camps, the hospitals, and everywhere else we’re needed.  My colleagues worldwide do the same, with unwavering belief in the power of rhythm.  Their stories range from being beaned in the head by a child with anger issues (and receiving an apology and a request to join the group), to watching a couple dance at a Holocaust Survivor’s event, to seeing an Alzheimer’s patient’s eyes light up with recognition during the playing of a particular song.  My colleagues surprise employees of Fortune 500 companies at conferences with hundreds of drums and a morning filled with infectious rhythm rather than speeches.  My colleagues return to at-risk youth and detention centers week after week to provide a safe and stable environment for participants to vent frustrations.  They treat the symptoms and the cause, one drum vaccine at a time.

    It’s inspiring what you can do!

    Each choice lies with you.  My objective is to empower each of you – so that you can make the shifts you need to live a healthier and happier life.  I love sharing with you what I’ve learned on my own journey, and hearing from you about yours.  Get started by following me or Just Add Rhythm on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+, or visiting us at www.justaddrhythmnow.com.  Or, contact me at alisha@justaddrhythmnow.com.  If I can’t come to you, I’ll help you find someone who can!

  • Rhythm & Memory – Childhood lessons for improving your adult memory capacity

    Post It Pic Monkey resizedWhen I was in 7th grade, I remember having to learn a long list of prepositions overnight. Oh, the agony! How was I supposed to remember every single preposition and then regurgitate it all down on paper? I remember sitting at my kitchen table with the book open in front of me, and then pacing around as I wracked my brain to commit them to memory. The only thing that ended up working was an alphabetical rhythmic memorization. When I went into school the next day, I confidently (and as quickly as possible) wrote down all the assigned prepositions before they fell out of my head. I still remember a select few groupings today: about, above, around…

    Throughout school, I often found myself utilizing rhythm in order to commit words, speeches, and tables to memory. True, I was a pianist and a singer and so I was more inclined to utilize these skills for the benefit of a good grade. But how intrinsically linked to memory is rhythm? How helpful can rhythm be in populations as varied as school children to university students to elderly to people with Alzheimer’s? Since I work with people of all ages and often tout the benefits of rhythm and music, including memory, I thought I’d better dig in a little deeper and find out what’s floating around the scientific community. Read below for 4 clinically studied benefits of rhythm on one’s memory – and consider drumming the next time you have a challenging work assignment!

    Benefit #1: Rhythm can help you recall words and phrases. Several studies were conducted back in the 60’s and 70’s to determine the effect of rhythm on short-term memory. Subjects of various ages and abilities were asked to memorize word or number sequences, either semantically related (ie, table-chair) or semantically unrelated (ie, dog-mirror). In general, subjects who were given the opportunity to chant the words and/or tap their hands or feet to a basic pattern showed more recall than subjects who utilized a more conventional learning environment (read it here). Have you ever tried to memorize a short grocery list on your way home from work? I chant it over and over and tap softly on the steering wheel!

    Benefit #2: Rhythm (and music) can help in language development. Do you remember singing lots of songs as a kid? Or, if you’re a parent, do you often pick your child up from school and hear her singing a new song she learned that day? I’m proud to say I still can memorize all 50 states today because of the “United States” song I learned in 6th grade! (still looking for a practical use for that) Singing and chanting are excellent methods for introducing new words and phrases to children. “Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November….” Research has also been conducted to determine how much language a fetus can hear and react to in utero – and it’s quite a bit!

    Benefit #3: Rhythm can help ward off dementia and possibly slow some effects of Alzheimer’s, in addition to helping those who’ve suffered a stroke. There are a lot of music therapists and drum circle facilitators that utilize a hands-on rhythmic approach with these populations. Playing a drum in a social setting can have significant benefits for someone with memory loss, including communicating musically what you cannot express verbally, via an instrument. How can it help ward off dementia or slow its effects? Music Explorium’s website explains one reason: “‘Playing the drums makes the brain think in a way that very few activities can,’ said Pat Brown, International Drum Month chairman and Percussion Marketing Council co-executive director. Being able to understand musical notes and dissect how rhythms work and go together is a very complicated thought process.” The process of drumming utilizes both the linear and creative sides of the brain. The simple act of hitting a drum with alternating left and right hand strokes engages the brain and makes a kinesthetic connection. Susan Bock, MM, MT-BC, wrote about her experience facilitating at a camp for people who have suffered a stroke. She puts it beautifully when she describes the purpose behind the music: “The power of stroke camp is the power of stroke survivors and caregivers to persevere and again find their rhythm in life when it has been taken from them…music and rhythm give stroke survivors a chance to regain their sense of self among those who care and understand…[it’s] is the universal ‘glue’ that binds us all together and helps to regain the normalcy of life for those affected by stroke.”

    Benefit #4: Rhythm can help relax the mind. You know that feeling when you’re trying to recall the name of the actor in that movie you saw recently and it’s on the tip of your tongue? Often when we try to recall information in a hurry, or in a stressful situation, it can be very difficult. You might be in the shower later that night and suddenly shout out “Gerard Butler!” Why? Because you’re relaxed enough to remember. Drumming can help facilitate deep relaxation and lower blood pressure. A 2003 Remo Health Rhythms clinical study analyzed the effects of drumming on long-term care workers and reported a significant improvement in mood and a decrease in employee turnover that year. When you have a regular opportunity to relax and express yourself, you’re likely not only to be great at your work, but also to stay mentally and physically healthy later in life.

    I didn’t know all this when I was learning prepositions, but these days I utilize rhythm and music for a variety of practical purposes, including remembering my gym locker combination, relaxing me when I’m feeling stressed, and keeping an even stride when I’m out for a walk. Hopefully it keeps my brain sharp into my golden years – and I hope it will help you too!

  • Finding music among the madness – 3 simple tips to keep calm and thrive this holiday season

    stress resizedIt’s begun already.  The holiday roller coaster of shopping, wrapping, planning, cleaning, decorating, cookie baking, inevitable weight gain, and impending financial fallout in the new year.  Did I forget anything?  The American Psychological Association has reported that during the holidays, people’s main causes of stress are “lack of time, “lack of money, and “pressure to give or get gifts.”  Oh, don’t forget the added negative emotions of fatigue, stress, irritability, sadness, anger, loneliness, and yes, bloating.  Have I completely bummed you out yet? But wait, there’s good news!  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Below are three simple music-related tips that can help you and your loved ones to maximize joy, decrease stress, and maybe – just maybe! – eliminate that pesky bloating.

    3 musical tips for kicking this holiday season’s butt (in a good way)

    1.  Rock your holiday playlist.  Whether it’s listening to a killer mix in the car on the way to the mall (like HIMYM’s Barney’s playlist here), or embracing the Christmas cheesiness and belting out some tunes with the fam (like this great mix here), you better know what music will get you going so you can get things done.  I start playing the Christmas tunes on Pandora and my iPod typically the day after Thanksgiving.  Do whatever floats your boat and is appropriate for the activity (for tree decorating and cookie baking, I highly recommend Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s “Once Upon a Christmas” – but only if you’re prepared for some uber cheese and nostalgia.  Oh, and *don’t*sacrifice your workout regimen to get everything done!  If you quit the gym and pick up where you left off on January 2nd, I guarantee you you’ll feel the wrath of the holiday bloat – and be sorry you had to tackle the gym with all the other New Years Resolution-ers.  Try to keep your regular (or slightly modified) workout regimen going throughout the holidays as best you can, and if need be create a new workout playlist (Pinterest is a good place to start) to keep you pumped up and pumping iron.
    2. Dance, gosh darn it.  Do you dance like Elaine from Seinfeld?  Is anyone really going to care when chances are they’ve got a pint of eggnog in them and won’t remember the night before with the utmost clarity?  You’ve probably had some invites for holiday shindigs, be they for work, family, neighborhood, or friends.  I’ll bet you any money (unless they’re vegan!) that those parties are going to have ooey gooey finger food out the wazoo.  I’m not saying don’t munch on some holiday goodies, but cut the munching with some dancing and frolicking, which will boost your endorphins (similar to a workout would) and balance out some of the caloric intake.  Make sure to drink plenty of water in between all the eggnog and champagne.  Didn’t get invited anywhere?  I refer you back to Tip #1 – create a playlist you love and dance yourself silly for a few minutes in between tasks.  You will feel better!
    3. Laugh.  That’s right, laugh.  Laughter has been shown to boost the immune system;  protect the heart by improving blood vessel function and increasing blood flow; increase endorphins; and be a great workout for your abs and your core.  Find (or start) a Laughter Club near you (they exist), and brush up on some great jokes for those holiday parties.  What does this have to do with music?  Lots.  Experiencing music as a connected group is not only empowering, it also as a rule elicits a bunch of laughter we didn’t even know we had inside us.  One of the first activities in my drum circle programs is to do an icebreaker that gets people laughing.  Laughing can put people on equal footing with each other and help tear down the walls we subconsciously build around ourselves through body language.  Laughter is universal, and it’s the simplest way to keep up those spirits during the holidays.

    Are you ready to tackle this holiday season with an arsenal of simple ideas?  By now you should be ready to breeze through the holidays with your favorite songs, dance moves, and jokes at the ready.  What else works for you during the holidays to keep your sanity intact?  Post your favorite songs and musical activities below for the benefit of others!  (oh, yeah, and let us know if you eliminated that pesky bloating thing)  Contact me if you’re interested in bringing in some drums for your holiday shindig!

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