Drum Circles in Casual Drinking Establishments: Craft Brewerys, Weddings, Team Building, Pubs, & Cafe's
I began and hosted this drum circle every Tuesday night for 3 years. My hope was that it would become
firmly established and become a fixture and continue on long after I moved out of the area. That happened,
It has had a variety of hosts and facilitators since I left, but it lasted over 10 years, and that
makes me very happy knowing that I started someting positive in our community.
Here's a little history on the brewery circle, & some general info on drum circles at casual drinking establishments:
While living in Florida, I got the idea to start my own drum circle in 2005. I was looking for an indoor venue
somewhere that was air conditioned. I liked drumming to the sunset at the beach, but the summers there
are very hot, and the sand gets all up in your drums. I tried approaching a few night clubs and bars with
the idea, but no success. Everyone I spoke with said it would never work, and many drummers said that
trying to facilitate a drum circle at a place that serves alcohol is crazy. It is do-able.
I went to a local brewery now and then. I loved the vibe of the place. I noticed that Tuesday was their slowest
night of the week. So having a drum circle seemed like a good alternative to the Tuesday chess and techno
music night that was going on at the time. I stopped in one afternoon and pitched the idea to the bar manager.
He was reluctant at first, but after persisting with the idea for a few weeks, he agreed to try it out.
He held a grudge, because I came up with a working formula for the slowest night, Tuesdays.
I heard he was sacked 6 months after I left. Otherwise, I would probably still be there.
A lot of other jobs came my way because it was a weekly gig, and many people attended.
The condition was that I would receive no pay unless they turned a profit in two weeks. It was a risky venture
because of the drinking, and possible damage to my drums, but it worked. Within a month, the word had
spread around, the place was packed, it was hopping, busy and jamming. It worked! (Finally a paycheck)
My formula was similar to that of an open mic night. I invited local drummers, band members, drum makers,
teachers, and instructors to come attend. In return for jamming with us, they could promote their items, shows,
classes and workshops. I did the same with bellydancing studios. The key to it was making it fun, and accessable
to everyone so they would want to come back. Variety was the thing. The rhythms needed to be challenging and
interesting for the experienced musicians, but also not so complex that the beginners didn't feel lost.
I was delighted this turned into a scene that was so culturally diverse.
An easy way to do that, is playing rhythms from different cultures. Uptempo Latin and African rhythms,
as well as slower Native American, Bellydance, R & B Groove, and improv. That way, the variety keeps
everyone wanting to come back next week. Some drum circles can fall into this pattern of playing
the same default beat most of the time. That gets a little boring and frustrating for everybody.
The local drum circle took off right from the start. Like I mentioned, attracting musicians so they would
come in and jam, and not charging a fee or cover at the door is what made it work. We just used the
honor system to get people in. They wanted to support it and promote it, and it worked.
Most musicians don't like to pay a cover charge or a fee to get in. (Especially with drum circles.)
But they will buy a beer, soda, or food once they are in there, and network to their friends.
It was a bit of a challenge to host an on going drum circle at a casual drinking establishment,
but the vibe was always good, people had a blast, and the musicianship was even better.
Three hours would go by like it was one. I noticed right away that almost all the
locals would drink in moderation, so it never really became an issue.
But sometimes, things do get damaged.
That circle became so popular, that musicians and onlookers came from all around Tampa, St. Pete,
and even as far as Orlando just to check it out and play. We even had out of town musicians show up,
usually while on vacation. Some of the other local clubs got angry, and tried to get it shut down at
a city counsil meeting. They made claims that it was all riff-raff in there. Unfortunately for them
a few of the board members were regulars at the circle and told them the real truth. It is mostly
decent professional working people from all walks of life, different backgrounds, and paths with
demanding careers that just want to make music with new friends, be part of a fun social scene,
drum out some stress and have a good time. It was culturally diverse, and it brought the community
together. Who can argue against that? The merchants and other facilitators came after me though.
My hope was that after it got established, that it would be so deeply entrenched that it would be
there for years to come. And much to my delight it has had different hosts, but has been going on
for over a decade since I left the area. I wanted it to be a lsting thing, so I turned over the
reins to a guy that attended regularly named K. James. He filled in for me as the facilitator a
few times a year, so he was the best suited for the job. I gave him, and the bar manager my two
weeks notice, and sadly said goodbye to the brewery. I'm happy it had the staying power.
Around the country many night clubs, bars, and coffee shops are struggling to find working formulas for
weeknights. Having a drum circle night quickly builds up a community around it with a loyal following
that grows very quickly. The cost to do this is minimal, I've been doing this successfully for years
at various venues. What's really needed is an organizer to help keep things running smoothly, and
promote the drum circle. I look for a small base pay, tips, or a percentage of sales like 10%.
Because believe me, there is a lot of work involved. Also it isn't the drummers, musicians, or dancers
that do the majority of buying your products. They will help support the venue and buy one or two, but
it's the onlookers who are attracted and who will be buying most of the drinks and/or food. And it
takes a few months to really get a drum circle community built up and established. I go into this
in much more detail in my blog posts, and Kindle book about drum circles.
On my drum circle blog, I wrote a long post about starting up a drum circle in pubs, clubs, cafe's and casual drinking
establishments. There are lots of helpful hints for getting a circle going, ideas, tips, and lots more. Have a look:
A clip from one of the more memorable nights at the brewery drum circle. The Fat Tuesday circle was so
large it had to be held in the parking lot. When a Scottish bagpiper walked by in the parade he came back
later and joined us for the Mardi Gras drum circle. We played for about 4 hours that night, costumed
characters from the parade came over and danced in their costumes. It was a night filled with fun,
great drumming, and we had some good belly dancers too!
Watch a few drum circle rhythms in this video clip from my 2 hour DVD 101 Drum Circle Rhythms. It's $10 + $2 shipping.
A Free drum circle CD is included. My 300 page hand drumming and drum circle book is $8 on Kindle or Nook. Please visit
the main site link below for more info. My rhythms DVD is on Amazon Instant Video for $8. (But no free CD at Amazon.)
Check out my drum circle finder, where you can locate drum circles near you in your state. Established in 1999,
there's over 1000 listed & still growing. Also a global drum circle finder. The listings are updated monthly.
Please visit www.drumcircles.net or click the link below, to go to the drumcircles.net main page.
I hope you enjoyed reading my page, and if you facilitate drum circles, some of my methods and writing helps you.
If your group would like to have a facilitated drum circle, you can contact me at: drumcircles_net(at)hotmail.com
Please email me with any questions. My rates are reasonable. I never share email addresses with anyone.
The proceeds from the sales of my drumming CD's, DVD's, and drum circle book helps me to do this kind of work in
our community, and keep the website going. I try to provide them at as reasonable a cost as possible. As an
independent artist, money is tight, so I always appreciate a product that is a good value for the cost.
That's the idea behind my book, CD's and DVD.
There is increasing recognition of the health benefits of music therapy, particularly facilitated
hand drumming. Below I offer my drum circle book, 101 rhythms DVD, and drum circle jam music for sale.
Unfortunately, places where the people who benefit from what I do the most, have very limited budgets.
I've never recieved any grants, assistance, or funding, and I don't endorse drum companies.
If you would be willing to make a purchase of any amount to help me continue to provide therapeutic
music to groups in St. Louis, it would help out a little. Please click on the purchase links below.
Thanks in advance if you can pitch in a little. My book & DVD are solid if you are facilitating
drum circles, or thinking about starting one up for your area, or group.
My 101 Drum Circle Rhythms video on Amazon. Over 2 hours of them. The full download to 2 devices is $8.
Here's the link, or search on the title. 101 Drum Circle Rhythms (The DVD disc is a few bucks more.)