Youth Struggling With Trauma Use Drumming To Cope

Aug 5, 2016

Credit Caroline Ballard


The Cathedral Home for Children just north of Laramie is a boarding school for teens that have had traumatic experiences. Besides providing a safe space, the home helps the kids deal with their emotions. This summer they’re trying something new – drumming circles.

Caroline Brewer is a teacher at the Cathedral Home. She got the idea for a drum circle when she noticed her students tapping on desks and chairs in the classroom. Brewer says she recognized it as a coping mechanism and thought it could be an opportunity to introduce her students to music.

There weren’t any drums at the school, so Brewer asked her students to get creative and make their own drums. They used recycled materials, like flower pots, five gallon buckets, and duct tape.  But there still wasn’t anyone to lead the circle, so Brewer asked Jeanne Koschnitzki for help. Koschnitzki has been drumming since a friend introduced her to it 25 years ago.

“Once I started drumming and could feel that rhythm within my body, it was just amazing, so I’ve been kind of drumming ever since.”

Two years ago, Koschnitzki started the community drum circle in Laramie when she wanted to find others to play with. She says she drums when she feels scattered or angry, as it brings her back to a quiet place.

“One beat that is called the heartbeat and it’s kind of like that and it kind of centers us because that is first beat we are accustomed to in the womb, our mother’s heartbeat.”

Credit Caroline Ballard

At the most recent drum circle, students and community members sit down in a circle of chairs. Everyone has picked out a drum they’d like to play, but before they begin, each of them shares their own drumming experience.

For the next 30 minutes they take turns starting the beat, each time a different rhythm. They drum sitting, standing, and walking around the circle. Before they wrap up the last rhythm, Koschnitzki reminds them of the heartbeat.

“That steady rhythm, kind of tells us everything’s ok, and that we’re safe.”

The kids are visibly energized by the drums, as they continue to tap on them while they help to pack up the room. One student says he likes playing alone but he also likes having other people to drum with.

“I guess it’s a lot more fun playing with other people than just by yourself because then you kind of have a beat to go along to and you can kind of influence other people to make a certain beat, too.”

Brewer says kids have already asked about the next drumming circle. She says she’s not certain when it will be, but the kids will able to take the drums they made in class back to their dorms to keep the beat going.