Over the last three decades, Jim Greiner, has led some 3,000 interactive rhythms sessions for corporations and conferences around the world. That adds up to well over 150,000 meeting attendees who have experienced the benefits of what he calls “drumming with focused intentions” in gatherings that have taken place in ballrooms and on corporate campuses, in convention centers, on beaches and in tents set up in parking lots. 

Greiner spoke to CAM+E from Santa Cruz, where his company, Hands-On! Drumming is based.

Where did your interest in drumming begin?
I grew up in San Francisco and in my teens I traveled around the city visiting different ethnic neighborhoods. I started spending time with Afro-Cuban conga drummers and that got me interested in rhythm and how it can be used to bring people together. After high school, I made my way to Africa and spent two years drumming in countries like Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Chad and Guinea. It was quite the journey and I was profoundly moved by the power of rhythm to uplift and unite people.

What do participants experience in your focused rhythm sessions?
I’ll provide several different instruments, including African djembe drums, tambourines and maracas. For large corporate groups, I’ll also include percussion tubes, colorful lightweight instruments, each tuned to a specific musical pitch. 

These hands-on sessions typically last from 30 minutes to two hours, although I sometimes do half-day or all-day sessions. During these corporate sessions people are celebrating and having fun together. Secondly, there are listening and communication skills that I integrate into the sessions. A company’s specific themes or goals can also be woven into the workshops.

Why is drumming an effective tool for team-building?
In my travels around the globe, I’ve observed that all thriving communities, whether they’re families, villages, neighborhoods or corporate groups, have three fundamental elements in common. I call them the three “C”s of community: communicating, collaborating and celebrating. As people get into the flow of playing an instrument to create the group groove, these elements are reinforced and internalized. The ability of people to engage with each other and make things happen without holding back lasts long after the session ends. 

One of the most common comments I hear is “I never thought I had rhythm before.” Many people will go on to say, “If I can drum what else in my life am I keeping myself from doing simply because I don’t know how to start?” 

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