With those two words, a group of five young men instantly stand at attention, raising the drum sticks they hold in their hands.


Their feet begin to march in time.


They march into their first formation.


They begin to play the drums in front of them. Maintaining a steady beat, they play various rhythmic patterns with great precision and acuity. They are focused, dedicated, and unified as one unit. An impressive feat for any group, the success of this drumline group is all the more remarkable given the challenges the group members face and must overcome in their day-to-day pursuits.

This is Discovery Drumline.

Led by The Center for Discovery®’s Music Therapy and Dance teams, Discovery Drumline formally began about one year ago, though its roots can be traced back much further. Many years ago, we began exploring the use of rhythm as a means for channeling and organizing the interfering behaviors of our students. We worked from the precept that rhythm is a great organizing agent, with the potential to impact focused attention, behavior regulation, and basic interactivity. After all, most aspects of human life involve rhythm, including the way we walk and the way we talk (Ross, 2016). The human body is driven by various rhythmic cycles with everything from our heartbeat to our awake/asleep patterns to the changing seasons (Hodges and Sebald, 2011). Luce (1971) purported that if a child learns to listen to their inner rhythmicity, they might learn to recognize and appropriately self-monitor mood fluctuations and behavior.

Our early experimental work in this area morphed into our “Socialization through Original Music & Movement Program”, or STOMP. Within STOMP, participants are led through a variety of interactive music and movement experiences using rhythm-based strategies. Ross (2016) defines rhythm-based strategies as the utilization of rhythmic elements to create, express, and guide successful therapeutic experiences. Rhythm-based strategies within STOMP include the use of chants, dances, creative movement, body percussion, drumming, and instrumental play. These strategies are presented within both free, improvisational formats, and within more structured forms. Participants use traditional musical instruments and dance/movement props, as well as non-traditional items such as chairs, brooms, garbage cans and newspaper, to aid in their rhythmical pursuits. The overall aim of the program is engagement in co-active, shared experiences through the unifying power of rhythm, leading to enhanced socialization.

The rhythmic beats of STOMP can now be heard in classes across The Center’s programs to noteworthy outcomes. Our Drumline group grew from a particular STOMP class where the participants showed significant rhythmic perceptiveness and musical intelligence. The team working within the group knew a next step was necessary and Discovery Drumline was born. Moving away from the various props of STOMP, Drumline participants now use traditional marching percussion instruments, including snare drums, tom toms, a bass drum, and crash cymbals. And, the expectations have grown. Participants must now learn and recall routines and patterns from session to session. They must integrate their rhythmic playing with their body movements, all while building the physical stamina necessary to wear the instruments. And, they are gaining a sense of responsibility and accountability as their individual part is integral to the success of the larger ensemble.


And with that, the Drumline retreats…but, without a doubt, the beat goes on.



Hodges, D. and Sebald, D. (2011). Music in the human experience: an introduction to music psychology.
New York: Routledge.

Luce, G. G. (1971). Biological rhythms in human and animal physiology. New York: Dover.

Ross, S. (2016). Utilizing rhythm-based strategies to enhance self-expression and participation in
students with emotional and behavioral issues: a pilot study. Music Therapy Perspectives, 34(1), 99-105.


Written by Conio Loretto, III, MS, LCAT, MT-BC, Senior Director of Music Therapy at The Center for Discovery®.