Music therapy and music education majors are getting a lesson drummed into them - literally - at a workshop today on group percussion techniques for therapy at Sam Houston State University.

Participants will get hands-on experience in group drumming, which has beneficial effects on both elderly and youthful clients afflicted with certain problems, said Dr. Mary Ann Nolteriek , an instructor in music therapy at SHSU.

For example, Alzheimer's Disease victims show marked jumps in lucidity during group drumming sessions, Nolteriek said. Now researchers hope to extend the periods of lucidity beyond music therapy sessions.

Nolteriek said hard data shows a rise in endorphin levels among group drummers during therapy sessions. Endorphins are potent pain-relievers occurring naturally in the brain. Nolteriek said group drummers can experience a "natural high" from endorphins similar to that enjoyed by runners.

"It's a very thrilling event," she said, referring to group drumming sessions.

In addition to a feeling of well being, other benefits of group drumming include greater pain tolerance, improved motor skills and increased socialization - an attribute of the therapy being applied to at-risk youths.

"Music therapy is successful because it's non-invasive and people enjoy it," Nolteriek said. "Kids can become more socialized. It's less threatening to them because they don't have to speak. Later they become more vocal after the trust and rapport builds up."

Today's workshop is sponsored by the Rhythm for Life Foundation which was formed after a 1991 U.S. Senate hearing on aging. Among the experts testifying was Mickey Hart, drummer for the recently disbanded Grateful Dead and an author on drumming. Hart urged the nationwide formation of drum circles for the elderly to provide therapy and recreation.

Rhythm for Life recently completed research on improving the quality of life of Alzheimer's Disease victims and studied the development of a volunteer training program for healthy older adults.

Barry Bernstein, a registered music therapist, will be leading today's drumming workshop in the Lowman Student Center ballroom from 1-7 p.m. Anyone interested is welcome to attend.

The group percussion workshop is the opening event of the 34th Annual Contemporary Music Festival which lasts from March 27-30. Thursday's events will include chamber and chorale music; Friday's lineup features additional chamber music as well as the wind ensemble and symphonic band and Saturday will bring lectures, an orchestral performance and more chamber music. For information on the festival call 294-1360.


For more information, contact Paul Sturrock at 409-294-1837, or e-mail

March 27, 1996