Bio: Jordan Goodman is a musician, psychotherapist, and recognized leader in the fields of therapeutic and community drumming. He researched and practiced drumming as a therapeutic intervention while earning a master’s degree in clinical psychology. Through his company Beatwell, Jordan creates and shares drumming programs with businesses, schools, mental health clinics, and more.
Zephan: What’s up, everybody? This is Zephan Balxberg here from the Year of Purpose podcast. And I’ve got my buddy Jordan Goodman out here today, and he’s from Beatwell. And basically he goes around to different groups with all sorts of really cool instruments, and he does, in a sense…musical rehabilitation? Is that what you could call it, in a sense?
Jordan: Yeah, musical something. I say, maybe with the rehabilitation part, maybe a rediscovering is a better word. Or reconnecting. Of things that, we as humans, have done for thousands of years in virtually every culture, but maybe considered unique in this culture at this time.
Zephan: That’s awesome. So this is something that dates back to, kinda of, where human life evolved from. Music is definitely the basis for many things in all of our cultures across the board. And so you have a really great way to make an impact on other people’s lives, and you kinda told me a little bit about this when we were out eating the other day, but you said that you were basically able to combine your passion with something that can actually make you money, which is pretty important. So tell me a little bit just about how that got started and how—where was your “Aha!” moment of “Wow, the one thing I love doing can actually pay off”?
Jordan: Uh, sure. Well, before the “Aha!” moment, just to kinda give you some background, music has always been a very central focal point of my life. I’ve always been attracted to it, both as a listener and a consumer, and just someone to experience music, but also as the creator of music. When I was in elementary school, the way that I hung out with my friends on the weekend was to get together and play music. And so, from an early age, I was going to concerts, and really was connected and found community in other people who would go to concerts and were musicians, and that what I am, that’s what I do. And to not do that, especially in a career, for me, would not be really respecting who I am and what I love and what’s natural to me.
So I played in bands for a long time, and did what most of us think that professional musicians do. So, you know, I would write songs and record songs and perform songs to people. And when—in this culture, we think that’s what a musician does professionally. But still, through the bands I was playing in, I was in school, and was attracted to psychology. At first, an undergrad, I was take PR classes, marketing classes, media classes—anything that could help me as a professional musician and running the bands that I was in. and I was learning that I could experience and learn and get a much better education by actually just doing it in the real world—
Zephan: Which, most of the time, is exactly how you should do it.
Jordan: Sure, sure. And I found that the textbooks I was asked to read, and the conversations I was asking to engage in, in the classroom, really wasn’t resonating with the success and the experiences that I was finding in the real world, making money doing this stuff. But with psychology, the classes I took, I enjoyed the conversations, I was interested in engaging and in learning. So—and I always knew there was a huge piece to the music making process and just the relationship between musicians that was healing. To me, that was just intuitive. Even though there’s a music therapy feel, and that is a career that exists and has for decades now in the US, but it was never really on my radar.
And I started grad school in a path towards clinical and counselling psychology in Baltimore, and really, really early on, I discovered research proving that a specific group drumming protocol has all these specific and significant effects. Socially, biologically, emotionally—and that was the “Aha!” moment of “Holy s—!”—and I hope it’s cool to cuss—that I can take this counseling therapy psychology path I was on, and I can take this music—the musician that I am and the experiences I’ve had as a musician and piece it together, knowing that I had a huge hill to climb, as far as, you know, I need to learn really quickly how to not only educate the public that this is a valuable and worthy service, but that it’s worth paying for.
And—but I was willing to take it on, and I still do, because it always works. And that’s what I keep coming back to. It never not—it never doesn’t work.
Zephan: So that’s really cool. Basically you took what you went to school for—which, we know so many people go to school, they get this degree, and they don’t ever use it ever again. So t’s so great to be able to combine that with something that you love. And then you took that one thing that you were passionate about, realize that it wasn’t going to be very easy to make a career out of, because obviously—I know that it’s hard for bands to travel and make money and tour the country unless they’re signed by records labels and have a lot going on for them—
Jordan: And sometimes being—most times, being on a label is even harder to make money. You’re more just in debt.
Zephan: So really, you’re just kind of in debt all the time being in a bad. Give or take.
Jordan: Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, I’ve toured, and to break even was a huge success.
Zephan: So, obviously, you want to thrive.
Zephan: And so I’d imagine that’s probably a really good motivation for you to make sure that this works and, like you were saying, educate the public, because it’s one thing to say “I’ve got this really cool thing that I want to give out to the world.” It’s another thing if the world’s actually going to accept it. So how do we go about making sure the world accepts what we want to give to them?
So I guess my question to you, at this point, is, you know, say we’ve found what this thing is that we want to do, how do we—I don’t know if we need a proof of concept? Or maybe we have to do a test run? How do we go about convincing people that it’s something they need in their life? When I do sports, any yoga instructor could convince me that I need flexibility, right. But when I’m not doing sports, I don’t feel the tight muscles or the issues that I might otherwise find or fix in yoga. So how do we go about doing that?
Jordan: So I had to prove the concept—to myself first. Is this worth investing my time and energy into? And I, for a couple years, took gigs for free, with the promise that a person who could potentially hire me a second time would be physically present, ideally participating in the group, and with the promise that if the person who brought me in should when I shared value, they’d offer a testimonial. And that’s what I did. A lot. But I believed in it, and I think that’s really where it starts. I believe in what I do. I know it works.
And I also—really part of it was learning how to articulate that to other people, and I’ve had to do that countless times to professors. You know, grad school, once I found that research early on, every class I took, every project I was assigned, I found a way to tie this drum into the course work. And in that sense, I went to school not to get As but to build a career. And really, that’s what education is for—or should be, for most of us, I assume.
So yeah, and I realized that as I got better at articulating the potential I the drum, that I always saw the lightbulb go of, or the person—whether he’s a professor or one of the supervisors I’ve had or just someone who’s potentially gonna hire me to share what I do, I usually would see that lightbulb or the “Aha” moment happen, where it’s like “Oh, duh. This is why it works.”
Zephan: “This is why I started out doing this in the first place!”
Jordan: Exactly. I had to prove the concept over and over again in a bunch of different contexts, as far as different populations, for different desired outcomes or goals that I was being asked to work towards through a drum circle experience. And it worked. And because it worked, word of mouth kinda traveled, luckily, fast for me. I’ve always had work. And I promote and I market and whatnot, but I—but others can do that way better than I can. So if I go and do a gig and the person who hired me really believes in it and they tell their network of people, that’s who those people are gonna trust. And that’s really—I’ve seen that for years. It’s probably been about five years since I’ve been doing this pretty consistently. And—but what I keep coming back to, it works. It works.
And I have to own that first. Because if I don’t—or if you don’t—in whatever you’re sharing with the world, people pick up on that.
Zephan: Right. They can tell. It’s almost like a BS meter. So, you know, if you’re not confident in what you’re doing, then—I mean, that’s step number one, try to be confident in what you’re doing. And I think that you and I were both in the same boat. I just—the video program that I was in in school, I was kind of given this attitude that I had to take over. I had to really own what I was doing, and I would consider and think of myself as one of the best video editors in that program within that year of college.
And I don’t think that mentality—I think without that mentality, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now, because my first client—I’ll never forget this. One of my first clients, when I was on my own, I had shot weddings before, but this was a wedding. And they’re like “Can we see some of your portfolio work?” I’m like “Well, I don’t have any under my company.” I worked for other companies, so they all owned it. And I literally had to sit there and explain to them “Here’s my process, he’s who I’m gonna show up with, here’s what it’s gonna look like in the end.” And ultimately, they hired me, but you have to have that confidence when you tell people that. Someone asks for you portfolio, maybe you’re just getting started off and you don’t have one. You’ve gotta have that ability to be able to convince them, even without a portfolio.
Jordan: Sure. Sure. Yeah, I mean, talking about big stuff if someone’s potentially hiring you to document their wedding. Or if I’m being asked to work with a group of folks at a mental health agency. That’s important stuff. And you’re not gonna get the work unless people believe in you.
Zephan: Yes. So you’re taking drumming and you’re introducing people to a lot of biological responses that people didn’t really know existed. So maybe share with me a little bit about what sort of responses in the body, in the mind, in the spirit, are people finding or seeing? Or what has research shown that happens through drumming?
Jordan: Sure. There’s a lot to it. To start off, stress. So we experience stress both biologically, physiologically in the body, but we really interpret it often emotionally, maybe as fear or anxiety or things like that. So research has shown that this helps reduce stress. I think for a bunch of reasons. A big piece of this work is the social connectedness of the experience. So creating that safety and that bond between people and that comfort and support. That’s really what I’m always aiming towards when I’m working. Especially with groups of people. But even one on one, it’s creating that sense of security and safety. So there’s research demonstrating huge and significant changes in reducing stress.
Beyond that, just relaxation. And, you know, I’m clearly not a neurologist or physiologist. So this is just to my understanding. And really, for me, experience has been the best teacher of why this works. But there’s research showing that our stress will actually lower, not only at a hormonal level—speaking of cortisol, which is the major stress hormone—but even at the level of our DNA, on/off switches in our genetics. And it’s being shown that the way stress is demonstrated or kind of physiologically demonstrated through our genetics—there’s off switches. And using this specific group drumming protocol I was talking about, I would just call it health rhythms, in which I’m trained, it’s been proven that these on/off switches that express stress in a control, verses people doing the drumming, those switches are altered, and stress is thus decreased significantly.
Zephan: Wow. So, uh, I guess it begs the question, where do we start?
Jordan: Where do we start with the drumming process?
Jordan: Well, it starts with the drum, and—
Zephan: So we have a couple options here.
Jordan: Yeah, and this is the kind of stuff I usually bring to a session. Typically I’m working with between twenty to forty people in a group. Sometimes it’s much more intimate with less people, and sometimes it’s over a hundred people. Really, my job as a facilitator is to help people feel comfortable. So we’re talking about stress, and one of the big things is to help reduce stress. So most of us, especially in this culture, don’t consider ourselves to be musicians and don’t consider ourselves to even have rhythms. I hear that all the time. “I don’t have rhythm.” And also, to do something new in front of others, that creates a lot of stress. So my job as a facilitator is to create a safety condition.
So I’ll say things like everything is optional. There is no right or wrong, in the sense that we’re not here to perform music. There’s a reason why we call it “playing music,” we’re here to play. And when kids play, in a setting like this, they’re not thinking about “Am I doing this right or do I look stupid?”
Zephan: They just kind of do it.
Jordan: You just do it. So, I mean, there’s a drum here if you’d like, or a shaker, whatever you want to play. –Actually, would you pass me all that stuff? Create some stuff with this.
Zephan: And so, I grew up—background for people listening and watching—I grew up playing violin for like six/seven years, something like that. And I actually dropped it for drums when I went to a summer camp, and I learned how to play drums, and dad bought me a drum set and I started playing. Now, I haven’t picked up a drum in a very long time, and maybe for people watching, we’ll explain how these work and how the down is produced. And you keep doing your thing.
Jordan: Cool. Uh, yeah, just for context. This style of drums are djembes, West African style drum. I know a lot of other facilitators, they place a great emphasis on the tools that they use. And the way I like to explain it is, really, what I do has nothing to do with drums. The drums are just the tools to create more important outcomes, like reduced anxiety or increased relaxation or an increased sense of community. So like I said—I’ve facilitated with no instruments, because our bodies are musical instruments.
So the way I kind of like to start is, there’s a universal pulse we can access. And I’ll do a group with a hundred and fifty people, all with a different instrument, and I give everyone the freedom to play whatever you’d like. But I always remind people to do their best to help make the group sound good. Whatever that means for them, but it really starts with listening first. The thing—and it always sounds like one song, within seconds, which is awesome. And it never doesn’t work that way. But that’s because we’re all connected by a universal pulse. So even if you’re watching along, or even just listening, I could count out that pulse that kind of connects us. And in Western musical culture, usually we have something called a quarter note 4/4 time signature. So we’ve got these four quarter notes. So if you want to join me, it’s easy just to start with a [hits drum as counting] one, two, three, and four. One, two, three, four.[Hitting drum with same beat.] So if you notice, as a facilitator, I’m nodding my head to that pulse. And I encourage others to do the same, or whatever just really makes your body feel good, whether it’s your shoulders or your toes. Or just keeping the hand going.
From there, once I’ve established a pulse with the group, I give them the freedom to maybe at a note. So [both drumming at slightly different rhythm]—exactly. So whatever feels good. Nice.
And then from there, add some more…take away… But the idea’s—yeah—that we’re always listening. And I’ll remind groups that the music is always changing. So it’s a constant process of listening and adjusting. And as you could imagine, the real work in what I do, besides talking in rhythm, is finding the medical. So whether that’s relationships or life in general, it’s always changing, so how do we best adjust? [Drumming continues] Always conscious and aware that we’re breathing. Which helps us kind of get back to acknowledging and experiencing just the present moment.
So many tribes, villages, communities, what have you, would and will get together to drum, to meditate. To go deep within themselves. To deeply connect with other communities. And the longer we would do this for, I think the more powerful that experience would be become. Easier it would be to become more present, more connected.
Check this out. Four, three, two, one—stop. [Drumming stops.] Two, back to the groove. [Drumming rhythm starts again.] Yeah.
Five, four, three, two, one—[drumming stops.]
Zephan: Nice… So I, first of all, couldn’t talk while we were doing that that. I could keep track of the rhythm, but talk while doing that is not my forte! So I’m very impressed with that. And then, tell me about the pause. Is there any significance to that pause? Or does it bring us back to the present or kind of bring us back to the moment to focus on where we are again?
Jordan: Yeah. I’ll use the pause for a number of reasons. So sometimes, if I’m noticing that the group doesn’t feel as connected, whether that’s expressed in the music or just the attention of the group, I’ll often bring the music to a stop—although the music keeps going, it’s just expressed in the rest—and then bring everyone right back in. and that’s kind of like, you know, let’s all get the attention right back to the group and to the music. So sometimes I’ll do it that way. And just the going down and facilitating back in, it helps to reestablish that pulse, or the natural tempo of where the group is. Sometimes, if it’s called for, I like to play around with the tempo, so it’s a nice way to bring it do a stop and then bring it back in a little quicker, a little bit slower, and each would have different desired affects for me with where I’m trying to take the group.
Usually, I’m listening more to the group. And what I mean by that is I’m trying to pick up from the group what they need and where they are naturally trying to go. More often than not, I don’t have an agenda.
Zephan: Which is probably better. I mean, I’ve found that going into this whole journey, both in the past year and when searching for answers, you’re searching for answers or feedback from the people you’re working with. Sometimes we’re searching for answers or feedback in life, and they’re not exactly spoken word. So I think that’s a great way to kind of look for the answers without looking, in a sense.
Jordan: Yeah, yeah. And I think—not so much looking, but listening for the answers. And if I understand you correctly, what I think you’re kinda getting at is those types of things, those types of answers that are really within us and probably there all along, but just…we’re not picking up on those for all kinds of different reasons. So whether that becomes just being able to become more present with ourselves and more accepting of ourselves and what’s really there, and being about to listen and experience ourselves more deeply, and this gets you there.
Just the same way that—you know, in social relationships, helping others, just listen more clearly to those around them. I do a lot of work with kids and adults with autism. So they often struggle in a social context. And I remember the first time that I was asked to something like this was also the first time I really interacted with a group of people with autism. At a school, an elementary and middle school, and it was about twenty-five students. And I really didn’t know what I was getting into, because like I said, I hadn’t really tried it before with that type of population. And I experience this all the time, being asked to work with a certain population, and I say yes because I trust in the process, and it’s never let me down yet.
Zephan: And it’s proven itself to you over and over again.
Jordan: Sure, sure, and I was asked to do a full hour with about twenty-five children, most with an autism diagnosis, from I think maybe kindergarten through eighth grade. So that’s pretty huge. Just all the individual differences, just beyond how people are behaviorally and socially, just age and all that. And all they had—it was at the end of the school year, and we booked it a couple of days out, and all they had was just one hour for me to do all of them, and they stuck with me the whole time. And I even had teachers after the fact just say how encouraged, but surprised, by how well they stuck with it. And it probably could have gone longer than an hour.
But there’s something, I think, about the tactile sensation of that holding an instrument or drum that kind of anchors you in it. There’s the vibration throughout your body, created from you creating music but also everyone around you. And I think it really helps that sustained attention to a task. And the ability to really be in a community with others, and to listen with others, and that’s a huge part of what I teach and what I personally learning through this. How to be a better listener, not only internally but externally too.
Zephan: And now you get to share it with other people. So let me ask you this. How can people find more information, both about what you’re doing and then maybe is there some resources online or do you have any videos online where people can check this out? Either get in touch with you or just to learn more about it?
Jordan: Yeah, so beatwell.org, my website. Twitter, Facebook—beatwellbmore. You can find me and connect with me. I mentioned “health rhythms,” which is the evidence based protocol, that’s through the drum company Remo—remo.com/health—so if you’re really interested in pursuing and learning more, I think that’s a great place to start. Especially if you’re in an academic or scientific field, it’s a great resources with all the research and trainings. Another mentor of mine, his name is Jim Donovan, he’s out of Pennsylvania. He played in a band called Rusted Root for a long time, and now dedicates his career to facilitating and, almost more importantly, teaching others how to facilitate drum circles as well. And he’s doing a really nice job of that.
I teach a bunch—most of the teaching I do right now is specifically to mental health professionals, and educational professionals as well. Mostly in the Baltimore/DC area. But yeah, it’s a good thing. Because you don’t need to be a musician, or even need to be musical, at least in your own mind, to do this work. And often times, it’s easier for me to teach someone who’s a non-musician to facilitate this kind of work, because sometimes if you’ve had a lifetime’s worth of experience as a musician, I have to spend some time to help you unlearn a lot of those things. Where many of us as musicians are in a performance type of mode, where all the notes have to fit and make sense. And that’s not what this is. This is about people expressing themselves as they are, where they are, and my job—or the job of any drum circle facilitator—is to help create cohesion, a sense of safety, and kind of help guide a group towards omitting more unifying and gratifying.
Zephan: That’s awesome. And so, I think the best way to round this off is what—if you had any one piece of advice for anyone right now who is stuck in life trying to figure out where they’re going, as far as when it comes to combining what makes money with your actual passion, what would you tell them?
Jordan: Add value. Reach out to others and add value. Without expecting anything in return.
Zephan: And that’s hard. Because you’re giving yourself away for free.
Jordan: Sure, sure. And like I said—and like we said earlier, that BS meter, people pick up on if you’re reaching out because you’re looking to gain, mostly. What’s nice about what I do is this is universal. Rhythm is the most universal language. In the sense that I’ll facilitate circles with people who are blind and deaf and don’t have use of their hands or fingers, and I’ve always found a way to meaningfully engage everyone into the experience. So—and what I mean by that, it’s nice as far as…there’s all kinds of people I can reach out to and share this with and add value in that way, selflessly, because I feel like everyone can benefit from this, and everyone can facilitate this type of work.
But, you know, it really comes down to knowing the value that you can share. And once you have that, identifying the people that can benefit from it the most, and just putting yourself out there and reaching out. Going for it. But doing it, like I said, in a way where you’re trying to help others. And if it doesn’t come back to you, that’s cool, because it really can’t be expected. That’s worked for me.
Zephan: And it comes back in other ways too. The fact that you put yourself out and helped one person, you know, butterfly affect. Somebody else might come along in your life and help you out, and that was kind of like their way of saying thanks for that.
Jordan: Yeah, absolutely. And even if—let’s say I reached out to someone, and maybe reaching out to them gave me some anxiety because it’s a very high profile person, or I think there’s no reason why they’d be interested, but I think it would be a really cool Idea—even if they said no, or like “shut the hell up,” I gained just by trying. And that gives me more courage next time.
Zephan: Awesome. Well, how about let’s play again, and we’ll round out the episode with a little bit of drumming? Is that cool?
Jordan: Yeah, I like it.
Zephan: So we’ll give them a little bit of a beat to kind of play out the episode with?
Zephan: So you start me off, and—
Jordan: Okay, so here’s how we’re gonna do it. What I really like about this work that I share, it’s a really nice way for me to help teach leadership development. So for instance, I was hired recently by an after school program to do a four week residency with kids like six to nine years old, and we had a dozen of them. And each week, I was giving and teaching them the skills of drum circle facilitation. The fourth week, their family came, and we had a big drum circle with maybe thirty or forty people, and those elementary age kids were the leaders. So with that in mind—and I also like saying, in a group, you know, I don’t have to lead. Everyone has the potential—and often the point is to lead itself. But with all that in mind, I’m gonna encourage you to start us off.
Zephan: Okay. Should I start with the sort of beat we had before, or?
Jordan: I would say to not think about it, and whatever your hands end up doing will be perfect.
Zephan: I gotta think on it! And that’s the hard part!
Jordan: And that’s what this is about! Getting out of our heads. Because we all know the more we think about doing anything, that just gets in the way.
Zephan: Yeah… Alright, let’s see. Here we go.[Drum rhythm playing.]
Jordan: Dude, we should drum more often.