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Beat the Odds® (BTO): Social & Emotional Skill Building Delivered in a Framework of Drumming

Beat the Odds® (BTO) is an evidence-based and trauma-informed program that integrates activities from group drumming and group counseling to build core strengths such as focusing and listening, team building, leadership, expressing feelings, managing anger/stress, empathy, and gratitude.

UCLA researchers have shown that Beat the Odds® can significantly reduce a spectrum of behavioral problems in children, such as behaviors related to inattention, withdrawn/depression, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity, oppositional defiance, and sluggish cognitive tempo (Ho, Tsao, Bloch, & Zeltzer, 2011). New findings show that the program is also highly effective for special education classrooms.

Beat the Odds® emphasizes process and not performance. It includes a therapeutic dimension involving such elements as positive affirmations, emotional coping strategies, and guided interaction with rhythmic activities serving as a metaphor for life, followed by reflection and dialogue—without the stigma of therapy.

Beat the Odds® is an eight-session program delivered weekly for 40 – 45 minutes, and the easy-to-follow curriculum is in the form of a scripted manual. The program serves a whole classroom at a time and is sustainably designed for delivery by school personnel or individuals without musical experience. It can easily be adapted for any age group and also serves as an effective tool for community building with staff and families.


To learn more about the Beat the Odds® program, we invite you to view the following: a three-minute inspirational video featuring students, a 6th grade teacher testimonial, a two-minute facilitator video, and a four-minute video from the wellness team staff from Zamboni Middle School in Paramount, California describing their experience implementing BTO with their students pre-pandemic. Additionally, watch this  12-minute trailer for American Rhythms, a 2008 documentary film on BTO following completion of the original study of its effectiveness.

Other resources include media pieces featuring large-scale implementation in Fresno and Oxnard, CA, and view three studies featured in the following publications: Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative MedicineExplore: The Journal of Science and Healing, and The Kinder & Braver World Project: Research Series of the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University.

Our BTO curriculum materials are also available for purchase here

Why Drumming?

  • Drumming is a universal activity that is part of every culture. It is equally enjoyed by boys and girls. The National Education Association advocates the use of the arts as a “hook” for getting students interested in school. Drumming gets students interested in school. (Verdugo, 2006)
  • Drumming is an inclusive nonverbal activity that enables anyone to participate – even those who do not speak, do not speak the same language, or are wheelchair bound. No previous experience is required for participation.
  • Drumming, without expectations of perfection or mastery, reduces self-judgment and performance anxiety and encourages a growth mindset that is essential to learning and academic performance, and greater participation in classroom activities. (Gunderson et al., 2013; Moser, Schroder, Heeter, Moran, & Lee, 2011)
  • Creative expression that embraces mistakes as part of the learning process can bring the missing element of joy and laughter to the lives of traumatized children. The arts are uniquely capable of enhancing positive emotions, which in turn build resilience (Frederickson, 2012; Tugade & Frederickson, 2004). Children are empowered by discovering that they don’t need to be stuck in their feelings.
  • Active music making engages large areas of the brain, which quite literally crowds out stress, grief, and pain. It also keeps us in the present moment. (Tramo, 2001) In addition, repetitive rhythm promotes the relaxation response (Crowe, 2004) and can bring calm and centering through contained energy release. All of these aspects of drumming can calm stress reactivity in the brain after exposure to trauma and enable rational brain functions of sequential thinking, decision–making, and social behavior that are inhibited by trauma. (van der Kolk, 2014)
  • Traumatic stress responses inhibit speech center activity in the brain, which interferes with our ability to articulate what we are thinking and feeling. On the other hand, when under stress, we are hardwired for activity in visual, movement, and sound centers of the brain for self-protection. Therefore, drumming offers a non-verbal means of self-expression and engagement that can be useful in addressing trauma. (van der Kolk, 2014)
  • Rhythmic synchrony (a form of empathy) stimulates a reward center of the brain and leads to positive behavior. (Kokal, Engle, Kirschner, & Keysers, 2011) Synchrony, or mirroring, is akin to having a voice and being heard. Trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk, in The Body Keeps the Score, notes that: “Trauma almost invariably involves not been seen, nor being mirrored, and not being taken into account…Children will go to almost any length to feel seen and connected.” Beat the Odds® gives them this opportunity in a way that feels organic and safe. The experience of connection and safety provides an essential point of reference for resilience and, thus, is key to healing trauma.
  • With drumming, one can participate as much or as little as one likes, yet still be engaged and feel part of the group. Drumming is a contained activity, as everyone is seated, and participants feel safe behind their drum. Shared creative experiences offer organic opportunities for meaningful dialogue, development of empathy, and community building. (Freire, 1973) And they offer an opportunity for embodied social-emotional learning that is enduring. For example, “when students that don’t ordinarily get along are brought together for a positive shared experience, they form a group identity. One school counselor that we worked with noted that when she incorporated the use of a drum into her counseling groups, the students enjoyed sharing while drumming and stopped fighting with each other because, ‘you don’t beat up a member of your group.’ ” (Ho, Chinen, Streja, Kreitzer, & Sierpina, 2011)
  • Studies of group drumming with adults have shown measurable improvements in biological, psychological and social measures of stress, particularly when reflection and self-disclosure are incorporated. (Bittman et al., 2001; Fancourt, Perkins, Ascenso, Carvalho, Steptoe, & Williamon 2016) Research with other age groups also supports the benefits of this process. (Kirschner & Tomasello, 2009; Gerson, Schiavio, Timmers & Hunnius, 2015; Ho, Tsao, Bloch, & Zeltzer, 2011; Bittman, Dickson, & Coddington, 2009; Koyama et al, 2009)
  • Rhythmic strategies can be utilized easily in classrooms as a kinesthetic tool for facilitating learning, cooperative behavior, and a positive classroom environment.
  • Drumming offers an opportunity for students to shine, particularly those who struggle with academic subjects, and provides a positive activity alternative to unhealthy choices that might otherwise be made.

Become a Beat the Odds® Facilitator

We offer one-day Beat the Odds® facilitator trainings throughout the year. Trainings are open to all—from mental health professionals to teachers to non-profit personnel. No previous musical experience is necessary.

Click here to learn more about our upcoming trainings.

We also offer onsite Beat the Odds® workshops for group stress reduction and community building. Learn more about our customizable workshops and presentations offerings.


“Beyond the fun, openness, vulnerability and connectedness that occurred, I found myself awestruck by the depths of the students reflections. Some talked about how this made them feel calm, others focused, confident, happy, etc. One student, who speaks in whispers, led a wave. A few shy students celebrated their names with loud, silly rhythms. . . . Within the first few minutes of the first class, I couldn’t believe how much insight I could learn about the health and hurts of my kids. This experience allowed me to gain so much perspective on students’ mindset and impulses, pains and insecurities. And of course, above all, we had a wicked good time. “ — Rebecca Perentin, Department Teacher Leader, English Language Arts (ELA), Delsesto Middle School in Providence, RI, reflecting after delivering BTO to her sixth and seventh grade classes.

“ . . . once we went through the [BTO] experience though, I have to say, my class is closer now, then I’ve ever probably had a class . . . and it’s because they’re able to express themselves, they’re able to take chances in front of one another, which is something that they do in class, but they were able to be all on the same level, and they were able to have these wonderful discussions through the rhythms . . . it’s made a huge impact. The conversations now that we have in our class are deeper then they were before we started. And everyone feels comfortable. So, now, because you took a chance with Beat the Odds, now you can come back and take a chance with math, or language arts . . . I completely recommend it. I wish we could do it every single week. I can’t see where we would be without it.” — Mr. Soqui, 6th Grade Teacher in the Newhall School District, excerpt taken from his video testimonial.

“I used the program in a setting that had special day classes, English language learners and then general population. The most significant result was the development of an inclusive spirit among my students. Drumming, a universal language, evened the playing field. It helped to build empathy, acceptance, and gave all children a chance to lead and shine. Students in general became more tolerant and generally happy.” —Dr. Deborah Bohn, Principal of James Foster Elementary School in the Saugus Union School District, who reported on the outcomes of Beat the Odds at Skyblue Mesa Elementary School, where she previously served as principal. 

“The classroom that I selected was an all boys class, several of them with serious behavior issues, a couple of the kids are on medications. However, once we started with the drumming, you would have never thought these children were nothing but well behaved young kids . . . Best of all, was the camaraderie that developed amongst the class members. They will not miss school on Wednesday so as not to miss the [BTO] class. A parent came early to pick up a student on the day we had the last class, this student refused to go and the parent had to come back an hour later when the class was over.” ­— Carmen Lima, psychiatric social worker in the Los Angeles Unified School District, CA

“As a supervisor of a counseling program in the LAUSD, I am always looking for ways to motivate, support, and rejuvenate my staff who are deployed in the schools hardest hit by the influences of poverty, gangs, drugs, and violence. They have responded with amazing enthusiasm to drumming and recreational music making . . . I know of no other intervention that has sparked the interest, enthusiasm, and hope in the counselors I supervise. The process seems to motivate the counselors to use the method with their students while bestowing measurable health benefits in the counselor delivering the intervention. It is a win-win for all involved . . . I am thrilled that several of our schools have purchased the drums and see the health benefits for themselves as healers and as a tool for facilitating healing and hope in our students.” — Karen Timko, former LAUSD Coordinator of Primary Intervention and Elementary Counseling Services

“I am sooooo amazed at the transparency of the students. This week we did the drumming of ‘I am valuable oh yeah.’ One boy said, ‘I feel valuable when my dad spends time with me. He doesn’t very often because he smokes and . . .’ At that point, he looked down. I think the class felt his pain even without him finishing the sentence. We went on to talk about how we make others feel valuable. Right after class the kids had recess and one of the boys was really mean. The others kids looked at him like ‘Really? We just talked about this.’ He was very embarrassed by his own behavior. Now that’s positive peer pressure. We also talked about trying new things and taking risks and not letting fear of failing stop us from trying new things. I teach 4-6 grade chorus. I have NEVER had so many kids try a short solo. They sang in front of about 75 kids. Wow! That is risk taking. I could go on and on. The program really is about giving kids a ‘home’ within their school that feels safe and loving. At least that’s what our drum circles feel like to me. Thanks for training me and giving me this amazing experience as a teacher.” — Jana Gruss, Music Teacher, Newhall School District, CA

“We have been having problems with [a boy] in my class. On Tuesday he attacked two students in my class, and threw objects in the classroom because I would not print something from a website he had visited. He had not been given permission to be on the computer, but remained there despite being told five times to get off it. He was still carrying a grudge about this at breakfast on Wednesday morning, when he refused to sit with the rest of the class at breakfast, muttering that he wanted his printout. He sat there scowling for 15 minutes. After breakfast we moved into the multi purpose room for drumming, and he followed us. Within five minutes of starting the drumming class, his whole face and manner changed. He started smiling, joined in the drumming with enthusiasm, and later volunteered to lead the drumming. I think the drumming is very therapeutic for students with emotional problems like him.” —Jenny Owens, Upper Elementary Special Education Teacher, Quincy Jones Elementary School, LAUSD

“I tried the first lesson with a focus group of 5th grade students today, and already saw positive feedback from them. When I asked one student how he felt at the end, he said. “Good”. I asked him to tell me more about that and he said, “I didn’t leave the class.” (He walks out or has to be escorted out of my room every week . . . if he even makes it to class at all from prior disturbances.) I even teared up a little! And that was just the first day, and me having no idea what I was doing! This program is truly inspired. Thank you so much!” — Melissa Fabbi, K-12 Music Specialist from Clark County School District, Las Vegas, NV 

“Life changing and incredible!!” — BTO Trainee

“Thank you so much for the fantastic workshop . . . the training was so well organized and flowed so well. One of the best I’ve ever been to, academically or otherwise. — Melissa Fabbi, K-12 Music Specialist From Clark County School District, Las Vegas, NV

“I enjoyed being integrated into the training so that I left with a sense of practice. I also liked the free spirit that was modeled and encouraged.” — BTO Trainee

“It was fantastic! Great pace with lots of information that was heartfelt and helpful. Thank you for the work that you do!” — BTO Trainee

Curriculum Materials

Written by the Beat the Odds® program developers, the easy-to-follow manual, available in both print and as an e-book, contains the scripted curriculum and booster/demo session. Full of pointers, explanations of the purposes of each activity, and guidelines for managing activities, behavior, and logistics, the manual (a series of film clips showing all 26 activities in the program being delivered to a class of fourth graders) is the ideal pair to learn the BTO program at home, or as part of the facilitator training.

Want to see BTO in action? Beat the Odds® Activities on Film is a series of film clips showing BTO co-developer, Giselle Friedman, LCSW, delivering all 26 activities in the program to a class of fourth graders. Each activity can be viewed as a stand-alone segment for reference while using the manual. This 90-minute series was created during the making of American Rhythms, a 2008 documentary film on BTO, following completion of the original study of its effectiveness.

Training Instructors & Program Development Team:

Ping Ho, MA, MPH is Founder and Director of Arts & Healing Initiative. She was founding administrator for the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, which led to the privilege of writing for Norman Cousins and co-writing the professional autobiography of George F. Solomon, M.D., founder of the field. She has a BA in psychology with honors from Stanford—where she was appointed to establish the still-thriving Health Improvement Program for faculty and staff, an MA in counseling psychology with specialization in exercise physiology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an MPH in community health sciences from UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Ping is associate editor for the Creative Arts Therapies section of the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. She spearheaded the Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts (SEA) and the SEA on a Shoestring program of supportive art, movement, music, and writing for individuals or groups in any setting. In addition, she co-developed and served as principal investigator for the evidence-based program, Beat the Odds®: Social and Emotional Skill Building Delivered in a Framework of Drumming.  She is co-author, with Erica Curtis, of the 2019 National Parenting Products Award-winning book, The Innovative Parent: Raising Connected, Happy, Successful Kids through Art (Ohio University/Swallow Press, March 2019).


Giselle Friedman, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker that is bicultural and bilingual in Spanish and in English. Giselle received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her master’s degree from USC School of Social Work. As a psychotherapist, she has worked in school settings, agencies, hospitals and private practice, with a focus on children and families. Giselle spent four years as a treating and on-call therapist for Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center’s Rape Treatment Center, Stuart House, and SM-UCLA Psychotherapy Group. She has been working as a full-time psychiatric social worker for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) since 2000. In this capacity, Giselle provides individual and group therapy to students and their families at several elementary schools. She also leads parenting classes and educates teachers and staff on topics such as children’s responses to trauma, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, childhood depression and anxiety, classroom behavior management, and addressing bullying behavior. Giselle is a member of the school Student Success Teams and she participates in her local district’s LAUSD Resource Coordinating Council and neighborhood community meetings.

Mike DeMenno came across a magazine article in 1993 featuring Mickey Hart and Arthur Hull where the mission was to use drumming for community building and personal well-being. Within a year, Mike began facilitating drum circles for kids at risk throughout Los Angeles. In 2003, Mike became the manager of the first recreational music center. Under the mentorship of Remo Belli, the REMO Recreational Music Center in North Hollywood, CA, developed into an extraordinary place dedicated to bringing rhythm and music to people from all walks of life. Mike has also not only found himself working closely with Mickey Hart on several projects over the years, but also has been under the mentorship of Arthur Hull. In 2017, the RMC moved to the REMO headquarters located in Valencia CA. With the blessing of Ami Belli, a brand new state-of-the-art Remo Music Center was built on the factory premises. Along with Ami Belli and REMO Inc., Mike continues the mission of the late Remo Belli, creating joy and improving the human condition through drumming. Mike considers drumming to be his life raft—where drums have kept him afloat throughout his life, during the good and the bad times. Mike finds himself to be so fortunate to be in the company of Ping Ho and Giselle Friedman, helping to create such a wonderful program like Beat The Odds®. Mike maintains his passion for the drum set as well as helping others to experience playing music for personal joy.





Participant Expectation Policy

In accordance with our mission and cultural, equity and inclusion practices, our aim is to foster a supportive, healing, and collaborative learning environment, whether in an online or in-person setting. 

With this goal in mind, we ask our program participants and staff to acknowledge, and abide by, the following community agreements: 

  • Practice loving kindness, nonjudgment, and listening to understand
  • Acknowledge your feelings and the feelings of others
  • Practice cultural humility, acknowledging the lived experience of others and our own privilege and biases
  • Hold in confidence what is shared here personally
  • When speaking, be mindful of time for others to be heard
  • Practice self-care and seek support as needed
  • Keep cameras on, if/when possible, to maintain your presence

In order to protect participant and staff safety as well as the integrity of our programming, we have adopted and maintain a zero tolerance policy for inappropriate and/or triggering behavior, whether accidental or intentional. Such behavior includes offensive or discriminatory actions related to sex, gender, gender identity or expression, race, color, ancestry, religious creed, national origin, age, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, marital status, military or veteran status, medical condition, genetic information, or any other characteristic.


Digital Media Release Policy

By registering, you give Arts & Healing Initiative approval to record this event, still and/or moving images from which may appear in printed materials or digital channels for archival, educational, or promotional purposes. Note that Zoom breakout rooms are not recorded. 


Refund Policy

In order to keep our programs affordable yet self-sustaining, we regret that we are unable to offer refunds on enrollment fees ; however, we are happy to provide you with credit good for one year from the date of the program toward the next offering of the same program or a different one. Credit applied toward a program with higher registration fees will require payment of the balance. In addition, credit may be applied toward purchase of curriculum materials for any program. Unused fees after one year would then be tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law because no goods or services would have been received for them.

Click here for our Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts refund policy. 


Frequently Asked Questions

What are my professional options in the field of arts and healing?

  • Enroll in a PhD, PsyD, or master's degree program in clinical or counseling psychology, social work, or marriage and family therapy, and then supplement your training with creative arts therapy training in your art form(s) of interest.
  • Enroll in a graduate program in one of the creative arts therapies. Most of the credentials offered in these fields, which teach integration of specific art forms with mental health practices, are at the master’s level. 
  • Enroll in a two-year training program in Expressive Arts Therapies. These programs offer credentialing in the integrated use of a variety of art forms for therapeutic purposes.
  • Enroll in our Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts. This comprehensive program is for anyone who wishes to learn how to design, deliver, and evaluate their own effective programs. It offers practical training that addresses what professionals may encounter in the community. Creative arts therapists who have taken the program have reported that it is invaluable and offers training in areas not addressed by their previous academic curricula. Many of our trainees come from the arts, education, mental health, and complementary health care. Some are fresh out of college and exploring career options, others are mid-career and wanting to add a therapeutic element to their work, and still others are making career transitions after many years in other professions.
  • Enroll in our online, four-session Social Emotional Arts on a Shoestring training offered as part of our signature programming, or join us for the two-day online offering at our annual conference on Creativity & the Arts in Healing. This training offers scripted activities in four different art forms that are adaptable to any population, setting, ability level, time frame, or budget. It can be used with groups or individuals. It teaches the key principles of social emotional arts work.
  • Additionally, volunteering is a great way to familiarize yourself with the field and what it is like to work with different populations. Here are several possibilities:
    • We often seek translators/interpreters to volunteer their services at our workshops.
    • There are two programs that partner with Arts & Healing Initiative, which often actively seek volunteers: ALMA (Addressing Loneliness through Movement and Art) and the Creative Minds Project (although Creative Minds Project may require more extensive training in order to be involved).
    • Some of our organizational partners often seek volunteers as well: Safe Place for YouthAble Arts Work, and The Miracle Project are a few examples. 
    • We also partner with a Therapeutic Arts Group for UCLA medical and undergraduate students.


What volunteer opportunities, internships, fellowships, or paid positions do you have?

We train people to deliver their own programs and don't have a center where we provide direct services.  If you take some of our training programs, we may be able to notify you of volunteer or paid opportunities to deliver them to community organizations that request services. While we do not offer formal internship or fellowship opportunities, we welcome professional volunteers in the domains of marketing, videography and computer technology.  We also sometimes need extra assistance at specific events or for special projects. We don’t typically have paid positions available; however, we periodically need to hire research or administrative assistants. You are welcome to submit a resume to info@artsandhealinginitiative.org and we will keep your resume on file in case an opportunity comes up. Some organizations that we partner with regularly seek volunteers, such as Able Arts WorkThe Miracle Project, and Theatre of HeartsInside Out Community Arts, for example, offers a series of training sessions followed by paid working opportunities in after-school middle and high school settings.


How can I become a Arts & Healing Initiative instructor?

We typically recruits instructors that fall into one of these categories:
  • Professionals who have completed a formal degree program in the creative arts therapies, typically involving masters level integrated training in mental health and the arts with supervised internship hours and a certification option.
  • Mental health practitioners who have created a social-emotional arts curriculum for a specific population that is well documented and tested.
  •  Graduates of our Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts who have demonstrated mastery of their training in the design and delivery of programs that maximize the social-emotional benefits of arts experiences.
  • Recruitment is also often based in knowledge of an individual’s work and recommendations from trusted sources.
In addition, the proposed teaching content/format/cost needs to balance out our offerings and be of interest to our constituents, as we can best determine based on experience. If you are interested in becoming an instructor, we suggest that you attend one of our programs to gain understanding of our work and introduce yourself to us. You are also welcome to send your website and any other information about yourself to info@artsandhealinginitiative.org to help us determine the goodness of fit.

Beat the Odds® (BTO)

How can I order a copy of the curriculum?

The curriculum manual is available via the Curriculum Materials section of our website.  You can choose from the manual alone or the manual with a DVD showing our LCSW co-developer delivering the program to a group of 4th grade students.  The scripted curriculum is designed for delivery via the manual alone, although we also offer 1-day trainings here in LA and occasionally in other parts of the country. You can find information about our trainings in the Upcoming Program section of our website. 

How can I get drums on a limited budget?

Arts & Healing Initiative has partnered with Remo, Inc. to offer drum packages and individual percussion instruments at below-market discounted rates.  The Remo drums that we offer are lightweight, durable, and nestable for easy storage, with interchangeable not-so-loud drumhead options.  There are also drumheads that fit on standard-sized paint buckets, and flat “Sound Shapes®” played with mallets, which offer lower cost alternatives.  You can consider purchasing a variety of instruments and have your participants share or take turns with them.  We also offer some lower cost sets that include a variety of drum and percussion instruments. If none of these items work for your budget, remember that rhythm can ultimately be made with anything; for example, you can use “found sounds” such as 2- or 5-gallon water bottles, desks, Tupperware containers, cookie tins, paint buckets turned upside down and played with turkey basters or spoons, metallic sports water bottles played with pens, and so forth.  Even a small package of disposable diapers can make a great (and not so loud) hand drum.  You can make your own shakers with plastic Easter eggs, disposable cups, recycled containers, rice or legumes, and tape. And then there is “body percussion”.  Sounds can be made with hands and feet by clapping hands, slapping thighs, stomping feet, and snapping fingers, for example.  Vocal sounds, such as percussive consonants and open vowels, can be added.  There is no limit to creativity! 

Who can deliver this program?

Anyone can deliver the program.  It does not require any previous musical experience.  The manual is scripted in a user-friendly format, for ease of use. We have observed a variety of people deliver the program – all with success:  teachers, mental health professionals, music teachers, school counselors and after school personnel, health care professionals, Boys and Girls Club staff, actors, college students, and more. The program is so engaging that even when delivered by literally reading the curriculum, participants love the experience.

Who can benefit from this program?

While the program was designed for upper elementary-age students, it easily can be adapted to any other age group or for families.  Guidelines for adaptation for adolescents and adults can be found in the scripted manual and are discussed during the training.  In addition, a version for adolescents and adults will be available shortly. We have found that the program is perfectly suited as it is for special needs classrooms with mild to moderate disabilities.  Students with moderate to severe disabilities also benefit tremendously with a few simple adjustments to the program.

How much space to do I need to store drums?

We use Versa drums for our Beat the Odds® program, which are produced by Remo, Inc. These products are specifically designed for community use. They are durable, sound adjustable for sensitive ears, lightweight, and nest-able for easier storage. Arts & Healing Initiative has partnered with Remo, Inc. to be able to provide the community with drums and hand percussion instruments at deeply discounted prices. Click here to purchase the BTO Festival Drum Pack.
  • The drums nest together in groups of 3.  For 30 drums, there would be 10 groups.  Two groups can be stacked vertically on one another.  Most of the groups are the same height (all tubanos) except for two, which consist of some different types of drums (tubano, timbau and djembe combo), so they are a little taller.
  • A stack of two groups of tubano drums will require 1 foot square land space and 51" height.  There would be three of these.
  • A stack of a group of tubano drums and mixed drums will require 1 foot square land space and 58" height (an additional 7").  There would be two of these.
  • Therefore in total, you would need a 5 foot square land space and 58" height to accommodate 30 drums.  For 60 drums, you would multiply this by 2.
  • If you do not have the height to stack 2 groups of drums on top of one another, but have a space with width, just assume a 10 foot square space to accommodate each stack of drums and a height of 32" to accommodate the tallest stacks.  For 60 drums, you would multiply this by 2.


  • You would need a 3 foot square space and 58" height for 15 drums.
  • If you have more land space and less height, you need a 5 foot square land space and a height of 32" to accommodate the tallest stacks. 

How do we get buy-in and funding for your program or drums?

There may be funding sources within a school's budget, such as an arts fund, that can be allocated to the purchase of drums. Beat the Odds® is a mental health as well as arts-based program; therefore, funding of drums may be justified through a variety of sources.  Grant writing through small local family foundations and fundraising through the PTA are other ways to obtain funding.  Drums can also be obtained through e-Bay and www.donorschoose.org  (for educators). The drums that we use reflect cultural diversity, and give sound and tactile gratification that comes with hitting a full-sized drum; they are designed for durability, nesting for space economy, and sound sensitivity, so we recommend them.  You can also use a variety of instruments - some large drums, flat sound shapes (made by Remo, Inc.), shakers, 5 gallon water jugs, paint buckets, homemade instruments, things you find lying around that make sounds (found sounds).  Remo Inc. offers a line of bucket drumheads that sit on conventional plastic paint buckets. We also offer grants that reduce drum costs to below market rates, to make them more accessible to the community. To obtain support for this Program from administrators and other school personnel, try the following:
  1. Present our research findings and other scientific justification for drumming to your administration by sharing with them the following document: Beat the Odds®: A Brief Summary of an Evidence-Based Program. 
  2. Facilitate buy-in for the program by demonstrating the Booster Session in the curriculum with students or with staff.
  3. Show excerpts from the training DVD, which can be purchased with a manual via our Curriculum Materials section, particularly the clips demonstrating the "Student-Led Call and Response - Drum in Middle" and the reflection" (on empathy) that follows. 

Is Beat the Odds® appropriate for severely emotionally-disturbed or students with other behavior or learning challenges?

Beat the Odds®:  Social and Emotional Skill Building Delivered in a Framework of Drumming is an accessible, sustainable program that is evidence-based and scripted for clinical integrity and rhythmic engagement.  The school can purchase the curriculum materials and have its own personnel deliver it.  Anyone can deliver it - even without a music background.  We have found that all children benefit from boosting their core strengths; however, the greater the social-emotional needs, the greater the benefits appear to be from the program. We have just completed some research (not yet published) that showed the Beat the Odds program as tremendously useful for special needs populations - even moderate to severe autism (with some simple adaptations).  Mild to moderate needs classrooms did not require any changes to the program. We have also has success delivering Beat the Odds® as an inclusion program in schools.  Special education and general education students are paired sharing a drum, to build positive social connection and emotional well-being while learning emotional coping skills.

How do I register for the Beat the Odds training if my employer is paying for it?

Please contact us at info@artsandhealinginitiative.org for assistance!

How are the rhythmic and counseling activities integrated?

Beat the Odds® emphasizes process and not performance. It includes a therapeutic dimension involving such elements as positive affirmations, emotional coping strategies, and guided interaction with rhythmic activities serving as a metaphor for life, followed by reflection and dialogue—without the stigma of therapy. Our original published study describes some of the specific ways in which the counseling and rhythmic activities are intertwined. There are a few pure counseling activities as well – such as a guided visualization and a scripted lesson on feelings. The program can be adapted easily for other age groups and is great for families. We have found that just reading the script, anyone can deliver it effectively, and someone with rhythmic skills can make the program even more engaging for all.

Do I need to take the training in order to be able to deliver the curriculum?

The curriculum is scripted and designed for use without having to take the training; however, people find the training invaluable for getting comfortable facilitating the rhythmic parts, learning troubleshooting and activity adaptations experientially, and reviewing all the important information in the manual. You could use the manual and order the DVD, which shows our licensed clinical social worker co-developer delivering every activity in the program to a group of 4th grade students.

How can I get Beat the Odds started in my district? How can I convince my supervisor?

One person, who has made a successful business for herself delivering Beat the Odds at the pre-kindergarten and elementary school grade levels, got started with no experience at all. She started by offering free demos, offering the idea that if they liked it—they could hire her. People also started hiring her for birthday parties as well. She now needs an assistant! In line with the above example, you can use the Beat the Odds Booster session in the manual as a demonstration session. You can show your supervisor the part of the DVD showing the call and response with the drum in the middle activity and the reflection on empathy afterwards. You could also show your supervisor our Beat the Odds information page, that has links to published articles, a brief summary of the program for administrators, media clips (like a 10-minute documentary trailer of our work), other media publications (like a TIME article and the lead article in UCLA Today for faculty and staff), and testimonials, including a compelling video interview with a 6th grade teacher on the value of Beat the Odds® for his classroom.

Dance for All (DFA)

Do I need to be a dance or yoga teacher to take the training?

No. We do recommend you possess a love of movement and a comfort with facilitating/teaching. Our DFA manual in the Curriculum Materials section makes the rest easy for you.

Is DFA only for teaching people with special needs?

No. We have had great success teaching the curriculum to children in traditional PreK and elementary schools. It has also been taught to healthy aging older adults as well as older adults with memory issues.

Online Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts (SEA)

What is the value of the Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts?

Our Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts (SEA) was developed to prepare individuals of all backgrounds to design and evaluate their own effective arts programs that maximize social and emotional benefits to the people they serve.  As part of the training, you would learn social-emotional best practices in a variety of art forms for their symbiotic benefits – with scripted materials to use.  You will be prepared to deal with challenges frequently encountered when working at the front lines of need in the community, and will be educated in self-care and personal presentation as well.  In addition, you will learn program evaluation methods to develop an evidence-basis for adoption of your programs. All principles apply to working any age group or population. This program is ideal for those who wish to serve in the community immediately without having to enroll in a degree program in the creative arts therapies, expressive arts therapy, or mental health and the arts. Our trainees have included educators from Pre-K to university levels, special education teachers, community arts professionals, recent college graduates, graduate students in social sciences, mental health professionals, integrative health professionals, yoga teachers, visual and performing artists, nonprofit providers, creative arts therapists or expressive arts therapists and trainees, and more. Some trainees are looking for career changes mid-life or after retirement, while others are exploring this field straight out of college.  Some of our trainees go on to get graduate degrees in mental health, art therapy, expressive arts therapy, fine arts, performing arts, and more. Our faculty members for the SEA program are leaders in the mental health professions of the creative arts therapies or are community arts professionals with equivalent expertise.  They teach our trainees everything that they need to know just up to the point of therapy, without crossing that line.  Therapy is defined as diagnosis and treatment for a specific problem.  The emerging profession of social emotional arts offers a strategy for life enhancement and prevention.  The SEA training (with a summer intensive option) prepares people to deliver supportive arts experiences that facilitate self-discovery, meaningful dialogue, empathy, connection and empowerment.  The arts bring up emotions - and we teach our trainees how to deal with it.  Our training addresses a gap of access to mental health services – without the stigma of therapy. We suggest that you read the significance section of the program description for more details on the value of the training, as well as the trainee reflections on the SEA experience.  We also offer a program called Launching Your Career in Social Emotional Arts to support the professional success of our trainees and others. 

What is the difference between the Social Emotional Arts on a Shoestring training and the Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts?

The training in Social Emotional Arts on a Shoestring will prepare you to deliver scripted activities in four different art forms, with instructions for working with groups vs. individuals, accommodating different abilities, integrating other art forms, adjusting for the amount of time available, and advising individuals on how they continue the activities on their own. It also offers the basics on communication to facilitate engagement and dialogue, as well as guidelines on managing stress responses. This program is designed to be useful in settings where little or no supplies are available. While the Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts (SEA) also offers some scripted activities, it prepares trainees to develop and deliver their own program from start to finish: from identifying the needs of the community to be served, to program development, to program evaluation. Trainees learn best practices in six different arts forms, as well as culturally- and trauma-informed practices in communication and neurodiversity.  In addition, they learn personal presentation skills as well as tools for managing stress in their own self-care. There is a lesson plan that is both written and presented at the end to ensure mastery of the social emotional arts process. SEA is 60-hour certificate program, with time spent on assignments outside of class including a final presentation and report, and the Social Emotional Arts on a Shoestring program is 12-14 hours, usually over 2-4 days, with no assignments taking place outside the training. Please click here to download a quick comparison of Social Emotional Arts on a Shoestring and the Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts (SEA).

How might I benefit from this program if I am anxious about some of the interactive stuff?

The interactive experiences facilitate insight, meaningful dialogue, and laughter, and our trainees report that the experiences are professionally and personally transformational. We have had numerous participants who expected the interactive parts to be difficult, but they were surprised at how they stretched and grew as a result.  The SEA program is focused on learning about ourselves in the process of creative expression - without emphasis on product or performance.  This minimizes self-consciousness and self-judgment that interferes with creative expression.  The program also gradually builds to prepare everyone for more participation over time.

How do I introduce what I have learned from the Certificate Program into schools?

Through the Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts (SEA), you will learn how to identify the needs of the population that you would like to serve based on existing research in order to justify your approach.  The more you can design your program to meet the needs of the population you wish to serve, the more likely you are to get an opportunity. Schools also are often interested in evidence-based programs.  The SEA program will teach you how to create the evidence-basis for any program that you design. You will learn how to evaluate your program to provide evidence of its effectiveness and to improve the quality of your services.  The SEA program will prepare you to explain how the activities that you will offer meet some social, emotional or cognitive goals that a school would have for its students.  All of the activities that we teach you will be labeled according to which social-emotional-cognitive objectives that they meet.  Schools are always on the look out for new tools to engage students and build community, in ways that decrease behaviors like bullying or inattentiveness. Offering to do a free demo is often a way to get schools to see the value of what you offer. Often after seeing the effectiveness of programming, schools are more able to access funding.  In some schools, PTAs can help support the need for programs and equipment.  Classroom teachers can also create a wish list on DonorsChoose.org.

How intensive is the SEA homework?

The homework is engaging, but not overly labor-intensive. It mostly requires viewing videos and reading articles, and asks for a brief personal/professional reflection on how you relate to the material. The final presentation and report is begun from the first day of class and is worked on at the end of each session to facilitate completion by the end of the program.

While enrolled in the SEA Certificate Program, are we allowed to begin using the tools we are learning and bring back some feedback to you and the class?

We wholeheartedly support your desire to be proactive in your learning. You and your cohort will learn so much more by trying out the tools and sharing your experiences with them during the course of the program.

Does the SEA program count towards creative arts therapy degree programs?

The SEA Certificate Program does not lead to an official university transcript that could be applied towards a degree program, but you may inquire as to whether or not it may apply to an alternate route program (e.g., in drama therapy, dance/movement therapy, or expressive arts therapy) that accepts relevant other coursework. The program does, however, offer practical tools for dealing with the real world—especially if working with groups of children or adolescents—that you wouldn't necessary get in a creative arts therapy program. The program also teaches participants about best practices in a variety of art forms, as they are symbiotic and—in combination—can lead to stronger behavior outcomes. The instructors for the SEA program are largely creative arts therapists from different disciplines, whom are top experts in their professions.

Social Emotional Arts on a Shoestring Online Facilitator Training (SEAS)

What is the difference between the Social Emotional Arts on a Shoestring training and the Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts?

The training in Social Emotional Arts on a Shoestring will prepare you to deliver scripted activities in four different art forms, with instructions for working with groups vs. individuals, accommodating different abilities, integrating other art forms, adjusting for the amount of time available, and advising individuals on how they continue the activities on their own. It also offers the basics on communication to facilitate engagement and dialogue, as well as guidelines on managing stress responses. This program is designed to be useful in settings where little or no supplies are available. While the Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts (SEA) also offers some scripted activities, it prepares trainees to develop and deliver their own program from start to finish: from identifying the needs of the community to be served, to program development, to program evaluation. Trainees learn best practices in six different arts forms, as well as culturally- and trauma-informed practices in communication and neurodiversity. In addition, they learn personal presentation skills as well as tools for managing stress in their own self-care. There is a lesson plan that is both written and presented at the end to ensure mastery of the social emotional arts process. SEA is 60-hour certificate program, with time spent on assignments outside of class including a final presentation and report, and the Social Emotional Arts on a Shoestring program is 12-14 hours, usually over 2-4 days, with no assignments taking place outside the training. Please click here to download a quick comparison of Social Emotional Arts on a Shoestring and the Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts (SEA).