Improving mental wellbeing and educational outcomes through drumming

Here at Drums for Schools we firmly believe that participating in group musical activities not only improves students’ level of musical skill and understanding, but also benefits the development of wider educational, social and communication skills, and improves mental wellbeing. This research project by Thomas Haggerty and based on a 12 week djembe drumming course, provides compelling supporting evidence in respect of the development of concentration, self-confidence, and mental wellbeing.

The Research

In 2023, UK-based music teacher Thomas Haggerty set out to find whether a small group drumming intervention could improve the participants’ concentration, self-confidence, and mental wellbeing. This research carried out on behalf of the University of Oxford, was supported with a donation of drums and teaching materials from us here at Drums for Schools.

The research took place with Year 7 and 8 pupils in a mainstream state secondary school, who learned to play djembes in a small group over 12 weekly sessions. These sessions were led by their music teacher, who was not a drumming specialist, using Andy Gleadhill’s African Drumming Book 1 as the basis for the activities.

A control group of students who already learned a musical instrument and took part in another musical activity each week was set up to provide a comparison.  

Students were asked to self-assess their concentration, self-confidence and mental wellbeing levels at the start and finish of the project, with additional teacher observations also contributing to the final data set.

The Results

While the concentration, self-confidence, and mental wellbeing of the control group remained fairly static,  all participants in the drumming group saw a significant increase across these areas of focus. In addition, several participants then went on to take instrumental lessons and join school ensembles – an unintended but welcome outcome of the project.  

Some key findings

“The findings show that, over 12 weeks, the drumming intervention had a positive impact on the concentration, self-confidence and mental wellbeing of the participants.” (Article P2)

“Following the intervention, the students who took part in drumming actually reported a stronger level of self-confidence and mental wellbeing than the control group” (Article P3)

“The intervention was simple to initiate and more affordable than other forms of instrumental music intervention. It can easily be implemented on a budget, and the findings suggest that it brought a range of positive outcomes for the participants.” (Article P1).

“The findings of this case study certainly seem to provide evidence for the wider benefits of introducing a small-group musical intervention and how this could positively impact students’ experience and performance in school.” (Article P1)

“By the time the first session had been completed it became apparent that the intervention was stimulating musical interest… One student immediately asked if they could join the school orchestra, and a number of weeks later they had signed up for violin lessons. By session 3 there were two more students who had asked about starting instrumental lessons.” (Research Report P56)

Conclusion and references

We believe this research project is a really good example of the power of inclusive music making to change lives, and that it provides compelling evidence for the benefits of djembe drumming activities in particular. If you would like to know more about this research you can download the following resources:

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