Thursday, August 9, 2018

Everybody's Drumming with Joe Ciarvella

Interview with the proprietor of Everybody’s Drumming with Joe Ciarvella. 

Photo Credit: Kathy Sincavage from the Mahanoy City Library.


Interview by Megan A. Hepler with Joe Ciarvella proprietor of Everybody’s Drumming with Joe Ciarvella.

Megan: What is your background with drums?

Biography written by Nikki Todd

Joe Ciarvella has spent the last 41 years perfecting his drumming, while studying all levels and aspects of a multifaceted approach to percussion. Unbelievably, he is only 44 years old! Yes, he began playing professionally at age 3 and has never stopped playing or studying. From performing exquisite and detailed nuances of Grateful Dead performances to playing highly intricate American Jazz licks, and numerous genres in between, Joe shapes rhythm into a vehicle, dispensing a soul enriching dance for audiences all around the nation and beyond!

Ever pushing the boundaries of drumming to new and exciting altitudes, Joe is currently applying this knowledge in transcendent ways. As an artist-teacher for his Everybody’s Drumming project, Joe works with other percussion lovers, from all walks of life and experience levels, from children to the elderly. It is in this role where he teaches and guides participants to use drumming as a means to enhance, heal and raise up life. Joe is far more than a great drummer, he is a rhythm warrior guide who knows how to unleash and share the amazing power of percussion.


Megan: When was Everybody’s Drumming with Joe Ciarvella created? Where did you come up with this idea?

Joe: It was 20 years in the making. It all started with a trip to the Pottsville Library in 1998. I stumbled up a book by Mickey Hart, drummer for the Grateful Dead. It introduced me to what would become a quest for knowledge about the ethno-musicology and the physiological effects drumming have on the brain and our consciousness. 

Fast forward to 2016, after experiencing a neighbor’s suicide, I sought therapy to help cope with what we were experiencing. In the course of being introduced to cognitive behavioral therapy, I came across Jim Donovan, former drummer for Rusted Root. He has an evidence based facilitation protocol called Drum Circle Leadership, which was developed by Jim with studies being conducted at St Francis University, in Loretto, PA. I took the course and became a certified Drum Circle Facilitator in December of 2016.

Megan: Can you explain what the drumming circles attempt to accomplish? Is there anything you can share about this will help others to understand?

Joe: Drumming with others is an ancient practice that people have used for millennia all over the globe to connect, heal, learn and celebrate. When facilitated well, a drum circle becomes a safe space to be individually, while being an integral part of the group. In addition to music making, circles have been used for centuries in nearly every indigenous culture, to bring people together for the purposes of celebrating, communicating, grieving and witnessing each other. In a circle there is an opportunity for each person to see and be heard by each other in a way that is beyond the typical, self-imposed boundaries such as economic status, sex, creed, race, politics or age. In the circle we are all equal and vital components of the whole.

In the present day, the exponentially quickened pace of our lives has eliminated many of the opportunities to connect with others in a deep and authentic way. The effects of this disconnection can be seen in the epidemic rise in maladies such as depression and addiction. At the heart of using drum circles in a conscious way is the idea that through group music making, we can re-discover the truth our ancestors knew so well; the transformative power of group support, engagement and connection. Drumming Circles provide an opportunity for participants to feel connected with others and gain a sense of community.

Specific studies show drumming:

- Creates a sense of connectedness with self and others
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Provides whole brain synchronization
- Promotes alpha brain wave
- And is just plain fun!

Drum circles can give us an experience where we can be free to connect with ourselves and others, in order to release, restore and heal. It is a universal language where all people can be a part. 

In addition, specific studies conducted by professionals in the fields of music therapy and mental health show us that drumming:

- Increases mental clarity
- Improves focus and attention to task
- Helps control chronic pain
- Boosts the immune system

What are the prerequisites? None. There are no prerequisites! It’s a group drumming experience! Students, staff and parents are warmly welcomed and encouraged to join in. No prior musical experience is necessary. Also, we won't be reading any musical notation. Each technique is designed to be “plug and play.”

Are these techniques research based? Yes. This program was developed as part of a highly successful and well publicized research study conducted by Saint Francis University's Center of Excellence for Remote and Medically Underserved Areas (CERMUSA).

Megan: Are your drumming circles private events only? 

Joe: Most of my private events take place in assisted living nursing homes who regularly schedule activities for their residents or the Schuylkill Achieve after school program, which is federally funded. I’m always looking to expand into new and uncharted territories. I do volunteer work for two specific groups; the Wharf Rats of Harrisburg and Jeeps Against Suicide, hosted by the Schuylkill County Jeep Alliance.

Megan: Is there anything else that you think we should know about Everybody’s Drumming with Joe Ciarvella?

Joe: Music and drumming provides a physical way to experience the concept. When a person feels like they have participated in the discovery of a new skill, it increases their ownership of it and often makes them eager to “discover more.” My intention is to turn fear into empowerment, stress into relaxation and apathy into engagement by bringing people together with drumming and rhythm.

Megan: It looks like you do more than just drumming circles. What other services do you provide?

Joe: I teach private drum lessons, I am the Production Manager/Audio Engineer for the Majestic Theatre Pottsville, Schuylkill Free Shakespeare, Minersville High School Theatre, Nativity High School Drama, The Crimson Academy and various productions with Pottsville GTC and Schuylkill Theatre. 


For more information on Everybody’s Drumming with Joe Ciarvella visit his Facebook page at