The Art of Facilitation

By Kalani • December 4th, 2011

We've all heard about drum circle and drum circle facilitation, but what does it mean to truly facilitate a musical group process?

In some circles, the term 'facilitate' is used interchangeably with 'conduct,' such as "I facilitated a stop cue," but is conducting the same thing as facilitating?

Facilitate means to "make easy," so the question is: What are we making easy? In DCM teaching that which we are making easier is "the ability for the participant (and group) to express themselves and to form a cohesive whole."

As facilitators of creative expression, we're looking for ways to bring out, support, and help people in their creative group process. This means taking on the roles of follower, partner, and student (asking questions), rather than those of teacher, leader, and guide.

Facilitation is the art of service.

When someone is leading, dictating, planning, structuring, and otherwise guiding participants towards a pre-planned outcome, they might be helping in some ways, but they are not necessarily facilitating. They are leading.

Sometimes it's appropriate to lead. For example, when the participants need guidance, structure, and a plan to follow, leading can help fulfill those needs.

Facilitation, on the other hand, asks the question "How can I support the impulses, intuition, and expressions of this group without directing or dictating?" Facilitating without becoming authoritarian is an art.

Facilitation is all about the participants and never about the one facilitating. It's about empowering the group members to feel free to create in ways that are appropriate and productive. It's about entering into a state of pure service, where the most important thing is the music of the group-which means the collective impulses of the individuals that make up the group.

When the leader is conducting and directing the participants, asking them to perform certain tasks in a certain way (often to create a specific effect), then it could be argued that he/she is doing something other than facilitating (most likely they are directing or leading).

Both leading and facilitating have a place in the big picture of community music making, but it's important to know the difference. When we facilitate, it's all about the ideas, impulses, and intuition of the participants. Our mission is to help them express themselves and create the most harmonious music possible.

During DCM courses, we practice both leading and facilitating. We also practice creating and structuring different types of community music experiences to meet a variety of needs and reach different goals. No one form of community music making is ideal in every situation or suitable to reach every goal.

Each type of music making, weather it be a drum circle, interactive drumming, song leading, movement experience, rhythm game, or other types of experience, has it's own qualities that make it a good fit for certain situations. Learning how to create and deliver different types of experiences for different needs is at the core of the DCM approach to community music facilitation.

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