Drums Not Drugs

A Unique Prevention Program  


How Is Drumming Prevention?


In addition to providing a creativity outlet for students and entertainment for the community, research suggests that students involved in arts programming do better in school and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. According to the Department of Education, “cultural projects which involve young people in an exploration of their neighborhood and its history allow them to gain a better understanding of their family, ancestors and community. They develop bonds to their community and a sense of civic pride. Through performing, exhibiting and teaching others their newfound skills, youth come to see themselves as having valuable contributions to make to their communities. A study of several prevention programs found that young people were attracted to programs that emphasized cultural heritage, sports or the arts – programs that embedded prevention messages in the context of other activities rather than addressing it directly. Other research has shown that minority youth with a strong sense of cultural identity, especially those who function competently in two cultures, are less likely than other minority youth to use alcohol and other drugs. In addition, young people who participate in theater groups, choirs, bands and other arts and humanities programs are more likely to stay in school and to avoid harmful behaviors.”
(- from the article titled, “Prevention – A Perfect Match")  


The accessibility of hand drum building and playing, even to those with no musical training, enables students to experience instant success. These percussion activities can be enjoyable and motivating to anyone, regardless of ethnic or cultural background, musical preferences or age, and are useful in creating a strong sense of group identity and a feeling of belonging. The very process of building a djembe drum builds competence and confidence, as students perform many small tasks and feel a repeated sense of accomplishment and completion.

The Drums Not Drugs program, led by
AJALI of Trinidad, provides a unique team-building experience while touching upon history, diversity and the arts. Rhythm based practices are a natural way to provide young people with opportunities to creatively channel and release emotions and frustrations. The drum circle is an ideal vehicle for working collaboratively, as students have to learn and practice together — and depend on each other for success. Social interaction skills are developed, improving communication and relationships with others.

Working together in rhythm to promote cooperation rather than competition, results in a feeling of group synergy and cohesion. Peace and understanding are encouraged among participants helping to reduce prejudice and discriminating attitudes. The inspiration of the musical environment enables all participants to feel part of the community, while celebrating diversity.
AJALI, a performing folk group comprised of master artists from Trinidad , as the instructors for the program, provides an authentic cultural experience for students.

Our ‘Drums Not Drugs’ message is conveyed through the achievement of a “natural high,” gained by learning and engaging in the arts; a powerful alternative to the traps of a drug-induced chemical high. The drumming program uses traditional Afro-Caribbean percussion to teach lessons that are universal, and we know this activity to be a constructive alternative to substance abuse and other forms of self-destructive behavior. This program aims to assist students in their development as productive members of their schools and the community at large.

Public performances serve as a great incentive and help to raise confidence in the players and the group. Students discover that if they focus on a goal they can achieve it. Drumming illustrates this self-discovery and promotes self-confidence through the successful completion of the Drums Not Drugs program. Youth are able to mark their accomplishment by recording their own professional CD. Student leaders are empowered to give back to their communities by performing, leading workshops and facilitating drum circles in a variety of settings.

Targeted Groups
At risk youth, all ages
Program Settings
After School Programs, 4-12
Residential Programs
Community Programs
Foster Care Settings
Juvenile Justice Settings

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Program Content
In the drum-building program, students receive all materials necessary for crafting their own drum including an authentic hand-carved African djembe shell, rings, head, rope and fabric. It is an art in and of itself to “rope a drum.” Students will learn the intricacies of lacing and tuning their drums, as well as the maintenance required thereafter. Once all the drums are prepared, students then devote themselves learning how to play world rhythms in a drum circle. Students are able to mark their accomplishment by recording their own professional CD and doing a performance at the end of the program.

For example, The Valley Substance Abuse Action Council was awarded grants from the Katherine Matthies Foundation and the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven to implement the Drums Not Drugs program at the Tinney Community Center in Ansonia , CT. In just seven weeks during twelve two-hour sessions, students built their own djembe drums, learned a variety of world rhythms, recorded their group CD and performed at several community events.

“We serve children with social & behavioral challenges, emotional issues, even mental disabilities, with each child functioning at a different level. Your drumming program has enabled all of our children to participate together. There are very few activities that can achieve this while at the same time produce such positive results.”

- Molly Leahy
School Psychologist at
Connecticut Children’s Place
East Windsor



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Program Outline: (Based on meeting one time per week)
        First 12-week cycle:

  • A minimum of 10 students and a maximum of 20 will participate in the program.
    Second 12-week cycle:
  • A minimum of 10 new students will participate in the program.
  • Up to 10 graduates from the first cycle who wish to continue will become apprentices.

    Third 12-week cycle:
  • A minimum of 10 new students will participate in the program.
  • Apprentices from the second cycle may be hired as youth instructors or return to their own communities in order to perform and to lead workshops.
  • Up to 10 graduates from the second cycle who wish to continue will become apprentices.
    Any given cycle could be incorporated into a summer program, where new students can join the program and apprentices/youth instructors have employment opportunities

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Benefits for Youth Participants and Sponsoring Organizations
  • Youth will participate in a quality program with an anti-substance abuse theme to be held during high risk after school hours.
  • Youth will have a unique team-building experience while touching upon history, diversity and the arts.
  • Students will learn technical and social skills that they can apply to various aspects of their lives.
    Because the program is built on a train-the-trainer model, youth will learn how to perform and lead workshops in a variety of settings.
  • The drumming program can potentially provide youth employment opportunities.
  • Organizations would have their own music group made up of local talent that can be featured at many events. When performances take place, the organization will also be promoted.
  • Organizations can involve the youth drum corps in corporate partnerships; for example, student leaders can gain experience by performing or facilitating drum circles at companies.
  • Community events can be created around the drummers, such as a ‘Drug-Free Awareness Day’ attended by schools or other groups.

Program Outcomes and Evaluations

It is anticipated that by the end of the program, youth will have increased their ability to concentrate and focus, to tolerate challenges and frustration, and to complete designated tasks with varying degrees of difficulty. Students will experience success and build their self-esteem. They will learn skills that assist in the development of self-control. The combination of these skills will promote success in school, and will increase the likelihood of graduation from high school and positive participation in the community. Team building will occur which will result in stronger feelings of group cohesion. The experience of feeling oneself an integral part of a positive group can then be generalized to life outside the program and will result in increased self-confidence when students interact in the larger community.

The drumming program will be evaluated by the Drums Not Drugs staff and the students involved. Success will be defined by changes in student behavior. Anger management and communication  skills will be demonstrated by positive resolution of conflicts occurring between students and their peers. The acquiring of internal discipline and control will be evidenced by reduction in impulsive interruptions during instructional sessions. Success will also be defined by the self-reporting of the experience of students participating in the program. Students will complete a self-assessment survey before and after the program in order to measure changes.

  “Acquiring new skills of making and playing a musical instrument is a rewarding experience that provides youth with a great sense of accomplishment and self-esteem.”
-Pam Mautte
Director / VSAAC

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Drums Not Drugs
12 week Program
Grades 4 - 12

Each Student Receives

  •  Hand-carved African djembe drum (avg. size 12" x 24")

  • Djembe carrying case (backpack)

  • Performance wear

  • CD of groups' recording

  • Personalized certificate of completion                                          

Each School or Organization Receives

  • Interactive performance by Ajali and students

  • A drum corps of accomplished students able to teach, perform and continue 



Program Cost

Program costs are determined by the desired length of the program, the total number of participants and whether or not drum building is involved. For more information. please contact Gerard Hector 860-408-4352/860-965-5547 or email info@drumsnotdrugs.com


Time Frame

A class or workshop time frames can be worked out on a flexible, as needed basis. We believe the effectiveness of this program is based upon students having their own drum, to play during the course of the workshops and to keep afterwards. However, it is possible for students to lease their drum for $250.00 and return it to us at the end of the program. They can choose to buy the drum at anytime and just pay the difference.



About Us  

Program Director/Lead Instructor: Gerard Hector   

Gerard Hector is a fourth generation drummer, native of Trinidad. He specializes in building drums and is skilled in the rhythms of West Africa and the Caribbean, whether it is sacred or secular. He was the lead performer for Cocorite Ujamaa, an award-winning Calypso Folk Group in Trinidad, and was head of a performance group, The Emancipation Cultural Performers.


Gerard Hector, Artist in Residence at the Ethel Walker School initiated the development in order to welcome his group AJALI, a professional folk group from Trinidad. In wanting to utilize the talents of AJALI, he developed drumming programs that serve at-risk youth throughout the state. He is the founder and director of The Drums Not Drugs program and Drum Unity.





The members of AJALI, a professional folk group from Trinidad, have been in the U.S. since September of 2000, as the long-term artists-in-residence at the Ethel Walker School . They have performed and led Afro-Caribbean drum/dance workshops at schools, summer camps, festivals and both community and corporate events throughout the Northeast. In addition, they are the sole instructors for Drums Not Drugs an educational youth programs in which students develop leadership and job training skills through the building and playing of West African hand drums.  


For more information about our programs or merchandise please call:

Gerard Hector
Canton, CT 06019
Tel: 860-352-2366
Email: info@drumsnotdrugs.com


Overview Program Content Benefits Outcome & Evaluations Pricing About Us

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