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Beating a drum is a good way for kids to learn cooperation and develop concentration.

That is what Ruriko Kikumoto, a 48-year-old music teacher at Takashima No. 5 Elementary School in Tokyo’s Itabashi Ward, found when she started using drumming circles to start all her music classes about three years ago.

“I had taken part in drum circles myself, and I thought it could be used in classes,” Kikumoto said.

In one music lesson, a group of fourth-graders sat in a circle beating drums as they watched their leader in the center and three of their peers played the bass. One girl smiled as she moved her body to the rhythm while a boy drummed with studied concentration.

“Even if I start off beating the drum impatiently, the beautiful sounds of everyone soften my heart,” another girl said.

“I feel relaxed,” someone else added. Kikumoto said she has seen drumming transform children’s behavior.

“There was one child who thought his own opinion was the only right one and paid no attention to other’s opinions, probably because of stress at home and because he attended a cram school,” she said. “But after practicing in the drum circle for a while, he changed for the better, and now he can concentrate better during lessons.”

Kikumoto is not the only one interested in drumming. The First Drum Circle for Teachers was held last summer in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, for about 50 teachers. They came from as far away as Akita and Okinawa prefectures to learn how to use drumming in their classes.

The event was organized by percussionist Masato Hashida, who told the gathering, “What is important is to stimulate children.”

One teacher at the seminar said it was difficult for his school to purchase drums for the students, but Kikumoto said the last school she was at bought 40 drums over four years with about 1.2 million yen in government money.

Hideho Arita, a professor of medicine at Toho University who studies serotonin, a key hormone in human emotions, thinks drum circles are good. He measured the serotonin levels in children before and after a drum circle.

“After the performance, the volume of serotonin secretion had increased,” Arita said. “I think (drumming) is effective for children with emotional instability.”

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