Children Australia


It Is Not Just Music and Rhythm . . . Evaluation of a Drumming-Based Intervention to Improve the Social Wellbeing of Alienated Youth

Simon Faulknera1, Lisa Wooda1, Penny Iverya1 and Robert Donovana1

a1 Centre for the Built Environment and Health, School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia. Email:


The Discovering Relationship Using Music, Beliefs, Emotions, Attitudes & Thoughts (DRUMBEAT) program used drumming as a way of engaging at risk youth in a form of musical expression, while simultaneously incorporating themes and discussions relating to healthy relationships with others. The program targeted young people who are alienated from the school system. An evaluation was undertaken with a sample of 60 program participants in Western Australia's Wheatbelt region. The evaluation used both quantitative and qualitative methods, including informal discussions with staff and participants, observation, participant and teacher questionnaires, and school attendance and behavioural incident records. Pre- and postintervention data were collected on self-esteem, school attendance, antisocial behaviour, and levels of cooperation and collaboration. Students participating in DRUMBEAT increased their scores over a range of social indicators that act to increase connection with the school community. The results support the underlying program theory, that combining the therapeutic potential of musical expression with basic cognitive–behavioural therapy can be used successfully to deliver a range of social learning outcomes, including emotional control, improved relationships and increased self-esteem. Further longitudinal studies are required to assess the sustainability of the measured outcomes and their vulnerability to external factors.


  • music therapy;
  • drumming;
  • arts and health;
  • at-risk youth;
  • health promotion