Many team building companies have inspiring grassroots stories. Although few can compare to the rich history that brought Drum Cafe to the US. Drum Cafe started 26 years ago in Johannesburg, South Africa during the fall of apartheid. During this time, there were 11 tribes in South Africa that spoke different languages. To break barriers and bring people together drumming was used as a medium to connect the disconnected.
In 2000, the owner of Drum Cafe West Coast, Natalie, immigrated to the US from South Africa. Being good friends with the founder of the original Drum Cafe she looked to bring drumming to us on the other side of the globe. It was a hit right from the start with her first client, Motorola.
Fast forward to 2017 and drumming is now used as a way to bring together some of the most well known companies with employees from very different backgrounds. Drum Cafes operates doing team building activities in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities too.
At a Drum Cafe team building workshop you will be joined by a group of your coworkers to engage in high energy drumming. Not random and chaotic drumming, but led by some incredible musicians that will teach your participants how to drum together making beautiful music. It does not matter your background. By example, facilitators will show how teamwork can produce something beautiful. This teamwork is really achieved by the physical participation. As Natalie says, “it brings you out of your head space and into your heart space.”
Drum Cafe Highlights
During my research of Drum Cafe, I found myself smiling watching their videos. That is how contagious the excitement is. Nothing can begin to describe the incredible energy you will feel when being a part of a Drum Cafe event. You will be amazed how a couple of talented musicians can conduct an entire room of people to play music together for the first time. However, these highlights may help give you a better idea of what to expect.
- There are many ways to bring people together by breaking social barriers. Few are as beautiful as creating music together.
- Participants will be facilitated by highly regarded musicians. Some of which have won Grammy awards!
- Clients can customize the event by adding additional exercises or include a performance by the musicians of Drum Cafe.
- Shhhh! Drum Cafe asks that you keep this team building activity on the down low. This way participants will walk in without any preconceived notions about the event and be completely surprised.
- Never played an instrument before? No problem! They can quickly teach you how to use this simple drum without the need for lessons or sheet music.
- An activity for the extroverts and introverts. The extroverts get to let loose and express themselves. While it may seem that the introverts can be timid at first, the energy and rhythm of their surrounds will prove how contagious of an environment it turns out to be.
- Drum Cafe is completely mobile. Facilitators have traveled all around the world to break barriers and bring people together.
- Events can be held for as little as 15 people or up to 5,000 people.
- The events are very customizable depending on what your goal is but they typically run 45 minutes to 1.5 hours.
“If you can drum together, you can do pretty much anything together.” – Natalie, owner of Drum Cafe USA
Interview With Natalie, Owner of Drum Cafe West Coast
Listen to my interview with Natalie, the owner of Drum Cafe West Coast, as we talk about the inspiring story of what started Drum Cafe. We discuss where it originated from, how it was brought over to the US and how she got her first client. Eventually leading to the successful business she runs today. She has been all over the world and is ready to bring harmony to your business.
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Interested in more information about how they teach a large room to drum in sync? Check out this video of a facilitator orchestrating a performance. Click Here.
Kristen: Hi my name is Kristen and I am from Team Building Hero. I am here with Natalie the owner of West Coast Drum Cafe. Thank you Natalie for joining us.Natalie: Thank you so much Kristen.
Kristen: So just to get started can you tell us how Drum Cafe west coast got started?
Natalie: Absolutely. So we are actually a business that started in Johannesburg South Africa, some 26 years ago at the fall of apartheid. Really it was a way, at that time, of bringing different communities … different tribes together using music and rhythm as a medium. So we have about 11 different language speaking tribes in South Africa and this is just a way to bring people together … to commune … break down barriers … to harmonize together as one.
In 2000 I immigrated to the US. I am an industrialized psychologist by profession with an MBA and I have done a lot of work with different corporations in South Africa. The founder of Drum Cafe is a very good old school friend of mine when we were kids together, his name is Warren Lieberman. When I immigrated he basically said that, ‘this is a wonderful opportunity for you, you should look at taking this to america as a concept’.
So when I arrived here I met a person at a party one night and she happened to be the Senior Vice President of Motorola. We got chatting about the whole concept of engagement and teamwork and leadership development and she said, “what are you going to do in the states?” and I told her. She got super excited and said, “Wow, I don’t want to hire a keynote person I want to hire you.” So that is really how we started in the US. So my first client is Motorolla, we did 100 of her regional managers at the Stratosphere in Vegas. They really responded so well to the program they booked us for a second program. Drum Cafe USA pretty much was born. That is how the business started.
Kristen: Wow, that is such an inspiring story and what a great first client to have, Motorolla.
Natalie: Absolutely. It has been a total wonderful gift and I have a lot of gratitude for that. I have been doing this for 16 years now in the US. I have some amazing clients, pretty much now some of the fortune 1000 companies and then I have some deep relationships with some fantastic clients where I been brought in and done some serious work with them. So I have utilized our arrhythmic program. For example, Cisco, doing all of their orientations. For Gap, Gap clothing…all their brand launchers and all of their store manager trainings. That has also taken me to Japan and Kenya with Google and Prague with Microsoft. So it has been a really wonderful experience and journey.
Kristen: Incredible, that is so cool. So, can you tell us what a typical drum cafe event is? I mean, you have been all over but what is your average event like?
Natalie: So let’s just start off with the ‘why?’ and the reason why people would bring us in. Firstly is because they have these big…whether is it a sales kick off or a marketing kick off, a team of IT people are coming together. Whether it is globally or it is within the United States or within one particular division within a company within the U.S. They are bringing people together for a variety of different reasons. You know … self training … understanding of what is happening with the company moving forward. They bring us in typically at the start of a conference. So we are a great general session opener. Essentially what we are there to do is to get people to bust their silos to break down their barriers that typically exists between different divisions within companies. Whether that is age or gender, or sexual orientation or geography or position within the organization. It is about breaking those barriers and getting people to harmonize together as one through the universal language which is rhythm and drumming. It is a language that breaks the barriers and breaks through differential diversity we come in with. But it also unites people as a language with a strong community of leaders.
So what typically happens is a room is set up, empty movie theatre style. We are not a venue we typically go to our clients venus. Whether it is ballrooms, conference rooms, restaurants, we have done it all. We have done it at many different places. We bring a drum for everyone to play. Essentially what happens is we set up the drums at each one of the chairs, empty theatre style, I bring a team of musicians. Highly regarded musicians, some of which have Grammy awards to their name and basically the doors are shut to the ballroom, we break out into this amazingly energetic upbeat West African rhythm. Fling open the ballroom doors and people walk in, see drums on chairs, and this amazing music going on up on stage and they wonder, ‘oh my gosh what is about to happen?’ This is nothing like we have ever experienced. So they come in and they grab an instrument and the program starts.
Essentially what it does is it really gets people out of their heads and into their body and heart space. Really where you want them to be for the best learning to happen. So I have really taken the principles of the neuroscience of learning and applied them to these programs to kind of come to the end of the program and have the learning stick. You use to go to lots of different conference and it use to be just one talking head after another talking head with powerpoints and most of the information is lost and most of the information just goes over people’s heads. But this really engages everybody, it’s get them interactive with one another. It is a visceral process so they are physically drumming and it is a primal behavior, and people love to drum. Love to bang a drum, it raises the energy level. It raises the vibration in the room. It puts people into a creative right brain space. Not only their left brain. It really get them to step out of those preconceptions they have and those fears that they have when they come to a specific event. So it busts them out of that and really does some sort of catalytic transformation at the end of the program.
Kristen: Wow, that sounds amazing. I do want to go back to something you mentioned, when people first enter the room, do they know that they are going to be drumming? It sounds like you could come in with preconceived notions and everyone is from different departments … but you really bring everyone together. Do they know that this is what they are going to be doing when they come and see you?
Natalie: No and that is an excellent question. I specify with all my clients, please keep this an element of surprise. Because at the end of the day you want them not to come with certain assumptions about it. Because people have fears about being involved. But once they get there within the first 10 or 15 minutes of drumming whether they start with touching their drum which is sometimes typical with certain people and other people come running in the room and grab a drum and start dancing in the room.
You have a range of different behaviors that happen. It is really the microcosm of the greater macrocosm of how do people show up. Right? Because what you do here is what you do everywhere. Because what you do here is a representation of how you behave everywhere. Some people get very involved at the onset. Other people pull back and they wait and see. Then ultimately everybody get involved. Because it is people sitting around you drumming and getting really into it. Making those connections, you are not going to sit very long not drumming. You know just sitting there with your hands folded and the drum in front of you. Ultimately, what happens is just by nature people get involved. Either kind of bring them into this process. Which is kind of how teamwork works, you kind of have that microcosm in every single team. There are some players that are over achievers. Others are under achievers. Some people don’t do anything at all. But at the end of the day, in order to put the team to work effectively together it is like an orchestra, right? Because there are people together playing different instruments. Everybody is different in their personalities and their behaviors. But if you work on the strings and pull the strings together, magic happens at the end. You have a magnificent symphony. So that is really the premise of how this works.
So no, we do not want them to know about it. It is a surprise. It really takes them out of their head space and into their heart space as a result.
Kristen: It sounds like such a contagious environment. It ties right in with that teamwork principle and getting those people that run in all excited to encourage those who are more hesitant to play an instrument for the first time maybe.
Natalie: Absolutely, it is very contagious. That is part of the power of it. It is relying on other people to motivate you step into your best self. Some people can do that naturally on their own. A lot of people almost need to be pushed almost into their zone of discomfort. Cause we don’t like to be in that zone of discomfort. But it is in that zone really that that stretch and that growth really happens. Other people get you to do that, and you might not even know those people next to you. Which is what makes it even more exciting and compelling. Because they get to know each other on a very different level very quickly. Often times you go to meetings and you work with people across the globe. Maybe you have a skype call or video meetings or whatever it is. But you have never been face to face with them. You don’t know their story necessarily. By kind of digging deeper that way and breaking barriers that way. If you can drum together you do pretty much anything together.
Kristen: Wow, so do people drum freely? Or is it sheet music?How do you get people to sound good and not chaotic?
Natalie: No sheet music, they have an African drum which is called a Djembe drum. It hails from west Africa from Ghanaian. I facilitate, we have several other facilitators. The facilitators stand at the front kind of like an orchestrator. The facilitator orchestrates the audience to do different things and so we teach them but in a very funky and fun way. I will send you video links that you can put in the article. You can actually visually see how it happens. But a facilitator facilitates that process.
Kristen: Oh great, so I guess it is kind of an encouraging event. I am trying to imagine how it would happen, I have only played piano. It sounds like an interesting way to learn new music.
Natalie: Yea, and to do it together as a group. It is pretty simplistic in the sense that the rhythms we teach. It is keeping it at that level, it is simplistic. But at the same time they get to know enough on the drum in terms of a base and a tone and how they can play very simple rhythms together and how half the room or a third of a room is playing a piece of the rhythm but two thirds are playing two different pieces. How those all intersect to make to make a beautiful symphony. They get to play together as a group so it is not just on your own kind of tinkering. You can kind of make that happen. You are supported by a larger group.
Kristen: So you mentioned the type of facilities that people do these sort of events. Do you suggest people don’t do it in maybe their conference room if they are in a large building. So not to distract other offices. Where would you suggest people host one of these events?
Natalie: Typically, most clients are doing a 1, 2, or 3 day conference. So they are typically at a hotel conference ball room and that is where most of our events happen. I would say 90% of the events happen there. There are certain times that I have done events at their actual premises. So with Virgin America for example we did a series of 23 events when they had this refresh program. Where they were training all of their teammates on various aspects of the airline and team culture and things like that, core values. So we did it early in the morning so there was no one in the building at that time so it did not disturb people. There have been certain times where clients have hired out an entire restaurant and we have done it in a restaurant setting. We have done it on the bleachers in different school and college basketball areas. We have done it pretty much everywhere. Typically though they do it in hotel ballrooms.
Kristen: So you have done it in ballrooms, you have done it in gymnasiums and large company buildings…is there a minimum or a maximum that you can host?
Natalie: Yea, typically we do 15 people to 5,000 and up. I have 3,000 drums here in the US. We also use percussion sticks as some of the instruments. We sometimes change drums and sticks. I recently did an event for Cisco, which was 4,000 stick, percussion sticks. We can do it for 20,000 people if we have to. But I would say a minimum of around 12-15 people.
Kristen: That’s great, so how long are these events usually? I mean with more people it may take longer but how long is your typical event?
Natalie: So no, it is not really around the people. Typically our flagship team build program is about 45 to 60-70 minutes. Depending on what elements of the program they want. There are lots of additions to the program, so we can do up to a 2-3 hour program. Including different breakouts and our symphony of rhythm program. So sometimes for a full 3 hour. Sometimes we do a 45 minute opening then there is a meeting in between and after that we have like a 15 minute close piece using percussion sticks. So there are lots of different ways we can structure it. I also have a deeper dive team building company. Which is an extension of the rhythm program called Blue Fire Leadership. That is ‘fire’ as in ‘fire, wind and fire’ Right? So Blue Fire Leadership. We do full day and 2 day team build programs. Incorporating lots of other elements over and above just the rhythm program. We also do that. But our typical flagship team build program is rhythm and drums is around a 30-50 minute program.
Kristen: So say I am looking to book an event, I don’t really know where to start. I know I want to do an event but I am not really sure if I want to do the add ons that you talked about. How would you suggest I start?
Natalie: You mean in terms of contacting us? I would absolutely have the person contact me so we can talk through objectives and desired outcomes. That is where we start and it all really depends on how long people have on their agenda. Do they want to have us as an opening, a close, or somewhere in the middle? We do an in depth with the client. Because we are fully customized and fully scalable each one of these events. So I pretty much have them call me.
Kristen: Ok, so it is very customizable. So also, what is the price range for these events? I am assuming because it is so customizable the price may vary quite a bit but is there a flat rate per person or is there a minimum? How does pricing work?
Natalie: Right, I use the phrase ‘bums on seats’ because we bring drums and musicians based on the number of seats in the room. So we range pretty much from $2,000 all the way to $45,000. Depending on how many people are in the audience. That is really the range. So what I have is a price point for each variance. If you have up to 100 people or 250 or 300 or 500 people. Then depending on where these events take place because I have several locations with drums all over the country. So I can do an event anywhere in the country. I have drums, and facilitators, and musicians trained up to do events all over the country. So it would really depend on where the event is. So if it is local, say it’s in San Francisco where I have a facilitator, a team of drummers and drums. We have a program fee the price of travel and production. So the travel and production part will be much less if it is local versus let’s say Wisconsin. Where I have to drive people in and bring equipment with me.
Kristen: Will you guys seem very popular and in high demand. How far ahead should people look to book?
Natalie: So it is always good to give at least a 3 week window if there are flights and things concerned. I have a lot of team members and a lot of facilitators trained up. So they can’t call me in the middle of the week. That is really not my preference. I would really prefer if we got a 3 week notice at least.
Kristen: Well, fantastic. I think I actually have all my questions answered this sounds like a really incredible opportunity for companies to get involved do something a little bit different and outside the norm. Do you have anything you would like to share with people listening?
Natalie: Um no, you said it. It is fun, it is really out of the box and creative. 99% of my business is word of mouth. People who have experienced me in 2008 and are now at info blocks in 2017. They remember the experience from 2008 and they bounce back in their different company. So it is something that people will talk about for a long long time. But just to also know that this is not just fun and entertainment. It is much more about edutainment in the sense that there is a deeper dive message that we read through the program. Which is fully customized to each client. We bring out the main points but in a fun and exciting way. That is really what I wanted to add.
Kristen: Yea, most definitely. It is not just playing and enjoying music. It is learning and growing and building those bonds together with your coworkers.
Natalie: Absolutely, because if you look at the statistics of the amount of unengaged people in organizations today it is staggering. It is vital that people do engage with one another in a deep connected way if we really want to make the shifts that we want to make. Not just pay lip service to it. A lot of companies are really serious about engagement and employee happiness. Others think that it is nice to have. I really want to connect with the companies that really take it seriously. Because it really does shift people’s behavior at the end and I think that is really what you want to have happen. You don’t want it to just be a nice to have experience. People need to walk away saying ‘wow, that really hit me and I am going to do this differently tomorrow because of it’. That is going to ripple effect out to a lot of other people that I connect with. Even beyond what I am conscious of.
Kristen: Yea, definitely it is an investment and I am sure people are getting a high return on your events.
Natalie: Yea, hope so. They are coming back so that is great.
Kristen: I am sure, well thank you so much Natalie. We learned a lot of great information. So that was Natalie, the owner of Drum Cafe West Coast. I am Kristen and this is Team Building Hero, thanks.
Drum Cafe Reviews
These reviews are from some pretty incredible companies speak for themselves. You can hear the energy and excitement in the review way after the event has ended!
“Thank you for the fabulous event you and your team did for us at Google yesterday. Googlers can be a pretty challenging audience (especially when it’s a group of learning professionals/facilitators!) and you absolutely blew everyone away. You exceeded my expectations by far – and the environment/energy you created was critical for us as an organization. Because of your involvement, we are going to be able to move forward in a more focused, unified, and joyous way. You were a highlight of the year at Google – and that’s a hard thing to do! You were also the highlight for me personally – so thanks!” -Trudi McCanna, Google Inc.
“I haven’t had an opportunity to touch base with you on Wednesday! Thanks fo much for contributing to our event, it was fabulous, people were excited, and even the tough crowd in the back got into it! Very well done! It gave our event a great additional dimension, and quite a few people came up to me to not only express that they had great fun, but as well commenting how well versed you were with IPG, and that you probably knew us from before! Excellent job, thank you!” – Sabine, Hewlitt Packard
“I just want to say a huge “Thank You” for all you did to work with us on Refresh 2010. It is undisputed that Drum Cafe’s presence played a pivotal role in creating the overall vibe of the program that had our Teammates leaving truly feeling REFRESHED! Even on the 22nd session. I loved every minute of running this year’s program and working with you and your team was definitely a contributing factor to that satisfaction. Cheers.” -Benjamin Eye, Creative Communication & Events Manager of Virgin America