6-Day Playshop, Italy 2021

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The Italy VMC Playshop Report

Hello my friends,

Uno Due Tutti Insieme = ( Phonics). Spelled, Uno Doa Tutie Insema =  One two All together play   

Its 6AM as a cacophony of church bells enter my dreams and finally brings me to awakening to the now. Yes, its not a dream. The bells are marvelously massaging my Jet-lag away as I gaze at the ridge-line across the green valley to the bell tower of the church in the countryside village of Marti in Tuscany Italy. I have arrived, and before the Playshop I will have few a days to rest in this 500 year old house built of bricks from a castle tore down in the 15th century. Im not in the USA any longer.


view of buildings in Italy

A wonderful place of respite


There were some horrific hoops that I had to jump through in order to travel through a Pandemic and NOT end up quarantined when I landed. Harshil figured out a way for me to do just that, so I could walk out of the Rome airport as a Non-quarantined tourist and take a train to Florence.

I am now safe and sound in Tuscany Italy, preparing for the upcoming 6-Day Drum Circle Facilitator Training with Harshil. I am excited. I’ve been holding my breath for almost two years and cannot wait to start the training.

Next too, and looming above the village across the valley from Harshil’s Amarti Retreat center, is a hill that once held a strategically placed castle. That castle protected this area for centuries. The village’s name is Marti, most probably related to an ancient temple dedicated to the god of war, Mars, which was built before the 11th century by some conquerors coming from the Liguria region, who started living there.

In the next centuries, in the ongoing battle for power and land between the people of Florence and the people of Pisa, this castle continuously went from being property of one or the other. In the year 1406 Florence finally defeated the Pisa people and in 1435 breached, and tore down the castle, leaving a massive pile of rubble.

From then on, the people – faithful to Florence –  who destroyed the castle had the right to get their bricks from the pile of castle rubble. The huge barn that Harshil, and his partner Aloka converted into their retreat center, is 500 years old and built from those castles bricks. While refurbishing the building, (Activity-Yoga-meditation room, dining area and kitchen downstairs, and bed rooms upstairs).


Old Brick wall Italy

Harshil made sure to leave some of the original building wall exposed, showing the different type and sizes of castle bricks used


The full name for their retreat center is called Podere Amarti. It’s an Italian play on words. Their property is called Podere, meaning, “a place in the countryside where a family can run a small farm”. They use the name also for its similarity with the word “potere”, meaning, “Power”. And even though the word “Marti”, refers to the God of War “Mars”, putting the letter “A” in front of it changes the meaning to, “Love yourself”. So Podere Amarti means, “The Power to Love Yourself.”

Not a bad name for a place dedicated to Osho, the spiritual guru formerly known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

This noble ten acre piece of land also has 300 olive trees, as well as some cherry and apricot trees. A wonderful place of respite for me, before starting the upcoming 6-Day DCFacilitators Playshop.





The Amarti center accommodates twentyfive participants at a time. So with almost 50 participants attending our program, we moved the event not too far away. It’s a place called,

“Toscana Nascosta”, Meaning “Hidden Tuscany” nestled on top of one of the other rolling hills of Tuscany Italy

Playshop group in Italy

The New and Advanced Rhythm Care Givers added to the growing Italy DCFacilitation Community this week.


What an amazing 6-Day VMC Playshop that Harshil and his partner, Aloka, organized, facilitated and hosted successfully together in Tuscany Italy. Given all the resistance that the universe threw at them while making the Playshop happen, I believe they pulled off a real miracle.

Basically Harshil managed to Tai Chi Covid.

This program has been many years in the making, and has been postponed once. There were 32 participants attending that had signed up two years ago. Part of the preparation for the Playshop has been the eight 3-Day Playshops that Harshil has taught since he became a certified Village Music Circles Global trainer four years ago.

Another part of the preparation was the translation and publication of the VMC DCFacilitators Bible, “Drum Circle Facilitation – Building Community Through Rhythm”. Both Harshil and Aloka were still recovering from a bout with Covid when they started translating the book. It was published a few months prior to the Playshop.

The last two 3-Day Playshops were successfully held in the middle of the Covid pandemic. How did Harshil pull it off? He used a little known exception to the Italian Covid restriction rules that allows “Musicians” practicing in the same room to sit 3 feet apart from each other and without a mask if they want.

Some of the same people that helped Harshil run the last VMC 3-Day Covid DCFacilitator Playshop, Greta and Luca, were part of our drum circle – Covid protocol trained – support team at our 6-Day program: the team was completed by the presence of Mauro, Claudia and Santo.  They had the system down.


The Team

The Team


Covid Drum Circle Protocol 

All the 6-Day Intensive Playshop attendants took Covid tests before coming to the venue and their temperatures were taken upon arriving. Strict Covid protocol for drum circle facilitation was developed and adhered to. (For a while)

One example of our DC protocol was that we placed the facilitators bell in a specific place in the circle next to a dispenser of sanitizer. When it was someone’s turn use the bell, they would squeeze some sanitizer into their hands before they would pick up the bell, and then return it to the same place when they were done. Also, all instruments and seats were wiped down with disinfectant in-between sessions.

It all worked beautifully. We started with a 3 row drum circle set up, with the 3 foot distancing in-between chairs. By day three, the Covid tested group of almost 50 people were comfortable enough with each other that we integrated the outside row of chairs into a 2 row drum circle. And by the end of the program everyone was hugging each other as we snuggled our chairs enough to have a set of aisle-ways in our circles of seating.

The Trainers 

As far as the impressive training team that Harshil and I became, and the depth of the messages that we were able to impart to the learning community, the success of this Playshop was definitely not a miracle. It was a lot of work and a lot of homework for both of us.

We spent hours Zooming and emailing each other prior to starting the event. We both re-read the VMC Global Trainers Manual together.

We planned out the 6-Day Playshop in detail while acknowledging that co-facilitating a program like this, depends more on a “Finger Dance” rather than a teaching protocol map.

Harshil did his homework and paid his dues by organizing and teaching eight VMC Playshops on his own.

Also, translating the DCFacilitation book into Italian helped the Playshop and the community a lot.

This was a 6-Day “Training The Trainer” program for Harshil, as I revealed to him some of the elements, exercise protocols and training goals that define the differences between a 3-Day Playshop, (A lot of What, with some When, and a hint of Why), and a 6-Day Intensive, (Some foundational What, a lot of When, and the “Full Monty” of Why).

Although it started out as a student – teacher relationship in the beginning, we soon moved into full co-facilitation.

Harshil delivered a lot of the Basic 3-Day material during the beginning of the Playshop which cut down on translation time and thus giving us more training and Jump Time time further into the training.

I learned a lot from him this week and I have the deepest respect for his training radar.

On top of Harshil’s running the logistics of the event and co-training with me, he was also translating for me at the same time. It was an impressive feat and a whole lot of work for him.

With all the balls that he was juggling, I am sure that he was twice as exhausted as me by the end.

The Training

For years, our return VMC graduates would do the “Challenge program” that has been embedded in all of our trainings. The challenge people get opportunities to facilitate at the edge of their knowledge and experience. They are assigned special tasks and exercises within the training in which the beginner participants are involved. The beginner students get to see the basic facilitation technology that they are being taught, used by the challenge people on a more sophisticated level. Mixing the challenge and the beginning participants together in these exercises has increased the Playshop learning curve exponentially.

This Italy training presented to us a unique phenomenon that has only happened once before, during our 20th Hawaii Playshop. Half of our population were returned graduates and the other half were the first timers.

That gave Harshil and I a lot of new options as to how we might task the beginners and the challenge participants together and separately.

But then we discovered that one third of our challenge participants had done two or more 3-Day programs or some 3-Days plus a 6-Day Playshop. That gave us even more Playshop curriculum design options.

So we ran this Italian Playshop like I have run all the Playshops in China for the last 9 years. We used the China Playshop three level tier system.

The beginners were level #1.

The first time return VMC graduates were level #2.

And the two or more playshop graduates were level #3.

We tasked the level #2 challenges throughout the Playshop to do mini drum calls as the group was returning to the circle from a break or from lunch.

We had the level #3 challengers do the full morning drum calls with either Harshil or myself giving the public critique. During our frequent “Jump Time” events, the level #3 challengers would stand outside the circle and watch the students who jumped in to facilitate. When their Jump Time facilitation turn was over, they would run out the aisle to the waiting level #3 challenge, who would then give them a two minute critique.

If they were a level #1 beginner, they could ask the level #3 challenge person for a “Mild” or a “Medium” critique. But if they were a level #2 challenge person whom had just completed their “Jump Time”, they could ask for a “Spicy” critique.

Towards the end of the Playshop, we were also able to split the level #1 beginners and all the challenge people into two separate Jump Time circles for their own. While the cats were away, the mice did play.

I am happy to report that the 6-Day Playshop graduates walked away with a tremendous amount of knowledge, experience, and inspiration.

OOPS!! –

A small fly in the ointment was that I tore my Achilles heel at the beginning of the program. In The middle of the opening drum circle of course. {]]’;-).

Thank god to Aloka, Michela & Greta, for being my “Wet Nurse Team’ during the whole event.

With their private nursing ministrations, clay applications and foot soaks, (And Harshil’s Magic Scarf wrap & crystal treatments), they helped keep my swelling to a minimum. Their special care allowed me to share my spirit during in the training, while, (Stupidly), ignoring my fat swollen club foot.


Arthur with his leg resting

Upon returning to Santa Cruz, I got an X-ray. Nothing broken, but I will be hobbling around for a few weeks.


Oops! I danced like a spry 73 year old, but now Im walking like a 75 year old,

Some Special Playshop Highlights

Learning how to Walk Again

During our Playshop, Carolina was using an elbow-cane to walk around the campus. Her footsteps were very carful, cautious and slow. I knew that there was a story here, but I didn’t know how big of one until we got a chance to sit down and talk.

For five years Carolina has been struggling with an autoimmune disease called “Artite Psoriasica”, (in Italian) and “(Psoriatic Artitis)” in English. It is very rare in young people, such as herself, as it usually shows up in elderly people over 60.

With this malady, the bones become weak brittle and break easily.

At one time she was completely paralyzed and she couldn’t wear clothing because it was too painful to her skin.

It was one of the worst cases that her doctors had ever seen.

Over time there were incremental improvements in her condition, so she was able to get out of bed and use a wheelchair.

But Carolina was becoming very sad and depressed about her quality of life.

Then someone took her to a drum circle, and it changed her life.

Carolina felt an energy that she had, “never experienced before”. She saw that drumming with a mallet was totally accessible to her.

She had an irregular heart beat, but whenever she was drumming in a drum circle, her heart beat at a regular tempo.

She started attending every drum circle that was available to her.

She would cry at each drum circle because the constant pain that she felt in her body would disappear while drumming.

The Italian University of Music did fundraising benefits for her, to get her a special electric wheelchair. But as her condition improved, she moved to crutches.

Carolina said that she would get stronger with each drum circle she attended and that she had, “basically drummed herself out of the wheelchair”.

Now she is also drumming with her hands.

Her next step was to attend one of Harshil’s 3-Day VMC DCFacilitator Playshops.

Immersed into 3-days of drumming, instead of a one hour drum circle, compounded her improvement in body and spirit.

She then moved to only one crutch.

So the next step was for her to attend this 6-day Playshop course. While attending the Playshop, Carolina switch from a crutch to an elbow cain, and sometimes no cain at all.

She is learning how to walk again.




With her improved courage and self confidence, Carolina aspires to help others with special needs by facilitating the kind of rhythm care that she has received from the Italian drum circle facilitation community.

She already started and has facilitated did at least one drum circle on her own.

Africans in our VMC trainings

Sadly there is only a small number of African Americans who have attended our USA VMC DCFacilitation trainings over the years.

But those who have, such as Otha Day, Frank Thompson, Kenya Masala and Sule Greg Wilson have made major contributions to our DCFacilitator community.

Hopefully this will be part of the discussion that Sule Greg Wilson and I will have on August 12th during our Online Hawaii Week of seminars. That Seminar in this upcoming VMC online series is entitled, “Awakening to Source” Exploring drum circle lineage”.

Check out the recap of the Summit Here

But when it comes to people who are from the continent of Africa, I usually have had at one or more attending any particular international VMC DCFacilitator Training. That has been the case in Australia, New Zealand, Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, UK, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Ukraine, Spain, Norway, Iceland and of course Italy.

Kudzo Parkoo, attending this Playshop, is from Kenya. Kudzo means ‘Born on Tuesday”. He emigrated to Italy years ago, got his PHD in 2010, and teaches high-school students. He has taken my, “Take it to the kids”, statement literally and does a lot of drum circle games with his kids as a message and metaphor delivery system. He also facilitates Vocal groups.

Kudzo did a vocal workshop during our “Open Space” sharing events that turned our group of attendees into a chorus of angels.

Tam Tam Mandingue

Of course there are always Djembe players in our playshops. Many of them good players. But only a small fraction of them have put enough time, effort and dedication to fully integrate themselves into the West African culture enough to be able to ’Speak its language” on the drum.

I am not one of them, but I have studied enough with West African drumming masters, Including Mamady Keita and Abdoulay Diakite, to know the difference.

In the last 20 years I have had at least one or more Djembe drummers attending my international Playshops that have been trained by Mamady Keita and/or Famoudou Konate. Both teachers are master drummers from the West African nation of Guinea.

Mamady, who sadly has recently passed away, founded the Tam Tam Mandingue school of drumming in many of the countries where I do VMC Playshops.

When I encounter these Tam Tam Mandingue trained Djembe drummer in my trainings, I find that they have a tendency to focus on their own drumming expertise less, and support the groove and learning process more. They know that they can wale on the drum but they don’t need to prove it.  But when it is time to solo, they “let it fly”. These masterful drummers inspire us by speaking the language that the djembe was designed for.

With their high level of playing ability, I usually mentor these players into being part of my rhythm support team for the Playshop.

The rhythmical expertise and musicality that the participant population of this particular Italy playshop was way above any other group that I have encountered before. One of the reasons was the high number attendees who were students or teachers of Tam Tam Mandingue.

But I didn’t fully recognize the the extent of this wonderful infiltration of Tam Tam Mandingue players into our Playshop until our traditional “Talent Night” session happened.  As part of our finale at the talent show, a full Tam Tam Mandingue ensemble of three DunDun players and three masterful Djembe players appeared and rocked the place into Late Night.


The three Djembe players, Left to right in this picture, Luca Zugna, Alessandro Morbelli and Santo Vitale, have all done extensive study with Mamady Keita - Famoudou Konate

The three Djembe players, Left to right in this picture, Luca Zugna, Alessandro Morbelli and Santo Vitale, have all done extensive study with Mamady Keita – Famoudou Konate


As this masterful ensemble played for us, Kudzo ran an impromptu African dance class in the back of the room. So half of our population was sitting being mesmerized by this masterful expression of culturally specific spirit, and the others were dancing to it.

Our Sicilian Friends 

My first time to train in Italy was 1999. But unlike in the UK, Germany, Korea or Japan, I didn’t do a program here every year.

In 2015, during a lull in Italian Playshop trainings, we received an offer from out of the blue to host a 3-DayRhythmical alchemy Playshop program in Sicily. It was from an organization that I never heard of from called, La Bottega Delle Percussioni, = “The shop of percussion” run by Santo Vitale.

We usually only do trainings organized by VMC graduates whom we already have a working relationship, but I said “yes” to their offer and hung up the phone, saying, “Oh My God!”

The first 3-Day RAP in Sicily, (Sicilia), was a great blind date. After that training, as a sister and brother team, Claudia and Santo organized and hosted six other programs, including another RAPs and 3-day DCF Playshop Trainings for both Harshil and myself.

If your organizing and hosting a VMC Playshop, you really can’t fully participate in the training aspect of the event. So as a thank you from Harshil and me, we invited Claudia and Santo to attend this first Italian 6-Day Playshop Intensive at no training cost and with no logistical obligation to them. They not only attended this Northern Italy program, they showed up big time by integrating themselves into the support team and helping make the Playshop run amazingly smooth.


Harshil and people with graduate certificates

The beginning of Harshil’s Italy Ball-O-String.


Claudia quietly integrated with the support team, and was everywhere ready to do what was needed.

Like the right hand man, called “Radar”, in the TV sitcom called M*A*S*H, many times Santo’s “Training Facilitation Radar” knew what Harshil and I required before we did and took care of it before we knew it was needed. A big thank you goes out to Claudia and Santo for truly “Showing Up” to the Playshop.


Ball of string

Harshil’s Ball of Playshop graduate string grows bigger and bigger, as I become a more prouder and prouder uncle.


And of course, our certified VMC Global trainer for Italy, Harshil, will be holding his 9th 3-Day Training on the 17-19 of September and his 10th on the 22-24 of October

Share your Spirit, Uncle Arthur   arthur the elf symbol