John Fitzgerald

John Fitzgerald

John has designed and facilitated drum circles and other rhythm experiences for community celebrations, team-building, communication, and leadership for over 20 years. Creating deeper awareness in service of positive change for individuals, communities and organization is a primary aspect of all of John’s work. He also works with individuals and organizations through his coaching practice, and brings to all his work the great gifts music has given him: deep curiosity, the capacity to listen for rhythm and cadence, and an ability to trust his intuition and improvise naturally in service of his clients’ goals and aspirations.

Before he fell in love with the transformational impact of facilitated rhythm experiences and coaching, John spent decades as a California Institute of the Arts trained percussionist performing jazz and classical music, and the amazing music of cultures from around the world.

John was the Manager of Recreational Music Activities for Remo Inc. for 23 years where he created relationships with organizations and individuals, educating and advocating for the use of music for wellbeing in every imaginable population through a global network of partnerships, facilitators and Remo distributors. Presentations, training and facilitated experiential activities at conferences and symposia had been a central part of his work with Remo, and his passion as well.

John has studied the art of Ontological Coaching with Julio Ollala, founder of Newfield Network, Somatic Coaching at the Strozzi Institute, facilitation with Arthur Hull, founder of Village Music Circles, and has completed the HealthRHYTHMS Group Empowerment Drumming Facilitation Training, Beat the Odds training, among many others.

John is a Village Music Circles Global Certified Trainer, past chairperson of the Interactive Drumming Committee at the Percussive Arts Society a member of the International Coach Federation and its local Los Angeles chapter, the Drum Circle Facilitators Guild, and the Percussive Arts Society.

John's Story

I have facilitated rhythm events of all kinds for 20 years for just about every imaginable population, both in the United States and abroad, and been blessed with many wonderful opportunities to follow my passion, learn and grow.

Becoming a VMC Global Certified trainer, to be invited into this group of heartfelt and generative Souls, stands out as a high honor and also a deep blessing; to be a part of a team that is impacting one of the very most compelling desires I have: to grow the movement of the use of Rhythm for Wellbeing globally.

I have not yet found a more powerful, and playful, joyful, and effective way to bring people of every background, disposition, challenge and gift, in touch with their most authentic expression and to be witnessed and celebrated in their uniqueness and beauty by their community, which is often people they have met for the very first time. Magic!

Training others to facilitate is the best way to grow this movement, this glorious opportunity, exponentially, and this group of passionate and highly skilled trainers are all mission bound to create a thriving global community of rhythm makers!

A few words about my experience of the Village Music Circles approach to training and facilitation and why I am such a huge fan.

The depth of thought that Arthur Hull has given to the dynamics of the drum circle experience, both the explicit and implicit, the obvious and the subtle, and as he would say that which is “the tip of the iceberg and what is beneath the surface” is extraordinary, and is informed not only by his creative, curious and inquiring mind, but also by every student and experience he has ever had. The development of the VMC training has not been a solo act; it is one of community co-creation with a powerful vision leader, Arthur, holding down the pulse so we can all contribute and Play!

And this not a set of steps to follow or a set of rules; it is an extremely flexible set of tools and philosophies, ever evolving, that allow each facilitator to express their unique gifts, tailoring their programs to the needs of any group. How fabulous is that!

As a consequence, there are many universal principles embedded in the training that can be applied to any kind of facilitated group process. The Map is one of them.

Simple and profound, it has been a subtle guide for me, calling my attention to the needs of the group at that moment, and directing my intuition towards the right tools for that moment and that group. It describes the journey from separateness to unity, from isolation to community, from the mundane to yes, the Sublime! That place where what was ordinary, a simple instrument, normal everyday folk, are transformed into the extraordinary; tools of transformation, and joyful fellow journeyers.

And the VMC Triplicities provide a faceted tool for reflection on every aspect of facilitation from hard skills (instruments, set up) to soft skills (trust, musicality and much more). I note that there are far more soft skill Triplicities than there are hard skill Triplicities, which is reflective of the idea that there is far more below the surface, under the tip of that aforementioned iceberg.

I suppose we all gravitate towards certain Triplicities and less so to others. What I’ve found most compelling are those that raise our awareness about relationships; interpersonal, intrapersonal and musical (which is where the first two meet).

Most of the Triplicities have at least one element that is about relationship and they often overlap; Arthurian Facilitation (Intention), Body Language (We must Embody our intentions, i.e., have a clear relationship with ourselves, those intentions), Drum Circle Format (Purpose, i.e., self-knowledge). Even the Career Development Triplicity points to a relationship with Self (Share Your Rhythmical Bliss, which can only be done through knowing one’s own passion and having the courage to share it boldly).

Without a doubt the most important job I have as a facilitator is to create a relationship of trust and a sense of safety, which allows for risk taking, exploration without judgement of self or others. The Trust Triplicity gives us three facets from which to view Trust:

  • Honesty - this is what shows up as authenticity, vulnerability, a willingness to be truly present. And this Honestly leads to…
  • Rapport - If I’m seen as trustworthy, authentic, then others are willing to share who they really are, to be vulnerable, playful and expressive.
  • Congruency - This element seems to me to contribute to the maintenance of Trust, for if I am vulnerable one moment and not the next, who would trust that I will accept their vulnerability? If my body language varies too much and I’m difficult to follow, many may blame themselves for not “getting it”, and withdraw their vulnerability, i.e., cease to trust that I will accept them as they are.

One of the Trust elements, Rapport, appears again in the Intuitive Skills Triplicity, along with Awareness and Adaptation.

Rapport describes a web of emotional, intuitive connection, sensitive to the vibration of each individual, the sum total felt by all and trust is required for it to be fully present. From my point of view this web is what we “read” with our intuition, and what we respond to when we can GOOW of ourselves.

I have only scratched the surface of course, and will no doubt have new perspectives as I gain new learnings, encounter new circumstances, encounter myself in fact, in this exquisite and ever evolving Art of Facilitation.

I’ll conclude with a story.

I facilitated 20 minute drum circles three times a day at AARP conventions for about 10 years. This would take place in a convention hall that was huge and had loud ambient noise from conversations, people playing music, overhead speakers and so forth.

I would set up 20 chairs or so in a two row circle, place instruments about. People would come in and we'd have a short experience with a nice little arc. I would usually mention that we'd all co-created something amazing together but didn't go deep into philosophy.

On the second day of the show I noticed a tall, distinguished, well-dressed man in a suit with a beautiful shock of well groomed gray hair. Clearly older than I, he seemed quite conservative from my perspective.

The next day this same man approached to join the drum circle and I greeted him, offering him a place in the circle anywhere he liked. He sat in the second row in the middle with a tubano under each hand and for the entire time he played both those drums simultaneously not alternating his hands during the groove, call and response and so forth. Interesting!

As usual this short circle, sweet as it was, came to an end and I as usual noted how we had created something wonderful together and wished everyone a wonderful day. Several people came up to say hello and our distinguished guest left without speaking with me.

The next day I was watching a ukulele lesson that also took place three times a day when I felt someone approach me and stand on my left. I heard a voice with a Southern drawl saying “That was a mighty nice drum circle yesterday”. I thought it was my coworker joking around so I replied, also in a Southern accent “Sure was mighty fine”. Then I looked to my left and saw that it was that same distinguished older man. I was quite embarrassed but hoped he didn't notice and just continued the conversation, thanking him for joining us.

Then he said this:
“You know our pastor, when he takes that pulpit to preach, he's always looking at the clock. That drum circle, that's what we need in our church.”

What might have happened for him? What was his experience in the short 20 minute drum circle inside a cacophonous convention hall? What was it that he recognized as a deep value in the process of this simple, and rather casual rhythm experience?

And what does it say about the power of rhythm, the shared experience of music-making and our capacity as human beings to experience transformation from the mundane to, yes, the Sublime?

Again, I am honored to be a part of this passionate, playful, purposeful community of creative community builders, generative and joyful creators of Wellbeing Through Rhythm!

John Fitzgerald
VMC Certified Global Trainer