Workshops with a Beat Send Good Vibes In 1995 When Charles Kaplan was a doctoral student of psychology at the University of Connecticut, little did he know that when he joined some locals on a Hawaiian island beach one night for a hand-drumming circle, it would change the course of his dissertation and lead to a career in organizational development. "It's an excellent form of nonverbal communication and the best ice-breaker," explains Kaplan.

Kaplan, founder of RhythmWorks Organizational Development, New Haven, Conn., has made presentations for a number of groups, including the United States Tennis Association and Yale University. He's helped many groups, up to 200 participants at a time, improve their overall attitude, communicate better, and cooperate more with each other.

"Everyone comes into it with performance anxiety," says Kaplan, "but the hand drum is the only instrument that can be picked up by anyone and played in a meaningful way." Kaplan's workshops are 90 minutes to three hours in length and begin with some simple body stretching, then move on to easy rhythm games. He then guides the group into "making music together" with traditional West African beats on full-size handmade drums he brings with him.

After the drumming, Kaplan leads the group to the heart of the matter--he determines with the meeting organizer the session's goal and how it can be tied in to the drumming. Kaplan says he can tailor a workshop for any purpose: "I'm a psychologist interested in successful group dynamics--that's my expertise." To learn more, visit his Web site at