Beatwell builds bridges

May 30, 2013

Ever wonder how you could make your passion your work?

Not many of us are lucky enough to pull it off. Yet, at the age of 27, Owings Mills resident Jordan Goodman has managed to do just that. Beatwell, the business he founded in 2007, combines Goodman’s love of music with his desire to help others.

Goodman began piano lessons at 5, and by the time he was 10, he had switched to guitar and was playing in a rock band.

“During band breaks, I’d sit at my friend’s drum set and play. That’s when I developed a passion for drumming,” he recalled.

At 13, Goodman’s passion grew, and he used his bar mitzvah money to buy a drum set of his own.

After graduating from Owings Mills High School, Goodman attended Towson University while he continued performing with an increasingly successful band. Early on, his studies focused almost exclusively on courses that would help him promote the band.

But his tunnel vision gave way to a broader perspective when he took an introductory course in psychology.

“For the first time, I became interested in reading and participating in class,” he explained.

As he neared his senior year, Goodman found himself wondering about his post-graduate career.

“I wanted to do something financially secure, and I also wanted to wake up every day and contribute positively.”

So he enrolled in a graduate program in psychology at Loyola University while continuing to perform. Goodman also gave private drum lessons, and he began to notice that in addition to musical skills, his students were also showing increased self-esteem and
decreased anxiety.

“I could see there was definitely a therapeutic, healing aspect to drumming,” he said.

Through research, Goodman discovered a 2001 study by neurologist Barry Bittman that confirmed his instincts about the psychological and medical benefits of drumming.

“The study showed that group drumming significantly reduces stress and boosts the immune system. Since then, [Dr. Bittman] has done more research all over the world, even showing changes in DNA,” said Goodman.

Intrigued with Dr. Bittman’s work, he enrolled in HealthRHYTHMS, a training program based on a group drumming protocol that Dr. Bittman co-developed. Goodman is now an endorsed HealthRHYTHMS facilitator.

Goodman incorporated drumming into all of his coursework, studying the use of drumming in clinical settings such as family therapy and group therapy for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. He used therapeutic drumming at his internships with emotionally disturbed children and adolescents, providing individual and group therapies with dramatic results.

During one of his internships, Goodman had an especially remarkable experience with an out-of-control student who would not respond to verbal interventions.

“The kid had a cast on his arm and he started banging it against the wall. It was drumming,” Goodman recalled. “So I asked him, ‘What if we go back to my office and we can drum together?’ I gave him a djemba (small African drum). ‘Play what you want,’ I said. I copied [the rhythm of] his drumming. It showed him, ‘I’m with you,’” recalled Goodman. “After a while, I started slowing down the drumming, which slowed down his breathing and calmed him down. Then, I asked him how he was feeling. He said [he was feeling] open. Then he literally opened up and told me what made him bolt.”

Goodman told the boy the drumming could replace screaming or taking a pill.

“Any moment you can take a breather and drum,” I told him.

Nowadays, Goodman’s drumming is not limited to work with the mentally ill. He earned his master’s degree in psychology in 2012 and is currently studying for his professional licensing exam. He also provides Beatwell workshops and presentations in classrooms, businesses, festivals, community centers and as continuing education for health-care professionals.

“That’s where I think I can make the most impact — by training others to do this work,” said Goodman.

Tamra Schocket, Psy.D., Goodman’s former professor at Loyola, invited him to demonstrate the power of drum circles to students in her positive psychology class.

“I was teaching students about the advantages of sharing one’s story and I wanted to show them how music and a [drum] beat could be an effective alternative to talk therapy,” said Schocket. “It went really well. After experiencing the drum circle, students said they never would have thought it could be such an effective means of expression.”

“Drumming has been used therapeutically for thousands of years,” said Goodman. “Rhythm is everywhere and in everything — a heartbeat, the ocean. In other cultures, people drum to strengthen community; they drum when a baby is born or when someone dies. It can be a metaphor for teamwork, building community and a positive means of expression. It’s the most effective way I know of bringing people together in a meaningful way.”

Photo captions:
Jordan Goodman, a musician and mental health therapist, incorporates drumming into much of his clinical work. Goodman leads a spontaneous community drumming group at Towson’s Record & Tape Traders, educating the public on the good that shared music can bring.
(David Stuck)