“Despite race, religion, color, background or ideology, all are joined together through this ancient instrument's calling,” said Friedman, who is president of Stress Solutions, Inc. and Drumming Events. “The drum becomes a vehicle for transporting all who utilize it across all boundaries to an experience of wholeness and community.”
Friedman offers drumming sessions for a variety of age groups, from kids as young as three to senior citizens nearing 100 years old. He has worked with Alzheimer’s patients, children with autism, prisoners, war veterans, and at-risk children.
“I am grateful for the many opportunities to work with so many extraordinary individuals,” said Friedman. “Currently, I am providing programming in Barcelona to 300 individuals in a five-day workshop.
Friedman was raised in Rochdale Village and experienced bullying in his early teens.
“I would take my anger, frustration, and sadness, and come home and hit my drums,” said Friedman, who has a master's degree in counseling education from Hunter College. “I purchased 100 drums to see if non-drummers could gain the same benefits. In 1986, the New Age Health Spa decided to try a radical idea of placing drums in front of non-drummers. Since it was so successful, I ran 'Drumming Away Stress' for 17 years.”
Friedman's programs change based on the attendees. One format includes entrainment, which is the tendency to follow a dominant rhythm.
“They breathe in to a slow and steady beat,” Friedman explained. “By slowing the rhythm of their breath, they slow their heart rate, begin normalizing their blood pressure, increase circulation, and change the brain rhythm to an alpha state for inner peace and tranquility.
“As the drum consciously and unconsciously releases stress, participants are usually experiencing a combination of euphoria, peace, and energy at the end,” he added.
Friedman worked with children, parents, and teachers after the Sandy Hook massacre.
“These experiences were particularly moving, as drumming was providing a therapeutic benefit of emotional release,” he said. “I remember one woman who said that she felt the drum enabled her to release some of her pain and remember happiness, even for a brief moment that we were drumming together.”
In a Dominican Republic hospice unit, he met a boy with cancer.
“When I asked him if he would like to drum with me, he shared that he would, but could only play with one hand due to chemotherapy,” Friedman said. “I watched this precious child slowly move from lying down to sitting up and smiling. As I taught him rhythms, I saw a sweet child of 12 years old for a moment forget his illness and move into a place of happiness.”
Locally, he has held sessions at Parker Rehabilitation, Great Neck Library, Queens College, Francis Lewis High School, and PS 200. In 2014, Friedman was the recipient of the Hearst Scholar Award by the University of Northern Iowa for drumming and wellness.
Friedman called his mother Sylvia, who passed away this year, his role model.
“I called her ‘the world's diplomat,’ as she would talk to anyone she met and develop an instant friendship through her warmth and love,” he said. “Her words I will remember forever: ‘be yourself and they are lucky to have you.’”
On June 15 at 6 p.m., Friedman will offer a public workshop at the Genesis Tree of Life Yoga & Wellness Center on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills, which he hopes becomes a regular event.
“My short-term goal is to have more public workshops locally,” he said.