New Research Reveals How Playing Music Results in Breakthroughs for Inner City Youth

NAMM Foundation-Funded Study Shows Significant Progress in Youth Rehabilitation Efforts through Recreational Music Making

June 23, 2009

There is new hope for rehabilitating the often angry, detached, frustrated inner city youth in secure residential treatment centers across the country, according to a new study recently published in the June issue of the medical journal, Advances in Mind-Body Medicine.

According to research conducted at the Bethesda Children's Home in Meadville, Pa., adolescents who participated in a structured recreational music making (RMM) protocol as part of their rehabilitation process demonstrated statistically significant improvements in school/work performance and behavior toward others, with less depression, negative self-evaluation, anger and interpersonal problems than a control group who did not participate in the music making activities. A total of 52 adolescents were comprehensively evaluated in the research study, which spanned more than a year and incorporated the use of drums and a Clavinova computerized keyboard.

The study was led by neurologist and researcher, Barry Bittman, MD, CEO/Medical Director of Meadville Medical Center's Mind-Body Wellness Center and CEO of the Yamaha Music & Wellness Institute. His prior recreational music making research has demonstrated improvements in mood states, reduction of employee turnover and diminished impact of stress on psychological, biological and genomic levels. The study was funded by the NAMM Foundation, with support from the Yamaha Music & Wellness Institute and Remo, Inc.

"This study is the first of its kind using music as a catalyst for non-verbal and verbal disclosure leading to improved quality of life for troubled at-risk youth," said Bittman. "Our research showed how playing music can help them move past their perceived obstacles and build new bridges."

"The phenomenal breakthroughs that occurred for these adolescents were truly astounding to observe," said Larry Dickson, MA, Clinical Director for Bethesda Children's Home. "Resistant kids who entered our facility angry, bitter and disruptive progressively discovered a productive way to express and better understand their feelings. Expressing themselves musically as part of a group, they discovered a new sense of self-worth and respect for others that often led to surprising transformations."

"The challenges these children face must not be underestimated," said Bittman. "We believe that this program can be used by thousands of treatment centers across the country to produce similar results, which, in turn, could generate a remarkably positive long-term impact on our society."

Billions in Potential Economic Impact

Hundreds of billions of dollars are committed to support disadvantaged children and their families each year, according to the 2008 annual report of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, which coordinates the federal response to juvenile crime. Bittman points out that the cost of introducing RMM would be very low by comparison.

"RMM is an accessible, affordable and sustainable strategy that can positively impact juvenile rehabilitation," said Bittman. "Our present treatment approaches are often ineffective - a fact that often seems unnoticed. In addition to boosting quality of life and generating positive societal impact, this unique intervention could save our nation billions of dollars."

How Playing Music Leads to Personal Transformations

During each six-week period, groups of 6 to 12 participants met with a trained facilitator who guided them through a progressive structured recreational music making protocol focusing on issues such as self-esteem, tolerance, dealing with grief and loss, anger management and conflict resolution.

As part of the sessions, hand drums and other percussion instruments as well as an electronic keyboard allowed the kids to express many of their feelings non-verbally, effectively generating what Bittman describes as the "disclosure" necessary to help them positively move on with their lives.

Immediately following musical disclosure, participants were asked to complete statements such as: "When I recall the person I was at the first drum session, and I think of myself now, I realize..."

(The following two responses are quoted directly from participants.)

"That even though I have been through so much, I am capable to do anything that I put my mind to. I know that I'm not a failure. I am smart, pretty and nice with a lot of confidence."

"I should not treat everyone with hatred. I can forgive and I know someone loves me. It's okay to cry. I know the choices I make will lead me to my destiny. I know I'm someone now."

Bittman said, "This research represents a meaningful step toward enabling adolescents to build self-control, self-esteem, respect, empathy and tolerance for others. With substantial potential for widespread utilization by behavioral health professionals without prior musical experience, this strategy that can save a child, transform a community and positively impact society justifies ongoing exploration."

About The NAMM Foundation

The NAMM Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to advancing active participation in music making across the lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving and public service programs from the international music products industry. For more information, interested parties can visit

About The Yamaha Music & Wellness Institute

As a not-for-profit 501(C)(4) social welfare organization, YMWI serves as an organization of excellence dedicated to interdisciplinary development, scientific investigation, professional training and clinical amalgamation of active music participation strategies with integrative evidence-based medical insights for the purpose of enhancing quality of life for individuals of all ages regardless of race, ethnicity or disability.

About Remo HealthRHYTHMS

Remo's HealthRhythms Division is on the forefront of establishing a solid foundation for proving the biological benefits of drumming. Neurologist Barry Bittman, M.D. and his renowned research team discovered that a specific group drumming approach (HealthRhythms protocol) significantly increased the disease fighting activity of circulating white blood cells (Natural Killer cells) that seek out and destroy cancer cells and virally infected cells. Along with conventional medical strategies, Dr. Bittman includes HealthRhythms group drumming in many of his disease-based programs at the Mind-Body Wellness Center in Pennsylvania.

About NAMM

The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) is the not-for-profit association with a mission to strengthen the $17 billion music products industry. NAMM is comprised of approximately 10,300 members located in 104 countries and regions. NAMM events and members fund The NAMM Foundation's efforts to promote the pleasures and benefits of music, and advance active participation in music making across the lifespan. For more information about NAMM, please visit, call 800.767.NAMM (6266) or follow the organization on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.