top of page
  • Writer's pictureKevin Shorner-Johnson

PMEA Workshop Resources

This is where there will be workshop resources for the PMEA Conference.

World Music Drumming Workshop:

Master of Music Education Program:

Checco Handout

Everybody_s Drumming
Download PDF • 40KB

PMEA Conference Presentation on Synchrony and Imitation Script

Welcome to this session for PMEA. Today Michael Checco and I will be leading you through some World Music Drumming activities. While we do that we will be exploring new insights from research in attachment theory and synchrony, demonstrating how emerging insights from neuroscience may shape your intentions for social-emotional learning in the classroom. Our reason for presenting neuroscience research alongside a world music drumming experience will be that an understanding of research may make you even more committed and more intentional about what you do every day in the class. For me, this research has emphasized the power of collective drumming and spend time in synchrony.

# 2 Our Frame

I am Kevin Shorner-Johnson and I am the Dean of the School of Arts and humanities at Elizabethtown College. I also lead the first Master of Music Education to be focused on peacebuilding, social-emotional learning, and world music drumming, where I also host the Music & Peacebuilding podcast, exploring conversations that “reclaim space for connection and care” in music teaching.

Michael Checco is a renowned instructor within the World Music Drumming curriculum who also teaches within our Masters program and teaches general music in Middletown Area School District.

Our workshop will be framed by our peacebuilding interest and curiosity in exploring music education practices that promote social-emotional learning and develop prosocial attitudes and behaviors within students. We believe that music, and in particular World Music Drumming promotes a balance between the interdependence of community within the independence of expressive voice. Within intentional moments of synchronous music making is the opportunity meaningful social-emotional learning within music classrooms.

# 3 Definition of Terms

This workshop is going to explore how understandings of social synchrony and attachment theory deepen approaches to the development of empathy, emotional regulation, affiliative bonding, and pain management. We will also explore emerging findings that may indicate that synchronous music making may reduce inter-group bias, which is in many ways fancy language for questions of how do we reduce systems of bullying, racism, or xenophobia that cause violence or intimdation between in-groups or out-groups.

# Social Synchrony

Levvy, Goldsten, and Feldman (2017) define social synchrony “as the coordination of behavior among affiliate of members during moments of social contact.” Notions of synchrony were first noticed during explorations of mother-infant bonding interactions. However, most important for us teachers in the arts, researchers have discovered rich data in explored intentional synchrony that is created through dance. And there is emerging research measuring the neural synchrony of musicians.

What happens when students match their movements with each other, whether in marching band, a folk dance, or in community drumming? As music teachers, we know intuitively know that there is some kind of “high” that is produced from coordinated musical exertion. This session will explore the fact that there is much, much more to the power of synchronous musical interaction alongside explorations of world music drumming with Michael Checco.

# Modern attachment Theory

Modern attachment theory is explored in numerous disciplines from psychology to anthropology. For the purposes of this workshop, I am naming attachment theory as an area of extensive research exploring the biophysical and social expression and impact of affiliative bonds and interactions.

This area seeks to ask questions like, how do mothers and infants connect? What is the impact of a good, caring relationship? What is the destructive impact upon a disconnected relationship? How do attachments or our relationships form our understandings and expressions of social-emotional learning and prosocial behaviors? In short, does a caring relationship cause a person to care for others?

As teachers, we know that our presence and our choice to care about our students makes a difference.

6 # Introduction to Modern Attachment Theory and Synchrony

Modern Attachment Theory often works from research that builds from the truths that we know between early caregiver-infant interactions that are often described as rituals of interaction and synchrony. Beginning with breast feeding and face-to-face play, babies develop their attachment and connection with caregivers through synchronous interactions.

7 # Attachment Theory

I am so thoroughly interested in attachment theory from a peacebuilding and social-emotional learning lens because this research offers insights into the roots of the prosocial behaviors that we cultivate in our classroom . Individuals with healthy foundations of attachment are better able to engage in

close relationships,

better maintain emotional balance,

People with attachment security also demonstrate:

More accurate self-appraisals, meaning they have a more balanced picture of strengths and weaknesses;

People seek further information after obtaining negative feedback;

demonstrate openness to new experiences,

Are more open to the vulnerability of ambiguity that allows an individual to learn new mental schemas;

Willingness to “enjoy the flow of experiences”

Better performance on creative problem solving tasks; and,

Better instrumental and socioemotional functioning during group interactions

8 #Inter-group bias

Maybe most important to a theory of peacebuilding in music education is the concept of inter-group bias and aggression. Inter-group bias is the “degree to which an individual perceives their own in-group as better than others.” Individuals with damaged forms of attachment appear to maintain self-esteem by de-valuing out-group members or attacking them when “positive qualities . . . can endanger the belief that we are better than them” (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2019 p. 524). Many of us recognize our efforts in this area with bullying-prevention programs.

9 # Synchrony Transition

We could get lost down a rabbit hole with all of the fascinating research on attachment theory and prosocial behaviors. However, now we are going to tightly focus on the power of synchrony and intersperse this with Michael Checco demonstrating specific activities that can be approached through World Music Drumming pedagogy to develop imitation, coordination, and synchrony.

Let’s begin with a video by Dr. Ed Tronick and the flat face experiment to examine the importance of synchrony.


# Synchrony Voiceover

This video compares and contrast an engaged, synchronous interaction between mother and child with a separate experiment in which the mother causes deep stress within the infant as she approaches the infant with a “flat face.”


We may ask ourselves about the ethics of this experiment, because it is so incredibly difficult to watch. Why would anyone put a baby through this kind of torture? However, recent research is exploring the traumas that are introduced with our distractions on social media and personal devices. When parents, like myself, become distracted with these devices, we lose our moments of synchrony with children, entering our flat face phase, and increasing forms of anxiety that lead to heightened aggression.

As a teacher you may have experienced the disconnection that you see in your students, from students who may be engaged in too much screen time, such that they have stopped fully engaging in synchronous interactions. Current research is exploring connections between this and rapidly rising rates of anxiety and thought rumination.

In contrast, let’s turn to an activity introduced by Michael Checco. As you watch and learn a new activity for your classroom, notice Michael’s synchronous attention and coordination with this students.

====== Do Bomba(4) video?

10 # Ritualistic Synchrony

We know from studies within anthropology that humans have often turned to ritual as a means of enacting synchrony within communities.

11 # Ritualistic Synchrony

Through artistic forms of dance, music, or shared attention we form a sense of synchronous being, which in turn becomes the bedrock of the feelings of community.

I want to quickly explore three research studies in this area that fascinate me and have important implications for how we do music in the classroom. Following the conclusion of this research review, we will turn to Michael checco for a series of activities that built the synchrony and the outcomes that are described in this research.

# 12 Mother Child Gamma Coupling in the social brain

This 2017 research study examined filmed mother-child interactions and in turn had mother-child dyads watch these films while their brain activity was measured. Among many fascinating findings, is the continuation of evidence that synchronous activity causes synchronous neural activity in the brain,

# 13 Brain picture

in particular, demonstrating the activation of the temporal lobe and the activation of the superior temporal sulcus, hereafter referred to as STS. The STS is a key node in the brain that is activated during empathy, mirroring, and mentalizing properties.

The researchers write, “We found that social synchrony was translated into neural synchrony in the superior temporal sulcus, a key node of the social brain the integrates both mirror and mentalizing properties.“ (Levy, Goldstein, & Feldman, 2017 p. 1043)

# 14 Quote Slide

“early split-second events of parent-infant synchrony is integrated into higher-order stretches of behavioral matching in later childhood that also involves symbolic and verbal dialogue, perspective taking, and the ability to negotiate conflict with empathy and involvement.” (Levy, Goldstein, & Feldman, 2017 p. 1043)

# Reddish Fischer, and Bulbulia

One of my favorite research studies was completed by Reddish, Fischer, and Bubulia in 2013, titled “Let’s dance together: Synchrony, shared intentionality and cooperation.” Covering it at a surface level, I can describe the article as covering three different experiments that explored the impact of different dance conditions on measures of trust, interdependence, and group belonging. Some students wore independent headphones and danced to different beats, some students wore independent headphones that were synchronized to the same beat, some participants were told to intentionally match movements, others were not. Lots of fascinating conditions.

Following these conditions, participants self-rated feelings of interdependence, and as well they rated group entitativity — represented here as group belonging..

# 16 5$ slide

Another measure was a gauge of trust and risk. Participants were given $5 and told they could keep it for an individual reward, or if they gave it back to the researcher and every participant in their “team” also gave it back, they would each reap the reward of an enlarged, combined payout.

The question — of how much do you trust your fellow dancer and are you willing to risk $5?

Not surprisingly, the conditions of synchrony demonstrated much stronger outcomes on measures of trust interdependence, and belonging than dancers who moved in uncoordinated manners.

# 17 Jazz band rhythm section

This research study builds evidence that when periods of synchrony are established by a teacher through intentionality, we may reap profound rewards. Most fascinating is that dance and music appear to be a means of elongating synchrony. Within verbal communication, we may be fully present or synchronous for a maximum of 10 seconds, if we are lucky. However, music and dance require synchronous being for as long as 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or sometimes as long as half-hour. If you have ever witnessed a Jazz rhythm section that is tightly interlocked, you know the power of sustained synchrony.

# 18

Finally, I will close the research portion with another fascinating study of dance. Within brain chemistry, we know that processes of social bonding release oxytocin, commonly referred to as “the love hormone” that promotes attachment and social bonding, among other properties. We also know that high-exertion exercise promotes endorphin release, a kind of “runners high,” where the release of endogenous opiods lowers our pain threshold.

Synchrony that involves the motor cortex, such as dance or drumming, appears to activate both at once. The question, is it synchrony or is it simply exertion that gives us the greatest benefit.

Most fascinating from this study, is the finding that for both measurements of pain threshold and for within-group prosociality, the synchronous dance condition had an incredibly strong effect regardless of whether it was high-exertion dance of low-exertion dance. High-exertion dance used full-body movements while “low-exertion dance” simply used small hand geestures while seated.

# 20

Hmmm.. small -hand gestures while seated. What does that remind me of? Michael Checco will now introduce a series of World Music Drumming exercises designed to enhance intense synchrony through call and response patterns.

======= BREAK VIDEO ========

# Stress Restoration and Reparation

The question before us as we emerge from the pandemic and the disconnection of social isolation, where even this conference video is being presented in an asynchronous format. What role does music play in the restoration of synchrony?

In schools we often put stock in the purchase of a social-emotional curriculum, which is incredibly important. I am so grateful because both My children have both benefitted from the Leader in Me curriculum.

# World Music Drumming

However, while we are adopting that, we now have growing and emerging research that something happens that is deeply magical in music and dance spaces. I believe that these spaces are magical because there are very few activities within our lives that sustain synchrony for the length and intensity as that of music and dance.

I believe in the World Music Drumming Curriculum, because I love the fact that students sit in circles, becoming fully intentional, present, and synchronous to each other in aural, musical practices that remove written notation. With no barriers between musicians, this practice and pedagogy has made the perfect medium for exploring peacebuilding and social-emotional learning in our Masters program.

One shout out is that Elizabethtown College will be hosting a World Music Drumming workshop this July 12-16, registration is at

# Closure

When we feel all too often fragmented and disconnected, how do we design musical spaces for synchrony, connection, and interdependence, reclaiming space for connection and care.

How do we create the conditions of synchrony within our classroom. What gifts do music teachers offer as a shared spaces of ritual and synchrony that may be deeply reparative and restorative?

# Chemical connections within the brain

In their 2020 article on Music as a co-evolved system for social bonding, Savage and colleagues noted an interdependent system within music that mixes synchrony with pattern-based predictability that promotes a dopaminergic reward system that simultaneously produces oxytocin and and endogenous opioids. They refer to this synchronization as a form of neural resonance promoting pro sociality. The combination of auditory and motor systems “underlies social bonding through music because it enables individuals to synchronize and/or harmonize their own music and actions with others, which is crucial for coordinated group music making.“ (Savage et al., 2020 p. 13)” Continued fascinating and emerging research is pointing to neuroimaging of the arcuate fasciculus, a connective fiber tract between the caudal temporal cortex and the inferior frontal lobe. There appear to be linkages between music making, strong pathways, and the advancement of this pathway in social functions, demonstrating relationship with expressions of empathy and in social fiunctios.

# Applications to the music classroom

This should come as no surprise to music teachers. We have played in ensembles where the sense of connection was so incredibly deep that our trust and feelings for ensemble members are enhanced.

The question before us — if the world is filled with interruptors of relational synchrony, could music teaching, when approached with intentions toward community be restorative? Could we be one key part in rebuilding lives of connection and understandings of interdepence that make us more compassionate and caring?

The answer is “yes” as well as “its complex”

# Self-Construal and Interdependence

# Caution: The dangers of too much synchrony

Before we leave this workshop, it is important to talk about the dangers of too much synchrony. In peacebuilding we talk about affiliative bonds and in-group and out-group identity and belonging. So many times, our sense of belonging within a group is deeply powerful and important. It is gives us meaning, purpose, and a feeling of love and affection for colleagues, friends, and family.

However, this has also been weaponized by leaders to turn one group against another. Today, we are learning the research of how social media can radicalize one group to have hatred toward another group. We have seen how shared musical rituals within Nazi Germany created in-group/out-group conditions that set the stage for the holocaust. Or more recently, how synchronous interactions in Rwanda created in-group/out-group conditions on the basis of identity that led to catastrophic genocide.

In our schools, we know how contexts of bullying can emerge when strong cliques or groups are formed. I have even seen it emerge within band and choir contests that are overly-competitive to the point where competition becomes a form of destructive comparison rather than comparison.

We also know from self-construal research that too much synchrony, too much group-think, too much interdependence limits creativity and the individuality of voice.

# Closure

So the question we leave you with is, how do we create the conditions of synchrony within our classroom. What gifts do drumming hold as a shared sense of ritual and synchrony that may be restorative? How do we balance individuality and community?


Cross, S. E., Hardin, E. E., & Gercek-Swing, B. (2011). The what, how, why, and where of self-construal. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 15(2), 142-179. doi: 10.1177/1088868310373752

Levy, J., Goldstein, A., & Feldman, R. (2017). Perception of social synchrony induces mother-child gamma coupling in the social brain. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 12(7), 1036-1046.

Miller, J. G., & Hastings, P. D. (2019). Parenting, neurobiology, and prosocial development. In Oxford Handbook of Parenting and Moral Development (pp. 130-144). New York, NY : Oxford University Press.

Reddish, P., Fischer, R., & Bulbulia, J. (2013). Let’s dance together: Synchrony, shared intentionality and cooperation. PLOS one, 8(8), 1-13. Retrieved from

Savage, P., Loui, P., Tarr, B., Schachner, A., Glowacki, L., Mithen, S. & Fitch, W. (2020). Music as a coevolved system for social bonding. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1-36. doi:10.1017/S0140525X20000333

Tarr, B., Launay, J., Cohen, E., & Dunbar, R. (2015). Synchrony and exertion during dance independently raise pain threshold and encourage social bonding. Biology Letters, 11, 1-4. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2015.0767

86 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page