Interview with Toby Christensen, Part 3: The Healing Drummer’s Influences

Nechema Robinson, director of KinderWorld Tracks, recently spoke with Toby about his life and healing gifts. The following is the final excerpt from this three-part interview.

Toby’s Influences & Heros

Nechama: I’d be interested to hear who your childhood heroes were, [and] who do you look up to now?

Toby Christensen

Toby Christensen

Toby: My first and most profound influence, musically, were The Beatles. I remember seeing them on The Ed Sullivan show. I saw Ringo up on that stage and knew that’s what I wanted to be. I then later fell in love with the likes of Eric Clapton, Frank Zappa, and many of the jazz greats.

Although I had a very tumultuous childhood, my father has always been a very big hero to me: [he’s] very calm and wise.

The other person that has influenced my life tremendously all through my childhood and into my adult years is my uncle Mike Flo. He was a very successful businessman, and at 90 years old continues to be a very positive influence in my life.

I would say Wayne Dyer is another huge influence. He was the first presenter of what we might call “alternative” perspective in my life. I had a tape set of his back in the early ‘90s, and I’m pretty sure that I wore those tapes out listening to them over and over and over again!

Nechama: I can understand how so many people would want you as an influence in their lives. Your life is a testament to the possibility of a kind of broad-spectrum success that seems to require no compromise. Would you agree?

Toby: I would certainly like to think so! My work centers around people coming into and claiming their power! No guru in my world: I help people become their own guru

Nechama: Yes! I have noticed that in your message over and over again. Clearly, I am not the only one who finds that appealing and empowering.

How Drumming Can Help Parents & Children

Group Drumming On StageNechama: Many of my readers believe that playing with rhythm has benefits for their children. Does your work relate to anything you enjoyed doing as a child? Are there children in your life? If so, how is your relationship to them affected by your work?

Toby: I would agree with your readers very much! I started drumming when I was about five years old. It is a gift that I was born with. My entire childhood was filled with music, and drumming is the one area of my life where I was supported very strongly by my family. I do not currently have children in my life, however I work with children from time to time, both young children and adolescents.

When I was raising my stepson, it was interesting as my work shifted from the more “ordinary world” things—such as the coffee business and a restaurant—to the more “otherworldly” business that involved the drumming. He was a little uncomfortable with what to tell his friends [about what] his stepdad did.

One time, I was hired by fashion designer Donna Karan to do an event at her flagship store in Manhattan. My stepson, Adam, came with me to that event, and as he saw some of his favorite movie stars dancing and enjoying my drumming, it gave him a whole new perspective. It was a way to bridge ordinary and non-ordinary reality.

Finding Rhythm

Nechama: I love that story! What do you think are the most significant benefits of giving children the opportunity to play with rhythm? And, if you could give one tip to parents looking to maximize that opportunity for their children, what would it be?

Toby: I think the biggest benefit [for children] is the benefit of self-expression. In our culture, we are constantly programming the restraint of freedom and a conduct that is predicated on how other people will perceive us. So, self-expression is something that the drum facilitates beautifully.

When I had my restaurant, I had African décor, and there were drums sitting around on the floor. Every once in a while, someone would bring a child in and they would head immediately for the drum and start banging on. The parent usually would run frantically to make sure that the child did not hurt the drum or disturb anyone. Usually, that was the time when I would start an impromptu jam session with the child! The patrons loved it!

Toby DrummingLet your child be free! That is the most profound tip I could give. So much of our restrictive behavioral conduct has hugely damaging effects when a child comes into adolescence. Most of the time, substance abuse and “inappropriate behavior” are just a way for our children to fight against a repressive cultural system that denies them their genius. In the village where I’ve studied, my teacher Malidoma Somé says each and every person is born a genius. It is the job of the village or community to acknowledge and support the genius that resides in each and every person. Let your child be a genius and let that genius shine!

Nechama: And that just might be my favorite story of all!

Thank you, Toby, for an absolutely riveting interview! I hope we can do this again some time. I will certainly be following your work. Please don’t hesitate to contact me for any reason. Would you like to say anything else before we say good-bye?

Toby: It was an honor to be interviewed by such a skillful and conscious being. Thank you! I look forward to further contact. Be well.

Thank you to Nechama Robinson, MA, director of KinderWorld Tracks.

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