In 2012 and 2013, Fordham University sponsored conferences called One Mic, One Movement: Advances in Hip Hop Therapy and Hip Hop Psychology. Dr. Tyson helped spearhead the events, and Hall assisted both years on the conference coordination team. The goal was to bring together researchers and practitioners using Hip Hop in mental health interventions from across the globe under one roof. During the second one, Hall met Elliot Gann, Psy.D., a licensed child and adolescent clinical psychologist presenting on his Therapeutic Beat Making (TBM) model. Gann is a long-time beat maker, DJ, and Executive Director of Today’s Future Sound (TFS), an organization that has been using Hip Hop beat making and culture as a mental health, educational, social justice, and cross-cultural intervention.
Gann and TFS have an impressive reach, consulting with organizations on a national and international level, and helping to coordinate programs like HeartBEATS in Frankfort, KY, which targets the opioid crisis and is funded by the US State Department. They have also coordinated programs to train artists and clinicians in the TFS/TBM model in Spain, South Africa, El Salvador, Peru, and Australia. The organization has worked directly with over 75,000 youth across six continents over the past eight years sharing how Hip Hop and beat making can address and heal trauma in culturally responsive ways. Using mobile music production studios, TFS has nurtured and maintained relationships with over 100 schools, community-based organizations and juvenile halls across the United States and internationally. The feedback from the youth and various stakeholders highlights how impactful the interventions have been across settings and populations.
TBM uses hip hop culture and beat making as a tool to engage youth in a process focused on cultivating positive relationships, regulating emotions through rhythm, and fostering a positive self-concept. As to why the TFS/TBM model is so useful in addressing trauma in these varied settings, Dr. Gann explains that trauma can be unpredictable, whereas repetitive beats are inherently predictable. TFS instructors focus on the regulating properties of beat making and music production to ground people of all ages in the present moment. By employing repetitive rhythms, they intend to downregulate the body’s stress response, change brainwave patterns, and stabilize dysregulated youth and adults. This co-creative process takes that one step further by creating a safe space where students can work collaboratively with opportunities for non-verbal expression and develop transformative relationships. Building competency and mastery of skills within a culturally familiar modality is also essential to building a strong self-concept (both self-esteem and self-efficacy). It’s also just good fun making music this way, and it shows in the way Gann and his team work together with students. Dr. Gann’s work using TBM has evolved into two peer-reviewed publications. The first publication appeared in the Journal of Human Behavior and the Social Environment, and the second publication
appeared in the Journal of Social Work.
A core element of these different approaches that make use of Hip Hop is immediate engagement and relationship building, and that extends to the way the organizations coexist. Gann knows the importance of communicating with his peers and has been a driving force in building this network of clinicians who use Hip Hop to connect with the people they serve. In 2016, J.C. Hall reconnected with Gann and consulted with him to further develop the beat making component of the Hip Hop Therapy Studio program. Dr. Gann helped expand its capacity through numerous consultations and yearly visits to conduct workshops with the youth the program serves.
Dr. Gann and TFS are also working collaboratively with Rhythmic Mind to deliver Therapeutic Beat Making and Freestyle Therapy Cypher groups with West Coast Children’s Clinic. Rhythmic Mind also joined TFS’s ongoing programming at the Alameda County Juvenile Hall earlier this year. This collaborative project between TFS and Rhythmic Mind was recently supported by a $45,000 grant funded by the California Arts Council to provide TBM and Advanced Narrative Therapeutic Songwriting (ANTS) workshops for the youth incarcerated there.