After a debilitating injury derailed Pamela Lynn-Seraphine’s music career, she adapted her talents to help others while discovering a passion for neuroscience.
In 2008, Pamela Lynn was invited to play at the Cape Breton International Drum Festival—one of the world’s foremost percussion showcases. Her name would appear in the program along with the likes of Liberty DeVitto from Billy Joel’s band, Danny Seraphine of Chicago (whom Pamela would marry five years later, “as fate would have it,” she says), Alan White from Yes and Michael Shrieve of Santana—some of drumming’s brightest luminaries.
Pamela had arrived.
However, sadly and ironically, the event would mark the end of her performance career, as well as its greatest moment. Pamela’s rotator cuff was damaged beyond repair from a combination of overuse and a traumatic injury. She had virtually no use of her arm; she could barely lift a cup of coffee in the days leading up to the festival.
Somehow, she played through the pain, giving the performance of her life. “I didn’t even think about the pain,” she remembers. “But when the performance was over, so was my arm. That was it. I remember thinking, ‘It can’t be over. That’s impossible. I just got here!’”
The period that followed was the darkest in her life. “It was brutal,” Pamela says. Drumming was my identity; I thought it was all I was and ever could be. I was a single mom at the time, with three daughters and a 10th-grade education. I was lost.”
Overcoming her fear, she returned to school, eventually graduating from CalSouthern with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Along the way, she developed an innovative and successful practice based upon what she now calls neurodrumming meditation therapy.
We spoke with Pamela Lynn-Seraphine at length to learn more about her background in drumming, her therapeutic model, her educational journey and her plans for the future.
California Southern University: How did you get started in drumming?
Pamela Lynn-Seraphine: I was introduced to drumming around the age of 12. I took to it instantly. I had a very difficult, tumultuous and chaotic childhood and drumming gave me something I had never had: a sense of control and empowerment. I just loved it. It took me by surprise. And I quickly discovered that it gave me relief from my emotional pain. It just made me feel better.
I had no support and, for many years, no real equipment. I didn’t have a drum set or even drum sticks. I would just use what I had—chopsticks or spoons—anything that would allow me to repeat rhythmic patterns.
CalSouthern: When did realize you might have a future in music?
Lynn-Seraphine: It was after I picked up world drumming, which is very different from the drum set I was playing at the time. World drumming, in many respects, is a form of language, and I found I was able to use this language to communicate and express myself to others. That was in my mid-20s and it was a real turning point for me.
I began teaching soon after picking up world drumming and that took off right away—I had an ability to make drumming accessible to people. But I never seriously considered a performance career.
CalSouthern: When did you realize that a performance career might be in the cards?
Lynn-Seraphine: Eventually, I recorded an album called Fearless and Feminine. To my surprise, it was signed by ACM Records out of New York City. The media covered it and this put me on the map. I came to be considered world class and support began to roll in. A man named Dom Famularo—he’s considered by many to be the world ambassador of drumming—took me under his wing and everything escalated, ultimately leading to my performance at Cape Breton. Dom knew that it was about more than just the drumming for me; it was about reaching people through my drumming.
CalSouthern: And that’s ultimately what you returned to after your performance career was cut short by injury, right?
Lynn-Seraphine: Yes. I wanted others to experience what drumming gave me—it alleviated emotional pain and, simply put, it made me feel good. So I developed a practice teaching meditative drumming.
CalSouthern: Could you explain how it works?
Lynn-Seraphine: Neurodrumming meditation therapy is a rhythmic brain-training discipline that utilizes entrainment with rhythmic mantras as a contemplative practice. It’s used to alleviate stress, emotional pain and addictive cravings. And it does so by harnessing the brain’s reward and pleasure circuitry. That’s it reduced to its simplest form.
CalSouthern: Are there any specific populations for which neurodrumming is particularly well suited?
Lynn-Seraphine: The program is designed for those suffering from chemical or behavioral addictions. However, I have found that it provides people with emotional relief from any sort of trauma and stress.
CalSouthern: Do you occasionally encounter people that are skeptical about neurodrumming?
Lynn-Seraphine: Sure, and I welcome skepticism. One of the wonderful things about the practice is that the process itself tends to break down the skeptics’ barriers to treatment. The results happen quite quickly and they speak for themselves.
CalSouthern: What was it like returning to school after so many years pursuing your music career?
Lynne-Seraphine: I was extremely nervous with so many doubts about whether I could do it. I couldn’t even think about what it would take to earn my degree; instead, I just focused on one course, then the next and then the one after that.
One day, I was taking a course in neuroscience and it all just clicked. It made sense to me and all of a sudden I knew I belonged in academics. After all the years playing the drums and teaching drumming as a meditative therapy, I knew that it changes lives, including my own. But I didn’t know why. When I was introduced to neuroscience, I knew this is where the answers would be found. And I knew that by understanding the science behind neurodrumming, I could enhance and expand my practice, perhaps write a book about it [The Drummer’s Manifesto was published this February and has been extremely well received] and ultimately help more people.
CalSouthern: How did you come to choose CalSouthern?
Lynn-Seraphine: I found it online. After first speaking to an enrollment advisor, I knew it was right for me. The online format was ideal; I needed the freedom to travel to teach my music. I can remember telling my family that CalSouthern was where I was going to complete my bachelor’s, and where I was going to continue my education after that. And, so far, it’s been perfect; I couldn’t ask for anything better in an academic environment.
CalSouthern: Do you find your practice, writing and educational pursuits to be as rewarding as your performance career?
Lynn-Seraphine: When I lost the ability to perform, I never thought I would say this, but my practice and academic life are every bit as fulfilling. It’s given me a confidence, competency and empowerment that cannot be taken away.
Here’s the crazy thing: although the connective tissue will never heal, muscle has developed around my rotator cuff and I am again able to play without pain. Now, I get the joy out of playing and expressing myself through drumming and I am able to truly connect with and help other people, all while learning more and more about the underlying neuroscience.
It is extremely gratifying. I struggle for words to describe it. Through all that pain, how did it all become so perfect?
When the performance was over, so was my arm. That was it. I remember thinking, “It can’t be over. That’s impossible. I just got here.”
I wanted others to experience what drumming gave me—it alleviated emotional pain and, simply put, it made me feel good.
When I lost the ability to perform, I never thought I would say this, but my practice and academic life are every bit as fulfilling. It’s given me a confidence, competency and empowerment that cannot be taken away.