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Joan Brannon

Joan Brannon

Arts Education Artist
  • Music
  • West African and Healing Drum
  • Artist Specialty : West African and Healing Drum


​Joan Brannon is a percussionist, instructor, drum circle facilitator and community arts organizer. She specializes in West African and Healing Drum.

Joan respects the drum as a sacred instrument using rhythms for communication, empowerment and expression. She makes instruments combining the tradition of Africa with folk art expression of Kentucky.

She has studied with master drummers in Guinea, West Africa and throughout the U.S.

Joan believes in the transformative power of drumming. She has taught thousands of youth and adults at community centers, arts centers, churches, spiritual centers, theaters, schools and other places where people come together to grow.

Alone and with her groups, Sisters of the Sacred Drum and the Sacred Drum Ensemble, she has performed at venues spanning Kentucky.  She has awakened and educated audiences with traditional West African music, original compositions, spoken word and African dance.

Joan also drums with African Drum Ensemble, Sabari Bengoma and has toured with American Spiritual Ensemble.

Potential Residency Project

West African Music and Culture

This residency introduces the history and cultural norms of regions of West Africa near Guinea.


  • Introduction to the history of West African percussion as a music form.

  • Introduction to using drumming as a form of communication.

  • Teach the concept of community-building to create an ensemble.

  • Teach technique.

  • Teach a traditional rhythm.

  • Work with students to create a short song that communicates a message.

  • Work with students to create a song and corresponding dance movements.

  • Perform what is learned for school, parents, teachers, community.


This residency gives students an opportunity to explore using drum and rhythm as a vehicle to express thought and initiate positive change.


  • Introduction to using drumming and rhythm as a form of communication.

  • Teach technique.

  • Teach the concept of community-building.

  • Facilitate the process of determining group message.

  • Create songs that communicates a message.

  • Teach audience engagement and community building in action.

  • Perform for school, parents, community.

  • Facilitate post performance discussion of meaning of the message.

These residencies will compliment a music education program and meet general requirements of music, as well as cross over into history and culture.

The West African Percussion residency includes an explanation and hands-on learning activities that illustrate Kentucky Core Academic Standards for Arts and Humanities in music for grade levels 4-12, including elements of music, (rhythm, tempo, form dynamics and style) as well as history and culture.

National Standards for the Arts addressed include: the relationship of music and culture; the relationship between music, dance and song; and illustrating the function of the music in community.

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