Photo of Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

Undergraduate Supervisor and Practicum Supervisor; Instructor; Ensemble Director
Office:A929 Loeb

Kathy Armstrong is a percussionist and educator combining her training in classical music and education with her many years of studies in Ghanaian music and dance to offer an integrated and community-based approach in her work. Her research interests include participatory music-making, music and wellbeing, social justice in music education and applied ethnomusicology. Kathy received her Bachelor and Master’s Degrees in Percussion and Music Education from the University of Toronto, and completed an MA in Music and Culture at Carleton University, where she received a Senate Medal for her thesis researching the links between drumming and health and wellbeing for adolescents.

At Carleton, Kathy has taught for many years in the Music program of the School for Studies in Art and Culture, as well as the Institute for African Studies (IAS).  She has developed innovative courses in Applied Rhythm using Western and non-Western techniques. Kathy also teaches courses in African Music, Popular Musics of the World, Music of the World’s Peoples, and Global Music and Wellbeing.  Through the IAS Kathy took students to Ghana to study Urban and Rural Music. She is also the founding director of Carleton University’s West African Rhythm Ensemble (WARE).

Outside of her work at Carleton, Kathy has presented papers and been guest artist and clinician in a wide variety of academic and community settings throughout the world. For twenty-five years, Kathy was the founding director of Ottawa’s Baobab Tree Drum Dance Community, bringing Ghanaian music and artists to students of all ages. She regularly travels and hosts programs in Ghana where she has a three-decade association with her teacher Kwasi Dunyo and his village of Dagbamete, in the Volta Region of Ghana. For her contributions, Kathy received a Community Appreciation Award from the Ghanaian Association of Ottawa and in 2017 was named an honorary elder in Dagbamete.

Selected Links


“Hand Drumming for Care” 2020. Eight-module online course. Virtual Learning Studio: Room217.

“Drumming at 50” Interview with Josh Quillen. A conversation about Steve Reich’s music and West African drumming. September 11, 2020. Online publication

“Footsteps to Ghana I & II” 2020. Arr. K. Armstrong. Three-part treble and percussion octavo. Editor: Rao, Doreen Chicago: Global Encounters for Young Choirs GIA Publications INC. Chicago IL. (G-9993 & G-9994)

“The Ecology of Gahu: Participatory Music and Health Benefits in a Canadian Drum and Dance Ensemble”. 2016. Legon Journal of the Humanities Special Issue “Music, Health and Wellbeing: African Perspectives”. Vol 27.2: 17-35 University of Ghana.

“Bobobo Suite” 2009. Three-Part treble and percussion octavo. With R. Magill. New York: Boosey & Hawkes (M051478682).

“Ghana Alleluia” 2000. Three-part treble and percussion octavo. New York: Boosey & Hawkes (M051468263).

“Songs from Gahu” 1995. Three-part treble and percussion octavo. New York: Boosey & Hawkes (HL48004576).

Research Projects

“Participatory Encounters in African Drum and Dance Ensembles in Canada” 2015-2016 Carleton University. Results published in Master’s Thesis “Drumming Up Health: a case study of Carleton University’s West African Rhythm Ensemble” (Armstrong 2016)

“Reimagining the Global Music Ensemble” 2021-2023 (current) Research Centre for Music, Sound and Society in Canada, Carleton University

Presentations and Papers (Selected)

“Real-World Strategies for Online Music Ensemble Pedagogy” Virtual paper co-presentation with Ellen Waterman for NOWNET ARTS CONFERENCE 2020
Network Arts and Social Distance: Capacities and Innovations.  Affiliate site: Institute for Advanced Computational Science (IACS), Stony Brook University, New York, USA. 6 November 2020.

“The Arts and Social Inclusion” Invited Speaker for Roundtable Discussion. National Arts Centre, Ottawa. 4 March 2019.

“Drumming Up Health” Invited Presentation and workshop for Lunch and Learn Positive Mental Health series for staff. National Arts Centre, Ottawa 7 February 2019.

“Rhythm and Health Connections” Invited Talk. Social Psychology of Music, graduate course.  Faculty of Music, University of Toronto.  22 October 2018.

“The Ecology of Groups: Conditions for Collaborative Music and Health Making in West African style Drum and Dance Ensembles” Paper presentation. Illinois Chapter American Choral Directors Association Summer Conference. Illinois State University, Normal IL.  27 June 2018.

“Drumming UP Health” Paper for International Community Music Conference: Walking the Boundaries, Bridging the Gaps. Wilfrid Laurier University. 12 May 2017.

“Engaging Communities with Your Music: An Entrepreneur’s Perspective” Invited Talk. Art Place: Community Engaged Arts Symposium, Arts Ottawa East. 1 April 2017.

“Connecting with Rhythm: Participatory music-making as a non-verbal model of inclusivity” Paper for New Directions Conference: Musicking Equity: Enacting social justice through music education. Michigan State University, East Lansing Michigan. 17 February 2017.

“The Use of Rhythmic Patterns in West African Drumming and the Music of Steve Reich”. Invited talk and performance, with Russell Hartenberger and Nexus.  Jackman Humanities Institute Symposium, University of Toronto. Toronto, ON. 1 December 2016.

“Collaborative Research Ideas in Drumming, Rhythm and Health”, Conference Keynote, “Drumming and Percussion for Health and Rehabilitation”. University of Toronto. Toronto, ON. 29 October 2016.

“Drumming UP Health: A Case Study of Carleton University’s West African Rhythm Ensemble”. Invited talk.Choral Music Experience Leadership Retreat. St. James Common. Chicago, IL.  13 August 2016.

“The Ecology of Groups: Conditions for Collaborative Music and Health Making in Drumming and Dance Ensembles”. Paper for the annual Conference of the Canadian Society for Traditional Music, Sydney, NS.  19 June 2015.