Change Through Music

This week, Music Therapy once again exhilarated and moved me. However, this week I was only the observer, not the one conducting the session. I remembered being a college student and going away to the regional Music Therapy conferences, and for a few days, being away from the academic responsibilities, not yet being a Music Therapist, and listening to the stories and information of those who were doing the work. I left feeling excited to get back to school so that one day I could be doing this also too. This week, as a professional, I observed a college student working. The student was working with teens. At the beginning of the term, the Music Therapy student collected for each individual their favorite music and each week took one teen’s music and did a group intervention focused on that individual’s music. This day, the last day for sessions, the last teen to have his music played was not yet back in the classroom. In addition to this, there was a new teen in the class. April is pretty late into the school year, so this teen was not familiar with the school, the kids, or the routine. The teen rarely looked up and remained very quiet. As I watched the Music Therapy student subtly try her best to encourage this teen’s participation, I was planning in my head how to tell the student that everyone has their own time. Everything is very new for this teen. Just as I was thinking this, the teen began to very quietly sing along with the group. I watched as warm smiles broke out amongst the staff.

The other teen that caught my attention had been there each semester I had. The teen started out as the one that always had a sarcastic or heckling kind of comment for everyone and everything. The staff there supervised him closely, as his attitude and comments could be very negative and intimidating to some of the other teens. This semester, this same student acquired and began to bring his own instrument on Music Therapy days. As soon as the music began, he initiated the group participation and sang and played his heart out with the Music Therapy student conducting the session. I watched as some of the quieter, shyer students, and those students who also did their share of challenging staff and intimidating others, watched this teen play and sing his heart out with complete freedom. This encouraged others to participate more freely also. This teen softened his attitude and was fully and eagerly awaiting whatever was being presented. What truly captured me was the gentle way he also encouraged the new teen’s participation. He made the comment that he would not answer for the new teen, but he wanted this new teen to be able to answer for herself. I was remembering back to my first observance at this sight, and what a different person I saw sitting in that chair then I saw 3 semesters ago. As I once again watched this group of teens, the shy teen I was preparing to tell the Music Therapy student to allow time for, began to sing solo. This teen was certainly not a confident child, but the all-encompassing music and group attitude allowed her the freedom to participate without fear and become part of the group process. The observant and warm smiles from the staff outside the group circle encouraged and confirmed the freedom of this quietly relaxed, inclusive, and transforming process that was occurring before my eyes. This day, I was not excited to be a Music Therapist. I was grateful to be one and very proud of what it is we do and excited for the work that is yet to be revealed.

Antoinette Morrison, MT-BC

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