Have you ever gotten a “Backstage Pass” to get closer to a favorite musician, theatrical performer, or sports icon? Something you don’t forget easily right? It can leave an impression.
My first backstage-meets-expertise experience was in high school. It was our band’s concert featuring at the time, a world- wide renowned trumpet virtuoso. Lucky for me, as a percussion player, I did not have to play in the selection immediately prior to his walking out on stage, so I happen to be backstage at the time. Before I knew it, our guest was standing next to me near the stage opening, waiting to be introduced. I looked up at him, paused, and then asked, “Are you nervous”? “Nervous”? he replied with a smile,” Why should I be nervous?” “We’ve never had more people in this auditorium before…its standing room only!” I said. “No…I’m not nervous. I’m anxious…anxious to share with everybody what it is that I have that they came to hear.”
That night, trumpeter Rafael Mendez taught me something that would serve me well as a performing musician in future years. I remembered it well, when the pressure would be on because there were “VIPs” in my audiences. It’s about sharing what you have for the good of others.
Through the years I’ve had the privilege of meeting and personally thanking some very well known artists, songwriters, and actors for the inspiration I gained from their sharing. Each time, it was a thrill to always remember.
Now, it’s my turn to share. And before I do, I invite you “backstage” as I prepare to share the gifts of music as it contributes to life changing experiences. I would like you to be my guest, as I take you backstage where music plays a key role in creating an experience that is transformative in nature. Yet, there are no stage lights, no applause from sold out venues, and the “main character” could easily be a Down syndrome or Autistic child, a severely depressed adult, a senior experiencing dementia or someone of any age experiencing a host of other conditions and issues that occur when “life happens”.
Welcome to Music Therapy…backstage. It’s a place I have been time and time again since first becoming a nationally credentialed music therapist almost 50 years ago. It’s a place I can fully appreciate from what I have learned from others while witnessing their expertise in action…up close.
Before you got here, I did my “homework”. I’ve made in-depth studies about my guest of honor, yet rely on my conferences, documenting observations from family or caregivers as my priority. Each situation is personally unique. Yet one question remains the same for each one as I ask family, caregivers or administrators…”What do you want to see happen?”
As that question is answered, a strategy starts to form in my mind. It’s a strategy that determines what will happen in the grand scheme of things. It determines the musical “tools” to be used. Tools of transformation. Musical processes that may be used to create new pathways in the brain when there is a response to a rhythm, perhaps the joy of self esteem when success is experienced while playing an instrument. It may be the transformation experienced from moving to music, as long-repressed emotions are expressed, “easing the weight” from a severe depression. Song lyric analysis may be just the tool to help to identify feelings, or activating the right combination of scientific theories enabling long delayed speech for the very first time.
The transformation process may start even before the music begins. It may be evidenced in the tones of voices, facial expressions, perhaps the encouraging signs of a high five shared as a first sign of a therapeutic relationship built on acceptance, loving care, trust and a belief in what’s possible.
In each session, the strategy plays out motivated…guided… by a sequence of questions. Questions as “What is it exactly that I can I do that will open the next door? To create an experience that will be truly felt… providing reinforcement for motivating more changes towards improvement? To create that experience that leaves new confidence, happy smiles of success, a healing “can do” attitude?”
In time, transformations happen. And when they do, it makes the countless hours of continuing education, those years of university accredited course work, and a lifetime of being a musician all worth it. Whoever the client may be, I am truly thankful for them, their families, and their caregivers. As life plays on, I continue to be thankful to them for the awe and inspiration I receive while serving them. Most of all, I thank God for allowing me to share two wonderous gifts… music and people who have inspired and enabled me, to make music “happen”… for good.
Thanks also, to you for taking time to visit. Your exit is stage left!