Music Therapy in WS 305, by Emma Kothari

Hello readers, (BU students, Women’s Studies 305 partakers, friends),

Those of us in Shannon’s inspired WS class this semester have the privilege of taking an hour-45 twice weekly out of our otherwise boring university day to discuss music, gender, social change and how all of those things are inseparably intertwined. A few classes ago, we were able to sway from the loose schedule that we had been following of students in the class presenting about interesting artists and songs; from Rock to Broadway to Rap—at the top of class that day, we were visited by two students at the Berklee School of Music, only a few T stops away. Our two new friends, Jasmine and Hailey are a part of the unique, specialized group at Berklee that make up the Music Therapy program. The major is small, in comparison to Berklee’s thousands of musicians and vocalists and music-business majors; however, as Jasmine and Hailey shared with us—they are doing some pretty wonderful things. Each semester, the Music Therapy students are assigned to a certain organization in which they regularly visit and work with—providing therapeutic healing though music for all who need it. Hailey shared with us that she had worked a lot with children with disabilities in the past which is what brought her to the decision to pursue this as a career—she told us that the way she could positively affect children with disabilities through music, the way she witnessed these children grow, is what set her aside from studying general Music Ed because she would not be able to have the same affect on kids that are often misunderstood and left behind in the educational world. She generously shared with us a very moving story about a young boy whose parents didn’t believe that music could really help him overcome his disability until after only one session of music therapy when his movement and speech reached a new level, and with help from those teaching him, the piano was moved to be below his feet and his wheelchair…and he began to play with his feet: making music and exuding joy. It became so clear to me in that moment, with this story, how important the work of people like Hailey and Jasmine is…especially for those that are given less care and attention, artistically.

Some of the projects that the two have done in their time at Berklee so far included being assigned to schools, hospitals and elderly day care facilities, and their current assignment was at Rosie’s Place, Boston’s leading homeless shelter for Women. Like a few gals in our class did, Hailey and Jasmine have been visiting one of the English classes (for those whose first language is something other) that goes on at Rosie’s Place, and they have been spending time with the women there—talking to them, getting to know them and their goals which led to the creation of a song that was crafted using only the words of the students at Rosie’s Place. Over the course of a few weeks, the girls gathered information from the Rosie’s Place ladies and wrote a song and came back in to teach them the tune, with the lyrics that were born from these women’s minds and dreams. It was moving to hear about these women’s goals that turned into a song that they later sang as a collective group, taking ownership over their powerful words and making music together—of course, expanding on their English skills all the while. All semester we have been going back to questions of what makes music effective? Who is the audience? How have we gotten to where we are in our current music world? Suddenly, all of these questions simultaneously became so clear and also faded away somehow as though the answers were much more simple than I would have imagined before…Jasmine and Hailey reminded ME that music is everywhere and can be made by ANYONE. Music is born from our passions and desires and feelings about who we are and the world we are interacting with—our words and our physical and musical expression. Although the I may be troubled with learning a hard piece of sheet music at times or the politics of Beyonce’s “Formation” are more complex than many of us can perceive, we can always take a step back and remember how beautifully simple and magical music can be and that we all have the power within us to make it. And I thank people like Hailey and Jasmine who will spend their lives ensuring that as many people as they can impact, have the potential to use their own creativity, love and unique music to heal themselves.

Keep on jamming,

Emma K

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