I was recently asked this question during an interview with Oregon Music News. Below is my response to that question. (You can read the whole article here: A Sit Down With Oregon Music News)
My Voice Music’s process works because we focus on writing great songs, learning music through hands-on experience, and recording and performing, rather than “healing” explicitly. The artistic process, in and of itself, is healing. It fosters, reflection, goal setting, hope, critical thinking, community and more. For youth who have been in therapy and treatment for a long time, simply having something “normal” to focus on rather than sitting in another therapy group session is therapeutic. An important byproduct of focusing on creating great music and establishing a strong community is that we get to assemble a diverse group of youth from all walks of life united by their passion for music, not their challenges.
Of course, there are many studies illustrating music’s particular therapeutic capacities. For instance, the act of singing releases endorphins into our bloodstream, which can relieve pain and reduce anxiety. Simply asking patients to share music that they like with caretakers bridges the gap between the provider and patient, creating a higher rate of success in treatment. Music as an intervention is even shown to increase particular antibodies. This is to speak nothing of the growing pile of evidence showing the impact of arts on social skills and academic performance. I will let those studies speak for themselves though as anyone can Google them. In short, music has an intrinsic therapeutic value and is culturally relevant to youth culture, so it doesn’t seem like therapy, even if that is its effect.
|Photo By Robert Delahanty|
I want them to feel they are powerful and capable. They can write songs and grow as artists to the extent they are willing to invest in the artistic process. They have the power to manifest positive change in their lives to the extent they are willing to invest in themselves. They can bless their community to the extent that they are willing to be vulnerable.
I think this is a paradigm shift for many youth, particularly those with labels such as, “poor,” “mentally ill,” “abused” and “at-risk,” but really for all youth. Adults spend a lot of time figuring out ways to control every aspect of youth life - this ultimately takes mutes young people's perceptions of their own power and impact (both positive and negative) on their wold. People, young and old alike, need to have the opportunity to make both good and bad choices and take risks and fail as they navigate the world. This is how people learn how they fit into their communities, what their strengths are, and where they may need help.
My Voice Music's program model is designed to provide the opportunity for youth from various life circumstances to join our programs and begin to take positive risks and ownership over their personal growth and creative choices. This happens with music and art and extends to our Leadership Program where older youth can attend training and become Student Leaders at our various programs.