In recent years, the United States military has begun to realize that ailments such as post-traumatic stress disorder are pressing concerns. According to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the issue is thought to occur in as many as 30% of veterans who served in Vietnam, and between 11 to 20% of people who recently served in the Iraq operations. However, some believe that music offers a therapeutic way to deal with the effects of traumatic experiences.
Music as an Outlet
A husband and wife who are both musicians have decided to use their musical skills as a way to enable soldiers to ease back into civilian life. Through a program called Voices Of Valor, soldiers can get assistance with composing a song that expresses their feelings, and don’t even have to have any prior musical expertise to participate. While working with a team made up of a psychologist and musicians, soldiers get help through every part of the song’s creation process, and conclude with a CD release party when the project is finished.
Giving People a Voice
In schools that cater to special needs children, music is often used to break through communication barriers, or reach out to those who are too shy or traumatized to share what they’re feeling through words. Some advocate that these programs could be a worthwhile alternative for people who are usually not open to other types of therapy, such as talking with a psychologist.
Understandably, people who may be feeling like societal outcasts due to a mental or emotional impairment, or are caught in the struggles of making a transition from a tour of duty might not immediately want to speak up about what they’re going through. However, when people gather together to either create a musical project, or enjoy a concert, they might feel more open about what they’ve endured, and find that it’s sometimes easier to find comfort through others who are in similar positions.
When done correctly, musical events can create a supportive and nonjudgmental environment where people are treated equally, whether they choose to speak up, or remain silent.
Healing Through Interactions
A pilot program at New Jersey’s Montclair State University has an initiative called Music for All Seasons. Although there are many similarities between it and the previous efforts mentioned, the focus is to stimulate interactions between people of different backgrounds. Programs take place in environments that are commonly characterized by pain, and loneliness, like children’s hospitals or nursing homes.
Since 1991, Music For All Seasons has hosted concerts in prisons, shelters and rehabilitation centers, among others. Beyond its home state of New Jersey, the program has made an impact in places as far away as California. The musical performances give people a unique chance to interact with musicians, as well as fellow audience members. Soon, they may start to feel the healing power of interacting with others via shared experiences.
Clearly, teaching others about music doesn’t always have to occur in a classroom setting. Although it can, there are a rising number of efforts that focus on people who are struggling, and give them ways use music to progress towards a brighter future. On its face, music seems simple. However, many believe it has the ability to cross boundaries and facilitate better communication.
Stacie Everett writes for education blogs nationwide. If you enjoy music and believe in it as a tool to help people, you may enjoy a career in music education. Several schools offer degrees in music education including University of Florida and New York University.