CW: Mental Health
As the end of the school year quickly approaches, I am finding myself constantly in concert black. For many of my music school friends and I, the end of a semester is usually a very busy time full of concerts. I have been thinking a lot about one of my most recent concerts (mentioned in a previous blog) and how impactful music can be. The concert was called “People Help The People” and it was a benefit concert for a non-profit organization called The Tribe Projects. We were able to raise a lot of money and educate many audience members, as well as ourselves, about the cause. With this concert coinciding with course selections for my next year at university, I have been thinking long and hard about where I want my music to take me in my future and how I would like to continue to use it in my everyday life.
So far my favourite form of creating music has been through choir. The Nova Scotia Choral Federation has had a huge influence on my life and I honestly think that without participating in their programs, I would not only have chosen music as my career, but I would also not be the person I am today. Since I moved to Canada I have been involved in their choral opportunities and have managed to work my way through their different groups as I aged. When I was in a choir called Soundtrax, I was told by the conductor to audition for the Nova Scotia Youth Choir. This was the provincial choir for singers around my age and I really hoped to be successful in my audition. A few weeks later I found out that I had got in and was over the moon. That summer I went to a camp in Berwick (my favourite place) to rehearse with the choir. We were given a new piece to learn composed by Kim Andre Arnesen called “Even When He is Silent”. This soon became the most special choral piece for me as it was the first time I was truly captivated by the music I was making and the people I was making it with. This experience influenced me to continue pursuing choral music as more than a hobby.
Throughout junior high and into to my university days, I have been fortunate enough to be involved in Xara Choral Theatre. I think that Xara has had the biggest effect on shaping the woman I have become. This choir is an all-female ensemble ranging from 18-30 who “gives life to sung stories that are a feast or the senses and heart-felt explorations of identity, community, and culture”. I have performed in a number of shows with these beautifully courageous women ranging from sharing knowledge of stories from midwives who worked during the disastrous Halifax Explosion, to mythological shows involving the elements. Despite the variety of topics, each show focuses on humanitarian/environmental/social issues in Canada and abroad. In the fall I was honoured to perform Xara’s show “Fatty Legs” based on Margaret Pokiak-Fenton’s true story of her experiences as an indigenous girl in a residential school. This tour changed my life and really made me re-evaluate how I had been choosing to use my voice in music. Since being a part of this show, I have changed my degree to focus not solely on music and to make sure that I can use my instrument to help create change where it is needed.
March was Music Therapy month, and at Acadia there were a lot of opportunities to better understand what music therapy is. According the Canadian Association of Music Therapists, music therapy is
“a discipline in which credentialed professionals use music purposefully within therapeutic relationships to support development, health, and well-being. Music therapists use music safely and ethically to address human needs within cognitive, communicative, emotional, musical, physical, social, and spiritual domains”.
In our weekly concert series at the School of Music, the music therapy students were able to showcase what a session might look like from start to finish. They displayed different situations and how music can be used in a number of ways to target certain aspects/needs for the patient. I found this extremely interesting because for a long time I had thought that music therapy could only be used in one way.
When I was younger, I struggled a lot with my mental health and in junior high, I was hospitalized. During my stay, I had my first experience with music therapy. It was a huge jam session where most of the patients got involved by picking an instrument to play and getting to it. Though everyone participated to varying degrees, we all left the session feeling better. I have always remembered this moment as it was the first time I felt hopeful in months. Up until my first year of university, I thought that music therapy was only used to help emotionally, but I have come to realize that a lot of it is very physical. I also didn’t realize the amount of health care categories that it is used in -from people with physical and mental disabilities, to neonatal and geriatric care.
In my opinion, all music is therapy. Singing in the shower, playing in an orchestra, performing in a gig in a bar, listening to a playlist that you made for when you’re in a certain mood, and messing around with friends are all different forms of using music as an outlet for your emotions. I am so thankful that I get to take advantage of this every single day and that I have found a creative way to share my thoughts and feelings. Music is so powerful, and as the common saying goes “when words fail, music speaks”. So with that in mind, have a great week kind krafters and I hope that music helps you through your stressful exam seasons or busy work schedules.
Love Rhian xoxox