In the last few days of summer, I’ve been playing a lot of Smash Bros. Like, a lot. Like, a lot a lot.
Now that the school year has begun, I expect that amount to significantly decrease (and then Borderlands 3 comes out Friday…)
Out of your many choices of playable characters, only one, Wii Fit Trainer, has the ability to heal herself during battle. (I mean, technically Wario can as well, but he needs to eat the opponent to do it)
This got me thinking about a cappella. (BTW, if you’re reading this blog for the first time, I’m terrible at segues)
Lately, I’ve noticed a spike in articles about music therapy. Music therapy has never been something that I took much of an interest in. I mean, the ability to heal yourself through music sounds more like “crystal gems and incense” than “real legitimate medicine.” And this, dear reader, is one of the reasons I don’t use Wii Fit Trainer. To heal yourself in battle is complicated and takes time; and as any Smash Bros. player knows, time is something you absolutely do not have.
Okay, it’s a weird link between Smash Bros. and music. But come on! I haven’t done this in two years. I’m a little rusty.
ANYWAY, let’s get back on topic. Music therapy. What is it and why should we care?
Well, after reading several articles on the topic and learning more information than I already had (which was none), I have now come to understand the purpose of music therapy. My hope is that if you’re someone who feels like I once did, I can change your mind.
No, music therapy is not a magical spell where singing will heal your broken arm. I thought at first that music therapy shared something in common with physical therapy—like if you had damaged your voice and specific coaching could help repair it. True, that is a component of music therapy, but there’s more to it than that. Here is a definition from the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA):
“Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.”
In “Music Therapy for Dummies” terms, that means these trained professionals have evidence to suggest that music can heal you physically, mentally, and emotionally.
So how does it work? Well, like Wii Fit Trainer, it doesn’t mean healing yourself, although music can certainly fix emotional and mental states. And also like Wii Fit Trainer, you can’t shoot giant sun spheres out of your stomach.
Music therapists (according to AMTA) “assess emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities, and cognitive skills through musical responses…”
Once I began reading these definitions, I realized that, without even knowing it, I had designed music therapy lessons while teaching high school. In one public school, I had a self-contained special needs class. I used my elementary training to design lessons that helped these students work on their issues as designated by their IEPs. That, apparently, was considered music therapy.
So, again, as an a cappella nerd, why should you care? I argue that several facets of a cappella benefit your well-being:
-Going to a cappella rehearsal can simply make you feel good, which alleviates stress. Consequentially, going to rehearsal where everyone in your group is fighting or arguing can create stress.
-Choreography can enhance a person’s motor skills and physical movement. Dancing helps patients feel a deep connection between their minds and bodies. It helps them relax and reduces stress. They feel more comfortable with who they uniquely are.
-Singing and music in general is a “mega-vitamin for the brain” (Wendy Magee, M.D. at London’s Institute of Neuropalliative Rehabilitation)
-Singing can help control chronic pain and repair muscles.
-Writing music allows you to deal with your emotions constructively. It gives you a chance to do mental work that’s not only fun and enjoyable but also improves your mental capabilities. (https://www.regain.us/advice/therapist/music-therapy-techniques-exercises-and-outcomes/)
-A cappella singers drink more water during rehearsals, which hydrates the body. As Brody McDonald says in his book A cappella Pop:“Pee white, sing right.”
The benefits of music therapy are many and varied, but it is important to understand that therapy takes time. None of these outcomes is guaranteed right away. But evidence suggests that the outcomes of music therapy are similar to the arguments made to keep music in schools, so now you have a defense for your music department.
However you use the benefits of music therapy, believe in them and don’t dismiss them, much like I will dismiss Wii Fit Trainer as I play Smash tonight.