Music therapy draws comfort, solidarity

Athena Duran

New club set to launch

As the pitter patter of rain tapped gently against the windows of Crawford Hall, strums of guitars filled the hallway.

Sitting across from two of her students, Dr. Carlene J. Brown laughed. “You want to know what music therapy means to me?” she asked.

“He was playing in the other room and I went up to him and said ‘oh my gosh I love you, I need you here in front of my office,’ Isn’t it just lovely?”

Seniors Ruth Rodriguez and Samantha Brewer smiled as they too commented on the guitarist.

Brown is an associate professor of music and director of the music therapy program here at Seattle Pacific University, the only music therapy program in Washington state.

Rodriguez and Brewer are both music therapy majors and co-founders of the new Music Therapy Club set to launch on campus come February.

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Samantha Brewer, co-founder of SPU’s Music Therapy program along with Ruth Rodriguez, recalls the power that music can have through an experience with a patient that had Alzheimer’s. Saya Meza | The Falcon

Music therapy is the clinical use of music to reach non-musical objectives. For Rodriguez this means having the ability to approach a child who may be lacking social skills or emotional capacity and utilize musical interventions to set goals.

“[One technique used], if we want to increase eye contact, is taking tone chime and passing it back and forth while maintaining eye contact. It focuses on that relationship and the exchange can translate into language,” Rodriguez said.

Just under a year ago in the winter of 2017, Rodriguez and Brewer noticed the social tensions present on campus following the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

They both felt they had built up the skills as music therapy majors to help alleviate some of the tension on campus. “If we can help, how could we not do anything?” Rodriguez asked.

From this conversation onward, the pair became determined to start a music therapy club on campus.

Senior Adde Breier plans to join the club once meetings begin. She is excited to bring awareness of music therapy and its effectiveness on people who likely know music therapy exists, but who don’t really know what it is in practice.

Breier loves music because it moves her entire being, saying she feels the healthiest and happiest when it is incorporated into her life routine.

“Music therapy, to me, is a safe place where biases are left behind and you’re secure. As a student music therapist,” Breier said, “It’s my way of giving back — getting to show deep compassion, provide aid and bring clarity.”

Brewer first fell in love with music as a child while watching an animated short film, Peter and the Wolf. “The bird is the flute and I thought that was the coolest thing ever.

The different characters you could bring to life with music fascinated me. I have a love of creating, it’s my emotional outlet,” she said.

Flash-forward to Brewer’s senior year of high school, where she watched a video in which music therapists worked alongside those with Alzheimer’s. She recalls seeing how music therapy brought life to a client who was non-verbal and sitting there thinking, “This is powerful.”

Brewer believes in the empowering nature of music therapy and is eager to share her passion for music in a more campus-centered setting.

“With music therapy you have the opportunity to look past the surface, you’re looking at the whole person. It gives everyone a chance,” Brewer said.

As the club moves into its beginning stages in February, the mission is to demonstrate the possible avenues of implementing music in the lives of students with intentionality.

“We’ve all started to realize that advocacy for our own field is needed,” Rodriguez said. “We aim to bring awareness to music therapy. We want to bring in guest speakers.”
Brown emphasizes the need for a club that is open to all students, not just music therapy majors.

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Ruth Rodriguez believes that, “Advocacy for our own field is needed. We aim to bring awareness to music therapy.” Saya Meza | The Falcon

“People want to gather, to continue to be in community with each other, to continue to advocate and reach out with music,” Brown said.

When she started the program in August of 2009, she found that SPU students understood what it meant to use the gift of music in ways other than performance. As the faculty advisor for the club, she seeks to “motivate, inspire and keep students on track.”

Brown hopes the benefit of a club that is inclusive to all students is that those from other disciplines can understand how a music therapist can work with them and to engage on that level.

“Music is our medium to connect to people and the field of music therapy is a collaborative program,” Brown said. “With the SPU students there is something about serving others.”

Brewer, Rodriguez and Brown plan on hosting a jam session for the first meeting of the club.

“When you play with other people, it’s relaxing,” Rodriguez said as she reflected on the stressful lives of college students. “Come play it out.”

The first official Music Therapy Club meeting will be held on Thursday, Feb. 1, at 7:30 p.m. in Crawford 103.