By Léo Azambuja
One good thing about music is, when it hits you, you feel no pain. I wish those were my words, but I didn’t say that. Those were Bob Marley’s words, which he sang to a harmonious reggae beat, of course.
Bob was a modern-day prophet. He spoke the truth, always straight to the point and with simple words. Even when he wasn’t singing, his voice was captivating. If he hadn’t died at only 36 years old in May 1981, he would’ve celebrated his 74th birthday Feb. 6.
I thought about the lyrics of Bob’s song, Trenchtown Rock, after chatting with violinist Kimberly Hope about her passion to heal people with music. She told me her first career choice was music therapy. After trying it out in college, she changed her major for a few reasons. She continues to believe music heals, but she does the healing while performing with her violin on stage.
I think healing by music is one of those things we are born knowing, but at the same time we are unaware of it. I mean, how many times we were feeling blue and played some tunes to uplift our spirits? I’ve done that often, but it was always an automatic thing; I never thought I was medicating myself. Same with working out; I usually listen to upbeat songs to push me during workout. But I didn’t read a book about it; I just did it.
Now think of the possibilities coming from someone trained professionally to heal with music. But first, we must know what is music therapy.
“Music therapy is the specialized use of music by a credentialed professional who develops individualized treatment and supportive interventions for people of all ages and ability levels to address their social, communication, emotional, physical, cognitive, sensory, and spiritual needs,” according to the Certification Board for Music Therapists.
The American Music Therapy Association defines music therapy as “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.”
The music therapist provides a treatment including creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music, according to AMTA. Through music in the therapeutic context, people’s abilities are strengthened and transferred to other areas of their lives. Music therapy also provides avenues for communication that can be helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves in words.
Music therapy is effective in areas such as overall physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement, increasing motivation to become engaged in the treatment, providing emotional support and an outlet for expression of feelings, according to AMTA.
Fascinating stuff. And to think I’ve been treating myself musically all these years without knowing.
In my college years, I was obsessed with German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche, who lived more than a century ago. I liked that he was a man ahead of his time, a radical critic of religion, and the political and the social status quo of his time. But what I really loved about Nietzche was his deep connection to art and music. One of my favorite quotes from him is, “Without music, life would be a mistake.”
I wouldn’t go as far as saying life would be a mistake, but I would agree that it would not be as exciting. Circling back to music therapy, the excitement, the connection to music is real. It’s not just emotional; it really touches the physical level. As an example, at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Lawa‘i, there is a unique, long and narrow water fountain flanked on both ends by mermaid sculptures. The water trickles down the fountain’s many chambers at a pace slightly slower than our heartbeats. If we stand by it long enough — and it doesn’t take long — our hearts slow down their beats to mimic the fountain’s rhythm.
I believe if we pay more attention to music, we can bring more positivity to our lives and to the lives of everyone around us.
So, just like Bob sang, “Hit me with music.”