Researchers explore social, expressive and cultural benefits of community music therapy
Music has the power to energize, calm or evoke intense emotional responses.
It’s been said that music can be far more powerful than language as it can help individuals with disabilities overcome communication barriers. ForDr. Jane Gosine of the School of Music, that’s the kind of experience she searches for in her research.
As a result of volunteering with Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador, Dr. Gosine embarked on a three-year research project. The goal was to examine the benefits of music therapy on teens and young adults primarily with a diagnosis of cerebral palsy. She collaborated with Deborah Hawksley and Susan LeMessurier Quinn, accredited music therapists and professional associates in the School of Music.
Building a sense of community
Music therapists take an eclectic approach to developing both a musical and therapeutic relationship with their clients. They utilize therapeutic interventions such as improvisation, song writing, vocalization, movement to music, music listening and lyric analysis to promote physical, social, emotional and spiritual health.
The project examined how music therapy and collaboration with well-known local musicians, such as Kellie Walsh, Kellie Loder, Whitney Rowe, Ashelin and Séan McCann, could increase participants’ self-confidence, communication skills and sense of community.
One thing clearly evident was that participants used music as a form of communication or a form of expression. Considering some of the individuals in the group were non-verbal or experienced severe limitations to how they could move or perform with instruments, this finding was significant. The desire to participate with the group motivated and enabled participants to overcome some of their everyday challenges to perform.
The research benefited from collaboration with Dr. Leonard Lye and students from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, who built a special guitar stand to allow greater independence for group members with limited mobility. It also led to an international collaboration in the United Kingdom with music therapist Ray Travasso who works with theEast Anglia Children’s Hospices and its Treehouse Choir. The project is examining how singing together can build a sense of community and contribute to increased well-being for the choir’s participants.
Through her research, Dr. Gosine has seen how music can promote inclusion and create a sense of community and belonging—an experience that has left a profound impression on her—one she’ll carry through with her into future research projects.
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada/Vice-President’s Research Grants Program
Music Therapists Deborah Hawksley and Susan LeMessurier Quinn
Dr. Leonard Lye and students from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science
Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador
East Anglia Children’s Hospice (EACH) Treehouse Choir
This article is part of a bi-weekly collection of research profiles celebrating the contributions of Memorial researchers. Be sure to check back for future profiles.