The Voice Within

September 18, 2012

Last summer, I decided I was going to take a huge risk and audition for NBC’s “The Voice.”  Let me give you a hint about what happened:

I got super super nervous and completely butchered “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

My first problem was choosing that song to begin with, and if I am ever compelled to put myself through that kind of torture auditioning again, I will choose something fun and impressive, not slow and moving.  But I digress…

I have been watching that show since the very first episode.  I love it.  It is the only performance-competition show I have ever watched, and the banter between the coaches makes me laugh at the end of long days. I have been catching up on my DVRed episodes this week, and just watched tonight’s episode, during which I had a moment of “YES!” and felt I needed to share.

There is a teenager on the show named Jocelyn whose story is this: She was born prematurely, which caused a latent neurological disorder preventing her from keeping up with her peers developmentally.  Her parents took her to a specialist because at the age of four, she hadn’t spoken at an age appropriate level, so he…GUESS WHAT HE DID?  He prescribed music!  Granted, he didn’t prescribe a music therapist, BUT WHO CARES!?!?  I love that her story was just on national television, and that her neurologist knew his or her stuff. The girl has a fantastic voice (she is 17) and seems completely well adjusted and developed.  Go Music!

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There is a woman I work with at one of the nursing facilities I contract with, D, who I wrote about in this post.  She is in her seventies and a few years ago, had a major stroke which left her with speech impairments  and the inability to use the right side of her body.  She comes to my music groups every other week and sings like a bird.  She is able to process information, has a great sense of humor, and when she speaks (however incoherently), you can just tell that she knows exactly what she wants to say, and I think she believes she’s saying it so I can understand.  This is obviously all very subjective and just my perspective, but I would be surprised if it isn’t true.  When she sings, though (this is an outcome I know most of us are very familiar with) she sings the words “as clear as a bell” (as the activities director says), and a few times, in a very Gabrielle Gifford kind-of-way, she has spoken words clearly in the context of music, to the delight of us all.

One day, I asked her to make a choice between two songs: I Left My Heart in San Francisco (one of her faves) and Side by Side.  She had never successfully chosen a song before, since her verbal skills are so compromised, but I always try.  That day she said something to the effect of, “I would like to sing… I Left…San Francisco.”  Clear as a bell.  It made my day.  Before then, and since, she has also sung AND spoken “Hello” as we’re greeting each other in the group (and with very little prompting). The activities director’s face takes on a emotional quality every time this happens – I know that there are few times that D’s real speaking voice has been heard, but it’s there, and I feel so lucky to be a part of those moments.

Music is so powerful, and those moments of amazement are what keep me doing this work day after day.  I hope that no matter how emotionally draining being a music therapist can be, we all take some time once or twice a week to be amazed at what we are able to bring out of people and accomplish using an art that we love.

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