Feel-good music

From rock to world beat, pop to blues, music has the power to do much more than cause the toe to tap. It can inspire, transport, educate, entertain — and in the right hands, it can even bring about healing.

For Concordia University’s Sandra Curtis, a professor in the Department of Creative Arts Therapies, music is akin to medicine. She uses music as the tool with which to enter into a deep psychological dialogue with individuals ranging from abused children to palliative care patients; female survivors of domestic violence to individuals struggling with workplace woes. No matter the audience, music has the power delve deeper than words by speaking to patients on the fundamental level of rhythm and sound.

Sandra Curtis is a professor in Concordia’s Department of Creative Arts Therapies

Although it has yet to fully reach a mainstream clientele, music therapy is something Curtis has been involved with for over three decades. Having practiced in locations as diverse as Cleveland and Georgia, and having taken inspiration from preschoolers and Raging Grannies alike, she recounts her own journey as a music therapist in the enlightening article, “Music therapy and social justice: a personal journey,” recently published in The Arts in Psychotherapy.

By tracing her own evolution as a professional practitioner of music therapy, Curtis looks at music as a rallying cry that unites individuals seeking social justice. Within this context, she goes deeper into the practice to examine feminist music therapy. Explains Curtis, “this type of therapy often presents work with an explicit focus on social justice for women, children and other marginalized people but it can also expand to address such global issues as war and the environment with a feminist understanding of their impact on marginalized people worldwide.”

Curtis is now sharing her experiences as a music therapist with a broader audience that includes patients, colleagues and the general public through the upcoming conference, Gender, Health & Creative Arts Therapies. Held at Concordia University May 5-6, 2012, the conference is the first of its kind to explore issues of gender in health, in such creative arts therapies disciplines as music therapy, art therapy, dance/movement therapy and drama therapy.

Participants will explore such important themes in practice, theory, research and pedagogy as: gender, feminism/womanism, multicultural and liberation psychologies, social justice, and violence against women. Rich artistic and music opportunities will also abound in the form of a traditional Mohawk blessing ceremony, a performance of traditional Chinese music, and a rousing closing ceremony by Peruvian singer-songwriter Sola and her band, los Lolas.

Curtis herself can’t wait for the conference to begin. “I eagerly anticipate dialoguing with others who are working in the trenches, outside of the box and in the margins,” she enthuses, noting also that she “hope[s] members of the local community will join us in this dialogue and help take music therapy even farther.”

The conference will overlap with that of the Canadian Association for Music Therapy, the yearly gathering that unites practitioners while educating communities about the benefits of music therapy, which will be held at Concordia May 3-5. Both conferences are open to members of the general public, though registration is required.

Republished with permission from Concordia University.

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