Written by: Lauren Vukicevich
About a year ago, I interviewed two music therapists who co-founded the Arts for Living program of UCP (United Cerebral Palsy). After learning about their Music Club, where they play music with people who have developmental or intellectual disabilities, I couldn’t help but want to be a part of it.
Each Thursday, I’ve been meeting with the Music Club, getting to know folks in the program and helping out in any way that I can. I feel so lucky to have found a new way to share my biggest passion – music! As a student studying psychology and music at Cal Poly, I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity than this. Not only do I get to see the therapeutic effects of music, but I also get to learn from two amazing people whose life work is what I am working towards. Rich and Laura have been like mentors to me, taking the time to explain how things work, just because they know that I’m truly interested. Cal Poly doesn’t have any “Music Therapy” or “Psychology of Music” classes, so this experience has been an incredible learning process.
Rich and Laura could tell that I truly enjoy coming to Music Club, so they invited me to join them on Wednesday evenings with a different group: Glee Club. I wasn’t sure what to expect from singing and dancing with folks who have autism or similar conditions. Any expectations I did have went right out the window as soon as I walked into the first meeting – I saw everyone enthusiastically singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and accompanying the lyrics with big, deliberate movements.
As a music teacher, it was my first instinct to try to teach these people how to play the instruments. I thought that my role in the process would be helping to get everyone on the same steady beat, or singing the right notes. Throughout this experience, I’ve learned that it isn’t necessarily about mastering an instrument or a song; It’s more about creating an environment where people feel safe to explore and express the unique rhythms and melodies within themselves. This is an idea that I has carried over into other areas of my life, especially teaching music!
Through Arts For Living, I have been able to witness, first-hand, how powerful music can be for all types of people. I am constantly amazed by music’s ability to open people up and to create instant, and lasting, bonds. Music has brought so much joy to my life, and now all I want to do is spread that joy to everyone I meet!