Just to See Them Smile
There are many perks of being a music therapist. But the greatest one that I have seen in my career is the smiles that music therapy produces. Freeway Music Therapy goes once a week to a group home that serves teenagers and young adults with severe developmental or physical disabilities. Of course our job is to use music to meet the needs of each of the students but in the middle of that there are beautiful moments that are bigger than any goal.
One of those beautiful moments happened very recently when a student was improvising on the xylophone. That intervention is one that can produce intense vulnerability. Most of us don’t necessarily like to improvise because it feels like at any moment we could make a mistake and embarrass ourselves. The purpose of xylophone improvisation is to push the boundaries and create a safe space in the group. So on this day, as a student timidly played the xylophone he would raise his head up to look for approval and each time he was met with a smile.
The smile of a music therapist says “You’re doing great!”, “Keep going!’ or “That sounds terrific!”. A smile means more. It’s purpose is to create an interaction between a music therapist and client that is filled with a mutual trust and love.
So when he smiled back at me with the same intensity and let out a quick laugh it spoke volumes. His smile meant total acceptance and joy. And I mean, my world just stopped. There is nothing like that reaction to burst your confidence in what you’re doing and the impact you’re making.