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Louise Campbell: Participatory Creative Music in Nature with Adults with Disabilities

Explore the con­nec­tion between music and nature through Louise Camp­bel­l’s work with The C.A.R.E. Cen­tre in her project Tak­ing it Out­side. 


Louise Camp­bell is a musi­cian and cul­tur­al medi­a­tor in Mon­tre­al, who cre­at­ed the work­shop Tak­ing it Out­side: Mak­ing Music & Art Inspired by Nature.  In 2023, Louise cre­at­ed a ver­sion of this par­tic­i­pa­to­ry work­shop for her sound instal­la­tion at Parc Frédéric-Back fea­tur­ing music from her album Sources: Music inspired by the St. Lawrence Riv­er. Louise picked Parc Frédéric-Back in part because it is a ful­ly acces­si­ble urban park. 


Intro­duc­ing clients of The C.A.R.E. Centre

While Louise worked with many dif­fer­ent par­tic­i­pants and groups, the doc­u­men­tary shows Louise work­ing with clients of The C.A.R.E. Cen­tre, a recre­ation­al and edu­ca­tion­al day pro­gram that enhances the lives, func­tion­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion of adults with severe phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties. Olivia Ques­nel, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of The C.A.R.E. Cen­tre, describes how C.A.R.E. clients, all over the age of 21, have strong con­nec­tions with music, and use music to be expres­sive and creative. 


Fea­tured activities

Louise pro­vides mul­ti­ple ways of facil­i­tat­ing to include par­tic­i­pa­tion from ver­bal and non-ver­bal par­tic­i­pants. In the work­shop, Louise asks par­tic­i­pants to lis­ten to the music in the park, and imag­ine or draw a bird as they lis­ten to the music. She invites par­tic­i­pants to imag­ine where the bird lives. Next, Louise hands out bright­ly coloured scarfs and invites par­tic­i­pants to move like their birds, with options for par­tic­i­pants to share their move­ments with each other.


Com­pe­ten­cies need­ed to do this work

Empa­thy: Lis­ten­ing to par­tic­i­pants and what they want, then reflect­ing that lis­ten­ing by mak­ing changes as a facil­i­ta­tor, rather than mak­ing par­tic­i­pants change. 


Desire to con­nect with peo­ple: Being curi­ous about peo­ple and seek­ing to under­stand how they expe­ri­ence the world, which ensures facil­i­ta­tion is more responsive.

Skilled musi­cian­ship:
A high lev­el of musi­cal skill is required to be able to work with par­tic­i­pant inter­ests and abil­i­ties with­in par­tic­i­pa­to­ry cre­ative music. 


Engag­ing in shared cre­ativ­i­ty: Louise describes excite­ment in cre­at­ing music with oth­ers, and Olivia describes the impor­tance of cre­ative explo­ration for participants.


Advice for Com­mu­ni­ty-Engaged Musicians

The work­shop is suc­cess­ful if peo­ple are hav­ing fun. If peo­ple aren’t hav­ing fun, then adapt the activ­i­ties, chang­ing or tweak­ing so that par­tic­i­pants stay engaged and have a good time.


Musi­cians can pick up the skills they need as they go along, but they need the heart and desire to do this work to be able to do it well. The desire to con­nect is most important. 


Medi­a­tion is impor­tant in that it is a rela­tion­ship. Mak­ing music is about exchang­ing some­thing of each oth­er to cre­ate together.


View sec­tions of the documentary:

0:00   Intro­duc­ing Louise Camp­bell 

01:48 Intro­duc­ing clients of The C.A.R.E. Cen­tre 

03:39 Fea­tured activ­i­ties 

06:35 Com­pe­ten­cies need­ed to do this work

08:44 What does suc­cess look like? 

09:25 Advice for com­mu­ni­ty-engaged musicians

Music From Hope: Empowering Refugee Youth through Creative Music-Making

Explore the project Music From Hope, in which Nour Kaadan and Tarek Ghriri lead cre­ative music work­shops for refugee youth ages 5 – 25 who have recent­ly arrived in Cana­da and are stay­ing in tem­po­rary hous­ing com­mu­ni­ties in Toronto. 


About musi­cians Nour Kaadan and Tarek Ghriri

Nour Kaadan and Tarek Ghriri, the founders of Music from Hope, start­ed offer­ing work­shops for refugee youth  in Beirut, Lebanon, and are now based in Toron­to. The musi­cians lead music work­shops, and use sound, song­writ­ing, body per­cus­sion, and non­vi­o­lent com­mu­ni­ca­tion to encour­age inter­ac­tion between par­tic­i­pants. No back­ground in music is nec­es­sary.  The goal of Music From Hope is for par­tic­i­pants to have a safe place to feel and express their ideas through music. 


Design of Music From Hope workshops

Refugee fam­i­lies don’t tend to stay in tem­po­rary hous­ing for more than one month after arriv­ing in Cana­da, so the youth  may arrive or leave the pro­gram sud­den­ly. Nour and Tarek design a set of 3 to 4 work­shops so that par­tic­i­pants can join at any point, with youth who have attend­ed more ses­sions lead­ing the new­er par­tic­i­pants. Each work­shop is struc­tured in three parts: warmup, body of main activ­i­ties, and clos­ing activities. 


Fea­tured activities

Warm-up: Tarek leads the warm-up that uses a mir­ror­ing exer­cise to match the ener­gy of the kids (shy or ener­getic). Tarek also runs around with high ener­gy to help kids focus on him and lose their shyness.


Rec­og­nize music notes: use music note cards to learn dif­fer­ent rhythms and musi­cal pat­terns. The facil­i­ta­tors then get par­tic­i­pants to use the cards to lead each other.


Par­tic­i­pant shar­ing: Tarek and Nour invite par­tic­i­pants to share a song or activ­i­ty. Some­times this is then used in the next workshop.


Pass the shak­er: Hit the drum on the beat for kids to pass the shak­er in rhythm, and when the shak­er stops, that par­tic­i­pant is the leader of the exercise.


Com­pe­ten­cies need­ed to do this work 

Impro­vi­sa­tion skills: to be able to impro­vise musi­cal­ly, and also to work through unex­pect­ed ideas or reac­tions to work­shop activ­i­ties is impor­tant. The work­shop can change sig­nif­i­cant­ly in fol­low­ing par­tic­i­pants. Being adap­tive keeps the work­shops fun and excit­ing and engages participants. 


Respon­sive and adap­tive: Pay­ing atten­tion to the par­tic­i­pants, meet­ing their ener­gy, and respond­ing accord­ing­ly to make sure every­one feels includ­ed and the par­tic­i­pant needs are met.


Knowl­edge of immigration/refugee expe­ri­ence: Nour and Tarek have expe­ri­enced glob­al dis­place­ment, which helps in build­ing con­nec­tions with new­com­er youth. Yet both facil­i­ta­tors are care­ful not to assume they know any participant’s experience.


What does suc­cess look like?

One out­come for the work­shops is to build respect among par­tic­i­pants through the musi­cal games. The kids are very cre­ative, so suc­cess is see­ing the kids over the set of work­shops becom­ing com­fort­able to lead the ses­sions, even telling the facil­i­ta­tors to step aside so they can lead their idea.


View sec­tions of the documentary: 

0:00 Artist intro­duc­tion 

0:53 Project overview 

5:36 Fea­tured activ­i­ties  

6:43 Com­pe­ten­cies

Allison Girvan: Music is the Vehicle for Community Building

Explore choirs as a vehi­cle for com­mu­ni­ty build­ing with Alli­son Gir­van, a con­duc­tor who uses glob­al song to cre­ate con­nec­tions and build rela­tion­ships across cul­tur­al differences.

Alli­son is a choral con­duc­tor and com­mu­ni­ty music prac­ti­tion­er in Nel­son, British Colum­bia. She has orga­nized 5 com­mu­ni­ty choirs of a vari­ety of ages. The doc­u­men­tary features:

Fire­works Com­mu­ni­ty Choir, open to any and all singers for one annu­al event, open to as many peo­ple who would like to come and sing togeth­er in the com­mu­ni­ty. In 2023, the choir had 250 par­tic­i­pants, which was the first time this spe­cial choir hap­pened since the pandemic. 

Lalin Vocal Ensem­ble, an audi­tioned choir of young adults that grew out of the youth choir pro­gram, as there were singers in the teen group want­i­ng to con­tin­ue , and Alli­son iden­ti­fied oppor­tu­ni­ties for lead­er­ship and men­tor­ship devel­op­ment, as well as dig­ging into more chal­leng­ing repertoire. 

Phi­los­o­phy under­pin­ning choral work

To Alli­son, it is a mis­per­cep­tion that a focus on com­mu­ni­ty-build­ing in choirs will com­pro­mise musi­cal excel­lence. By nur­tur­ing trust, and inte­grat­ing inten­tion­al social inter­ac­tions such as eat­ing togeth­er or going on a trip togeth­er, the music changes in a pro­found way.

As some­one with mixed her­itage, Alli­son finds glob­al music pro­vides a lens to look at ways in which peo­ple share the human expe­ri­ence. Approach­ing reper­toire is a way into anoth­er culture’s music based on integri­ty: how do these words res­onate for each singer? What do the words mean? Singing diverse reper­toire helps singers con­nect across cul­tur­al differences.

Com­pe­ten­cies to do this work well

Cul­tur­al com­pe­ten­cy:  In choos­ing diverse reper­toire, Alli­son ensures that music is appro­pri­ate to be sung. Some cul­tures, espe­cial­ly Indige­nous soci­eties, do not share songs out­side of par­tic­u­lar con­texts or peo­ple, unless a song is gift­ed. Addi­tion­al­ly, some groups who have a his­to­ry of oppres­sion may be reclaim­ing their own music, so Alli­son is care­ful to build rela­tion­ships to nav­i­gate these choic­es. This involves talk­ing to many peo­ple of those cul­tures, and know­ing how to own up to a mis­take if it is made. 

Empa­thy and space for emo­tions: If a rehearsal goes by with­out the choir laugh­ing, some­thing is miss­ing. Peo­ple may express them­selves joy­ful­ly one day, or more sor­row­ful­ly the next. Trust that what­ev­er is pre­sent­ed is what needs to hap­pen. Mutu­al trust allows grace to be giv­en to the facil­i­ta­tor as well since there is a mutu­al under­stand­ing and for­give­ness that has been cultivated. 

Embod­i­ment of group val­ues:
Lead­ing by exam­ple and ignit­ing joy, kind­ness, con­fi­dence and com­pas­sion all help the group to reach those goals faster col­lec­tive­ly by see­ing an exam­ple of it. 

Con­duct­ing is rela­tion­al: rather than the con­duc­tor “mak­ing” the music, Alli­son sees con­duct­ing as in elec­tric­i­ty, that ener­gy pass­es through the con­duc­tor to singers. Con­duct­ing is rela­tion­al, tak­ing the ener­gy and reflect­ing it to the group and the audience. 

Musi­cal skills respon­sive to the par­tic­i­pants: singers describe Allison’s musi­cal abil­i­ty in know­ing what to keep and what to let go of. Alli­son is trained as a singer and con­duc­tor, but she is com­pelled to use that train­ing to build community.

View sec­tions of the documentary:

00:00 Intro­duc­ing Alli­son and her choral work 

01:07 Fire­works Com­mu­ni­ty Choir 

02:30 Lalin Vocal Ensem­ble 

03:44 Phi­los­o­phy of choral singing

07:48 Competencies

Vancouver Adapted Music Society: Bridging Gaps and Reimagining What’s Possible

Learn about the Van­cou­ver Adapt­ed Music Soci­ety (VAMS), Canada’s only ful­ly acces­si­ble record­ing stu­dio serv­ing the metro Van­cou­ver area. VAMS is a pro­gram of the Dis­abil­i­ty Foun­da­tion

About VAMS
VAMS offers music lessons, record­ing ses­sions, and live per­for­mance oppor­tu­ni­ties for dis­abled musi­cians in the metro Van­cou­ver area. VAMS was formed in 1988 by Sam Sul­li­van and Dave Syming­ton, two musi­cians who were involved in life-alter­ing acci­dents that changed the way they could play music. No two peo­ple have the same musi­cal jour­ney, so the focus of VAMS is to sup­port each unique musi­cian to achieve their musi­cal goals.

Bry­den Veinot is the pro­gram coor­di­na­tor of the VAMS, and togeth­er with pro­gram assis­tant Noah Stolte, they sup­port musi­cians with dis­abil­i­ties achieve their artis­tic goals. Graeme Wyman, pro­gram man­ag­er at the Dis­abil­i­ty Foun­da­tion, man­ages VAMS as well as oth­er programs. 

Fea­tured Activities

Music lessons: the pro­gram staff assess what is need­ed in the moment to adapt, such as plac­ing chord shapes onto the music for a client with a brain injury.

Record­ing: the staff are ‘musi­cal con­duits’ and the clients are the pro­duc­ers. The staff is there to bridge the gap so that musi­cians can record their music and real­ize their vision.

Live per­for­mance: staff pro­mote per­for­mance oppor­tu­ni­ties, and search for acces­si­ble venues for per­form­ers, includ­ing the build­ing itself and the loca­tion (close to transit).

Com­pe­ten­cies need­ed to do this work well

Rela­tion­ship Build­ing: Staff aim to make gen­uine con­nec­tions. Clients are able to be emo­tion­al­ly vul­ner­a­ble when trust has been built with the staff at VAMS through gen­uine con­nec­tions. This keeps the door open for cre­ativ­i­ty in a way that is authentic. 

Patience: VAMS staff need patience to fol­low and sup­port clients at their pace. VAMS staff need to under­stand the abil­i­ty of each client and adapt to match the client so they feel com­fort­able and validated. 

Adapt­abil­i­ty and Prob­lem Solv­ing: The staff have to find the best way to sup­port clients to get to their musi­cal goals. Some­times, VAMS can work with their sis­ter soci­ety Tetra to design adap­tive devices. Bry­den shows a gui­tar that can be strummed with a foot ped­al as an example. 

What Does Suc­cess Look Like?

Clients should feel like they are get­ting a pos­i­tive pro­fes­sion­al music expe­ri­ence, and clients should see progress in work­ing towards their music goals.

Suc­cess is build­ing aware­ness that fights the stig­ma against musi­cians with dis­abil­i­ties. This includes inte­gra­tion between the Van­cou­ver music scene and dis­abled com­mu­ni­ty in Van­cou­ver. The Strong Ses­sions is an event that pairs VAMS artists with local bands to per­form sets togeth­er as a way of sup­port­ing dis­abled musi­cians with­in the larg­er music scene.

Final­ly, what is abil­i­ty? Every per­son that comes through the door has incred­i­ble abil­i­ty to make music. VAMS staff try to remove bar­ri­ers for clients to reach their musi­cal goals, to ‘re-imag­ine what’s possible.’

View sec­tions of the documentary: 

00:24 Intro­duc­tion of VAMS Musi­cians
Overview of the Pro­gram
Fea­tured Activ­i­ties
What Does Suc­cess Look Like?


Rebecca Barnstaple

Pre­sen­ta­tion of Music and Health Resource 

Hi. I’m Rebec­ca Barn­sta­ple. I am the man­ag­er of Com­mu­ni­ty Ini­tia­tives Research and Inno­va­tion here at Chigamik Com­mu­ni­ty Health Cen­ter. I’m also a post-doc­tor­al research fel­low at The Inter­na­tion­al Insti­tute for Crit­i­cal Stud­ies in Impro­vi­sa­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Guelph and I am very excit­ed to wel­come you to this music and Health Resource.

Like many of the peo­ple you’re going to see in these videos, I wear many hats, besides the two things I already shared with you. I’m also a dance ther­a­pist, and I work in the field of dance and health.

I have been offer­ing pro­grams here at Chigamik for almost eight years for peo­ple with Parkin­son’s and move­ment dis­or­ders. I was invit­ed to direct this resource based on my expe­ri­ence in the field of dance and health and as many of you prob­a­bly real­ize, dance and music are so in meshed and have long his­to­ries in many cul­tur­al prac­tices asso­ci­at­ed with health and well-being.

One of the things that you will also see through­out this resource is the idea of health itself is a very mul­ti-dimen­sion­al thing. Peo­ple will be talk­ing about not only phys­i­cal health but men­tal health and well-being, social con­nect­ed­ness. These ideas are real­ly dif­fi­cult to sep­a­rate and when we think about artis­tic and holis­tic prac­tices, these are ways that we can address health in a mul­ti-dimen­sion­al way. So music-based and arts-based resources are real­ly gain­ing vis­i­bil­i­ty and trac­tion as ways of approach­ing some of the most urgent health crises of our time.

You are going to see videos from peo­ple who are researchers, prac­ti­tion­ers, ther­a­pists, com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, peo­ple who are doing com­mu­ni­ty engaged work. And you will see that many of the folks who are going to share with us do many of those things at the same time and also separately.

On Health, Social Pre­scrip­tion, and the Arts

More than just the absence of dis­ease or help­ing peo­ple med­ical­ly recov­er from ill­ness, health is more and more under­stood to be broad­ly defined as help­ing peo­ple access a sense of thriv­ing and well-being, and this is often con­nect­ed to find­ing mean­ing in the activ­i­ties that we engage in.

One of the things that we’ve start­ed doing here at Chigamik that is real­ly linked with a lot of these music and health ini­tia­tives is social pre­scrib­ing. Social pre­scrib­ing is a path­way for clin­i­cians, whether they’re doc­tors, nurs­es, social work­ers, men­tal health work­ers, to refer peo­ple to non-clin­i­cal ser­vices so it it cre­ates a path for peo­ple to access things in the com­mu­ni­ty that can help con­tribute to that sense of well-being thriv­ing and meaning.

Many of the best exam­ples of social pre­scrib­ing pro­grams are relat­ed to arts and health.

There’s a a won­der­ful pro­gram called “Arts on Pre­scrip­tion” and sev­er­al of the ini­tia­tives that you’ll hear about in this resource have a social pre­scrib­ing ele­ment. I’m very excit­ed because here at Chigamik, we’re actu­al­ly launch­ing into a part­ner­ship with SingWell which sev­er­al of the peo­ple that you’ll hear from are involved, in which is the cre­ation of a health choir for peo­ple with COPD and breath­ing dis­or­ders and their Care Partners.

The oth­er thing that’s excit­ing about that and sev­er­al of the oth­er ini­tia­tives that we’re shar­ing is not only the pro­vi­sion of a new pro­gram and ser­vice for peo­ple that can con­tribute to their sense of health and well­be­ing, there is a research com­po­nent attached to it so we’re able to bet­ter under­stand real­ly what are the impacts for peo­ple who are par­tic­i­pat­ing in these pro­grams. And also what are the best ways to facil­i­tate access, low­er bar­ri­ers for peo­ple to access these pro­grams in the community.

I am very excit­ed to share this resource with you. I have brought togeth­er many dif­fer­ent col­leagues who have also referred oth­er col­leagues to share with you a real sense of the diver­si­ty of prac­tices asso­ci­at­ed with music and health. A range of ways that peo­ple have got­ten into doing this work. I real­ly hope you find it as inspir­ing as I have. Thank you.

Rob Lutes

On music and men­tal health

My name is Rob Lutes. I’m a singer-song­writer, musi­cian, and music edu­ca­tor who lives in Pointe-Clair, Quebec.

Music and men­tal health, it’s an enor­mous ques­tion and the answer could be enor­mous, but in gen­er­al for me, music is just good for my brain and good for my body. Play­ing, singing, com­pos­ing, explor­ing, lis­ten­ing to music, talk­ing about music, all these things just make me hap­pi­er. (They) make me feel bet­ter more ful­filled, more engaged, more excit­ed about my life and the world. And in a world full of dif­fi­cult things, par­tic­u­lar­ly in recent years when it’s been fraught with polit­i­cal­ly charged events and dif­fi­cul­ties, music is a place where there’s so much beau­ty. So many great things hap­pen­ing. It’s a place where I can find and oth­ers can find ways to tack­le these things, cope with these things emotionally.

Music is filled with so many emo­tions and in my def­i­n­i­tion music is a shared expe­ri­ence. You know that some­one else is feel­ing what you’re feel­ing. Whether you’re lis­ten­ing to a piece by Beethoven or a song by any song­writer, and no mat­ter what it is they’re express­ing, if it’s touch­ing you then you know that you’re con­nect­ing. And to me that’s a huge part of the musi­cal expe­ri­ence as a writer and a performer.

What I’m try­ing to do is con­nect and it’s the same with work­shops. When I give work­shops, I’m try­ing to con­nect and to me that’s the real cen­ter of health, that con­nec­tion that you can find through music.

On song­writ­ing and music his­to­ry for seniors at home

I’ve been doing work­shops on song­writ­ing and music his­to­ry, par­tic­u­lar­ly Blues his­to­ry since about 2000. And what got me start­ed was basi­cal­ly tour­ing and fes­ti­vals where I would be going some­where and they would say what kind of work­shops could you offer.

And so, I devel­oped work­shops on these two things. When the pan­dem­ic hit, a per­son named Fred Agnus, who was direc­tor of an orga­ni­za­tion in Vau­dreuil, Que­bec called Rézo (or net­work) asked me one day. “Rob could you devel­op some­thing for these peo­ple who can’t leave their homes?” They were iso­lat­ed because of the pan­dem­ic and so I took about a week and I thought about it.

I thought, I’ve always been real­ly into music his­to­ry and his­to­ry of songs and I real­ly like research­ing and know­ing about this. So I decid­ed I’d do a his­to­ry of pop­u­lar music in Amer­i­ca and Cana­da. It was an ambi­tious idea, but I thought I’ll just start and see what I can do. I had all this time because of the pandemic.

I was­n’t gig­ging nor­mal­ly and I had this pro­gram that I was giv­ing vir­tu­al­ly, so I got this expe­ri­ence of see­ing the reac­tion of peo­ple in the pro­grams when I would play songs, par­tic­u­lar­ly old­er songs from the 1700s and 1800s. Their reac­tion and these were songs that they knew the met­ric for the pro­gram was it includ­ed songs that had sur­vived that amount of time while so many oth­ers had fall­en by the wayside.

So it was real­ly Fred who got me start­ed on this and then as I start­ed doing this his­to­ry of pop­u­lar music. The word spread and oth­er peo­ple start­ed want­i­ng me to do it and so I had more pro­grams and then also peo­ple in the pro­gram would start request­ing songs. So while I was already doing my research, I would start to research the songs that they asked for, and so my reper­toire grew, and my under­stand­ing grew and it just kept expand­ing. Find­ing new songs from the past and it was some­body else that spurred me into doing this and I have thanked Fred for get­ting me start­ed on this path.

On his path to his work in music and health

My path into this was real­ly through two things. Well more than two things but one was sim­ply lov­ing music. Real­ly enjoy­ing it and nev­er see­ing it as a career. I nev­er saw myself as a per­son who would do this full-time, but just lov­ing, lov­ing music. Num­ber two, final­ly doing the tra­di­tion­al kind of career record­ing, releas­ing records, tour­ing, that kind of path­way. The third would be this love of his­to­ry. Some­thing I’m real­ly inter­est­ed in. So those three things com­bined because as a song­writer, I feel like every­thing is build­ing on some­thing else. Noth­ing comes out of nowhere, musi­cal­ly or in any of the Arts.

Even if you’re com­plete­ly break­ing with a tra­di­tion, you’re break­ing with some­thing. You’re going in anoth­er direc­tion, so it’s relat­ed. I find that real­ly always help­ful in my song writ­ing, is the things you’ve heard that inspire you to write some­thing. Work­ing in the health field real­ly came from some­one else. And it taught me, I nev­er thought about music and health hon­est­ly, it nev­er occurred to me. It was just part of my life and every­one’s life, but it nev­er occurred to me, the direct con­nec­tion between music and men­tal health.

The more I do this, the more I under­stand how heal­ing and how help­ful music can be for peo­ple in all dif­fer­ent ways, what­ev­er kind of music you’re doing, so that’s been a a big part of it for me.

Ajay Heble

Ajay Heble: What is Music and Health?

My name is Ajay Heble. I’m the direc­tor of The Inter­na­tion­al Insti­tute for Crit­i­cal Stud­ies and Impro­vi­sa­tion, and I was the found­ing artis­tic direc­tor of the Guelph Jazz Fes­ti­val (where) I served in that role from 1994 to 2016. I’m also pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Guelph.

It’s a big ques­tion, music and health. My sense is that music and health is a top­ic that has­n’t real­ly attract­ed the kind of atten­tion that it should attract, part­ly because I think music inhab­its the social and cul­tur­al land­scape in ways that remain large­ly unin­vent­ed. Despite this, I’ve long believed that impro­vi­sa­tion­al musi­cal prac­tices in par­tic­u­lar, can con­tribute to the devel­op­ment and well-being of healthy com­mu­ni­ties and in fact, that’s one of the core hypothe­ses that we try to test through the work we’re doing at The Inter­na­tion­al Insti­tute for Crit­i­cal Stud­ies and Improvisation.

Ajay Hable: Music and Health through the pro­gram KidsAbility

I think the exam­ple that comes to mind is the work we’ve been doing for prob­a­bly about 15 years

with “KidsAbil­i­ty,” which is a social ser­vice orga­ni­za­tion that runs pro­grams for kids that have phys­i­cal and devel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties. And for years we’ve been bring­ing impro­vis­ing artists into the com­mu­ni­ty to work with youth from KidsAbil­i­ty and those impro­vis­ing artists will run series of impro­vis­ing work­shops that will often cul­mi­nate in large scale pub­lic per­for­mances at the Guelph Jazz Festival.

So for exam­ple, we’ll shut down one of the main streets in Guelph at one of the fes­ti­val’s biggest pub­lic events, that’s where these kids get to play on that stage. So it’s real­ly quite remarkable.

And the research com­po­nent is that we have our research team mem­bers, for exam­ple our grad­u­ate stu­dents, doing inter­views with the kids, with the par­ents, with the staff, with the artist facil­i­ta­tors as well, and try­ing to track the impact that these pro­grams are having.

The sto­ries and anec­dotes we hear are real­ly quite remark­able about the impact. The kinds of things that peo­ple tell us. That the kids are show­ing self-esteem, that they’re lis­ten­ing in ways they did­n’t lis­ten before, they’re tak­ing on lead­er­ship roles in front of a large audi­ence. The kids are will­ing to get up in front of an audi­ence of thou­sands of peo­ple and take on a lead­er­ship role by con­duct­ing the whole band for exam­ple. Often we hear from the par­ents that this isn’t some­thing that they see their kids doing very often.

So I think we’re real­ly inter­est­ed in this idea that impro­vi­sa­tion can actu­al­ly be a means of empow­er­ing and ani­mat­ing spe­cial needs youth. And again, the research team that I’ve worked with have doc­u­ment­ed and ana­lyzed the com­plex rela­tion­ships between impro­vi­sa­tion­al prac­tices and their effects on, for exam­ple, social­iza­tion, well­ness, self-esteem, phys­i­cal coor­di­na­tion, and men­tal acu­ity. That’s a project that’s been run­ning for 15 years and the impacts on the kids, as I said, are real­ly quite … we hear amaz­ing stories.

Ajay Heble: On how KidsAbil­i­ty came to be

How it start­ed. We received a large scale SSHRC Grant, this was in 2007. It was a SSHRC  “Major Col­lab­o­ra­tive Research Ini­tia­tives” grant for a project called “Impro­vi­sa­tion Com­mu­ni­ty and Social Prac­tice,” and the bulk of the work was com­mu­ni­ty-engaged part­nered research focus­ing on the social impli­ca­tions of impro­vised musi­cal and cre­ative practices.

So we already had, in this case, a group of part­ners that had signed on to the grant, but in the case of KidsAbility,they came on after the fact. We were just look­ing for a local orga­ni­za­tion that might be inter­est­ed in some of the things we were able to offer in terms of work­ing with impro­vis­ing artists. And so, we had a meet­ing with the staff at KidsAbil­i­ty and they were so enthusiastic.

I still remem­ber that ini­tial meet­ing. There were a few of us, Ellen Water­man and I, and one of our staff mem­bers Jee Bur­rows at the time. We met with staff at KidsAbil­i­ty and they were so incred­i­bly enthu­si­as­tic to part­ner with us, and they saw it as very much in keep­ing with their needs, and it com­ple­ment­ed some of the kinds of pro­grams they were offer­ing because I gath­er that music was­n’t real­ly some­thing that they were doing at the time.

So this was some­thing they were real­ly thrilled to do with us, and fur­ther­more what was real­ly inter­est­ing as I think back on that, we want­ed we had this idea of stag­ing a pub­lic con­cert at the end of the work­shops that the kids would do with the work­shop facilitators.

So there were going to be a series of work­shops that we want­ed to cul­mi­nate in this pub­lic per­for­mance, but we were wor­ried. We thought “Oh, maybe the kids don’t want to do it or won’t want to do it,” and the staff said “No, no, they’re going to want to do it.” In fact, they (the kids) vot­ed and they were total­ly on board. The kids want­ed to go on stage. They thrived in that ele­ment. So that’s where it began, with the ini­tial SSHRC MCIR grant.

Ajay Heble: On what his path was to work in com­mu­ni­ty health and well­ness and music

I think it was an indi­rect path that had to do with the work I was doing with the Guelph Jazz Fes­ti­val. For years dur­ing the Jaz­zFest I would bring togeth­er artists from dif­fer­ent places, dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties, and have them impro­vise, and it became clear to me that there was some­thing real­ly spe­cial going on in that moment — where artists come togeth­er to impro­vise. Some­thing that had a lot to tell us about how we nego­ti­ate dif­fer­ence in the com­mu­ni­ty, how we com­mu­ni­cate with one anoth­er, how we think about issues of trust and social belong­ing. I think this whole issue of com­mu­ni­ty health and well­ness, was some­thing that became more and more evi­dent to me as I was run­ning the festival.

I under­stood fair­ly ear­ly on, that the work I was doing at the Jazz Fes­ti­val was­n’t just about the music or the pro­gram­ming. It was about some­thing much more than that. I’ve said this before it was about rein­vig­o­rat­ing pub­lic life with the spir­it of dia­logue in com­mu­ni­ty. I think that’s very clear­ly some­thing that has an impact on issues of well­ness and qual­i­ty of life.

I think that was prob­a­bly the path that led me to the work that I’m describ­ing here.

Arla Good

Arla Good: On what music and health means to her

My name is Arla Good. I am the co-direc­tor and chief researcher of SingWell Project.

The SingWell Project is a net­work of researchers, com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions, prac­ti­tion­ers, choirs across Cana­da and beyond. We’re all work­ing towards the same goal which is to doc­u­ment and advo­cate for the ben­e­fits of group singing. In par­tic­u­lar, we’re inter­est­ed in peo­ple who have com­mu­ni­ca­tion chal­lenges. So the ques­tion is how can group singing sup­port both the com­mu­ni­ca­tion and the social well-being of these types of individuals.

I want to start by acknowl­edg­ing the pow­er of music for music’s sake and art for art’s sake, with­out dimin­ish­ing that, I think that there’s also lots of ways in which we can use music to sup­port well-being and health. In our par­tic­u­lar con­text with SingWell, we’re inter­est­ed in how we can use singing as a very acces­si­ble, scal­able way to get lots of peo­ple involved. How we can use singing to sup­port the health and well-being of usu­al­ly old­er adults, so using it as a reha­bil­i­ta­tion tool. Using it as a tool for get­ting peo­ple togeth­er for com­mu­ni­ty build­ing, for belong­ing, and for boost­ing mood.

We see the bio­log­i­cal impact of singing, so under­stand­ing what’s hap­pen­ing in the body when we’re singing. It makes peo­ple feel good and that’s what, for me, music and health is.

Arla Good: On the impacts of a SingWell ses­sion on music and health

Over the last three or four years, we have been seed­ing choirs in dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties. So we focus on Parkin­son’s, apha­sia, lung dis­ease, hear­ing loss and stut­ter­ing ‚and we have choirs (in which) we are track­ing some of these psy­choso­cial well-being benefits.

So a typ­i­cal sin­gle study might look some­thing like this. We would start a choir usu­al­ly around 12  to 15 peo­ple, and the choir would run for about 12 ses­sions. We would track at the base­line and com­ple­tion of the choir, and we would also track before and after a sin­gle singing ses­sion. So we’re look­ing at things like how they’re feel­ing that moment. We’re look­ing at some of the bio­log­i­cal effects, so the hor­mones, pain thresh­olds, stress.

Then over the lon­gi­tu­di­nal time frame, we’re look­ing at feel­ings of social con­nect­ed­ness, psy­cho­log­i­cal well-being. One par­tic­u­lar project I can men­tion, we’re gear­ing up to run a study at Chigamik Com­mu­ni­ty Health Cen­ter. So this will be indi­vid­u­als with lung dis­ease, (they) will be pre­scribed from their pri­ma­ry care physi­cian or self-pre­scribed to the choir.

We will be able to doc­u­ment these indi­vid­u­als from day one, when they start their choir, and to see what kind of  effects on their psy­choso­cial well-being, but also on their breath­ing. So we’ll be able to see if the choir is hav­ing an impact on their breath function.

Arla Good: On the ben­e­fits of a SingWell project on music and health

So for this par­tic­u­lar project, we expect to see impact on breath health. We think that ele­ments of singing includ­ing deep breath­ing, con­trolled breath­ing, it’s a way to help strength­en the breath con­trol and the breath health of indi­vid­u­als with lung disease.

So we’re expect­ing to see that, but we’re also expect­ing to see improve­ments in social well-being. What hap­pens when we bring a group of indi­vid­u­als togeth­er who all have lung dis­ease? How does it feel for them all to be singing togeth­er? What is the impact on their iden­ti­ty?  One of the quotes that actu­al­ly trig­gered the inspi­ra­tion for all of SingWell, was an indi­vid­ual liv­ing with Parkin­son’s who start­ed to sing in a choir for Parkin­son’s. She said “I used to be some­one with Parkin­son’s and now I’m some­one with Parkin­son’s who can sing.” So this shift in the iden­ti­ty is what we’re real­ly try­ing to doc­u­ment and this belong­ing in this new com­mu­ni­ty. It’s a strength based com­mu­ni­ty that breaks down stigma.

You might think some­one with a breath­ing dis­or­der would­n’t be able to sing, and yet here they are singing and improv­ing their breath health while they’re at it. So out­comes, we’re inter­est­ed in breath health and psy­choso­cial well-being.

Arla Good: What is your inspi­ra­tion in doing this work with SingWell?

I’m inspired by anec­dotes that I hear and it’s a very com­mon expe­ri­ence to hear peo­ple say that a grand­par­ent with demen­tia or with Parkin­son’s who real­ly came alive when they sang. I hear these sto­ries and I think we all see that hap­pen­ing but I want­ed to under­stand why this is hap­pen­ing, and to begin to doc­u­ment it, and cre­ate resources for peo­ple who want to be doing this kind of work.

So best prac­tices in lead­ing a choir like this, and to help spread the word to com­mu­ni­ties that would ben­e­fit from pro­gram­ming like this.

Danielle Jakubiak

Music ther­a­pist Danielle Jaku­bi­ak: What does music and health mean to you?

My name is Danielle Jaku­bi­ak and I am a coun­sel­ing ther­a­pist and a music ther­a­pist based in Hal­i­fax, Nova Sco­tia. I’m in pri­vate prac­tice, and I believe that’s all I have to say.

For me per­son­al­ly, a lot of the work that I do is work­ing with adult men­tal health.

So I have found in my work, music helps to bring out a sense of ground­ed­ness in peo­ple’s con­nec­tion to their emo­tion­al life, and that’s real­ly real­ly impor­tant for peo­ple who have been through things like trau­ma and who have a lot of anx­i­ety. It can be some­thing that’s like a real­ly ground­ing force. It can also give them a sense of nor­mal­cy and resource­ful­ness when they’re feel­ing real­ly desta­bi­lized in their lives. I see it as a great resource I guess.

Music ther­a­pist Danielle Jaku­bi­ak: On the use of guid­ed imagery and music with trau­ma clients

I’ve been doing work in this method called “Guid­ed Imagery and Music” for quite a num­ber of years now.

Most recent­ly, I did a train­ing in some­thing called “Resource Ori­ent­ed Music and Imagery” which is kind of a depar­ture from “Guid­ed Imagery and Music,” but it’s real­ly focus­ing on that first lev­el of sta­bi­liza­tion when you do trau­ma work. For exam­ple, that which we call resourc­ing — find­ing what is healthy and good when you’ve been through some­thing that’s real­ly dam­ag­ing and find­ing that in con­nec­tion with music that you already know in love.

It’s a real­ly great inter­ven­tion that can be used, par­tic­u­lar­ly with trau­ma clients.

Music Ther­a­pist Danielle Jaku­bi­ak: Con­nect­ing through music

It was some­thing that came out of Guid­ed Imagery Music, so that’s a method that’s been around since the 50’s or 60’s. And it’s a real­ly spe­cif­ic method that uses clas­si­cal music and imagery like the clien­t’s mem­o­ries or things that are com­ing to their mind when they lis­ten to this clas­si­cal music.

So that’s a real­ly spe­cif­ic pro­to­col that’s been around for many years. Then one of the first pro­teges, I would say, of the main train­er for Guid­ed Imagery Music decid­ed that she want­ed to do a sim­i­lar thing, but using the clien­t’s own music. So rather than the spe­cif­ic set of clas­si­cal pieces, instead just ask the client what music that they feel con­nects to a spe­cif­ic resource or feel­ing inside of them. So it’s a lot more per­son­al­ized and also gets past a lot of the inter­cul­tur­al bar­ri­ers. Some­times that can come with using specif­i­cal­ly just clas­si­cal music, which some peo­ple don’t have great rela­tion­ships to, and some peo­ple have com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ships to, so it’s just a bit different.

Gilles Comeau

Gilles Comeau: What is music and health?

I am Gilles Comeau, I am a pro­fes­sor at the School of Music at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ottawa. I am the found­ing direc­tor of the Music and Health Research Insti­tute at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ottawa, and recent­ly I became a prin­ci­pal researcher at the Research Insti­tute in Men­tal Health at the Roy­al, where I am respon­si­ble for estab­lish­ing a research clin­ic in music and men­tal health.

There is a lot of research that tends to demon­strate that music can have an impact on sev­er­al health con­di­tions, on well-being, on men­tal health. I observed in the report that was pub­lished in 2019 by the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion that approx­i­mate­ly 40% of music research had been done with music ther­a­pists, and that the oth­er 60% was by musi­cians, musi­cian-edu­ca­tors, some­times health peo­ple who had music training.

At that time, I knew there was lot of research that had been done with music ther­a­pists, that look at how their work was hav­ing an impact. And music ther­a­pists often work one-on-one, and often see them­selves as health prac­ti­tion­ers who are work­ing towards help­ing indi­vid­u­als with cer­tain con­di­tion. So I decid­ed at that time to put the focus on musi­cians and music edu­ca­tors, because a lot less research has been done in that area.

They were already very much imple­ment­ing their pro­grams in health and social set­tings, so I want­ed to be able to study what was hap­pen­ing and see how I could con­tribute with bet­ter engage­ment of musi­cians and music edu­ca­tors, for the health and well­be­ing of indi­vid­u­als and communities.

Gilles Comeau: On the impacts of music and health and strate­gies for mea­sur­ing these impacts

For peo­ple who have demen­tia, it real­ly has an impact on their well-being and qual­i­ty of life. Because we under­stand that music is not expect­ed to have a heal­ing impact on Alzheimers con­di­tion, but, real­ly has a sig­nif­i­cant impact on well-being and qual­i­ty of life. Even for peo­ple who suf­fer from depres­sion and anx­i­ety, it is also about being able to make the symp­toms less dis­turb­ing, and being able to improve well-being.

So what we do is that we try to mea­sure how it has an impact on their well-being: mea­sure the impact on anx­i­ety, mea­sure the impact on depres­sion, mea­sure the impact on the joy / the excite­ment of learn­ing new things. And we do also the stan­dard ques­tion­naires that are of often used to mea­sure the var­i­ous out­comes. There are spe­cial ques­tion­naires for peo­ple with demen­tia. There are ques­tion­naires for their care­givers. There are ques­tion­naires for their anx­i­ety lev­el, for their depres­sion lev­el, on flour­ish­ing, learn­ing new things, on joy, their qual­i­ty of joy as well.

Then we also have some bio­mark­ers that we want to use to demon­strate with the dif­fer­ent impacts it could have. And that could be some watch that you’re wear­ing sim­i­lar to Fit­bits that, for a peri­od of time, it shows the blood pres­sure, heart rate etc. So it will show if the music activ­i­ty at one point in the week is hav­ing an impact on that day, or the day that fol­lows. We will work things like that.

We work with log books on sleep pat­tern and the self-report on sleep, and it gives us a good indi­ca­tion of how it is affect­ing their sleep. Some­times we can do some cor­ti­sol lev­el with a sali­va test that helps us to mea­sure how things are improv­ing. We also look at the move­ment that they’re able to do, because a lot of the pro­gram we have are music and move­ment. The move­ment that they devel­op is a real indi­ca­tion of how they per­ceive music and we quick­ly see how the qual­i­ty of the move­ment change with­in a few weeks. You could also see how well they perceive.

Are they com­plete­ly off music, are they get­ting more with music, are they more sub­tle / sup­ple, so all of that shows a change that we can observe.

Gilles Comeau on his path to work in music and health

I was always pas­sion­ate about teach­ing, and I was fas­ci­nat­ing about how peo­ple learn.

I start­ed to teach music when I was 16 years old, teach­ing piano to young peo­ple but also to lit­tle groups of stu­dents and preschool­ers. I was fas­ci­nat­ed with that aspects of teach­ing music and it has been a con­stant through­out my life. I was also always in inter­est­ed in health and help­ing peo­ple, and in my teens I had already start­ed to vol­un­teer by spend­ing time in a long-term care facil­i­ty. When I came to Uni­ver­si­ty, I was help­ing with the Chil­dren’s Aid Soci­ety and work­ing with chil­dren that were deaf and oth­er chil­dren that had severe cas­es of autism. That was always part of it and then through­out my career at the Uni­ver­si­ty, I did a lot of inter­dis­ci­pli­nary work with oth­er researchers. It was always part of the work I did to com­bine those aspects. And look­ing at learn­ing, look­ing at teach­ing, look­ing at var­i­ous groups, then look­ing at musi­cians health, phys­i­cal and men­tal health.

Even­tu­al­ly, I brought togeth­er a lit­tle bit of all those expe­ri­ences and pas­sion. I’m bring­ing back my train­ing in music edu­ca­tion and Del­croze, eury­th­mics, music and move­ment, or train­ing with per­cus­sion impro­vi­sa­tions. I’m bring­ing that back, but into health and social context.

I’m bring­ing back my inter­est with those groups of peo­ple and I’m also bring­ing my inter­est in research and in mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary research. I’ve had over two decades of expe­ri­ence work­ing in dif­fer­ent research cul­ture because every dis­ci­pline has its own way approach­ing research.

So it’s very famil­iar (to) me and I was able to group peo­ple from var­i­ous fields of research to put every­thing togeth­er for that work in music and health.

Rebecca McDonald on ‘What is music and Health?’

Music Ther­a­pist Rebec­ca McDon­ald on ‘What is music and Health?’

My name is Rebec­ca McDon­ald. I’m a music ther­a­pist who is cur­rent­ly liv­ing in Antigo­nish, Nova Sco­tia, but I’m orig­i­nal­ly from Peter­bor­ough, Ontario.

I think when I was think­ing about how to answer this ques­tion, it’s a lot about how I look at what health is. I think in music ther­a­py espe­cial­ly, we’re look­ing at health as not just those spe­cif­ic phys­i­cal things. A lot of it is the social deter­mi­nants of health and peo­ple’s men­tal health, and how that all con­tributes to some­one’s per­son­al health. I think that’s real­ly impor­tant and I think for myself too.

I use music a lot for my own men­tal health and that’s a very com­mon expe­ri­ence for lots of peo­ple. I think for me, music and health are very linked and I think it kind of con­tributes to that look­ing of health, mean­ing the whole person.

Music Ther­a­pist Rebec­ca McDon­ald: On music and health in pal­lia­tive care

Music ther­a­py as a dis­ci­pline, I think is at the inter­sec­tion of music and health, espe­cial­ly where I work in a health­care set­ting. I work in a hos­pi­tal so it’s the use of music in this health­care set­ting. The project that I’m involved in is in an Inpa­tient Pal­lia­tive Care Unit, as well as in an Out­pa­tient Oncol­o­gy Clin­ic, and oth­er areas with­in the hospital.

So this project came about when I was an intern at the same hos­pi­tal in which I cur­rent­ly work and this hos­pi­tal has had music ther­a­pists for over 10 years. This job is only fund­ed by cer­tain units and it came out of see­ing how well music ther­a­py was received at this hos­pi­tal and the need for it, and want­i­ng to expand the pro­gram that was already there. I had a spe­cial inter­est in work­ing in pal­lia­tive care, so I put togeth­er a pilot project for this unit so that we could expand and have some­one who was ded­i­cat­ed to that unit with those patients.

We did the pilot project about a year and a half ago and it was six months. It’s been extend­ed since we were gath­er­ing data and gath­er­ing sur­veys from peo­ple and get­ting peo­ple’s first­hand expe­ri­ence of what the music ther­a­py meant to them, so that we could show peo­ple why it’s a nec­es­sary ser­vice in healthcare.

Music Ther­a­pist Rebec­ca McDon­ald on how ser­vice for music and health are accessed in pal­lia­tive care

A lot of music ther­a­pists oper­ate on a refer­ral basis when they’re respon­si­ble for like a large pop­u­la­tion of patients. Luck­i­ly for me, the posi­tion that I have right now, the unit is small with only six to eight patients at a time.

So, I’m able to offer it (the pro­gram) to every­one and I like being able to do that because then it puts it in the patients hands and they get to decide if they would like to access the ser­vice. And if they want to (access the ser­vice), that’s great, and if they say “no, thank you” then that’s great too. It’s what­ev­er they need.

I go in, intro­duce myself, explain what it is that I do, and leave it with the patient and their fam­i­lies to say if they would like the ser­vice or not. It’s not some­thing extra for which they need to pay.  It’s fund­ed by the hos­pi­tal, so there’s no bur­den of them hav­ing to pay. It’s just anoth­er ser­vice with all of the oth­er things that are offered in the hospital.

Music Ther­a­pist Rebec­ca McDon­ald: On the impacts of music and health

I think, in pal­lia­tive care espe­cial­ly, it is dif­fi­cult to talk about qual­i­ty of life, but I think the music ther­a­py con­tributed to giv­ing these peo­ple what we’d call “a good death”. Where they feel sup­port­ed and have their needs met and they have an experience.

When the health­care sys­tem is very over­bur­dened and the nurs­es are so busy and they have so much on their plate, music ther­a­py is a time when I’m there just for them. It’s just for us to con­nect with music and talk about what they’re feel­ing, and expe­ri­ence the music that they love, and talk about their lives. I got to hear lots of love­ly sto­ries and one of the things that was real­ly great to see, is the way that it helped fam­i­lies con­nect because it can be a real­ly hard thing.

Some­one’s sit­ting with their fam­i­ly mem­ber and it’s very emo­tion­al for days and days, and this gives them some­thing dif­fer­ent over which to con­nect. A lot of rem­i­nisc­ing comes from when one sings a song and they go “oh do you remem­ber when we had that par­ty” for so and so’s anniver­sary, and remem­ber this fun­ny thing hap­pened. They just start to talk about things like that (which bring) relax­ation and that emo­tion­al sup­port to the patient.

Pierre Rancourt : Music in Palliative Care

Pierre Ran­court: Music in Pal­lia­tive Care

One of the work envi­ron­ments that appeals to me the most is pal­lia­tive care, so I had the chance recent­ly with the soci­ety for arts in health­care, to work to bring music to peo­ple at the end of their lives.

It’s real­ly a spe­cial con­text because that there is a need (and) music allows access to the world of emo­tions at a peri­od of life (the end of life) which is very, very emo­tion­al­ly charged at this level.

So I have the impres­sion that what I see is that it allows a kind of paci­fi­ca­tion, a calm. Obvi­ous­ly, you have to be very, let’s say, atten­tive as an artist at reper­toire lev­el. I’m an opera singer so for sure I will not sing with a big voice. All the art of music medi­a­tion is to feel who we are in front of. What is this per­son experiencing.

So pal­lia­tive care, yes, it’s some­thing that has attract­ed me for many years. I mean, I sang for my moth­er at the end of her life, those were unfor­get­table moments. I have sung in con­texts like this sev­er­al times dur­ing my stud­ies, and I find that, as an artist, it is a process that is bidi­rec­tion­al. It nour­ish­es the peo­ple to whom we offer it, to whom we allow to express things that can­not express our­selves in words through our music. But, it also nour­ish­es the artist who presents who is there (the medi­at­ing artist) who sees him­self con­front­ed with a sit­u­a­tion in which there is no pos­si­ble fake. We can’t pre­tend. You absolute­ly have to be in the truth of the moment. You have to be in the exchange sin­cere, and it’s very nour­ish­ing for an artist. So, that’s it. This is some­thing that real­ly mat­ters to me.

The Impacts of Music on Health

Yes. In the case of con­certs (let’s say) more orga­nized to which we are able to invite peo­ple, fam­i­ly, sig­nif­i­cant peo­ple, it’s obvi­ous that there is prepa­ra­tion. A choice of the reper­toire must be made. Just in this process, the fam­i­ly in con­nec­tion with the per­son who is near­ing the end of life, the choice of reper­toire, it allows a whole return on the themes of life, so there is a kind of phe­nom­e­non of life assess­ment which can be done through the con­struc­tion of a mini con­cert, a mini con­cert program.

The works will cho­sen accord­ing to cer­tain life pri­or­i­ties. There is def­i­nite­ly a trans­mis­sion. A cul­tur­al her­itage that is bequeathed, which gives the fam­i­ly a feel­ing of cohe­sion that they real­ly need in those moments. So, in terms of fam­i­ly cohe­sion, it can con­tribute to a cul­tur­al inher­i­tance. Then, for the per­son them­selves who is at the end of its life, it is cer­tain that the ben­e­fits are doc­u­ment­ed at var­i­ous lev­els of health: good heart rate, pres­sure, anx­i­ety lev­el, all that. It is obvi­ous that there is marked improvement.

There can be also emo­tion­al reac­tions (let’s say) of cathar­sis that occurs. A kind of access to emo­tions that once would have been turned away. So that is very ben­e­fi­cial. What we notice is that there is also a change in the per­son­’s breathing.

It’s even hap­pened for me to sing for peo­ple near end of life who were in a coma or uncon­scious­ness, and we even note in these cas­es, a change in breath­ing levels.

What was your path to work­ing in Music and Health?

For me, music is an act of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, even if I prac­tice alone in my liv­ing room. It’s in pre­dic­tion of one day being able to deliv­er it.

Music is an act, by def­i­n­i­tion, that is com­mu­nal. Singing in par­tic­u­lar is one of these modes of ances­tral com­mu­ni­ca­tion which we relates to real­ly, real­ly far back in evo­lu­tion. As such, it amounts to when it stim­u­lates a part of us like that, a mode of com­mu­ni­ca­tion or ances­tral meet­ing, there is real­ly some­thing very spe­cial happening.

I think that’s what got me into health. I start­ed singing in the lit­tle church choir in my vil­lage, so there was from the begin­ning of my musi­cal expe­ri­ence, an aspect of fam­i­ly. There was my uncle who was there, there was my aunt.We knew every­one. There was an aspect of reunion, an aspect of family.

Then when we work in the health field, and we talk about inclu­sion. We’re talk­ing about bring­ing back music, bring­ing music to peo­ple who have less access to it. It’s work with autis­tic peo­ple, for work­ing with peo­ple who live with func­tion­al lim­i­ta­tions, (for) work­ing with peo­ple in diverse envi­ron­ments and, in this case, we were talk­ing about pal­lia­tive care.

We not only bring the music, because music is acces­si­ble to any­one on your phone at any time, but we bring live music.

Live music, the vibra­tion of air par­ti­cles pro­duced by an instru­ment in per­son. With that, we have some­thing that real­ly anchors us in the community.

What does Music and Health mean to you?

Hel­lo, my name is Pierre Ran­cour. I’m a bari­tone, a trained opera singer, also a gui­tarist and cul­tur­al mediator.

Music and health. For me, music is health because in my per­son­al prac­tice, my rehearsals, my singing, these are always moments of joy, of hap­pi­ness, moments of recon­nec­tion to myself, moments of vital­iza­tion, but at the same time of calm, of expan­sion, of moments when I feel com­plete. So I think that it’s cer­tain that all of this of which we’re talk­ing about, is about qual­i­ty of life. We are talk­ing about increas­ing our own qual­i­ty of life as a per­former. That the per­son­al prac­tice is syn­ony­mous with plea­sure, then this inspires us when we do music in cul­tur­al and health contexts.

It makes us want to share this joy there. This phys­i­cal, emo­tion­al, and men­tal well-being becomes con­ta­gious. And in my expe­ri­ence in dif­fer­ent health­care set­tings that I’ve worked in with music, that’s real­ly what hap­pens. It is because there is a qual­i­ty of ener­gy, a vibra­tion when we make music that we are shar­ing and trans­mit­ting to oth­ers. So the

the way we pose our voice, the way we come into con­tact, the open­ing that we real­ly feel — almost at the lev­el of the solar plexus. Some­thing in the order of confidence.

There are many ben­e­fits that I notice in all the envi­ron­ments in which I have worked with music.  It’s obvi­ous. Research proves them. The research is there to doc­u­ment all these ben­e­fits of music, but I see it on the ground. I see that this is a ser­vice that can eas­i­ly be min­i­mized (cul­ture, music, the human con­tact). That’s what we do. It’s about com­ing into con­tact, it’s about vibrat­ing togeth­er. But this is not to be min­i­mized, on the con­trary, it’s some­thing excep­tion­al­ly powerful.

Louise Campbell: Music and health at the C.A.R.E. Centre

What does music and health mean to you?

My name is Louise Camp­bell. I am a musi­cian and artist, and I do a lot of work with peo­ple in many dif­fer­ent sec­tors, of which one is health. The work that I’ve done in health real­ly ranges depend­ing on what peo­ple are look­ing for. I’ve worked with peo­ple who have severe phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties, also with many kids who are neu­ro­di­ver­gent, as well as peo­ple who have a diag­noses of fair­ly seri­ous neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases amongst oth­er things.

For me, music and health is in part what music brings to every­one. It’s the fun of mak­ing music, of being cre­ative, of con­nect­ing with oth­ers, and the joy of being in com­mu­ni­ty with peo­ple. When it comes to be more spe­cif­ic to health, I think it depends on what peo­ple are look­ing for and it can mean many dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple. So some­one might be inter­est­ed in address­ing a phys­i­cal ail­ment that they have, some­body else might be more look­ing for the psy­choso­cial con­nec­tions. So it real­ly depends on how we’re going to use music in the con­text of health.

Music and health at the C.A.R.E. Centre

One of my favorite groups of peo­ple to work with are the peo­ple at the C.A.R.E. Center.

The C.A.R.E. Cen­ter is a cen­ter for adults with severe phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties, and I have had the luck of being able to work with them over mul­ti­ple years. I was ini­tial­ly invit­ed to work with the C.A.R.E. Cen­ter by the direc­tor Olivia Ques­nel. It’s very spe­cif­ic for her that when I go in, it’s to sup­port men­tal health and to real­ly sup­port fun. It’s inter­est­ing when I go in, because I’ve got­ten to know peo­ple a lit­tle bit bet­ter there, and I can see that absolute­ly the men­tal health and well-being is very much sup­port­ed by what music and the Arts has to offer — in terms of engage­ment, con­nec­tion with oth­er peo­ple, learn­ing things that are new, find­ing new ways to under­stand one’s own expe­ri­ence, and share that with oth­er people.

It can also def­i­nite­ly help with the phys­i­cal side of things as well. There’s this one per­son who is a client at the C.A.R.E. Cen­ter. He is in a wheel­chair and when I first met him, he was fair­ly upright in his wheel­chair. Over the years, I’ve seen that he starts to get a lit­tle bit more slumped. He’s just a love­ly sweet per­son who has no trou­ble actu­al­ly con­nect­ing with oth­er peo­ple, but it’s more this kind of phys­i­cal­i­ty that starts to close his body down a lit­tle bit more that makes it hard­er for him to reach out to oth­er peo­ple. So, in one of our projects we were build­ing instru­ments, and when I do these kinds of projects, I leave a lot of room open for oth­er peo­ple. We gath­ered all kinds of mate­ri­als from this recy­cle bin, lots of dif­fer­ent things that were around that just could be poten­tial sound mak­ers, and this man start­ed to build his instru­ment. As it turned out, this instru­ment was all kinds of things that were hung from a bar that was just above him.

So he made this beau­ti­ful kind of chime instru­ment that led him to be going up all the time. I spoke with his phys­io­ther­a­pist after­wards. She was real­ly amazed because here was this man going up all the time doing what she was try­ing to get him to do in physio, and yet he was doing it of his own accord and for far longer than the physio ses­sions were going to hap­pen. And he was hav­ing a great time and was able to share this instru­ment with oth­er peo­ple who could also play in this up and more open posi­tion. So for me, the C.A.R.E. Cen­ter is a place where it real­ly hits on all of the var­i­ous dif­fer­ent ways that we can con­tribute to peo­ple’s health and wellbeing.

Geremia Lodi — On Making Music With Former Inmates

As part of the Music in Incar­cer­a­tion & Reha­bil­i­ta­tion Resource, Geremia Lodi describes his expe­ri­ence work­ing with for­mer inmates in a tran­si­tion com­mu­ni­ty pro­gram, the pos­si­ble ben­e­fits of imple­ment­ing music pro­grams in com­plex sit­u­a­tions such as incar­cer­a­tion and reha­bil­i­ta­tion, and var­i­ous issues relat­ed to self-care.

On his first steps in work­ing with for­mer inmates

Hel­lo, my name is Geremia Lodi. I am a musi­cian and a music edu­ca­tor. My pur­pose in life is to use music to cre­ate a con­nec­tion between peo­ple, while at the same time using this con­nec­tion to cre­ate musi­cal sounds and more per­son­al and inti­mate sounds together. 

My favorite tool to make music is body music — body per­cus­sion, singing, and beat­box­ing in oth­er words. Every­thing that we can do direct­ly with our body and maybe with­out an instru­ment. I like it because it allows every par­tic­i­pant in my work­shop to direct­ly bring the music that is in their body, in their expe­ri­ence. It’s an acces­si­ble approach to music.

My expe­ri­ence with for­mer inmates is quite lim­it­ed and relates to my col­lab­o­ra­tion with com­mu­ni­ties based in Mon­tre­al, espe­cial­ly the ini­tia­tive Open Door. Open Door is a week­ly meet­ing and is open to for­mer inmates, some­times also to cur­rent inmates on a per­mit, to encounter peo­ple of the com­mu­ni­ty and cre­ate a new con­nec­tion to sup­port their inte­gra­tion in society.

When I offered a work­shop for this asso­ci­a­tion, I encoun­tered a group real­ly curi­ous for what I had to offer, and real­ly ready to take the chance to have a moment of fun togeth­er, a moment of interaction. 

The activ­i­ty that I remem­ber them enjoy­ing the most was one of my activ­i­ties called Silent Rhythms. I request each par­tic­i­pant to per­form a silent and repet­i­tive move­ment, but I ask to the oth­er par­tic­i­pants if they, by lis­ten­ing with their eyes, can hear some­thing in their imag­i­na­tion. If imag­i­na­tion can pro­duce a sound. Guid­ed by this move­ment, and most of the time peo­ple can, in fact, pro­duce some­thing that responds to that movement. 

In the sec­ond round of peo­ple per­form­ing a move­ment, the peo­ple oppo­site in the cir­cle to the mover give voice. We sing the move­ment that we hear in our imag­i­na­tion. Peo­ple com­ment­ed that it was real­ly com­fort­ing to hear your move­ment through the voice of some­body else. Hear­ing some­body giv­ing voice to your body, it’s a way of look­ing, it’s a way of

pay­ing atten­tion to the oth­er but brings to the sur­face that web of reci­procity that con­nects every­body in a group, but which is not always evi­dent. It’s not always easy to per­ceive and to feel. I think that that is also a hint of one of the ways that music can be of ben­e­fit to peo­ple that expe­ri­ence pen­i­ten­tiary: to feel this recon­nec­tion to oth­ers in a dif­fer­ent way.

Why and how is music use­ful in the con­text of rehab and incarceration?

So what can a music pro­gram bring to inmates or for­mer inmates?

The first thing is alive­ness. Con­sid­er some­one who is fac­ing a guilt, who is com­ing to terms with a pain that they might have caused, and dif­fi­cult sto­ries. All of these come with a real­ly heavy bur­den to car­ry and upon which to elaborate.

In order to live this process, an indi­vid­ual needs to be able to con­nect back to the part of them­selves that is a mas­ter life. The part that can laugh, that can feel a joy, that can feel plea­sure is fun­da­men­tal to face a demand­ing process like the one that inmates are facing.

So, music can bring alive­ness in the form of pas­sion, of groov­ing, of play­ing. Play­ing in the sense of play­ing an instru­ment, but also hav­ing fun, which is real­ly impor­tant. Sec­ond, a music pro­gram can offer a way to con­nect to one­self and a way to con­nect to oth­ers. As I was say­ing, every per­son sen­tenced to pen­i­ten­tiary has prob­a­bly the need to gain own­er­ship over their own sto­ry, elab­o­rat­ing what hap­pened in the chain of events that brought them there, and at the same time find­ing again their very own sub­jec­tiv­i­ty. Their own voice among the many voic­es that sen­tenced them and to label them to their posi­tion. It’s impor­tant to find full agency by themselves.

Music and sup­port music pro­grams can help to regain a sense of self. A sense of inti­ma­cy, the sense of indi­vid­u­al­i­ty, which is fun­da­men­tal for the process of elab­o­ra­tion of the guilt and of gain­ing own­er­ship. And final­ly, when most for­mer inmates are met, they car­ry a strong pro­tec­tive shell, which is a nat­ur­al response to hos­tile envi­ron­ment, such as the one of the penitentiary.

A music pro­gram with­in a pen­i­ten­tiary, after a process, or at the time of deten­tion can offer the par­tic­i­pants a safe space, a sense of broth­er­hood or sis­ter­hood, where mutu­al recog­ni­tion can hap­pen. Where reci­procity and nor­mal­i­ty, a nor­mal sense of warmth, of human warmth can be installed, which can great­ly sup­port an expe­ri­ence of human­i­ty. That can be heal­ing, in rela­tion to the more insti­tu­tion­al­ized and more cold expe­ri­ence of life as expe­ri­enced in a penitentiary.

Thank you so much.

Self-care before, dur­ing and after the project

Self-care before, dur­ing, and after the project. My own expe­ri­ence about the self-care does­n’t come from work­ing in the pen­i­ten­tiary, but more work­ing in an urban com­mu­ni­ty. Which is a real­ly dif­fer­ent con­text but what is in com­mon with the pen­i­ten­tiary is that as an edu­ca­tor you will find your­self wit­ness­ing some real­ly chal­leng­ing life expe­ri­ences. A sec­ond ele­ment in com­mon is that these are expe­ri­ences to which most peo­ple in soci­ety are not real­ly exposed, which will make you feel a bit more alone at some point. And we’ll talk about it in a minute. 

So the first thing that comes to mind about self-care is to make sure to be paid enough for this con­tract. Which may sound fun­ny but what I think is that when work­ing such a project, you need to make sure to allo­cate enough time for the brief­ing, for elab­o­rat­ing what you’re expe­ri­enc­ing, and to be fair­ly paid so that you can pay your rent with­out the pres­sure of look­ing for that extra con­tract to feel more safe, this will be real­ly impor­tant. It’s not a mat­ter of greed­i­ness, it’s just a mat­ter of giv­ing your­self the time for elab­o­rat­ing. Of course, this is also the sec­ond ele­ment, con­sid­er­ing that you will need time for elaboration. 

 The third ele­ment is con­sid­er­ing the resources in the asso­ci­a­tion or the insti­tu­tion you will be work­ing for in terms of part­ner­ship. Which are the oth­er indi­ca­tors and which is the rela­tion­ship you will be estab­lished with them. Will it be a part­ner­ship also on debrief­ing and elab­o­rat­ing the project togeth­er or not. How much time will you’ll be spend­ing? The oth­er per­son doing this job? These are impor­tant things to know. What is the basis of this col­lab­o­ra­tion, and also what is your role in car­ry­ing out this project. What is expect­ed from you, and how your role fits in the same over­ar­ch­ing struc­ture on which you’re an actor, but not ful­ly in charge of all the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the project. It is real­ly impor­tant to have clar­i­ty around your world. To be able to place your­self in that project. 

 Anoth­er ele­ment is, before the end of the project, to ana­lyze your net­work, your own per­son­al net­work which are the friends that can offer a good lis­ten­ing part­ner, but also qual­i­fied or com­pe­tent lis­ten­ing. As I was say­ing, in my own expe­ri­ence when I was liv­ing in the North, I felt some resis­tance to share cer­tain sto­ries to my friends about what I wit­nessed. It felt some­what dis­re­spect­ful to bring up cer­tain sto­ries with­out offer­ing a com­plete con­text in which that sto­ry took place. And this con­text is real­ly dif­fi­cult to pro­vide sometimes. 

 It is real­ly chal­leng­ing to tell. There are so many things that I still could­n’t name or could­n’t fig­ure out myself to explain the con­text I was liv­ing in, but it was dif­fer­ent if I was talk­ing to some­body who actu­al­ly lived the same expe­ri­ence and had already a sense of what I was talk­ing about. So, it’s real­ly good to ver­i­fy if you already have some­body in your net­work with sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences that could be a good part­ner to debrief, to have a lis­ten­ing ear.

Final­ly, and espe­cial­ly if it’s a long-term project, it’s real­ly good to read inspir­ing expe­ri­ences of oth­er peo­ple that work in a sim­i­lar con­text and who faced sim­i­lar prob­lems. It’s real­ly sooth­ing at times to make your­self be accom­pa­nied in this way, by some­body else that went through the same path. Actu­al­ly, there will be more with what they want­ed to share and some­times also a real­ly good laugh. And you will be fac­ing some real­ly hard life expe­ri­ences and you need, in the week, to recon­nect to your own vital­i­ty, to what­ev­er makes you feel real­ly alive. 

For the inmates, they need to con­nect to what is real­ly alive for them, what is real­ly fun and joy­ful and you will need to do the same for your­self each week. A col­league in the north told me that you need to make sure to be hap­py at least three times a day. It’s fun­ny but I think it’s such a pre­cious sug­ges­tion. To be sure to con­nect to your life ener­gy, to the most vital part of you each week, and if pos­si­ble three times a day. Because that will be so impor­tant for you to be in a in a con­text that is dif­fi­cult, to be full strength. 

Don’t super­charge your­self with the dark part because we real­ly need the live­ly part in order to to be in this con­text. Don’t be afraid to be light and to be funny.

Why to car­ry out a project in pen­i­ten­tiary 

Why car­ry out a project in a pen­i­ten­tiary, or in anoth­er com­plex place? Maybe it sounds like a fun­ny ques­tion to ask but I want­ed to do this tuto­r­i­al and I was inspired by a sen­tence of Genos­tra­da, the founder of ‘Emer­gency Asso­ci­a­tion’ that pro­vid­ed med­ical sup­port in war zones.  He men­tioned that peo­ple want­ed him to say that he was doing what he was doing as a sergeant, in such con­text, because it was a good cause because it was moved by a real­ly good inten­tion. But he was­n’t shy to say that he was doing that sim­ply because he real­ly enjoyed doing it. That’s the reason. 

Then we rephrased it in a dif­fer­ent way, using a sen­tence by Lila Wat­son that real­ly inspired me at the time. Lila Wat­son says, “If you have come to help me, you’re wast­ing time, but if you have come because your lib­er­a­tion is bound to mine, let’s work togeth­er.” I think this sen­tence was real­ly of help for me to place myself, and in a con­text where I faced peo­ple fac­ing real­ly dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions but find­ing a way that’s of strong resilience and a strong per­son­al capacity.

In a way, it helped me to this aware­ness to keep a bal­ance, feel­ing respon­si­ble for myself, respon­si­ble who I was, respon­si­ble for my pro­fes­sion­al­i­ty, but also real­iz­ing that this respon­si­bil­i­ty entailed to not take over respon­si­bil­i­ties of oth­er peo­ple. In fact, doing so would have would have deprived these peo­ple of their own respon­si­bil­i­ty, of their own capacity. 

And always remem­ber­ing the rea­son why I was there, but it was my own rea­son. These allow me to remem­ber that each per­son has his life or her life sto­ry, and bet­ter acknowl­edg­ing our unique­ness is and our dif­fer­ence is the basis for allow­ing this encounter where each can offer the oth­er per­son some­thing impor­tant for our own path as human beings.

Thank you. 


For more info on Geremia Lodi, see their artist pro­file HERE. For a taste of what Geremia Lodi does, see the fol­low­ing projects fea­tured on the PCM Hub:

Silent Rhythms

Body Per­cus­sion For The Family

For more info on Music In Incar­cer­a­tion & Reha­bil­i­ta­tion, see HERE

Moe Clark — On Making Music with Indigenous Youth In Lockdown and Carceral Settings

As part of the Music in Incar­cer­a­tion & Reha­bil­i­ta­tion Resource, Moe Clark describes her expe­ri­ence as a two-spir­it Métis artist mak­ing music with at-risk Indige­nous youth in lock­down and car­céral set­tings. She speaks to cul­tur­al sen­si­tiv­i­ties and the impor­tance of con­nect­ing with elders when work­ing with Indige­nous youth.

On her artis­tic prac­tice and work in carcer­al settings

(Intro­duc­tion in nēhiyawēwin — Plains Cree language)

Hel­lo every­one, I’ve just intro­duced myself in nēhiyawēwin (Plains Cree lan­guage), one of my ances­tral lan­guages. I’m a two-spir­it Métis artist orig­i­nal­ly from Cal­gary, Alber­ta and treaty sev­en, but I cur­rent­ly reside in Tiohtià:ke / Mooniyang on the unseat­ed ter­ri­to­ry of the Kanien’kehá:ka, the Mohawk peo­ple here in Montreal. 

I’m a mul­ti-dis­ci­pli­nary artist. I focus pri­mar­i­ly on spo­ken word poet­ry, song cre­ation, work­ing with indige­nous lan­guages, inter­gen­er­a­tional and inter­cul­tur­al col­lab­o­ra­tive prac­tices and process­es. I like to cen­ter land-based prac­tices and approach­es in the work I do, whether to be work­ing actu­al­ly on the land, or work­ing with the land of our bod­ies and our ter­ri­to­ries, as tools for decol­o­niza­tion, self-deter­mi­na­tion, and col­lec­tive co-creation. 

I frame my work around the med­i­cine wheel, draw­ing from Métis-Cree world­view, look­ing at the holism of the body, the per­son, the spir­it, and the mind. I like to begin from a place of mus­ca­saw­in, which is a nēhiyawēwin term which refers to belong­ing, find­ing one’s place with­in the cir­cle. A lot of the work I do frames around the cir­cle, look­ing at how we can approach prac­tices from an equal place of belong­ing, of sto­ry­telling, of com­mu­ni­ty, and ori­ent­ing our­selves as both teacher and stu­dent. So we’ve all got some­thing to learn, we’ve all got some­thing to teach.

As one of my late elders Bob Smok­er always says “I’m gonna need you, as much as you’re gonna need me”. This is real­ly cen­tral to the work I do in and out­side of lock­down and incar­cer­al set­tings. I began work­ing in lock­down facil­i­ties through a local lit­er­ary arts orga­ni­za­tion in Mon­tre­al, as part of a writ­ing and poet­ry work­shop. These ses­sions ran for 10 weeks where I would go to the loca­tion once a week and I would work col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly with the exist­ing teacher or ped­a­gog­i­cal spe­cial­ist and a group of at-risk indige­nous youth. The thing that felt real­ly suc­cess­ful about these work­shops was that there was con­sis­ten­cy, in that it was­n’t just a one-time event. It was recur­ring so it helped me to estab­lish trust and make bonds with the stu­dents over the course of those 10 weeks. It helped me to iden­ti­fy the needs of the stu­dents, their capac­i­ties, abil­i­ties and slow­ly cre­ate a space where more open­ness and more under­stand­ing of my work and prac­tices could be embod­ied and inter­nal­ized for the stu­dents, so that they could actu­al­ly make some of the tools and tech­niques that I was bring­ing to them their own. 

On a project with Indige­nous youth in a carcer­al set­ting 

Hi every­one. My name is Moe Clark. I’m a two-spir­it Métis mul­ti-dis­ci­pli­nary artist and I’d like to share a lit­tle bit about the val­ue and impor­tance of short-term projects with­in lock­down and incar­cer­al set­tings, work­ing with at-risk under­age indige­nous youth. 

So for me these work­shops began through a local lit­er­ary orga­ni­za­tion who act­ed as a host to con­nect me as a poet-artist-vocal­ist with a local facil­i­ty here in Mon­tre­al. I want to main­tain anonymi­ty so I will not express or name any of the orga­ni­za­tions or insti­tu­tions per­son­al­ly. I will say that these ses­sions were incred­i­bly valu­able and dynam­ic in that I would attend the facil­i­ty one hour per week, over the course of 10 weeks. I would work col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly with the host teacher with a group of any­where between 5 and 10 youth. To begin the projects, I under­took train­ing through a local fam­i­ly ser­vices orga­ni­za­tion to explore sen­si­tiv­i­ty notions of trau­ma and how to col­lab­o­rate and work with at-risk youth who might be in pre­car­i­ous situations. 

In addi­tion to this, I call on my own toolk­it and bun­dle which includes expe­ri­ence with somat­ic expe­ri­enc­ing which is an embod­ied approach to ther­a­py and a trau­ma-informed lens. It explores and looks at the body as a site of mem­o­ry and cre­ativ­i­ty, as well as a site of a lot of expe­ri­ences. I also draw from prac­tices of med­i­cine wheel teach­ings, which real­ly looks at the four direc­tions and the wholism of the per­son that we have a phys­i­cal, a men­tal, a spir­i­tu­al, and an emo­tion­al body. So real­ly exam­in­ing and explor­ing these four bod­ies as essen­tial aspects to who and how we are in the world. I also draw from expe­ri­ences of over 20 years of cre­ative facil­i­ta­tion, in and out­side of indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, with at-risk youth, with youth with dis­abil­i­ties, and inter­gen­er­a­tional and inter­cul­tur­al collaboration. 

Through­out the course of these 10 ses­sions, we explored dif­fer­ent tools and tech­niques of cre­ative writ­ing and often worked from prompts from oth­er indige­nous authors and cre­ators and musi­cians. When­ev­er pos­si­ble I tried to use tools and prompts that incor­po­rat­ed indige­nous lan­guage and cul­tur­al­ly spe­cif­ic fram­ings that were spe­cif­ic to the youth I was work­ing with. 

I don’t claim to know every­thing there is to know about being indige­nous. I have my own expe­ri­ences as a Métis artist who grew up in the sub­urbs of Cal­gary and cur­rent­ly lives in Tiohtià:ke in Mon­tre­al, but being able to draw from a toolk­it of many dif­fer­ent indige­nous authors, writ­ers, and musi­cians helped me to cre­ate more acces­si­bil­i­ty and inclu­siv­i­ty for the youth I was work­ing with. 

One real­ly valu­able tool dur­ing the work­shops was col­lec­tive cre­ative writ­ing and col­lec­tive song­writ­ing. This gave youth the oppor­tu­ni­ty to voice their ideas and their sto­ries, and to build rela­tion­ships with one anoth­er, with­out the neces­si­ty of hav­ing to be lit­er­ate, hav­ing to have good writ­ing skills, and they were able to laugh. They were able to make dif­fer­ent sounds.

They were able to mim­ic and explore dif­fer­ent sounds from their land­scapes where they were raised, and where they grew up, and where they had cur­rent­ly been tak­en out of, in order to reha­bil­i­tate in a lock­down facil­i­ty in an urban set­ting. To con­clude these 10 work­shops, we cre­at­ed a chat book and this chat book was acknowl­edged and cel­e­brat­ed and each stu­dent left with their own copy of it as a keep­sake and as a mem­oir when they left the facil­i­ty and con­tin­ued on in their lives. So that’s it for short-term projects in lock­down and incar­cer­at­ed situations.

On cul­tur­al sen­si­tiv­i­ties when work­ing with Indige­nous youth 

Hi every­one. My name is Moe and I am a two-spir­it mul­ti-dis­ci­pli­nary metis artist. I’d like to talk now about cul­tur­al sen­si­tiv­i­ties and pro­to­cols when work­ing with incar­cer­at­ed youth, 

specif­i­cal­ly indige­nous youth as a Métis artist and cre­ator. I’ve worked exten­sive­ly with indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties folks com­ing from dif­fer­ent nations, dif­fer­ent walks of life, dif­fer­ent per­son­al and col­lec­tive histories. 

I think, first and fore­most, what’s impor­tant to note and what’s impor­tant to do your home­work on, is what are some of the his­tor­i­cal sys­temic and cul­tur­al notions that have led to the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion of the youth or the com­mu­ni­ty you’re work­ing with. So I real­ly like to exam­ine and look close­ly at the his­to­ry and impacts of res­i­den­tial schools, on the his­to­ry and impact of con­tact in dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties. So, when did set­tler com­mu­ni­ties come into Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties and how has that impact­ed the cul­tur­al con­tin­u­um, lan­guage con­tin­u­um, and tra­di­tion­al land-based prac­tices of that com­mu­ni­ty. And I like to bring these notions into the work so that I can exam­ine and explore, and also facil­i­tate from a place that is more knowl­edge­able, and more aware and cul­tur­al­ly sen­si­tive to what the par­tic­i­pants might be expe­ri­enc­ing, and how those expe­ri­ences have been informed and impact­ed because of sys­temic sit­u­a­tions and col­o­niza­tion. So that’s step one. 

Step two is also look­ing at an under­stand­ing that each indige­nous peo­ple and each indige­nous nation have dif­fer­ent cul­tur­al con­texts, dif­fer­ent lan­guages, and dif­fer­ent prac­tices of relat­ing, of express­ing, of com­mu­ni­cat­ing. And this type of process is one that as you con­tin­ue to work in the com­mu­ni­ty, you become famil­iar and you get to know and you build rela­tion­ships with the communities.

So I think that’s real­ly the most impor­tant not to make assump­tions, to come with as much infor­ma­tion as you can, and to main­tain a lev­el of curios­i­ty and open­ness to learn­ing about and learn­ing from the com­mu­ni­ties you’re work­ing with. 

In addi­tion to this, I always ensure that I am work­ing with a coun­cil of elders, of com­mu­ni­ty, peo­ple that I know and I’ve built trust­ing rela­tion­ships with so that what­ev­er I take with me when I leave those work­shops, I can process and work through with the sup­port and cul­tur­al sup­port of elders. So this might include work­ing with plant med­i­cines, work­ing with dif­fer­ent heal­ing tools. So that what­ev­er I might have picked up dur­ing the work­shops, what­ev­er trau­mas and chal­lenges might have been shared or expressed, I also have a method and a process of work­ing through those dif­fi­cul­ties. And in rela­tion­ship and in con­ver­sa­tion with elders and coun­sel, whether that be oth­er arts facil­i­ta­tors, oth­er teach­ers, I’m also able to speak to and to process some of the chal­lenges that have come up, some of the things where I did­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly know how to respond, to devel­op and fur­ther my toolk­it to be a bet­ter ally and a bet­ter advo­cate for the needs of the stu­dents and the par­tic­i­pants I’m work­ing with.

On the impor­tance of con­nect­ing with Elders when work­ing with Indige­nous youth 

Hi every­one. My name is Moe and I am a two-spir­it mul­ti-dis­ci­pli­nary metis artist. I’d like to talk now about cul­tur­al sen­si­tiv­i­ties and pro­to­cols when work­ing with incar­cer­at­ed youth, specif­i­cal­ly indige­nous youth as a Métis artist and cre­ator. I’ve worked exten­sive­ly with indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties folks com­ing from dif­fer­ent nations, dif­fer­ent walks of life, dif­fer­ent per­son­al and col­lec­tive histories. 

I think, first and fore­most, what’s impor­tant to note and what’s impor­tant to do your home­work on, is what are some of the his­tor­i­cal sys­temic and cul­tur­al notions that have led to the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion of the youth or the com­mu­ni­ty you’re work­ing with. So I real­ly like to exam­ine and look close­ly at the his­to­ry and impacts of res­i­den­tial schools, on the his­to­ry and impact of con­tact in dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties. So, when did set­tler com­mu­ni­ties come into Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties and how has that impact­ed the cul­tur­al con­tin­u­um, lan­guage con­tin­u­um, and tra­di­tion­al land-based prac­tices of that com­mu­ni­ty. And I like to bring these notions into the work so that I can exam­ine and explore, and also facil­i­tate from a place that is more knowl­edge­able, and more aware and cul­tur­al­ly sen­si­tive to what the par­tic­i­pants might be expe­ri­enc­ing, and how those expe­ri­ences have been informed and impact­ed because of sys­temic sit­u­a­tions and col­o­niza­tion. So that’s step one. 

Step two is also look­ing at an under­stand­ing that each indige­nous peo­ple and each indige­nous nation have dif­fer­ent cul­tur­al con­texts, dif­fer­ent lan­guages, and dif­fer­ent prac­tices of relat­ing, of express­ing, of com­mu­ni­cat­ing. And this type of process is one that as you con­tin­ue to work in the com­mu­ni­ty, you become famil­iar and you get to know and you build rela­tion­ships with the communities.

So I think that’s real­ly the most impor­tant not to make assump­tions, to come with as much infor­ma­tion as you can, and to main­tain a lev­el of curios­i­ty and open­ness to learn­ing about and learn­ing from the com­mu­ni­ties you’re work­ing with. 

In addi­tion to this, I always ensure that I am work­ing with a coun­cil of elders, of com­mu­ni­ty, peo­ple that I know and I’ve built trust­ing rela­tion­ships with so that what­ev­er I take with me when I leave those work­shops, I can process and work through with the sup­port and cul­tur­al sup­port of elders. So this might include work­ing with plant med­i­cines, work­ing with dif­fer­ent heal­ing tools. So that what­ev­er I might have picked up dur­ing the work­shops, what­ev­er trau­mas and chal­lenges might have been shared or expressed, I also have a method and a process of work­ing through those dif­fi­cul­ties. And in rela­tion­ship and in con­ver­sa­tion with elders and coun­sel, whether that be oth­er arts facil­i­ta­tors, oth­er teach­ers, I’m also able to speak to and to process some of the chal­lenges that have come up, some of the things where I did­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly know how to respond, to devel­op and fur­ther my toolk­it to be a bet­ter ally and a bet­ter advo­cate for the needs of the stu­dents and the par­tic­i­pants I’m work­ing with.


For more info on Moe Clark, see their artist pro­file HERE. For a taste of what Moe Clark does, see the fol­low­ing project fea­tured on the PCM Hub:

Sound Sto­ries From the Land

For more info on Music In Incar­cer­a­tion & Reha­bil­i­ta­tion, see HERE

Hugh Chris Brown — On Making Music in Prisons

As part of the Music in Incar­cer­a­tion & Reha­bil­i­ta­tion Resource, Hugh Chris Brown describes his expe­ri­ence in mak­ing music in his pro­gram Pros & Cons and it’s ori­gins, the effi­ca­cy of music in pris­ons, what mak­ing music brought him and the inmates, and self-care prac­tices he uses to sus­tain him­self in this work.

On his first steps estab­lish­ing the prison arts pro­gram Pros & Cons

Hi, my name is Hugh Christo­pher Brown. I iden­ti­fy as he/him, always open to sug­ges­tions for improve­ment. My expe­ri­ence with incar­cer­a­tion and rehab has stemmed sole­ly from a music pro­gram that I devel­oped called the “Pros and Cons” music program. 

Ini­tial­ly, it was a response to the clos­ing of the agri­cul­tur­al pro­grams in pris­ons, a very high­ly suc­cess­ful pro­gram that was being shut down. As a musi­cian, I just thought “Oh I’ll get inside and do what I know how to do and do some­thing pos­i­tive in there”. Because I did­n’t feel that a ben­e­fit for incar­cer­at­ed peo­ple or offend­ers was actu­al­ly going to work, I real­ized at that time that we were deal­ing with a vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tion. They were vul­ner­a­ble because they had per­pe­trat­ed harm to oth­ers, which is a hard thing for peo­ple to get their heads around. Over the course of the last 10 years, it’s grown to mul­ti­ple insti­tu­tions. It’s now a nation­al char­i­ty and it’s gone from song­writ­ing work­shops to build­ing record­ing stu­dios in pris­ons and releas­ing the record­ings that are made by the inmates that are then linked to char­i­ta­ble pur­suits of the per­pe­tra­tor’s choice. So it’s a mod­el of restora­tive jus­tice and a way of har­ness­ing peo­ple’s time inside of sen­tences in a fruit­ful way. 

My first steps to get­ting inside were through build­ing rela­tion­ships, in my case, with Kate John­son who was a prison chap­lain and made those first work­shops pos­si­ble. Fol­low­ing that, it was about build­ing rela­tion­ships with inmates them­selves ask­ing them what was work­ing, get­ting their advice. I always thought I would build a pro­gram and then give it to Cor­rec­tions but both inmates and Cor­rec­tions offi­cials them­selves said no. This is work­ing because it’s inde­pen­dent and peo­ple are com­ing in of their own volition. 

Fur­ther rela­tion­ships start­ed being built with pro­gram­ming offi­cers and the local Region­al Deputy com­mis­sion­er’s office, which was invalu­able. To this day, I would say com­mu­ni­ca­tion and rela­tion­ships are pri­ma­ry. I’ve also been men­tored by peo­ple who’ve done work in pris­ons for years and in dif­fer­ent aspects, every­thone from cor­rec­tion­al offi­cers to peo­ple com­ing run­ning well­ness and health activities.

There’s a lot to learn and a lot of peo­ple have already done those basic steps, so learn from them.

On the effi­ca­cy of music in prisons

Okay, I’m just going to speak a lit­tle bit now on the effi­ca­cy and pur­pose of music, and, I would say, the arts in gen­er­al in incar­cer­at­ed populations. 

One of the things that’s very dif­fi­cult is the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with crim­i­nal­i­ty, both as a stig­ma­tiz­ing fac­tor, and then as a means of self-defense inside. What I have noticed is folks com­ing into groups, either record­ing or singing, will be ret­i­cent to share. To lit­er­al­ly open their mouths. Then all of a sud­den you’re par­tic­i­pat­ing in music and it’s attrac­tive. And music is a tem­po­ral art. You have no oth­er alter­na­tive but to be present, and that present tense as painful as it is, music and art is an emo­tion­al plat­form which can help ease that chal­lenge. I have seen it mul­ti­ple times where folks go from being total­ly reclu­sive to com­plete­ly enthu­si­as­tic, because once they’ve crossed that thresh­old, they want to share that expe­ri­ence with others. 

It’s also giv­ing peo­ple the reins to their own lives. Music is some­thing that they can work on pri­vate­ly. It’s not ordained or judged by oth­ers pri­mar­i­ly, although they will ask me quite often. They just want me to treat them like any oth­er pro­fes­sion­al musi­cian, which I do. The pur­pose of this project keeps chang­ing and expand­ing. At first, it was a response to the can­cel­la­tion not only of the Agri­cul­tur­al pro­grams, but the mod­i­fi­ca­tion of the chap­lain­cy and the can­cel­la­tion, in some cas­es, of the culi­nary programs.

And so, it was fill­ing a void. Now, what it’s doing a decade in, is employ­ing peo­ple on the out­side, both in music, engi­neer­ing, spe­cif­ic tasks, but also some­times in com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­ing. I’m bring­ing inmates back inside to work with cur­rent­ly incar­cer­at­ed peo­ple because that incar­cer­a­tion at that moment goes from being a lia­bil­i­ty to an asset. So I, as a musi­cian, can do a lot of work when I bring in some­one who’s been inside. Mere­ly by their pres­ence, they’re doing work that I can’t nec­es­sar­i­ly do. So the pur­pose has expand­ed as a way of glean­ing an employ­able aspect out of the expe­ri­ence of incar­cer­a­tion. Hope­ful­ly that expands for us as the pro­gram expands, now that we’re a nation­al char­i­ty. That’s one of the aspects that the music might serve some­one when they get out of prison in terms of re-inte­gra­tion. The oth­er way that it def­i­nite­ly serves is just in social­iz­ing peo­ple while they’re inside.

On prison cul­ture, and issues expe­ri­enced by inmates inside and out­side pris­ons 

The oth­er way that it def­i­nite­ly serves is just in social­iz­ing peo­ple while they’re inside. Incar­cer­at­ed pop­u­la­tions can be very iso­lat­ed, very encamped, and the music just nat­u­ral­ly becomes ecu­meni­cal. It becomes shared across dif­fer­ent cul­tures. We’ve had an expe­ri­ence where in one case, a white inmate was mak­ing music with rap­pers and he was say­ing, “If my fam­i­ly knew I was in the room with black peo­ple they would dis­own me”. As you know, not a shock­ing state­ment, and also some­thing that then led to weeks of con­ver­sa­tion, and I would think would affect that per­son­’s atti­tude when they’re on the outside. 

By tak­ing care of music togeth­er and by cre­at­ing a prop­er form of inter­de­pen­dence, I think we wit­ness what oth­er peo­ple are use­ful for. We build trust and we real­ize that a lot is pos­si­ble when we have that trust. And that trust that has often been denied to folks who end up in prison long before their incar­cer­a­tion. Some of the cul­tur­al sen­si­tiv­i­ties I’d say that we have to rec­og­nize are from the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion. I’ll start with the stigma­ti­za­tion of incar­cer­a­tion and scape­goat­ing there­by, because it’s easy to pick on some­one who’s already been fin­gered for doing harm and then trig­ger­ing peo­ple who are trau­ma­tized. If they meet some­one who’s a per­pe­tra­tor of a crime that they’ve suf­fered very often, it’s going to be trig­ger­ing for them.

So these are chal­lenges that we’re meet­ing in our pro­gram as folks grad­u­ate, and as we inte­grate them. The dif­fer­ent ways of address­ing this, I would say, imme­di­ate­ly stem from com­mu­ni­ca­tions and then just fol­low­ing the legal codes as they are. You know, it’s called Cor­rec­tions. It’s not called ‘draw and quar­ter in the pub­lic square and throw peo­ple away’. We work under the ten­ant that every­one is respon­si­ble and no one is dis­pos­able. Some peo­ple can’t hang with that and you don’t want to push but­tons. How­ev­er, expos­ing those kind of prej­u­dices is what we need to do as a civ­il soci­ety if we’re going to advance. And we have gone from draw­ing and quar­ter­ing peo­ple in the pub­lic square to incar­cer­a­tion. Hope­ful­ly we can get a lit­tle more per­fect constantly.

The oth­er cul­tur­al sen­si­tiv­i­ty, of course on the part of incar­cer­at­ed folks, is imposter syn­drome. When peo­ple start tak­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty for them­selves, it’s scary. I mean you’ve been depend­ing on an insti­tu­tion almost the way we are when we’re in school, and so how that is met is by actu­al­ly being vul­ner­a­ble your­self. 

I, as an artist, have to relate all the time. “Oh yeah I was scared shit­less that time on stage”, or this is what I learned from this per­son, or when I bring in peo­ple to do work­shops and an incar­cer­at­ed per­son will say to me, “Wow I learned a lot that day” … I learned a lot that day! So reg­u­lat­ing and putting your­self on the same lev­el as peo­ple real­ly helps to address that state of imposter syn­drome which can be debilitating.

It can be debil­i­tat­ing for all of us, let alone peo­ple who have served time.

On anonymi­ty, and the ethics of con­tent creation

In terms of the ethics around con­tent cre­ation and what hap­pens to it, I can speak specif­i­cal­ly to our mod­el, which is anonymi­ty in release of the music. So what that does well is it pro­tects the per­pe­tra­tor. It also pro­tects vic­tims who could be trau­ma­tized if they saw some­one’s name tied to a piece of work which might have been very earnest­ly made, but still it would­n’t mat­ter to them. So anonymi­ty, it pro­tects both sides from being tar­get­ed and at the same time you give cre­ative con­trol and own­er­ship to the creator.

So we work on pub­lish­ing, on teach­ing peo­ple how to real­ly reg­u­late and con­trol their own con­tent. They can always do ver­sions when they’re on the out­side. The stuff that they make for the pro­gram is put out free of charge, tied to char­i­ta­ble works. So it’s a way of har­ness­ing the time that peo­ple are spend­ing inside in a very pro­duc­tive way. Using that time to ben­e­fit oth­ers, and keep­ing it clear of the com­mer­cial­iza­tion, and any oth­er thing that might kind of hot­ly become under criticism.

On what mak­ing music in pris­ons brings to him and to inmates

I guess the oth­er thing to talk about is so you know why I’m doing this. I saw the agri­cul­tur­al pro­grams being destroyed that had a 0.1 % recidi­vism rate, mean­ing no one who went through those pro­grams were reof­fend­ing. And I start­ed to under­stand the rea­sons why were because they were look­ing to load pris­ons, and break some­thing, and ratio­nal­ize pri­va­ti­za­tion. It just seemed so cyn­i­cal and dark to me that I just need­ed to become engaged and involved. Music is one of my prin­ci­pal engage­ments with the world, so that’s what I had to offer. I think very quick­ly it became evi­dent to me how impor­tant music is, when I saw it cre­ate so much ener­gy. And there’s lots of sto­ries of peo­ple being reunit­ed with their fam­i­lies through this work, and a grow­ing con­cern for each oth­er in incar­cer­at­ed states. 

Peo­ple have been say­ing to me when they’re about to go and get parole, “Oh I don’t want to leave until this pro­jec­t’s fin­ished” or “Are you going to stay here because this was very impor­tant to my friend who’s still involved here.” And just that notion that they’re think­ing in a out­side method to me is a por­tion of free­dom that this work is afford­ing the indi­vid­ual by their own work. And what I con­sid­er suc­cess is when I see that. There’s two or three peo­ple who have been with this pro­gram a long time that at the end of the day, if it was only about those three peo­ple, the decade of work has been worth it. It’s esti­mat­ed that over a thou­sand have gone through our pro­gram. We’re look­ing to expand and nation­al­ize currently.

That will be great. The suc­cess is real­ly, real­ly per­son­al and very indi­vid­ual, and the amount that I’ve learned doing this has deep­ened and reignit­ed my rela­tion­ship to music and myself.

On self-care and dis­cern­ing your role when work­ing in pris­ons 

All of this work is deeply emo­tion­al. We’re very keen into the expe­ri­ence of oth­ers, so it takes a great deal of self-care. Some of the things that I prac­tice are meditation.

I per­son­al­ly sit an hour a day. I find that’s very, very help­ful for me to dis­cern what my role is with oth­ers. When you’re fac­ing folks who have had a rough go, the seduc­tion is the feel­ing that you can fix. That’s not real­ly what we’re here for. We’re just here to abide and present anoth­er option, and art can help make that attrac­tive. And if you can get out of that ego men­tal­i­ty that you’re fix­ing or help­ing, again, putting your­self on the same lev­el as every­one else, that’s good self-care. It’s kind of let­ting your­self off the hook of respon­si­bil­i­ty that way, and I’d say again, mak­ing your­self vul­ner­a­ble. It’s healthy. It can be scary but it’s the only way I know how to do it. And 10 years in, I’ve had expe­ri­ences where I’ve done ther­a­peu­tic work, plant med­i­cines, well­ness work, the prison work nev­er comes up with­in that con­text as some­thing that is tax­ing me. Quite the oppo­site, it actu­al­ly is giv­ing to me.

It might not be what you’d expect, but when you’re in a place where every moment of atten­tion is appre­ci­at­ed, it is very, very, very pos­i­tive and you just have to divorce your­self from that ego side — of the cor­rec­tor or fixer. 

You’re not that, you’re just a friend really.


For more info on Hugh Chris Brown, see their artist pro­file HERE. For a taste of what Hugh Chris Brown does, see the fol­low­ing projects fea­tured on the PCM Hub:

Pros & Cons

Get­ting Start­ed in Cor­rec­tion­al Institutions

For more info on Music In Incar­cer­a­tion & Reha­bil­i­ta­tion, see HERE

Leah Abramson — On Making Music In Prisons

As part of the Music in Incar­cer­a­tion & Reha­bil­i­ta­tion Resource, Leah Abram­son describes her expe­ri­ences mak­ing music in a wom­en’s prison in the project Women Rock, the chal­lenges she encoun­tered, and what mak­ing music brought her and the inmates.

On her first steps mak­ing music in prisons

Hi, my name is Leah Abram­son. My pro­nouns are she and her. I’m a musi­cian, com­pos­er, and instruc­tor based in Van­cou­ver, BC — on the unced­ed ter­ri­to­ries of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tseil-Wau­tuth Nations. 

I began work­ing with incar­cer­at­ed women in 2008. I start­ed as a vol­un­teer teach­ing music lessons and, after a few years of vol­un­teer­ing where I could, I start­ed a pro­gram called Women Rock, which was loose­ly based on the Port­land Girls Rock Camp mod­el to teach rock band instru­ments, then song­writ­ing and then help them to form a band. Those pro­grams end­ed around 2016. 

So ini­tial­ly to get start­ed, I looked up the Eliz­a­beth Fry Orga­ni­za­tion to find out how to become a vol­un­teer, and they sort of put me in the right direc­tion. But I did­n’t join them or any­thing like that . Then, I also had to con­tact the prison itself and the social pro­grams offi­cer there to see what need­ed to hap­pen, in order for me to come in and bring instru­ments there, and to talk specifics about who might want to learn, who might want to be a stu­dent there. 

So I went through vol­un­teer train­ing, just gen­er­al vol­un­teer train­ing for the prison which was a few ses­sions, then orga­nized it with the social pro­grams offi­cer. I kind of did it myself but, in order to find those con­tacts, Eliz­a­beth Fry was helpful. 

On the chal­lenges of get­ting music into prisons

It was actu­al­ly hard­er than I thought to go in and pro­vide a free service. 

There’s  a lit­tle bit of skep­ti­cism on the pris­on’s part — why would you want to come in and do this, and why do you real­ly need to bring in all these instru­ments? I sup­pose there is the most skep­ti­cism around the Rock Band pro­gram because rock band, in gen­er­al, is not seen as a reha­bil­i­ta­tive sort of music or reha­bil­i­ta­tive sort of activ­i­ty.  It’s often viewed as rock and roll, deviant, sex, drugs, etc., which was def­i­nite­ly not our pro­gram. In fact, meet­ing peo­ple where they are in terms of the music can be quite reha­bil­i­ta­tive, in terms of learn­ing an instru­ment and get­ting good at some­thing from week to week. 

But we had to pro­vide a lot of infor­ma­tion, demon­strat­ing what had been done in the past in dif­fer­ent places, in order to con­vince the prison author­i­ties. I guess that it was a worth­while activ­i­ty. Also bring­ing instru­ments in, every­thing needs to be scanned, every­thing needs to be pro­vid­ed as a list before­hand. So you need to know exact­ly what you’re tak­ing in. So it’s a chal­lenge. Just on a real orga­ni­za­tion­al lev­el. Often also, the prison is quite far away from Van­cou­ver so it’s quite a dri­ve. So there’s a com­mute of about an hour and a half each way in traf­fic depend­ing on the tim­ing. Then there’s fund­ing which is a whole oth­er thing. 

So for Rock Band for Women Rock I was able to part­ner with an orga­ni­za­tion called Instru­ments Of Change which fundrais­es every year for things like this. So, at the time, we were able to pay our­selves that way. But when I was ini­tial­ly just vol­un­teer­ing, that was just vol­un­teer­ing. So find­ing fund­ing for these things can be real­ly dif­fi­cult as well. Again, because there’s this idea that music is sort of an unnec­es­sary thing or it’s just not nec­es­sar­i­ly as impor­tant as edu­ca­tion or oth­er things that peo­ple might learn. There’s a view that it’s sort of icing on the cake that peo­ple don’t need, which is def­i­nite­ly not my point of view. But I think there’s the per­cep­tion that it’s not some­thing that peo­ple should get. It’s almost like there’s this puni­tive idea that peo­ple should be suf­fer­ing for what they did, instead of reha­bil­i­tat­ing and look­ing at their lives that way. 

So those are some of the things that were a barrier.

On the impor­tance of music in prisons

It’s an expe­ri­ence I think of fond­ly. It had its chal­lenges for sure. It’s not an easy place to go to every week. It’s def­i­nite­ly some­thing that you digest through­out the week that you think about a lot in your day-to-day after­wards. You’re meet­ing lots of peo­ple from dif­fer­ent walks of life, who have poten­tial­ly had a very dif­fer­ent life from you. Also, there are sim­i­lar­i­ties where you think, “oh if my life had gone slight­ly dif­fer­ent­ly that could have been me. I could be learn­ing music here instead of this per­son”. So it makes you think a lot about your life and cir­cum­stances, and upbring­ing and priv­i­leges in the world, and things like that. 

But it was also very mean­ing­ful giv­ing peo­ple the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn music, which is some­thing that I can’t imag­ine my life with­out. I think it is just so mean­ing­ful for peo­ple in their lives and it’s a skill that they can take with them on the out­side as well. I know that some peo­ple have and it con­tin­ues to enrich their lives, just giv­ing peo­ple those musi­cal skills to car­ry on. 

I hope that there’s a way to cre­ate more oppor­tu­ni­ties for this, in a way that’s per­haps even nation­al. A way for peo­ple to under­stand how impor­tant it is to have arts pro­gram­ming in incar­cer­at­ed set­tings. And I hope to find a way to cen­tral­ize so that peo­ple can more eas­i­ly find their way inside to pro­vide things like this.

There is one part of the pro­gram that I did where we actu­al­ly did record­ings, and a num­ber of women were start­ing to write songs and we actu­al­ly worked with them to make record­ings that they could send to their fam­i­lies. And a num­ber of women sent songs to their chil­dren. That was one of the most mean­ing­ful things, and I think it was a real way for them to express them­selves and also con­nect with their fam­i­lies when they weren’t oth­er­wise able to. Some­times their fam­i­lies lived far away and it was a real­ly mean­ing­ful expe­ri­ence for them to com­mu­ni­cate in that way.

For more info on Leah Abram­son, see their artist pro­file HERE
For a taste of what Leah Abram­son does, see the fol­low­ing projects fea­tured on the PCM Hub:
For more info on Music In Incar­cer­a­tion & Reha­bil­i­ta­tion, see HERE.

Sound Waves: An Approach to Layered Soundscape-Making

Sound Waves shares an approach to lay­ered sound­scape-mak­ing that responds to research themes through mul­ti­ple art forms, in order to cre­ate inclu­sive and acces­si­ble sound­scapes, for groups of inter­gen­er­a­tional mixed-abil­i­ty singers, that can be lay­ered into musi­cal com­po­si­tions. These sound­scapes can be pre­cise, impro­vi­sa­tion­al and infused with par­tic­i­pant per­spec­tives and experiences.


This inter­dis­ci­pli­nary work­shop demon­strates an approach to com­mu­ni­ty-engaged music mak­ing that comes out of prac­tices and approached devel­oped by Ruth Howard and Jum­blies The­atre + Arts.


The process was devel­oped by Shifra Coop­er, through com­po­si­tions by Binaeshee-Quae Nabigon Couch­ie,   informed by prac­tices devel­oped by Ruth Howard and Jum­blies The­atre + Arts. It is part of the pro­duc­tion of What Was My Back­yard? a musial show co-pro­duced by Jum­blies, The Com­mu­ni­ty Arts Guild and The­atre Direct. includ­ing over 100 singers through The Gath­er Round Singers and UTSC Con­cert Choir, and key con­tri­bu­tions from asso­ciate artists Tijana Spa­sic, Natal­ie Fasheh and Patrick Murray.


We invite you to fol­low, enjoy and adapt these steps for sound­scape-cre­ation, to suit your own inter­ests and con­texts. If you are inter­est­ed in the themes or pro­duc­tion of What Was My Back­yard?,  please don’t hes­i­tate to be in touch for infor­ma­tion about licens­ing the music or show.


Sound Waves: An Approach to Lay­ered Sound Making


1. Build Rela­tion­ships and Do Research

This flex­i­ble sound-cre­ation process can be as brief as one work­shop, or take many ses­sions, enriched by deep­er explo­rations and grow­ing rela­tion­ships. Our col­lab­o­ra­tive work­shops grew out of many rich, long-term fac­tors, including:

  • Learn­ing from expert, inter­dis­ci­pli­nary com­mu­ni­ty-engaged artists at Jum­blies The­atre + Arts

  • Col­lab­o­ra­tions with Indige­nous and non-Indige­nous artists through the What Was My Back­yard? Project

  • And invest­ing in The Gath­er Round Singers Choir as an inclu­sive, wel­com­ing, all ages choral space for singers of all expe­ri­ence levels.

2. Share Research
In our case, this was a pre­sen­ta­tion by Com­pos­er Binaeshee-Quae to the choir about the role and impor­tance of Water with­in the musi­cal piece

But this could be any source con­tent shared by an expert of any kind!


3. Choose an Image

Choose an image from what was shared. Our image was a wave, but you could choose any image that con­nects to your con­text. Exam­ples could include: leaves, music notes, foot­prints, fish etc). Cre­ate enough copies so that each singer can have one; card­board and pas­tels are rec­om­mend. (See project score or video for examples).

4. Gen­er­ate Text
Come up with sim­ple ques­tions that will invite com­mu­ni­ty respons­es to the research shared. Use these to gen­er­ate text and write them on your card­board images. our ques­tions were:

  • Think of an out­door space that you spend time in, either cur­rent­ly, or in your own memory/personal history.

  • What is some­thing you know or won­der about the Indige­nous and ancient his­to­ry of this place?

5. Play with Move­ment and Sound
Lead par­tic­i­pants through impro­vi­sa­tions to respond to key images and ideas. Our impro­vi­sa­tions start­ed with move­ment, led by Tijana Spa­sic, slow­ly adding com­mu­ni­ty-gen­er­at­ed move­ments and sounds to acti­vate our waves.

6. Select a Sound Vocabulary
Out of your impro­vi­sa­tions and explo­rations, decide on a sound vocab­u­lary of 2–4 dis­tinct prompts. Our sound prompts for mov­ing water were devel­oped by Com­pos­er Binaeshee-Quae out of com­mu­ni­ty explo­rations: Drip, Swish, Ahh. Take time to build sound­scapes using this vocab­u­lary and build famil­iar­i­ty with the impro­vi­sa­tion­al form.

7. Infuse the Sound Vocab­u­lary with Text

Invite com­mu­ni­ty singers to choose one word they have writ­ten down. For exam­ple, if some­one wrote: “I know this was once full of grass,” they might choose the word grass.

Prac­tice per­form­ing this word in a vari­ety of ways (ex: whis­per, sing, stretch) to build con­fi­dence and famil­iar­i­ty with it.


Then, map this word against the sound vocab­u­lary to build a new sound­scape, infused with par­tic­i­pant stories/perspectives. For exam­ple, in our sound­scape, this would mean per­form­ing the word grass in the style of a Drip, Swish, and Ahh.


See project video for an exam­ple of this in action!


8. Lay­er in Oth­er Music/Movement

Once your sound­scape is estab­lished, you can lay­er in oth­er forms, includ­ing the move­ment gen­er­at­ed in ear­li­er steps.


Your sound­scape may accom­pa­ny a move­ment piece, or anoth­er melody. In our case, the water sound­scape accom­pa­nied a solo melody as part of the What Was My Back­yard? per­for­mance. See our project video to expe­ri­ence these lay­ers com­ing together.



For more infor­ma­tion about The Gath­er Round Singers or What Was My Back­yard? visit


For more infor­ma­tion about Binaeshee-Quae’s music, vis­it

Energy Matters Workshop (Part A): Embodied Listening to Energy Crisis

Art caus­es peo­ple to ques­tion or con­sid­er their own beliefs, assump­tions, or val­ues. It can offer new pos­si­bil­i­ties, solu­tions, and alter­na­tives to cur­rent con­di­tions. Sound Arts enhance our capac­i­ty to notice the world in unusu­al ways. Art helps us to lis­ten bet­ter. There are many ben­e­fits of lis­ten­ing to the world deeply as it cul­ti­vates empa­thy, trust, inclu­sion, com­pas­sion, and more. Hilde­gaard West­erkamp, the pio­neer­ing sound­scape com­pos­er writes:

“Lis­ten­ing not only grounds us with­in our own inner world from which inspi­ra­tion springs, but most impor­tant­ly, it inspires new ideas, and new approach­es to study­ing the sound­scape, and it changes the qual­i­ty of sound­mak­ing, speak­ing and musi­cal expres­sion. Tak­ing the time to lis­ten goes against today’s 24/7 sta­tus quo of a hec­tic pace and stress, of rac­ing toward rich­es and suc­cess, of nev­er hav­ing time and always being impor­tant­ly busy. In this larg­er con­text, lis­ten­ing is a con­scious prac­tice in learn­ing to change our pace in a soci­ety dan­ger­ous­ly speed­ing out of con­trol. Out of that doing comes an entire­ly new expe­ri­en­tial knowl­edge.” (THE DISRUPTIVE NATURE OF LISTENING: TODAY, YESTERDAY, TOMORROW, p.47)

As part of my artist res­i­den­cy at FUTURES/Forward, the Inter­na­tion­al Cen­ter of Arts for Social Change (ICASC) fund­ed by the Cana­da Coun­cil for the Arts and the Met­calf Foun­da­tion and Tri­co Change­mak­ers Stu­dio at Mount Roy­al Uni­ver­si­ty fund­ed by the Cal­gary Arts Devel­op­ment, I part­nered with Alber­ta Ecotrust to apply my artis­tic prac­tice of deep lis­ten­ing and sound­scape com­po­si­tion to ini­ti­ate arts-inspired dia­logue on ener­gy affordability.

Ener­gy is an increas­ing con­cern for many Cana­di­ans; how­ev­er, speak­ing about (un)affordability con­tin­ues to hold the stig­ma amongst peo­ple who are expe­ri­enc­ing dif­fi­cul­ties pay­ing the ener­gy bills on the one hand and on the oth­er hand the issue is not pri­or­i­tized by new reg­u­la­tions for clean elec­tric­i­ty and Canada’s prompt tran­si­tion to net zero. In the series of com­mu­ni­ty-engaged arts work­shops, Ener­gy Mat­ters, we involved stake­hold­ers to address ques­tions such as: How vital is ener­gy afford­abil­i­ty in devel­op­ing #sus­tain­able #cities? How do cli­mate change and Canada’s tran­si­tion to Net­Ze­ro impact low-income groups strug­gling with ener­gy afford­abil­i­ty? Why must afford­able hous­ing inte­grate ener­gy affordability?

The activ­i­ties out­lined in this por­tal would be help­ful to any envi­ron­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion hold­ing a sim­i­lar kind of arts-inspired dia­logue on the cli­mate cri­sis, ener­gy jus­tice, and cli­mate jus­tice. The guid­ed med­i­ta­tion attached to this project would help prac­ti­tion­ers in cre­at­ing a safe and inclu­sive space where par­tic­i­pants could dis­cuss their work on ener­gy poverty.

1) Begin each work­shop by cre­at­ing a safe space that brings togeth­er the community’s under­stand­ing of what “safe space” means and how it would be nurtured.

2) Wel­come com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers into the space and prac­tice an activ­i­ty for ground­ing and cen­tring that helps indi­vid­u­als to over­come their resis­tance and nur­tures more open­ness. This can be done with a med­i­ta­tion that brings atten­tion to the breath and to the sen­so­ry stim­uli around or with a walk­ing meditation.

Here is an exam­ple of a guid­ed prac­tice and the attached score and video is an exam­ple of how it is con­duct­ed in a work­shop set­ting. See the score below for a down­load­able ver­sion. You can find audio exam­ples of sim­i­lar guid­ed med­i­ta­tion prac­tices for work­shops in the guid­ed med­i­ta­tion links below.


Walk­ing Med­i­ta­tion for Ground­ing and Lis­ten­ing to the Earth’s Pulse

Stand with feet about shoul­der-width apart. Shoul­ders relaxed, soles of the feet con­nect­ed to the earth, knees a lit­tle soft, palms at the sides. Eyes are in soft focus, see­ing everything.



Adopt a nat­ur­al stance. Bring your atten­tion to the soles of the feet. Imag­ine that you are grow­ing roots down into the earth. Let the roots be your anchor­ing to the earth.

Since the soles of the feet let the ener­gy of the body sink into the soles and roots. The knees are a lit­tle soft to pro­mote circulation.

Shoul­ders are relaxed. Palms of the hands relaxed.



Vis­it your heart and allow a very pleas­ant mem­o­ry to emerge.

Visu­al­ize and light up your spine trav­el­ling from the tip of the tail­bone, ver­te­bra by

ver­te­bra up into the skull.

Imag­ine a gold­en thread shoot­ing out of the crown of your head to a dis­tant star.

Imag­ine that the upper part of your body is float­ing sus­pend­ed from a star. Try to

bal­ance the feel­ing of the low­er body root­ed to the earth and the relaxed floating

sen­sa­tion of the upper body.

The chin is tucked under a bit to help align the spine.

Try to bring your body into this align­ment at dif­fer­ent times of the day whether you are

sit­ting, stand­ing or walking.



Now repeat this affir­ma­tion: With each step, I feel the earth hold­ing me, sup­port­ing me, sus­tain­ing me. I am simul­ta­ne­ous­ly slow­ing each breath.”

Thank you for join­ing me in this guid­ed practice.

*The words and phras­es in square brack­ets need not be said aloud. It is to help the guid­ed prac­ti­tion­er to pause as the med­i­ta­tion tran­si­tions from one phase into another.

  1. After this guid­ed med­i­ta­tion, the par­tic­i­pants can be engaged in ques­tions for reflec­tions on the jam board fol­lowed by activ­i­ties that engage them in an artis­tic activ­i­ty and a dia­logue per­tain­ing to ener­gy acces­si­bil­i­ty. For more details, please refer to part b) and part c) of this project.

Energy Matters Workshop (Part B): An Auditory Approach to Energy Accessibility

Art can become a means to inte­grate mar­gin­al­ized voic­es into the con­ver­sa­tion. It can voice aspects of the issue not oth­er­wise expressed in pub­lic doc­u­ments or pol­i­cy state­ments. Art helps us to lis­ten bet­ter. How might we har­ness the pow­er of arts to explore issues around ener­gy acces­si­bil­i­ty? Ener­gy afford­abil­i­ty is an increas­ing con­cern for many Cana­di­ans; how­ev­er, speak­ing about (un)affordability con­tin­ues to be prob­lem­at­ic. In the series of com­mu­ni­ty-engaged arts work­shops, Ener­gy Mat­ters, we involved stake­hold­ers to address ques­tions such as: How vital is ener­gy afford­abil­i­ty in devel­op­ing sus­tain­able cities? How do cli­mate change and Canada’s tran­si­tion to Net Zero impact low-income groups strug­gling with ener­gy afford­abil­i­ty? Why must Afford­able Hous­ing inte­grate ener­gy affordability?

I was priv­i­leged to col­lab­o­rate (as the FUTURES/for­ward and Tri­co Change­mak­ers Studio’s artist-in-res­i­dence in co-cre­at­ing and facil­i­tat­ing the Ener­gy Mat­ters project) with Alber­ta Ecotrust (SEE the LINKS BELOW for more infor­ma­tion) and their part­ners (ACORN, Kam­bo, Ener­gy Effi­cien­cy, All One Sky, and oth­ers) in their Ener­gy Pover­ty and Home Upgrades Pro­gramEner­gy Mat­ters was a series of par­tic­i­pa­to­ry arts work­shops where par­tic­i­pants (stake­hold­ers who were ener­gy advo­cates with­in their orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing Home Upgrades pro­gram staff at Alber­ta Ecotrust and advo­cates from Ecotrust’s part­ners: ACORN, All One Sky, and Cal­gary Alliance for the Com­mon Good) engaged in arts-based dia­logue around ener­gy pover­ty using cre­ative activ­i­ties to reflect on the ways ener­gy afford­abil­i­ty is con­nect­ed with cli­mate change and the pro-poor poli­cies that could gen­er­ate more equi­ty.  The project was based on inter­sec­tion­al ethics of care that looked at the ways ener­gy afford­abil­i­ty impacts var­i­ous sec­tions of our soci­ety, includ­ing seniors, peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, women, and newcomers.

Each work­shop start­ed with an activ­i­ty that involved embod­ied deep lis­ten­ing and attun­ing the ear to approach ques­tions about ener­gy unaf­ford­abil­i­ty from an audi­to­ry approach that facil­i­tates cre­at­ing sound arts for social change. Refer to Part A in PCM hub to see an exam­ple of this activ­i­ty. Part B will assist you in cre­at­ing prompts for par­tic­i­pants to reflect on.


1)    Fol­low­ing a guid­ed med­i­ta­tion, involve the par­tic­i­pants in an audi­to­ry reflec­tion activ­i­ty that per­tains to their every­day real­i­ties and their expe­ri­ence of them. See below for examples:

Exam­ple 1: What is the one sound that you heard this morn­ing that brought you here today. [See the attached video]

Exam­ple 2: What are the sounds that you find agree­able and calming?

Exam­ple 3: What are the sounds that you find unpleas­ant and dis­rupt­ing your comfort?


2)    Next, engage the par­tic­i­pants in a reflec­tion that per­tains to their work on ener­gy accessibility.

See the images below as an exam­ple of how the par­tic­i­pants were involved in a crit­i­cal­ly self-reflex­ive dia­logue that ensured the cre­ation of a space of open­ness and mutu­al respect where they shared the bias­es and prej­u­dices that they bring to their work on ener­gy acces­si­bil­i­ty. Par­tic­i­pants were asked to ques­tion the bias­es and prej­u­dices they bring to their work address­ing ener­gy inac­ces­si­bil­i­ty. What are the lim­i­ta­tions to their lis­ten­ing to peo­ple expe­ri­enc­ing the cri­sis of ener­gy afford­abil­i­ty?  [See the respons­es of one group in the jam board in the image gallery below]


3)    Ask par­tic­i­pants to read oth­er respons­es on the jam board and share their per­spec­tives. [See the attached video for an exam­ple of this activity].