Music Therapy

Last night was the music party which completed Riley’s year of music therapy. It was bitter sweet for me, because she will not be continuing with music therapy in the fall.

Riley has a wonderful musical ear, which we tried to encourage from a very young age, but formal instruction proved too stressful for her. We felt she was on the verge of throwing the towel in and wanted her to continue to love music, so we made the choice for MT. Over the last three years she has grown so much. She is no longer the little girl having a panic attack if she played a wrong note (fingers not as precise as her ear). She gained so much confidence and grew close to her therapist.

At the recital last night, I sat and watched as many people of various ages and abilities performed. You need tissues for that music party. One woman comes up to the microphone so excited she throws her hat into the air, (three times) before singing. Joy just uncontainable in her. Another student, a man with Down Syndrome, learned to play the graduation theme on the piano. He worked so very hard, taking several slow seconds between many of his notes, but he persevered and he did it. He dedicated the song to his niece who was graduating this year.

There was a group of young women who call themselves Best Friends Forever who performed a few songs together. Music therapy providing a peer group for them.

As I watched these children and young adults and older adults perform, I was struck by the love that has gone into each and every one of them. Many of them will never live independently. Someone is taking care of them. They are cared for. Someone gets them to music therapy. Gets their “nice clothes” ready for them. They are loved.

One man who was blind, and cognitively young, insisted we all sing along to the songs he played on the omnichord. He played Oh When the Saints Go Marching In and and He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands. And everyone sang along. And I felt He did have the whole world in his hands. I felt like we’re all going to be okay.

Seth rocked out in his chair to the Bruno Mars songs that a couple of students performed, taking these performers as seriously as he would any other, even if they mumbled through words and stood stiffly at the microphone.

Riley performed a duet with her therapist. They played Kelly Clarkson’s Breakaway. My girl played the piano and sang these words,

I’ll spread my wings and I’ll learn how to fly
I’ll do what it takes til’ I touch the sky
And I’ll make a wish
Take a chance
Make a change
And breakaway
Out of the darkness and into the sun
But I won’t forget all the ones that I love
I’ll take a risk
Take a chance
Make a change
And breakaway  

She hopped up to the microphone to introduce herself and took the cutest little bow at the end. Full of happy confidence. Her voice a sweet soprano. Her fingers doing the job on the piano.

On the way out, the man who was blind was being led by an aide dressed in scrubs. He asked her, “Are you proud of me?”

She said in voice filled with so much love, “You have no idea.” He smiled big as he shuffled off toward their car, with her at his elbow.

I am so thankful for The Cleveland Music School Settlement where people of all abilities are allowed to grow and experience music. It is such a unique place. The Settlement turns 100 this year. Imagine how many students have passed through its doors!  I am so thankful that Riley was provided a safe place to foster a love of music over the last three years. It’s been a beautiful experience for her.

I’ll spread my wings and I’ll learn how to fly
I’ll do what it takes til’ I touch the sky
And I’ll make a wish
Take a chance
Make a change
And breakaway
Out of the darkness and into the sun
But I won’t forget all the ones that I love
I’ll take a risk
Take a chance
Make a change
And breakaway  

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10 Responses to Music Therapy

  1. <3 This post is why I love you and your writing. I have to go find a tissue now.

  2. kario says:

    I have SUCH a lump in my throat. This place sounds absolutely amazing, Michelle. I can see why you’re sad that Riley won’t be attending anymore. I am in awe of her confidence and poise and her comment to the older blind man made me lose it.

  3. Amanda says:

    Sounds an amazing evening and you must have been so proud of Riley, she’s come
    a long way from those cello lessons…

  4. Lydia says:

    May I ask why you/she decided not to continue?

  5. Michelle O'Neil says:

    Lydia,

    She has much better control of her emotions now and it is time for her to take an instrument or a theory class next year.

    : )

  6. naomi says:

    Congratulations Riley! Such a lovely way to say goodbye and welcome the next experience.

  7. rhemashope says:

    your writing makes me feel like i was there. truly touched.
    congratulations to amazing riley.
    xo

  8. Carrie Link says:

    You have NO idea how much I love that girl, and everything about her! I need to get Rojo in something like that!

  9. amber says:

    That really sounds amazing. Very cool. I hope she goes back to music in some way because of this!

    :)

  10. Dee Ready says:

    Dear Michelle, I wondered why Riley was leaving the class and I saw your response to Lydia’s comment. I’m so glad that Riley is now going to learn an instrument or take a theory class. The song she sang brought tears to my eyes and the words you wove into the posting brought reverence into my heart. Peace.