Music therapy helps "heal" veterans - Tucson Local Media: Liven Up

Music therapy helps "heal" veterans

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Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2013 8:00 am

Thousands of studies have supported music and the arts as an unparalleled healing therapy.          

With overwhelming support from mental, emotional and communicative scientific research, SAACA began a performance series, Music for Our Veterans, at the Southern Arizona VA Hospital.

The program fills a void in the community for veterans to find therapeutic release on a deep level through music. The free concerts for VA patients began alternating Tuesdays in the main gathering area and have recently expanded to include alternating Monday night performances as well.

Beginning as a concert series in the main dining hall, the program has expanded to two new wards in the hospital to reach more patients and those who do not have the physical means to make the dining hall performances.

Musicians play a variety of genres - folk, bluegrass, jazz, blues, rock, country and more - reaching each patient on a personal level.

"The directed use of music and music therapy is highly effective in developing coping strategies, including understanding and expressing feelings of anxiety and helplessness, supporting feelings of self-confidence and security, and providing a safe or neutral environment for relaxation," according to the American Musical Therapy Association.

Around the nation, the VA has doubled the amount of musical therapists at their clinics in order to help heal a wide range of mental and physical disorders. The undeniable progression of this form of therapy has reinforced SAACA's mission to expand the program to incorporate a complete arts integration program for veterans.

"This series gives them the chance to feel, if just for an hour that they are not in a medical facility," said Deborah Brookshire, M.Ed., CAVS Program Manager at the Southern Arizona VA Hospital.

The concerts were made possible by the generous underwriting of Bill Adler.

A Musician's Point of View

 "I had the honor of playing a solo acoustic gig for the vets/patients at the VA Hospital this evening. Ninety percent of the patients in the dining room were in wheelchairs and clearly dealing with severe health issues. Most required assistance in and out of the dining room. However small my contribution was, the gift that was returned to me simply from their eyes, their smiles and... applause, ...that was immeasurable. For just an hour and a half of my time, I left with a picture of true honor painted indelibly in my heart. The biggest gift today was the one I walked away with in my heart. They smiled, they laughed, they clapped, they complimented me, and all I did was play music hopefully touching their hearts. They gave their time, their devotion and risked their lives for our amazing country and for our freedom. I am truly humbled."

- Gary Roberts, Music for Our Veterans performer

Monday Night Line-up

Sept. 16           Gary Roberts - acoustic rock / blues

Sept. 30           Janice Jarrett - jazz

Oct. 14             Frank Ross - acoustic guitar & vocals

Oct. 28             Desert Melodies - vocals

Nov. 25            Johnny Cashew - acoustic country

Dec. 9              Desert Deuce - guitar / cello

Dec. 23            Cinderbridge - bluesy folk

Tuesday Night Line-up

Sept. 3             Amber Norgaard - folk rock

Sept. 17           Jimmy & The Jitterbugs - jazz swing standards

Oct. 1               Reno Del Mar - Latin acoustic duo

Oct. 15             Little House of Funk - R&B / jazz / soul

Nov. 5              Bunny Kirby - guitar / vocals

Nov. 19            Heather O'Day - jazz vocal standards

Dec. 3              Bryan Dean Trio - blues

Dec. 17            Gabriel Ayala - guitarist

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