Last week, the Hands Together team past what was the first of many milestones to come. Having been invited to attend a conference in Bellville, IL for people struggling with mental illness and their caregivers, we finally got to see how people would respond to our vision. This required a few brainstorming sessions. The trick would be to incorporate our own advocacy into advocacy for music therapy. As any creative therapist would know, the business relies heavily on advocacy for the profession. Without it, we simply would be out of a job. Before we can get people to respond to Hands Together, we first have to show them that music therapy can work for them. After much thought, it appeared we had a workable plan. First, we ordered these maracas.
These rattling noise makers proved to be a huge hit with professionals and shy conference-goers alike, having buried the maracas in their totes, making a musical sound with each step they took. Colorful, noisy freebies? Check!
There's no better way...
than to record a song, album, or idea.
Next, we concocted an off-beat setup to attract the attention of passerby. Hands Together aspires to host not only music therapy classes and sessions, but to also house a recording studio that can be used regularly as an intervention for anyone who might benefit. There's no better way to review personal growth, share musical accomplishments with family and friends, or experience the thrill of reaching a goal you many never have believed possible than to record a song, album, or idea. This being a large part of the Hands Together vision, we recorded some blues guitar, bass, and drums tracks, set up these microphones (below), and asked fellow professionals to write and record their own blues song.
"What's all this?" was the first question many people felt they should ask, and with that they were hooked. Having captured their attention, we painted a picture of the value of music therapy. We exchanged information for stories about personal encounters with music helping so-and-so through the toughest time in his/her life. Musicians, music lovers, and concerned parents were drawn in by the idea that music could aide in their search for much needed relief. Then I'd take the plunge. "It sounds like you've certainly had the blues. Would you like to put in song? It'll just take a moment!" Then, the worst. Before my eyes, I watched shyness take over every single inquisitor, causing them to clam up, shift uneasily, and opt instead to take a maraca and a business card with a polite, "Er... No thanks. I have allergies/I'm no musician/I couldn't possibly/maybe next time."
"It sounds like you've certainly had the blues. Would you
like to put it in song? It'll just take a moment!"
Well, what were we to expect, right? Music is something that, for many people, is meant to be enjoyed and listened to. Trying to convince folks on the spot that they too can experience the joy and benefits of creating a song that expresses some deep part of themselves is a feat that should not be taken lightly. It didn't take long to realize that we greatly underestimated the task at hand. It was soon time to abandon our initial plan and try instead to engage people in a sing-along.
Covers from artists such as The Temptations, The Rolling Stones, The Band, The Beatles, and Elvis gave us one more chance to reach out to our tired audience. Suddenly, smiles and maracas accompanied us. Professionals from nearby booths sang along. Conference attendees who had passed by before finally stopped to ask questions. What a relief! The long day of advocacy was at last a success. The email sign-up sheet acquired a few more signatures. We gave out the last of the available maracas. We got people to come out of their shell.
When all was said and done, we learned two important lessons:
1. Don't expect everyone to think you've got an idea, even if you know there's nothing like it anywhere else. Take it one step at a time and they'll come around.
2. Do it again! Once is hardly ever enough. We'll take another crack at it in October and this time, we'll have a new, more effective game plan.