Tag Archives: Therapeutic drumming

Cultural sensitivity – good for business and good for you!

Image Source:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2011/05/16/slave-lake-fire-evacuation.html.  Retrieved on May 21, 2011.

During this past week, I wrote about undertaking an individual, or series, of music interventions involving evacuees from Slave Lake, AB.  The community has suffered greatly with all 7000 inhabitants being evacuated following a firestorm that swept through the town.  Yesterday, they released a tally of homes and businesses destroyed by the ensuing fire(s) – 485 either destroyed or heavily damaged.  That is just the physical losses – many of the emotional and psychological losses are yet to come.  In part, that is why I felt the need to volunteer my assistance.

There are a number of evacuation centers.  Part of me would like to go to the evacuation center in Athabasca where 800-1000 people are living, at least temporarily, but at this point that is not possible.  So today I am volunteering at the evacuation center located in Edmonton – the Northlands EXPO centre.  In planning and seeking permissions I ran into an unexpected barrier – cultural sensitivity.  Edmonton, and Alberta in general, has a large number of aboriginal/native communities.  The area around Slave Lake has a large number of individuals belonging predominantly to the Cree nation.  When I stated that I wanted to do a “drumming circle” the administrative committee reject the idea on grounds that it might offend some of the evacuees who might consider drumming a sacred activity or an activity associated with particular ceremonies.  I’ve been a music therapists for 15 years and drumming is part of my regular collection of interventions when I am working with clients – I have never have associated it with the potential to offend.  Perhaps it is just the name  “drumming circle” that may have cultural associations?

A factor in your music therapy business practice, cultural sensitivity is receiving increased attention in music therapy training.  Indeed, as the world seems to shrink – via increased personal mobility/job finding geographical location and “easy” access to a huge variety of cultures, your awareness of the predominant culture(s) or ethic groups within your local area.  When I lived on Vancouver Island (the Comox Valley), I found a large percentage of individuals were of German descent or ancestry.  Here in Edmonton, the native population and those of Ukranian descent are two of the most significant cultural groups.  This means that I need to learn songs, musical styles, and understand the beliefs that are a part of these cultures because I am likely to derive clients from those cultural groups.  When you do so, you will be better able to meet their needs and provide meaningful interventions.  Cultural sensitivity might also apply to occupational roles.  When I lived on Vancouver Island, predominant occupations included – logging, fishing, and mining.  Entertainment was not community based, but rather individuals “made their own entertainment”.  In Edmonton, residents are accustomed to accessing community and cultural arts-based activities – “to being entertained” rather than “providing their own entertainment”.  There is also a much wider diversity of employment histories – logging and fishing are not among them!

So what will I be doing today?  My first intervention will involve the children and musical activities, involving movement, imagination, and fun.   Next, I will ask participants directly about their beliefs surrounding drumming. (I have also sought out information sources via the Internet, social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook and personal contacts that have some experience with local/Alberta native populations).   If they are approving of the idea, I will then ask permission of the evacuation center administration to come back and do a second intervention.    I may not call it a “drum circle” and will avoid a “circular” shape – even though that provides a meaningful and psychologically comforting “holding” place for the emotions that are bound to arise.  I might call it “Catching the beat” or “Fun with drums”.  Stay-tuned for further updates!



Filed under Business Tools, Clinicial Skills, Interventions, Music Therapy

Responding to Disaster

It seems that everyday a new tragedy or natural disaster is reported in the news.  Here in Canada the past few weeks have been filled, and are still filled, with reports of flooding in various provinces.  On Monday, the news hit a little closer to home.  Slave Lake, AB (population 7000) was completely evacuated following a firestorm that has burned at least half the town, much of it – to the ground.  Evacuees are staying in nearby towns and cities, including the city where I live – Edmonton, AB.  I’ve been thinking about what I could do to assist those affected, whether it resulted from flooding or fire?  Here’s how I am attempting, in my own little way, to respond.  Your thoughts and comments would be appreciated.  Thanks to Voices, Vicky Abad, Kate Williams and Monica Zidar for publishing an column that started me along this line of thinking!

The proposal that I am making to my local Red Cross:  Several hours of MT intervention with evacuees from Slave Lake, at two of the nearby evacuation centres.

Details:  Evacuees are being housed, along with their pets, in several evacuation centers.  Many are still trying to find out if they have anything to return to, as information is still sketchy.  Most left with moments to spare as the fire was sudden and escalated quickly due to high winds.  Luckily, there have been no reports of injury or death as a result of the fire.  Approx. 1/3rd of the town has been burned to the ground with up to half of the town damaged significantly.  Water and electricity have been cut off although efforts are underway to restore utilities to the rest of the town that remains standing.

Some of my intervention ideas include:

1.  Movement and music activity for elementary & preschoolers

This would include up to 30 minutes of music, singing, movement to music, parachute activities, etc.

2.  Drumming activities using variety of larger drums, gathering drums and simple percussion

a)  All age groups – group drumming activity using “heartbeat” rhythm to begin and end the session

b)  Teens/Tweens – emotional release/de-stress (using opposites, start/stop, accompaniment to pop/dance music)

c)  Children/Elementary age children – Provide egg shakers, rhythm sticks that have been donated.  Afterwards, children can take them home with them.

The basis/theory behind the activities is:

1.  Music is universal and generally enjoyable to most individuals – almost anyone, of any age, enjoys music and drumming

2.  Music can be useful as a distraction – these people have little to do but sit and worry about the future.  Distracting them for even a short amount of time can be therapeutic and useful.  Children especially need a creative outlet for their energy and natural anxiety, especially in a strange environment.

3.  Music can help to “normalize” an environmentchildren and adults alike are in a totally foreign environment at the evacuation centers.  Any “normal” type activity can be psychologically helpful and help to ease them through this difficult time.

4.  Music can help individuals move to a different emotional place  – I’m not sure what state many of these folks are in but if the news reports are true – most are in a relative state of shock.  Providing something as simple as an egg shaker or rhythm sticks (that I’m hoping to get donated) can help to ease the painful memories in the minds of the children and help them to have something to hold onto and remember positively about this experience.

So – am I crazy?  Should I be worried about too much emotional reaction/uncontrollable situations due to the large group setting?  Does anyone have any experience in similar situations that they could share?

I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!

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Filed under Clinicial Skills, Interventions, Music Therapy