Music is life

Recreational Music Making: Body-Mind-Spirit and Wellness

Young and old alike, they followed their guide precisely. United through a collective rhythm, individual expressions blended into a symphony of souls. Their music transcended all boundaries. Limitation, disability and difference disappeared. They were whole again, individually and as a community. It was more than a drum circle – it was a circle of life.

It’s hard to imagine living without music.

Yet while listening to music is our nation’s favorite pastime, active music-making isn’t typically perceived to be within most people’s grasp.

When you ask individuals if they are musical, many offer statements like, “I used to be,” or “not according to my 4th grade music teacher.” Some acknowledge they’d like to take up an instrument but simply haven’t found time in their busy schedules. Others simply look at you as if you’re kidding.

Such responses aren’t surprising when you consider the relative paucity of adults who play instruments these days. I wonder how many old flutes, saxophones and guitars are gathering dust in basements and attics. Add to it the number of pianos that haven’t been played or tuned in years and the picture of active music participation in our country becomes clear.

Music-making, at least in the traditional sense, seems to be reserved for a limited number of individuals who have dedicated considerable time and practice to their endeavor. It’s a fact that very few people actually earn a living performing, writing, or recording music. Recently I’ve learned the odds are better for becoming a professional athlete than a Rock Star.

In years past families gathered together and entertained themselves. Cultural diversity abounded from performances in formal music parlors to hootenannies in the Appalachian mountains. Music-making seemed to be an integral part of everyday life.

Today with time at a premium especially for two-earner households, get-togethers have given way to email and chat rooms. Practice sessions have been replaced by channel and net surfing. Countless other activities that seemingly require far less commitment and dedication are in competition for our precious time.

Yet there’s a new musical approach that’s rapidly gaining momentum throughout the world. It’s called “Recreational Music-Making,” based upon the Latin word, “recreatio,” which means to restore health.

Rather than focusing on performance, Recreational Music-Making is centered on wellness along with exercise, nutrition and stress reduction. Anyone can participate and share in the enjoyment regardless of experience or skill level.

Recreational Music-Making promotes self-expression, camaraderie, nurturing, exercise and creativity. Years of music instruction and steep learning curves are unnecessary. Participants are simply asked to bring their enthusiasm, love of music and a willingness to share the rhythms of their soul.

The extraordinary gains are worth the investment of time and energy.

Participants develop a renewed sense of balance, heightened self-esteem and an incredible sense of having contributed to the symphony of life. Newcomers are often surprised by their ability to make music in a manner never imagined possible before.

You might be wondering where Recreational Music-Making opportunities exist.

Actually they’re more commonplace than you might imagine. You can find them in hospitals, clinics, wellness centers, long-term care facilities and support groups. They’re also springing up in the corporate world at worksites and during weekend executive retreats. Music stores are also taking the lead with specialized keyboard programs designed with a unique focus on wellness for seniors.

Who are the facilitators?

While some have formal music backgrounds, others do not. You’re bound to find music therapists and educators along with a myriad of unique representatives and evangelists from various fields. Many are experts in their respective arenas. Facilitator training programs vary considerably and are readily available from multiple sources.

What does the future hold?

As we progressively become a more health conscious society, new Recreational Music Making opportunities are evolving each day. Through expansion of the wellness movement and a renewed focus on self-expression, socialization, nurturing and group support, people are discovering the extraordinary value of making music together.

By the way…the scenario I described initially didn’t happen in the US – it recently took place during her Asian tour. And while a language barrier did exist between the participants and their facilitator, Christine Stevens, MT-BC, Director of HealthRhythms for Remo Drums, Inc., the drummers didn’t experience the slightest difficulty following their guide.

According to Christine, “Their rhythms were unique but their expressions were not. The joy of making music together was reflected in our energy and smiles. Seemingly two different worlds came together as one in sound and spirit. Whether in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Taipei or Seoul, drumming proved to be a social elixir, creating a sense of cohesion and excitement despite language differences.”

Perhaps it’s time for you to join in. Feel free to drop me a line if you’d like more information. May your quest for wellness begin on a joyful note – Mind Over Matter!

Barry Bittman MD Written by Barry Bittman MD

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