Fifteen years ago, I was on my way to The Sage in Gateshead to attend a workshop on “Singing and Health”. It was rather a sad time as things had gone pear-shaped at work, and I knew I would shortly be leaving my job. But I had started to hatch an Exit Strategy, and, sitting on the train, I wrote in my notebook my thoughts about my future: “have to wait and see, but I’m on the way to the rest of my life……”.
Since that epiphany moment, I often use the phrase “notes along the road” (despite the fact that I was actually travelling by train) to encapsulate my thoughts about developing people’s involvement in music. My note travelling home after the lovely time I’d had singing in the Sage, was that I would start a choir in the village. The note said that the aim was “to have fun and sing together, develop confidence in voice, learn how to make music, and come out of the shower!”.
“Notes” is of course a word of musical relevance, and “along the road” I see as describing our journey in life. Despite differences in our ability to cope with that journey and the difficulties that arise, we are all on the road, and the aim of any therapy is to support people in their journey.
Working as a therapist with students at the university, I often had to deal with their fears about writing (so-called “writer’s block”) and I began group sessions in which we shared issues about writing, and wrote together playfully. I saw it as helping people “find their own voice” – in this case finding the confidence to express themselves on a blank piece of paper. Now that I am involved with music therapy as a tool in supporting people’s journeys, “finding your own voice” is even more significant. I have heard lots of stories of people’s fears of joining in music, and they often confess to me that the only place they sing confidently is in their car (yes, genuinely “notes along the road”), but actually locked in their own little world without the confidence to get involved musically with other people.
My own journey along the road after I travelled to The Sage, has been wonderful, and the choir I started in the village, “Women in Harmony”, is about to celebrate those 15 years of getting together, “sharing laughter, love and song” (words from an Italian round). Of course, as with most journeys, there have been delays, ups and downs, accidents, and so on, but what I have seen is that choirs really help people to get out of the tin box in which they have been travelling down the road to join in singing with others.