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Rebecca Barnstaple

Pre­sen­ta­tion of Music and Health Resource 

Hi. I’m Rebec­ca Barns­taple. I am the mana­ger of Com­mu­ni­ty Ini­tia­tives Research and Inno­va­tion here at Chi­ga­mik Com­mu­ni­ty Health Cen­ter. I’m also a post-doc­to­ral research fel­low at The Inter­na­tio­nal Ins­ti­tute for Cri­ti­cal Stu­dies in Impro­vi­sa­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Guelph and I am very exci­ted to wel­come you to this music and Health Resource.

Like many of the people you’re going to see in these videos, I wear many hats, besides the two things I alrea­dy sha­red with you. I’m also a dance the­ra­pist, and I work in the field of dance and health.

I have been offe­ring pro­grams here at Chi­ga­mik for almost eight years for people with Par­kin­son’s and move­ment disor­ders. I was invi­ted to direct this resource based on my expe­rience in the field of dance and health and as many of you pro­ba­bly rea­lize, dance and music are so in meshed and have long his­to­ries in many cultu­ral prac­tices asso­cia­ted with health and well-being.

One of the things that you will also see throu­ghout this resource is the idea of health itself is a very mul­ti-dimen­sio­nal thing. People will be tal­king about not only phy­si­cal health but men­tal health and well-being, social connec­ted­ness. These ideas are real­ly dif­fi­cult to sepa­rate and when we think about artis­tic and holis­tic prac­tices, these are ways that we can address health in a mul­ti-dimen­sio­nal way. So music-based and arts-based resources are real­ly gai­ning visi­bi­li­ty and trac­tion as ways of approa­ching some of the most urgent health crises of our time.

You are going to see videos from people who are resear­chers, prac­ti­tio­ners, the­ra­pists, com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, people who are doing com­mu­ni­ty enga­ged work. And you will see that many of the folks who are going to share with us do many of those things at the same time and also separately.

On Health, Social Pres­crip­tion, and the Arts

More than just the absence of disease or hel­ping people medi­cal­ly reco­ver from ill­ness, health is more and more unders­tood to be broad­ly defi­ned as hel­ping people access a sense of thri­ving and well-being, and this is often connec­ted to fin­ding mea­ning in the acti­vi­ties that we engage in.

One of the things that we’ve star­ted doing here at Chi­ga­mik that is real­ly lin­ked with a lot of these music and health ini­tia­tives is social pres­cri­bing. Social pres­cri­bing is a path­way for cli­ni­cians, whe­ther they’re doc­tors, nurses, social wor­kers, men­tal health wor­kers, to refer people to non-cli­ni­cal ser­vices so it it creates a path for people to access things in the com­mu­ni­ty that can help contri­bute to that sense of well-being thri­ving and meaning.

Many of the best examples of social pres­cri­bing pro­grams are rela­ted to arts and health.

The­re’s a a won­der­ful pro­gram cal­led « Arts on Pres­crip­tion » and seve­ral of the ini­tia­tives that you’ll hear about in this resource have a social pres­cri­bing ele­ment. I’m very exci­ted because here at Chi­ga­mik, we’re actual­ly laun­ching into a part­ner­ship with Sing­Well which seve­ral of the people that you’ll hear from are invol­ved, in which is the crea­tion of a health choir for people with COPD and brea­thing disor­ders and their Care Partners.

The other thing that’s exci­ting about that and seve­ral of the other ini­tia­tives that we’re sha­ring is not only the pro­vi­sion of a new pro­gram and ser­vice for people that can contri­bute to their sense of health and well­being, there is a research com­ponent atta­ched to it so we’re able to bet­ter unders­tand real­ly what are the impacts for people who are par­ti­ci­pa­ting in these pro­grams. And also what are the best ways to faci­li­tate access, lower bar­riers for people to access these pro­grams in the community.

I am very exci­ted to share this resource with you. I have brought toge­ther many dif­ferent col­leagues who have also refer­red other col­leagues to share with you a real sense of the diver­si­ty of prac­tices asso­cia­ted with music and health. A range of ways that people have got­ten into doing this work. I real­ly hope you find it as ins­pi­ring as I have. Thank you.

Rob Lutes

On music and men­tal health

My name is Rob Lutes. I’m a sin­ger-song­wri­ter, musi­cian, and music edu­ca­tor who lives in Pointe-Clair, Quebec.

Music and men­tal health, it’s an enor­mous ques­tion and the ans­wer could be enor­mous, but in gene­ral for me, music is just good for my brain and good for my body. Playing, sin­ging, com­po­sing, explo­ring, lis­te­ning to music, tal­king about music, all these things just make me hap­pier. (They) make me feel bet­ter more ful­filled, more enga­ged, more exci­ted about my life and the world. And in a world full of dif­fi­cult things, par­ti­cu­lar­ly in recent years when it’s been fraught with poli­ti­cal­ly char­ged events and dif­fi­cul­ties, music is a place where the­re’s so much beau­ty. So many great things hap­pe­ning. It’s a place where I can find and others can find ways to tackle these things, cope with these things emotionally.

Music is filled with so many emo­tions and in my defi­ni­tion music is a sha­red expe­rience. You know that someone else is fee­ling what you’re fee­ling. Whe­ther you’re lis­te­ning to a piece by Bee­tho­ven or a song by any song­wri­ter, and no mat­ter what it is they’re expres­sing, if it’s tou­ching you then you know that you’re connec­ting. And to me that’s a huge part of the musi­cal expe­rience as a wri­ter and a performer.

What I’m trying to do is connect and it’s the same with work­shops. When I give work­shops, I’m trying to connect and to me that’s the real cen­ter of health, that connec­tion that you can find through music.

On song­wri­ting and music his­to­ry for seniors at home

I’ve been doing work­shops on song­wri­ting and music his­to­ry, par­ti­cu­lar­ly Blues his­to­ry since about 2000. And what got me star­ted was basi­cal­ly tou­ring and fes­ti­vals where I would be going somew­here and they would say what kind of work­shops could you offer.

And so, I deve­lo­ped work­shops on these two things. When the pan­de­mic hit, a per­son named Fred Agnus, who was direc­tor of an orga­ni­za­tion in Vau­dreuil, Que­bec cal­led Rézo (or net­work) asked me one day. « Rob could you deve­lop some­thing for these people who can’t leave their homes ? » They were iso­la­ted because of the pan­de­mic and so I took about a week and I thought about it.

I thought, I’ve always been real­ly into music his­to­ry and his­to­ry of songs and I real­ly like resear­ching and kno­wing about this. So I deci­ded I’d do a his­to­ry of popu­lar music in Ame­ri­ca and Cana­da. It was an ambi­tious idea, but I thought I’ll just start and see what I can do. I had all this time because of the pandemic.

I wasn’t gig­ging nor­mal­ly and I had this pro­gram that I was giving vir­tual­ly, so I got this expe­rience of seeing the reac­tion of people in the pro­grams when I would play songs, par­ti­cu­lar­ly older songs from the 1700s and 1800s. Their reac­tion and these were songs that they knew the metric for the pro­gram was it inclu­ded songs that had sur­vi­ved that amount of time while so many others had fal­len by the wayside.

So it was real­ly Fred who got me star­ted on this and then as I star­ted doing this his­to­ry of popu­lar music. The word spread and other people star­ted wan­ting me to do it and so I had more pro­grams and then also people in the pro­gram would start reques­ting songs. So while I was alrea­dy doing my research, I would start to research the songs that they asked for, and so my reper­toire grew, and my unders­tan­ding grew and it just kept expan­ding. Fin­ding new songs from the past and it was some­bo­dy else that spur­red me into doing this and I have than­ked Fred for get­ting me star­ted on this path.

On his path to his work in music and health

My path into this was real­ly through two things. Well more than two things but one was sim­ply loving music. Real­ly enjoying it and never seeing it as a career. I never saw myself as a per­son who would do this full-time, but just loving, loving music. Num­ber two, final­ly doing the tra­di­tio­nal kind of career recor­ding, relea­sing records, tou­ring, that kind of path­way. The third would be this love of his­to­ry. Some­thing I’m real­ly inter­es­ted in. So those three things com­bi­ned because as a song­wri­ter, I feel like eve­ry­thing is buil­ding on some­thing else. Nothing comes out of now­here, musi­cal­ly or in any of the Arts.

Even if you’re com­ple­te­ly brea­king with a tra­di­tion, you’re brea­king with some­thing. You’re going in ano­ther direc­tion, so it’s rela­ted. I find that real­ly always help­ful in my song wri­ting, is the things you’ve heard that ins­pire you to write some­thing. Wor­king in the health field real­ly came from someone else. And it taught me, I never thought about music and health honest­ly, it never occur­red to me. It was just part of my life and eve­ryo­ne’s life, but it never occur­red to me, the direct connec­tion bet­ween music and men­tal health.

The more I do this, the more I unders­tand how hea­ling and how help­ful music can be for people in all dif­ferent ways, wha­te­ver kind of music you’re doing, so that’s been a a big part of it for me.

Ajay Heble

Ajay Heble : What is Music and Health ?

My name is Ajay Heble. I’m the direc­tor of The Inter­na­tio­nal Ins­ti­tute for Cri­ti­cal Stu­dies and Impro­vi­sa­tion, and I was the foun­ding artis­tic direc­tor of the Guelph Jazz Fes­ti­val (where) I ser­ved in that role from 1994 to 2016. I’m also pro­fes­sor of English at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Guelph.

It’s a big ques­tion, music and health. My sense is that music and health is a topic that hasn’t real­ly attrac­ted the kind of atten­tion that it should attract, part­ly because I think music inha­bits the social and cultu­ral land­scape in ways that remain lar­ge­ly unin­ven­ted. Des­pite this, I’ve long belie­ved that impro­vi­sa­tio­nal musi­cal prac­tices in par­ti­cu­lar, can contri­bute to the deve­lop­ment and well-being of heal­thy com­mu­ni­ties and in fact, that’s one of the core hypo­theses that we try to test through the work we’re doing at The Inter­na­tio­nal Ins­ti­tute for Cri­ti­cal Stu­dies and Improvisation.

Ajay Hable : Music and Health through the pro­gram KidsAbility

I think the example that comes to mind is the work we’ve been doing for pro­ba­bly about 15 years

with « Kid­sA­bi­li­ty, » which is a social ser­vice orga­ni­za­tion that runs pro­grams for kids that have phy­si­cal and deve­lop­men­tal disa­bi­li­ties. And for years we’ve been brin­ging impro­vi­sing artists into the com­mu­ni­ty to work with youth from Kid­sA­bi­li­ty and those impro­vi­sing artists will run series of impro­vi­sing work­shops that will often culmi­nate in large scale public per­for­mances at the Guelph Jazz Festival.

So for example, we’ll shut down one of the main streets in Guelph at one of the fes­ti­val’s big­gest public events, that’s where these kids get to play on that stage. So it’s real­ly quite remarkable.

And the research com­ponent is that we have our research team mem­bers, for example our gra­duate stu­dents, doing inter­views with the kids, with the parents, with the staff, with the artist faci­li­ta­tors as well, and trying to track the impact that these pro­grams are having.

The sto­ries and anec­dotes we hear are real­ly quite remar­kable about the impact. The kinds of things that people tell us. That the kids are sho­wing self-esteem, that they’re lis­te­ning in ways they didn’t lis­ten before, they’re taking on lea­der­ship roles in front of a large audience. The kids are willing to get up in front of an audience of thou­sands of people and take on a lea­der­ship role by conduc­ting the whole band for example. Often we hear from the parents that this isn’t some­thing that they see their kids doing very often.

So I think we’re real­ly inter­es­ted in this idea that impro­vi­sa­tion can actual­ly be a means of empo­we­ring and ani­ma­ting spe­cial needs youth. And again, the research team that I’ve wor­ked with have docu­men­ted and ana­ly­zed the com­plex rela­tion­ships bet­ween impro­vi­sa­tio­nal prac­tices and their effects on, for example, socia­li­za­tion, well­ness, self-esteem, phy­si­cal coor­di­na­tion, and men­tal acui­ty. That’s a pro­ject that’s been run­ning for 15 years and the impacts on the kids, as I said, are real­ly quite … we hear ama­zing stories.

Ajay Heble : On how Kid­sA­bi­li­ty came to be

How it star­ted. We recei­ved a large scale SSHRC Grant, this was in 2007. It was a SSHRC  « Major Col­la­bo­ra­tive Research Ini­tia­tives » grant for a pro­ject cal­led « Impro­vi­sa­tion Com­mu­ni­ty and Social Prac­tice, » and the bulk of the work was com­mu­ni­ty-enga­ged part­ne­red research focu­sing on the social impli­ca­tions of impro­vi­sed musi­cal and crea­tive practices.

So we alrea­dy had, in this case, a group of part­ners that had signed on to the grant, but in the case of KidsAbility,they came on after the fact. We were just loo­king for a local orga­ni­za­tion that might be inter­es­ted in some of the things we were able to offer in terms of wor­king with impro­vi­sing artists. And so, we had a mee­ting with the staff at Kid­sA­bi­li­ty and they were so enthusiastic.

I still remem­ber that ini­tial mee­ting. There were a few of us, Ellen Water­man and I, and one of our staff mem­bers Jee Bur­rows at the time. We met with staff at Kid­sA­bi­li­ty and they were so incre­di­bly enthu­sias­tic to part­ner with us, and they saw it as very much in kee­ping with their needs, and it com­ple­men­ted some of the kinds of pro­grams they were offe­ring because I gather that music wasn’t real­ly some­thing that they were doing at the time.

So this was some­thing they were real­ly thril­led to do with us, and fur­ther­more what was real­ly inter­es­ting as I think back on that, we wan­ted we had this idea of sta­ging a public concert at the end of the work­shops that the kids would do with the work­shop facilitators.

So there were going to be a series of work­shops that we wan­ted to culmi­nate in this public per­for­mance, but we were wor­ried. We thought « Oh, maybe the kids don’t want to do it or won’t want to do it, » and the staff said « No, no, they’re going to want to do it. » In fact, they (the kids) voted and they were total­ly on board. The kids wan­ted to go on stage. They thri­ved in that ele­ment. So that’s where it began, with the ini­tial SSHRC MCIR grant.

Ajay Heble : On what his path was to work in com­mu­ni­ty health and well­ness and music

I think it was an indi­rect path that had to do with the work I was doing with the Guelph Jazz Fes­ti­val. For years during the Jazz­Fest I would bring toge­ther artists from dif­ferent places, dif­ferent com­mu­ni­ties, and have them impro­vise, and it became clear to me that there was some­thing real­ly spe­cial going on in that moment – where artists come toge­ther to impro­vise. Some­thing that had a lot to tell us about how we nego­tiate dif­fe­rence in the com­mu­ni­ty, how we com­mu­ni­cate with one ano­ther, how we think about issues of trust and social belon­ging. I think this whole issue of com­mu­ni­ty health and well­ness, was some­thing that became more and more evident to me as I was run­ning the festival.

I unders­tood fair­ly ear­ly on, that the work I was doing at the Jazz Fes­ti­val wasn’t just about the music or the pro­gram­ming. It was about some­thing much more than that. I’ve said this before it was about rein­vi­go­ra­ting public life with the spi­rit of dia­logue in com­mu­ni­ty. I think that’s very clear­ly some­thing that has an impact on issues of well­ness and qua­li­ty of life.

I think that was pro­ba­bly the path that led me to the work that I’m des­cri­bing here.

Arla Good

Arla Good : On what music and health means to her

My name is Arla Good. I am the co-direc­tor and chief resear­cher of Sing­Well Project.

The Sing­Well Pro­ject is a net­work of resear­chers, com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions, prac­ti­tio­ners, choirs across Cana­da and beyond. We’re all wor­king towards the same goal which is to docu­ment and advo­cate for the bene­fits of group sin­ging. In par­ti­cu­lar, we’re inter­es­ted in people who have com­mu­ni­ca­tion chal­lenges. So the ques­tion is how can group sin­ging sup­port both the com­mu­ni­ca­tion and the social well-being of these types of individuals.

I want to start by ack­now­led­ging the power of music for music’s sake and art for art’s sake, without dimi­ni­shing that, I think that the­re’s also lots of ways in which we can use music to sup­port well-being and health. In our par­ti­cu­lar context with Sing­Well, we’re inter­es­ted in how we can use sin­ging as a very acces­sible, sca­lable way to get lots of people invol­ved. How we can use sin­ging to sup­port the health and well-being of usual­ly older adults, so using it as a reha­bi­li­ta­tion tool. Using it as a tool for get­ting people toge­ther for com­mu­ni­ty buil­ding, for belon­ging, and for boos­ting mood.

We see the bio­lo­gi­cal impact of sin­ging, so unders­tan­ding what’s hap­pe­ning in the body when we’re sin­ging. It makes people feel good and that’s what, for me, music and health is.

Arla Good : On the impacts of a Sing­Well ses­sion on music and health

Over the last three or four years, we have been see­ding choirs in dif­ferent com­mu­ni­ties. So we focus on Par­kin­son’s, apha­sia, lung disease, hea­ring loss and stut­te­ring ‚and we have choirs (in which) we are tra­cking some of these psy­cho­so­cial well-being benefits.

So a typi­cal single stu­dy might look some­thing like this. We would start a choir usual­ly around 12  to 15 people, and the choir would run for about 12 ses­sions. We would track at the base­line and com­ple­tion of the choir, and we would also track before and after a single sin­ging ses­sion. So we’re loo­king at things like how they’re fee­ling that moment. We’re loo­king at some of the bio­lo­gi­cal effects, so the hor­mones, pain thre­sholds, stress.

Then over the lon­gi­tu­di­nal time frame, we’re loo­king at fee­lings of social connec­ted­ness, psy­cho­lo­gi­cal well-being. One par­ti­cu­lar pro­ject I can men­tion, we’re gea­ring up to run a stu­dy at Chi­ga­mik Com­mu­ni­ty Health Cen­ter. So this will be indi­vi­duals with lung disease, (they) will be pres­cri­bed from their pri­ma­ry care phy­si­cian or self-pres­cri­bed to the choir.

We will be able to docu­ment these indi­vi­duals from day one, when they start their choir, and to see what kind of  effects on their psy­cho­so­cial well-being, but also on their brea­thing. So we’ll be able to see if the choir is having an impact on their breath function.

Arla Good : On the bene­fits of a Sing­Well pro­ject on music and health

So for this par­ti­cu­lar pro­ject, we expect to see impact on breath health. We think that ele­ments of sin­ging inclu­ding deep brea­thing, control­led brea­thing, it’s a way to help streng­then the breath control and the breath health of indi­vi­duals with lung disease.

So we’re expec­ting to see that, but we’re also expec­ting to see impro­ve­ments in social well-being. What hap­pens when we bring a group of indi­vi­duals toge­ther who all have lung disease ? How does it feel for them all to be sin­ging toge­ther ? What is the impact on their iden­ti­ty ?  One of the quotes that actual­ly trig­ge­red the ins­pi­ra­tion for all of Sing­Well, was an indi­vi­dual living with Par­kin­son’s who star­ted to sing in a choir for Par­kin­son’s. She said « I used to be someone with Par­kin­son’s and now I’m someone with Par­kin­son’s who can sing. » So this shift in the iden­ti­ty is what we’re real­ly trying to docu­ment and this belon­ging in this new com­mu­ni­ty. It’s a strength based com­mu­ni­ty that breaks down stigma.

You might think someone with a brea­thing disor­der wouldn’t be able to sing, and yet here they are sin­ging and impro­ving their breath health while they’re at it. So out­comes, we’re inter­es­ted in breath health and psy­cho­so­cial well-being.

Arla Good : What is your ins­pi­ra­tion in doing this work with SingWell ?

I’m ins­pi­red by anec­dotes that I hear and it’s a very com­mon expe­rience to hear people say that a grand­parent with demen­tia or with Par­kin­son’s who real­ly came alive when they sang. I hear these sto­ries and I think we all see that hap­pe­ning but I wan­ted to unders­tand why this is hap­pe­ning, and to begin to docu­ment it, and create resources for people who want to be doing this kind of work.

So best prac­tices in lea­ding a choir like this, and to help spread the word to com­mu­ni­ties that would bene­fit from pro­gram­ming like this.

Danielle Jakubiak

Music the­ra­pist Danielle Jaku­biak : What does music and health mean to you ?

My name is Danielle Jaku­biak and I am a coun­se­ling the­ra­pist and a music the­ra­pist based in Hali­fax, Nova Sco­tia. I’m in pri­vate prac­tice, and I believe that’s all I have to say.

For me per­so­nal­ly, a lot of the work that I do is wor­king with adult men­tal health.

So I have found in my work, music helps to bring out a sense of groun­ded­ness in peo­ple’s connec­tion to their emo­tio­nal life, and that’s real­ly real­ly impor­tant for people who have been through things like trau­ma and who have a lot of anxie­ty. It can be some­thing that’s like a real­ly groun­ding force. It can also give them a sense of nor­mal­cy and resour­ce­ful­ness when they’re fee­ling real­ly des­ta­bi­li­zed in their lives. I see it as a great resource I guess.

Music the­ra­pist Danielle Jaku­biak : On the use of gui­ded ima­ge­ry and music with trau­ma clients

I’ve been doing work in this method cal­led « Gui­ded Ima­ge­ry and Music » for quite a num­ber of years now.

Most recent­ly, I did a trai­ning in some­thing cal­led « Resource Orien­ted Music and Ima­ge­ry » which is kind of a depar­ture from « Gui­ded Ima­ge­ry and Music, » but it’s real­ly focu­sing on that first level of sta­bi­li­za­tion when you do trau­ma work. For example, that which we call resour­cing – fin­ding what is heal­thy and good when you’ve been through some­thing that’s real­ly dama­ging and fin­ding that in connec­tion with music that you alrea­dy know in love.

It’s a real­ly great inter­ven­tion that can be used, par­ti­cu­lar­ly with trau­ma clients.

Music The­ra­pist Danielle Jaku­biak : Connec­ting through music

It was some­thing that came out of Gui­ded Ima­ge­ry Music, so that’s a method that’s been around since the 50’s or 60’s. And it’s a real­ly spe­ci­fic method that uses clas­si­cal music and ima­ge­ry like the client’s memo­ries or things that are coming to their mind when they lis­ten to this clas­si­cal music.

So that’s a real­ly spe­ci­fic pro­to­col that’s been around for many years. Then one of the first pro­teges, I would say, of the main trai­ner for Gui­ded Ima­ge­ry Music deci­ded that she wan­ted to do a simi­lar thing, but using the client’s own music. So rather than the spe­ci­fic set of clas­si­cal pieces, ins­tead just ask the client what music that they feel connects to a spe­ci­fic resource or fee­ling inside of them. So it’s a lot more per­so­na­li­zed and also gets past a lot of the inter­cul­tu­ral bar­riers. Some­times that can come with using spe­ci­fi­cal­ly just clas­si­cal music, which some people don’t have great rela­tion­ships to, and some people have com­pli­ca­ted rela­tion­ships to, so it’s just a bit different.

Gilles Comeau

Gilles Comeau : What is music and health ?

I am Gilles Comeau, I am a pro­fes­sor at the School of Music at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Otta­wa. I am the foun­ding direc­tor of the Music and Health Research Ins­ti­tute at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Otta­wa, and recent­ly I became a prin­ci­pal resear­cher at the Research Ins­ti­tute in Men­tal Health at the Royal, where I am res­pon­sible for esta­bli­shing a research cli­nic in music and men­tal health.

There is a lot of research that tends to demons­trate that music can have an impact on seve­ral health condi­tions, on well-being, on men­tal health. I obser­ved in the report that was publi­shed in 2019 by the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion that approxi­ma­te­ly 40% of music research had been done with music the­ra­pists, and that the other 60% was by musi­cians, musi­cian-edu­ca­tors, some­times health people who had music training.

At that time, I knew there was lot of research that had been done with music the­ra­pists, that look at how their work was having an impact. And music the­ra­pists often work one-on-one, and often see them­selves as health prac­ti­tio­ners who are wor­king towards hel­ping indi­vi­duals with cer­tain condi­tion. So I deci­ded at that time to put the focus on musi­cians and music edu­ca­tors, because a lot less research has been done in that area.

They were alrea­dy very much imple­men­ting their pro­grams in health and social set­tings, so I wan­ted to be able to stu­dy what was hap­pe­ning and see how I could contri­bute with bet­ter enga­ge­ment of musi­cians and music edu­ca­tors, for the health and well­being of indi­vi­duals and communities.

Gilles Comeau : On the impacts of music and health and stra­te­gies for mea­su­ring these impacts

For people who have demen­tia, it real­ly has an impact on their well-being and qua­li­ty of life. Because we unders­tand that music is not expec­ted to have a hea­ling impact on Alz­hei­mers condi­tion, but, real­ly has a signi­fi­cant impact on well-being and qua­li­ty of life. Even for people who suf­fer from depres­sion and anxie­ty, it is also about being able to make the symp­toms less dis­tur­bing, and being able to improve well-being.

So what we do is that we try to mea­sure how it has an impact on their well-being : mea­sure the impact on anxie­ty, mea­sure the impact on depres­sion, mea­sure the impact on the joy / the exci­te­ment of lear­ning new things. And we do also the stan­dard ques­tion­naires that are of often used to mea­sure the various out­comes. There are spe­cial ques­tion­naires for people with demen­tia. There are ques­tion­naires for their care­gi­vers. There are ques­tion­naires for their anxie­ty level, for their depres­sion level, on flou­ri­shing, lear­ning new things, on joy, their qua­li­ty of joy as well.

Then we also have some bio­mar­kers that we want to use to demons­trate with the dif­ferent impacts it could have. And that could be some watch that you’re wea­ring simi­lar to Fit­bits that, for a per­iod of time, it shows the blood pres­sure, heart rate etc. So it will show if the music acti­vi­ty at one point in the week is having an impact on that day, or the day that fol­lows. We will work things like that.

We work with log books on sleep pat­tern and the self-report on sleep, and it gives us a good indi­ca­tion of how it is affec­ting their sleep. Some­times we can do some cor­ti­sol level with a sali­va test that helps us to mea­sure how things are impro­ving. We also look at the move­ment that they’re able to do, because a lot of the pro­gram we have are music and move­ment. The move­ment that they deve­lop is a real indi­ca­tion of how they per­ceive music and we qui­ck­ly see how the qua­li­ty of the move­ment change within a few weeks. You could also see how well they perceive.

Are they com­ple­te­ly off music, are they get­ting more with music, are they more subtle / supple, so all of that shows a change that we can observe.

Gilles Comeau on his path to work in music and health

I was always pas­sio­nate about tea­ching, and I was fas­ci­na­ting about how people learn.

I star­ted to teach music when I was 16 years old, tea­ching pia­no to young people but also to lit­tle groups of stu­dents and pres­choo­lers. I was fas­ci­na­ted with that aspects of tea­ching music and it has been a constant throu­ghout my life. I was also always in inter­es­ted in health and hel­ping people, and in my teens I had alrea­dy star­ted to volun­teer by spen­ding time in a long-term care faci­li­ty. When I came to Uni­ver­si­ty, I was hel­ping with the Chil­dren’s Aid Socie­ty and wor­king with chil­dren that were deaf and other chil­dren that had severe cases of autism. That was always part of it and then throu­ghout my career at the Uni­ver­si­ty, I did a lot of inter­dis­ci­pli­na­ry work with other resear­chers. It was always part of the work I did to com­bine those aspects. And loo­king at lear­ning, loo­king at tea­ching, loo­king at various groups, then loo­king at musi­cians health, phy­si­cal and men­tal health.

Even­tual­ly, I brought toge­ther a lit­tle bit of all those expe­riences and pas­sion. I’m brin­ging back my trai­ning in music edu­ca­tion and Del­croze, euryth­mics, music and move­ment, or trai­ning with per­cus­sion impro­vi­sa­tions. I’m brin­ging that back, but into health and social context.

I’m brin­ging back my inter­est with those groups of people and I’m also brin­ging my inter­est in research and in mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­na­ry research. I’ve had over two decades of expe­rience wor­king in dif­ferent research culture because eve­ry dis­ci­pline has its own way approa­ching research.

So it’s very fami­liar (to) me and I was able to group people from various fields of research to put eve­ry­thing toge­ther for that work in music and health.

Rebecca McDonald on “What is music and Health?”

Music The­ra­pist Rebec­ca McDo­nald on “What is music and Health?”

My name is Rebec­ca McDo­nald. I’m a music the­ra­pist who is cur­rent­ly living in Anti­go­nish, Nova Sco­tia, but I’m ori­gi­nal­ly from Peter­bo­rough, Ontario.

I think when I was thin­king about how to ans­wer this ques­tion, it’s a lot about how I look at what health is. I think in music the­ra­py espe­cial­ly, we’re loo­king at health as not just those spe­ci­fic phy­si­cal things. A lot of it is the social deter­mi­nants of health and peo­ple’s men­tal health, and how that all contri­butes to someo­ne’s per­so­nal health. I think that’s real­ly impor­tant and I think for myself too.

I use music a lot for my own men­tal health and that’s a very com­mon expe­rience for lots of people. I think for me, music and health are very lin­ked and I think it kind of contri­butes to that loo­king of health, mea­ning the whole person.

Music The­ra­pist Rebec­ca McDo­nald : On music and health in pal­lia­tive care

Music the­ra­py as a dis­ci­pline, I think is at the inter­sec­tion of music and health, espe­cial­ly where I work in a heal­th­care set­ting. I work in a hos­pi­tal so it’s the use of music in this heal­th­care set­ting. The pro­ject that I’m invol­ved in is in an Inpa­tient Pal­lia­tive Care Unit, as well as in an Out­pa­tient Onco­lo­gy Cli­nic, and other areas within the hospital.

So this pro­ject came about when I was an intern at the same hos­pi­tal in which I cur­rent­ly work and this hos­pi­tal has had music the­ra­pists for over 10 years. This job is only fun­ded by cer­tain units and it came out of seeing how well music the­ra­py was recei­ved at this hos­pi­tal and the need for it, and wan­ting to expand the pro­gram that was alrea­dy there. I had a spe­cial inter­est in wor­king in pal­lia­tive care, so I put toge­ther a pilot pro­ject for this unit so that we could expand and have someone who was dedi­ca­ted to that unit with those patients.

We did the pilot pro­ject about a year and a half ago and it was six months. It’s been exten­ded since we were gathe­ring data and gathe­ring sur­veys from people and get­ting peo­ple’s firs­thand expe­rience of what the music the­ra­py meant to them, so that we could show people why it’s a neces­sa­ry ser­vice in healthcare.

Music The­ra­pist Rebec­ca McDo­nald on how ser­vice for music and health are acces­sed in pal­lia­tive care

A lot of music the­ra­pists ope­rate on a refer­ral basis when they’re res­pon­sible for like a large popu­la­tion of patients. Lucki­ly for me, the posi­tion that I have right now, the unit is small with only six to eight patients at a time.

So, I’m able to offer it (the pro­gram) to eve­ryone and I like being able to do that because then it puts it in the patients hands and they get to decide if they would like to access the ser­vice. And if they want to (access the ser­vice), that’s great, and if they say « no, thank you » then that’s great too. It’s wha­te­ver they need.

I go in, intro­duce myself, explain what it is that I do, and leave it with the patient and their fami­lies to say if they would like the ser­vice or not. It’s not some­thing extra for which they need to pay.  It’s fun­ded by the hos­pi­tal, so the­re’s no bur­den of them having to pay. It’s just ano­ther ser­vice with all of the other things that are offe­red in the hospital.

Music The­ra­pist Rebec­ca McDo­nald : On the impacts of music and health

I think, in pal­lia­tive care espe­cial­ly, it is dif­fi­cult to talk about qua­li­ty of life, but I think the music the­ra­py contri­bu­ted to giving these people what we’d call « a good death ». Where they feel sup­por­ted and have their needs met and they have an experience.

When the heal­th­care sys­tem is very over­bur­de­ned and the nurses are so busy and they have so much on their plate, music the­ra­py is a time when I’m there just for them. It’s just for us to connect with music and talk about what they’re fee­ling, and expe­rience the music that they love, and talk about their lives. I got to hear lots of love­ly sto­ries and one of the things that was real­ly great to see, is the way that it hel­ped fami­lies connect because it can be a real­ly hard thing.

Someo­ne’s sit­ting with their fami­ly mem­ber and it’s very emo­tio­nal for days and days, and this gives them some­thing dif­ferent over which to connect. A lot of remi­nis­cing comes from when one sings a song and they go « oh do you remem­ber when we had that par­ty » for so and so’s anni­ver­sa­ry, and remem­ber this fun­ny thing hap­pe­ned. They just start to talk about things like that (which bring) relaxa­tion and that emo­tio­nal sup­port to the patient.

Pierre Rancourt : Music in Palliative Care

Pierre Ran­court : Music in Pal­lia­tive Care

One of the work envi­ron­ments that appeals to me the most is pal­lia­tive care, so I had the chance recent­ly with the socie­ty for arts in heal­th­care, to work to bring music to people at the end of their lives.

It’s real­ly a spe­cial context because that there is a need (and) music allows access to the world of emo­tions at a per­iod of life (the end of life) which is very, very emo­tio­nal­ly char­ged at this level.

So I have the impres­sion that what I see is that it allows a kind of paci­fi­ca­tion, a calm. Obvious­ly, you have to be very, let’s say, atten­tive as an artist at reper­toire level. I’m an ope­ra sin­ger so for sure I will not sing with a big voice. All the art of music media­tion is to feel who we are in front of. What is this per­son experiencing.

So pal­lia­tive care, yes, it’s some­thing that has attrac­ted me for many years. I mean, I sang for my mother at the end of her life, those were unfor­get­table moments. I have sung in contexts like this seve­ral times during my stu­dies, and I find that, as an artist, it is a pro­cess that is bidi­rec­tio­nal. It nou­rishes the people to whom we offer it, to whom we allow to express things that can­not express our­selves in words through our music. But, it also nou­rishes the artist who pre­sents who is there (the media­ting artist) who sees him­self confron­ted with a situa­tion in which there is no pos­sible fake. We can’t pre­tend. You abso­lu­te­ly have to be in the truth of the moment. You have to be in the exchange sin­cere, and it’s very nou­ri­shing for an artist. So, that’s it. This is some­thing that real­ly mat­ters to me.

The Impacts of Music on Health

Yes. In the case of concerts (let’s say) more orga­ni­zed to which we are able to invite people, fami­ly, signi­fi­cant people, it’s obvious that there is pre­pa­ra­tion. A choice of the reper­toire must be made. Just in this pro­cess, the fami­ly in connec­tion with the per­son who is nea­ring the end of life, the choice of reper­toire, it allows a whole return on the themes of life, so there is a kind of phe­no­me­non of life assess­ment which can be done through the construc­tion of a mini concert, a mini concert program.

The works will cho­sen accor­ding to cer­tain life prio­ri­ties. There is defi­ni­te­ly a trans­mis­sion. A cultu­ral heri­tage that is bequea­thed, which gives the fami­ly a fee­ling of cohe­sion that they real­ly need in those moments. So, in terms of fami­ly cohe­sion, it can contri­bute to a cultu­ral inhe­ri­tance. Then, for the per­son them­selves who is at the end of its life, it is cer­tain that the bene­fits are docu­men­ted at various levels of health : good heart rate, pres­sure, anxie­ty level, all that. It is obvious that there is mar­ked improvement.

There can be also emo­tio­nal reac­tions (let’s say) of cathar­sis that occurs. A kind of access to emo­tions that once would have been tur­ned away. So that is very bene­fi­cial. What we notice is that there is also a change in the per­son’s breathing.

It’s even hap­pe­ned for me to sing for people near end of life who were in a coma or uncons­cious­ness, and we even note in these cases, a change in brea­thing levels.

What was your path to wor­king in Music and Health ?

For me, music is an act of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, even if I prac­tice alone in my living room. It’s in pre­dic­tion of one day being able to deli­ver it.

Music is an act, by defi­ni­tion, that is com­mu­nal. Sin­ging in par­ti­cu­lar is one of these modes of ances­tral com­mu­ni­ca­tion which we relates to real­ly, real­ly far back in evo­lu­tion. As such, it amounts to when it sti­mu­lates a part of us like that, a mode of com­mu­ni­ca­tion or ances­tral mee­ting, there is real­ly some­thing very spe­cial happening.

I think that’s what got me into health. I star­ted sin­ging in the lit­tle church choir in my vil­lage, so there was from the begin­ning of my musi­cal expe­rience, an aspect of fami­ly. There was my uncle who was there, there was my aunt.We knew eve­ryone. There was an aspect of reu­nion, an aspect of family.

Then when we work in the health field, and we talk about inclu­sion. We’re tal­king about brin­ging back music, brin­ging music to people who have less access to it. It’s work with autis­tic people, for wor­king with people who live with func­tio­nal limi­ta­tions, (for) wor­king with people in diverse envi­ron­ments and, in this case, we were tal­king about pal­lia­tive care.

We not only bring the music, because music is acces­sible to anyone on your phone at any time, but we bring live music.

Live music, the vibra­tion of air par­ticles pro­du­ced by an ins­tru­ment in per­son. With that, we have some­thing that real­ly anchors us in the community.

What does Music and Health mean to you ?

Hel­lo, my name is Pierre Ran­cour. I’m a bari­tone, a trai­ned ope­ra sin­ger, also a gui­ta­rist and cultu­ral mediator.

Music and health. For me, music is health because in my per­so­nal prac­tice, my rehear­sals, my sin­ging, these are always moments of joy, of hap­pi­ness, moments of recon­nec­tion to myself, moments of vita­li­za­tion, but at the same time of calm, of expan­sion, of moments when I feel com­plete. So I think that it’s cer­tain that all of this of which we’re tal­king about, is about qua­li­ty of life. We are tal­king about increa­sing our own qua­li­ty of life as a per­for­mer. That the per­so­nal prac­tice is syno­ny­mous with plea­sure, then this ins­pires us when we do music in cultu­ral and health contexts.

It makes us want to share this joy there. This phy­si­cal, emo­tio­nal, and men­tal well-being becomes conta­gious. And in my expe­rience in dif­ferent heal­th­care set­tings that I’ve wor­ked in with music, that’s real­ly what hap­pens. It is because there is a qua­li­ty of ener­gy, a vibra­tion when we make music that we are sha­ring and trans­mit­ting to others. So the

the way we pose our voice, the way we come into contact, the ope­ning that we real­ly feel – almost at the level of the solar plexus. Some­thing in the order of confidence.

There are many bene­fits that I notice in all the envi­ron­ments in which I have wor­ked with music.  It’s obvious. Research proves them. The research is there to docu­ment all these bene­fits of music, but I see it on the ground. I see that this is a ser­vice that can easi­ly be mini­mi­zed (culture, music, the human contact). That’s what we do. It’s about coming into contact, it’s about vibra­ting toge­ther. But this is not to be mini­mi­zed, on the contra­ry, it’s some­thing excep­tio­nal­ly powerful.

Louise Campbell : Music and health at the C.A.R.E. Centre

What does music and health mean to you ?

My name is Louise Camp­bell. I am a musi­cian and artist, and I do a lot of work with people in many dif­ferent sec­tors, of which one is health. The work that I’ve done in health real­ly ranges depen­ding on what people are loo­king for. I’ve wor­ked with people who have severe phy­si­cal disa­bi­li­ties, also with many kids who are neu­ro­di­vergent, as well as people who have a diag­noses of fair­ly serious neu­ro­de­ge­ne­ra­tive diseases among­st other things.

For me, music and health is in part what music brings to eve­ryone. It’s the fun of making music, of being crea­tive, of connec­ting with others, and the joy of being in com­mu­ni­ty with people. When it comes to be more spe­ci­fic to health, I think it depends on what people are loo­king for and it can mean many dif­ferent things to dif­ferent people. So someone might be inter­es­ted in addres­sing a phy­si­cal ailment that they have, some­bo­dy else might be more loo­king for the psy­cho­so­cial connec­tions. So it real­ly depends on how we’re going to use music in the context of health.

Music and health at the C.A.R.E. Centre

One of my favo­rite groups of people to work with are the people at the C.A.R.E. Center.

The C.A.R.E. Cen­ter is a cen­ter for adults with severe phy­si­cal disa­bi­li­ties, and I have had the luck of being able to work with them over mul­tiple years. I was ini­tial­ly invi­ted to work with the C.A.R.E. Cen­ter by the direc­tor Oli­via Ques­nel. It’s very spe­ci­fic for her that when I go in, it’s to sup­port men­tal health and to real­ly sup­port fun. It’s inter­es­ting when I go in, because I’ve got­ten to know people a lit­tle bit bet­ter there, and I can see that abso­lu­te­ly the men­tal health and well-being is very much sup­por­ted by what music and the Arts has to offer – in terms of enga­ge­ment, connec­tion with other people, lear­ning things that are new, fin­ding new ways to unders­tand one’s own expe­rience, and share that with other people.

It can also defi­ni­te­ly help with the phy­si­cal side of things as well. The­re’s this one per­son who is a client at the C.A.R.E. Cen­ter. He is in a wheel­chair and when I first met him, he was fair­ly upright in his wheel­chair. Over the years, I’ve seen that he starts to get a lit­tle bit more slum­ped. He’s just a love­ly sweet per­son who has no trouble actual­ly connec­ting with other people, but it’s more this kind of phy­si­ca­li­ty that starts to close his body down a lit­tle bit more that makes it har­der for him to reach out to other people. So, in one of our pro­jects we were buil­ding ins­tru­ments, and when I do these kinds of pro­jects, I leave a lot of room open for other people. We gathe­red all kinds of mate­rials from this recycle bin, lots of dif­ferent things that were around that just could be poten­tial sound makers, and this man star­ted to build his ins­tru­ment. As it tur­ned out, this ins­tru­ment was all kinds of things that were hung from a bar that was just above him.

So he made this beau­ti­ful kind of chime ins­tru­ment that led him to be going up all the time. I spoke with his phy­sio­the­ra­pist after­wards. She was real­ly ama­zed because here was this man going up all the time doing what she was trying to get him to do in phy­sio, and yet he was doing it of his own accord and for far lon­ger than the phy­sio ses­sions were going to hap­pen. And he was having a great time and was able to share this ins­tru­ment with other people who could also play in this up and more open posi­tion. So for me, the C.A.R.E. Cen­ter is a place where it real­ly hits on all of the various dif­ferent ways that we can contri­bute to peo­ple’s health and wellbeing.

Geremia Lodi – On Making Music With Former Inmates

As part of the Music in Incar­ce­ra­tion & Reha­bi­li­ta­tion Resource, Gere­mia Lodi des­cribes his expe­rience wor­king with for­mer inmates in a tran­si­tion com­mu­ni­ty pro­gram, the pos­sible bene­fits of imple­men­ting music pro­grams in com­plex situa­tions such as incar­ce­ra­tion and reha­bi­li­ta­tion, and various issues rela­ted to self-care.

On his first steps in wor­king with for­mer inmates

Hel­lo, my name is Gere­mia Lodi. I am a musi­cian and a music edu­ca­tor. My pur­pose in life is to use music to create a connec­tion bet­ween people, while at the same time using this connec­tion to create musi­cal sounds and more per­so­nal and inti­mate sounds together. 

My favo­rite tool to make music is body music – body per­cus­sion, sin­ging, and beat­boxing in other words. Eve­ry­thing that we can do direct­ly with our body and maybe without an ins­tru­ment. I like it because it allows eve­ry par­ti­ci­pant in my work­shop to direct­ly bring the music that is in their body, in their expe­rience. It’s an acces­sible approach to music.

My expe­rience with for­mer inmates is quite limi­ted and relates to my col­la­bo­ra­tion with com­mu­ni­ties based in Mon­treal, espe­cial­ly the ini­tia­tive Open Door. Open Door is a week­ly mee­ting and is open to for­mer inmates, some­times also to cur­rent inmates on a per­mit, to encoun­ter people of the com­mu­ni­ty and create a new connec­tion to sup­port their inte­gra­tion in society.

When I offe­red a work­shop for this asso­cia­tion, I encoun­te­red a group real­ly curious for what I had to offer, and real­ly rea­dy to take the chance to have a moment of fun toge­ther, a moment of interaction. 

The acti­vi­ty that I remem­ber them enjoying the most was one of my acti­vi­ties cal­led Silent Rhythms. I request each par­ti­ci­pant to per­form a silent and repe­ti­tive move­ment, but I ask to the other par­ti­ci­pants if they, by lis­te­ning with their eyes, can hear some­thing in their ima­gi­na­tion. If ima­gi­na­tion can pro­duce a sound. Gui­ded by this move­ment, and most of the time people can, in fact, pro­duce some­thing that responds to that movement. 

In the second round of people per­for­ming a move­ment, the people oppo­site in the circle to the mover give voice. We sing the move­ment that we hear in our ima­gi­na­tion. People com­men­ted that it was real­ly com­for­ting to hear your move­ment through the voice of some­bo­dy else. Hea­ring some­bo­dy giving voice to your body, it’s a way of loo­king, it’s a way of

paying atten­tion to the other but brings to the sur­face that web of reci­pro­ci­ty that connects eve­ry­bo­dy in a group, but which is not always evident. It’s not always easy to per­ceive and to feel. I think that that is also a hint of one of the ways that music can be of bene­fit to people that expe­rience peni­ten­tia­ry : to feel this recon­nec­tion to others in a dif­ferent way.

Why and how is music use­ful in the context of rehab and incarceration ?

So what can a music pro­gram bring to inmates or for­mer inmates ?

The first thing is ali­ve­ness. Consi­der someone who is facing a guilt, who is coming to terms with a pain that they might have cau­sed, and dif­fi­cult sto­ries. All of these come with a real­ly hea­vy bur­den to car­ry and upon which to elaborate.

In order to live this pro­cess, an indi­vi­dual needs to be able to connect back to the part of them­selves that is a mas­ter life. The part that can laugh, that can feel a joy, that can feel plea­sure is fun­da­men­tal to face a deman­ding pro­cess like the one that inmates are facing.

So, music can bring ali­ve­ness in the form of pas­sion, of groo­ving, of playing. Playing in the sense of playing an ins­tru­ment, but also having fun, which is real­ly impor­tant. Second, a music pro­gram can offer a way to connect to one­self and a way to connect to others. As I was saying, eve­ry per­son sen­ten­ced to peni­ten­tia­ry has pro­ba­bly the need to gain owner­ship over their own sto­ry, ela­bo­ra­ting what hap­pe­ned in the chain of events that brought them there, and at the same time fin­ding again their very own sub­jec­ti­vi­ty. Their own voice among the many voices that sen­ten­ced them and to label them to their posi­tion. It’s impor­tant to find full agen­cy by themselves.

Music and sup­port music pro­grams can help to regain a sense of self. A sense of inti­ma­cy, the sense of indi­vi­dua­li­ty, which is fun­da­men­tal for the pro­cess of ela­bo­ra­tion of the guilt and of gai­ning owner­ship. And final­ly, when most for­mer inmates are met, they car­ry a strong pro­tec­tive shell, which is a natu­ral res­ponse to hos­tile envi­ron­ment, such as the one of the penitentiary.

A music pro­gram within a peni­ten­tia­ry, after a pro­cess, or at the time of deten­tion can offer the par­ti­ci­pants a safe space, a sense of bro­the­rhood or sis­te­rhood, where mutual recog­ni­tion can hap­pen. Where reci­pro­ci­ty and nor­ma­li­ty, a nor­mal sense of warmth, of human warmth can be ins­tal­led, which can great­ly sup­port an expe­rience of huma­ni­ty. That can be hea­ling, in rela­tion to the more ins­ti­tu­tio­na­li­zed and more cold expe­rience of life as expe­rien­ced in a penitentiary.

Thank you so much.

Self-care before, during and after the project

Self-care before, during, and after the pro­ject. My own expe­rience about the self-care doesn’t come from wor­king in the peni­ten­tia­ry, but more wor­king in an urban com­mu­ni­ty. Which is a real­ly dif­ferent context but what is in com­mon with the peni­ten­tia­ry is that as an edu­ca­tor you will find your­self wit­nes­sing some real­ly chal­len­ging life expe­riences. A second ele­ment in com­mon is that these are expe­riences to which most people in socie­ty are not real­ly expo­sed, which will make you feel a bit more alone at some point. And we’ll talk about it in a minute. 

So the first thing that comes to mind about self-care is to make sure to be paid enough for this contract. Which may sound fun­ny but what I think is that when wor­king such a pro­ject, you need to make sure to allo­cate enough time for the brie­fing, for ela­bo­ra­ting what you’re expe­rien­cing, and to be fair­ly paid so that you can pay your rent without the pres­sure of loo­king for that extra contract to feel more safe, this will be real­ly impor­tant. It’s not a mat­ter of gree­di­ness, it’s just a mat­ter of giving your­self the time for ela­bo­ra­ting. Of course, this is also the second ele­ment, consi­de­ring that you will need time for elaboration. 

 The third ele­ment is consi­de­ring the resources in the asso­cia­tion or the ins­ti­tu­tion you will be wor­king for in terms of part­ner­ship. Which are the other indi­ca­tors and which is the rela­tion­ship you will be esta­bli­shed with them. Will it be a part­ner­ship also on debrie­fing and ela­bo­ra­ting the pro­ject toge­ther or not. How much time will you’ll be spen­ding ? The other per­son doing this job ? These are impor­tant things to know. What is the basis of this col­la­bo­ra­tion, and also what is your role in car­rying out this pro­ject. What is expec­ted from you, and how your role fits in the same ove­rar­ching struc­ture on which you’re an actor, but not ful­ly in charge of all the res­pon­si­bi­li­ty of the pro­ject. It is real­ly impor­tant to have cla­ri­ty around your world. To be able to place your­self in that project. 

 Ano­ther ele­ment is, before the end of the pro­ject, to ana­lyze your net­work, your own per­so­nal net­work which are the friends that can offer a good lis­te­ning part­ner, but also qua­li­fied or com­petent lis­te­ning. As I was saying, in my own expe­rience when I was living in the North, I felt some resis­tance to share cer­tain sto­ries to my friends about what I wit­nes­sed. It felt somew­hat dis­res­pect­ful to bring up cer­tain sto­ries without offe­ring a com­plete context in which that sto­ry took place. And this context is real­ly dif­fi­cult to pro­vide sometimes. 

 It is real­ly chal­len­ging to tell. There are so many things that I still couldn’t name or couldn’t figure out myself to explain the context I was living in, but it was dif­ferent if I was tal­king to some­bo­dy who actual­ly lived the same expe­rience and had alrea­dy a sense of what I was tal­king about. So, it’s real­ly good to veri­fy if you alrea­dy have some­bo­dy in your net­work with simi­lar expe­riences that could be a good part­ner to debrief, to have a lis­te­ning ear.

Final­ly, and espe­cial­ly if it’s a long-term pro­ject, it’s real­ly good to read ins­pi­ring expe­riences of other people that work in a simi­lar context and who faced simi­lar pro­blems. It’s real­ly soo­thing at times to make your­self be accom­pa­nied in this way, by some­bo­dy else that went through the same path. Actual­ly, there will be more with what they wan­ted to share and some­times also a real­ly good laugh. And you will be facing some real­ly hard life expe­riences and you need, in the week, to recon­nect to your own vita­li­ty, to wha­te­ver makes you feel real­ly alive. 

For the inmates, they need to connect to what is real­ly alive for them, what is real­ly fun and joy­ful and you will need to do the same for your­self each week. A col­league in the north told me that you need to make sure to be hap­py at least three times a day. It’s fun­ny but I think it’s such a pre­cious sug­ges­tion. To be sure to connect to your life ener­gy, to the most vital part of you each week, and if pos­sible three times a day. Because that will be so impor­tant for you to be in a in a context that is dif­fi­cult, to be full strength. 

Don’t super­charge your­self with the dark part because we real­ly need the live­ly part in order to to be in this context. Don’t be afraid to be light and to be funny.

Why to car­ry out a pro­ject in peni­ten­tia­ry 

Why car­ry out a pro­ject in a peni­ten­tia­ry, or in ano­ther com­plex place ? Maybe it sounds like a fun­ny ques­tion to ask but I wan­ted to do this tuto­rial and I was ins­pi­red by a sen­tence of Geno­stra­da, the foun­der of ‘Emer­gen­cy Asso­cia­tion’ that pro­vi­ded medi­cal sup­port in war zones.  He men­tio­ned that people wan­ted him to say that he was doing what he was doing as a ser­geant, in such context, because it was a good cause because it was moved by a real­ly good inten­tion. But he wasn’t shy to say that he was doing that sim­ply because he real­ly enjoyed doing it. That’s the reason. 

Then we rephra­sed it in a dif­ferent way, using a sen­tence by Lila Wat­son that real­ly ins­pi­red me at the time. Lila Wat­son says, “If you have come to help me, you’re was­ting time, but if you have come because your libe­ra­tion is bound to mine, let’s work toge­ther.” I think this sen­tence was real­ly of help for me to place myself, and in a context where I faced people facing real­ly dif­fi­cult situa­tions but fin­ding a way that’s of strong resi­lience and a strong per­so­nal capacity.

In a way, it hel­ped me to this awa­re­ness to keep a balance, fee­ling res­pon­sible for myself, res­pon­sible who I was, res­pon­sible for my pro­fes­sio­na­li­ty, but also rea­li­zing that this res­pon­si­bi­li­ty entai­led to not take over res­pon­si­bi­li­ties of other people. In fact, doing so would have would have depri­ved these people of their own res­pon­si­bi­li­ty, of their own capacity. 

And always remem­be­ring the rea­son why I was there, but it was my own rea­son. These allow me to remem­ber that each per­son has his life or her life sto­ry, and bet­ter ack­now­led­ging our uni­que­ness is and our dif­fe­rence is the basis for allo­wing this encoun­ter where each can offer the other per­son some­thing impor­tant for our own path as human beings.

Thank you. 


For more info on Gere­mia Lodi, see their artist pro­file HERE. For a taste of what Gere­mia Lodi does, see the fol­lo­wing pro­jects fea­tu­red on the PCM Hub :

Silent Rhythms

Body Per­cus­sion For The Family

For more info on Music In Incar­ce­ra­tion & Reha­bi­li­ta­tion, see HERE

Moe Clark – On Making Music with Indigenous Youth In Lockdown and Carceral Settings

As part of the Music in Incar­ce­ra­tion & Reha­bi­li­ta­tion Resource, Moe Clark des­cribes her expe­rience as a two-spi­rit Métis artist making music with at-risk Indi­ge­nous youth in lock­down and car­cé­ral set­tings. She speaks to cultu­ral sen­si­ti­vi­ties and the impor­tance of connec­ting with elders when wor­king with Indi­ge­nous youth.

On her artis­tic prac­tice and work in car­ce­ral settings

(Intro­duc­tion in nēhiyawē­win – Plains Cree language)

Hel­lo eve­ryone, I’ve just intro­du­ced myself in nēhiyawē­win (Plains Cree lan­guage), one of my ances­tral lan­guages. I’m a two-spi­rit Métis artist ori­gi­nal­ly from Cal­ga­ry, Alber­ta and trea­ty seven, but I cur­rent­ly reside in Tiohtià:ke / Moo­niyang on the unsea­ted ter­ri­to­ry of the Kanien’kehá:ka, the Mohawk people here in Montreal. 

I’m a mul­ti-dis­ci­pli­na­ry artist. I focus pri­ma­ri­ly on spo­ken word poe­try, song crea­tion, wor­king with indi­ge­nous lan­guages, inter­ge­ne­ra­tio­nal and inter­cul­tu­ral col­la­bo­ra­tive prac­tices and pro­cesses. I like to cen­ter land-based prac­tices and approaches in the work I do, whe­ther to be wor­king actual­ly on the land, or wor­king with the land of our bodies and our ter­ri­to­ries, as tools for deco­lo­ni­za­tion, self-deter­mi­na­tion, and col­lec­tive co-creation. 

I frame my work around the medi­cine wheel, dra­wing from Métis-Cree world­view, loo­king at the holism of the body, the per­son, the spi­rit, and the mind. I like to begin from a place of mus­ca­sa­win, which is a nēhiyawē­win term which refers to belon­ging, fin­ding one’s place within the circle. A lot of the work I do frames around the circle, loo­king at how we can approach prac­tices from an equal place of belon­ging, of sto­ry­tel­ling, of com­mu­ni­ty, and orien­ting our­selves as both tea­cher and student. So we’ve all got some­thing to learn, we’ve all got some­thing to teach.

As one of my late elders Bob Smo­ker always says « I’m gon­na need you, as much as you’re gon­na need me ». This is real­ly cen­tral to the work I do in and out­side of lock­down and incar­ce­ral set­tings. I began wor­king in lock­down faci­li­ties through a local lite­ra­ry arts orga­ni­za­tion in Mon­treal, as part of a wri­ting and poe­try work­shop. These ses­sions ran for 10 weeks where I would go to the loca­tion once a week and I would work col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve­ly with the exis­ting tea­cher or peda­go­gi­cal spe­cia­list and a group of at-risk indi­ge­nous youth. The thing that felt real­ly suc­cess­ful about these work­shops was that there was consis­ten­cy, in that it wasn’t just a one-time event. It was recur­ring so it hel­ped me to esta­blish trust and make bonds with the stu­dents over the course of those 10 weeks. It hel­ped me to iden­ti­fy the needs of the stu­dents, their capa­ci­ties, abi­li­ties and slow­ly create a space where more open­ness and more unders­tan­ding of my work and prac­tices could be embo­died and inter­na­li­zed for the stu­dents, so that they could actual­ly make some of the tools and tech­niques that I was brin­ging to them their own. 

On a pro­ject with Indi­ge­nous youth in a car­ce­ral set­ting 

Hi eve­ryone. My name is Moe Clark. I’m a two-spi­rit Métis mul­ti-dis­ci­pli­na­ry artist and I’d like to share a lit­tle bit about the value and impor­tance of short-term pro­jects within lock­down and incar­ce­ral set­tings, wor­king with at-risk unde­rage indi­ge­nous youth. 

So for me these work­shops began through a local lite­ra­ry orga­ni­za­tion who acted as a host to connect me as a poet-artist-voca­list with a local faci­li­ty here in Mon­treal. I want to main­tain ano­ny­mi­ty so I will not express or name any of the orga­ni­za­tions or ins­ti­tu­tions per­so­nal­ly. I will say that these ses­sions were incre­di­bly valuable and dyna­mic in that I would attend the faci­li­ty one hour per week, over the course of 10 weeks. I would work col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve­ly with the host tea­cher with a group of anyw­here bet­ween 5 and 10 youth. To begin the pro­jects, I under­took trai­ning through a local fami­ly ser­vices orga­ni­za­tion to explore sen­si­ti­vi­ty notions of trau­ma and how to col­la­bo­rate and work with at-risk youth who might be in pre­ca­rious situations. 

In addi­tion to this, I call on my own tool­kit and bundle which includes expe­rience with soma­tic expe­rien­cing which is an embo­died approach to the­ra­py and a trau­ma-infor­med lens. It explores and looks at the body as a site of memo­ry and crea­ti­vi­ty, as well as a site of a lot of expe­riences. I also draw from prac­tices of medi­cine wheel tea­chings, which real­ly looks at the four direc­tions and the who­lism of the per­son that we have a phy­si­cal, a men­tal, a spi­ri­tual, and an emo­tio­nal body. So real­ly exa­mi­ning and explo­ring these four bodies as essen­tial aspects to who and how we are in the world. I also draw from expe­riences of over 20 years of crea­tive faci­li­ta­tion, in and out­side of indi­ge­nous com­mu­ni­ties, with at-risk youth, with youth with disa­bi­li­ties, and inter­ge­ne­ra­tio­nal and inter­cul­tu­ral collaboration. 

Throu­ghout the course of these 10 ses­sions, we explo­red dif­ferent tools and tech­niques of crea­tive wri­ting and often wor­ked from prompts from other indi­ge­nous authors and crea­tors and musi­cians. Whe­ne­ver pos­sible I tried to use tools and prompts that incor­po­ra­ted indi­ge­nous lan­guage and cultu­ral­ly spe­ci­fic fra­mings that were spe­ci­fic to the youth I was wor­king with. 

I don’t claim to know eve­ry­thing there is to know about being indi­ge­nous. I have my own expe­riences as a Métis artist who grew up in the sub­urbs of Cal­ga­ry and cur­rent­ly lives in Tiohtià:ke in Mon­treal, but being able to draw from a tool­kit of many dif­ferent indi­ge­nous authors, wri­ters, and musi­cians hel­ped me to create more acces­si­bi­li­ty and inclu­si­vi­ty for the youth I was wor­king with. 

One real­ly valuable tool during the work­shops was col­lec­tive crea­tive wri­ting and col­lec­tive song­wri­ting. This gave youth the oppor­tu­ni­ty to voice their ideas and their sto­ries, and to build rela­tion­ships with one ano­ther, without the neces­si­ty of having to be lite­rate, having to have good wri­ting skills, and they were able to laugh. They were able to make dif­ferent sounds.

They were able to mimic and explore dif­ferent sounds from their land­scapes where they were rai­sed, and where they grew up, and where they had cur­rent­ly been taken out of, in order to reha­bi­li­tate in a lock­down faci­li­ty in an urban set­ting. To conclude these 10 work­shops, we crea­ted a chat book and this chat book was ack­now­led­ged and cele­bra­ted and each student left with their own copy of it as a keep­sake and as a memoir when they left the faci­li­ty and conti­nued on in their lives. So that’s it for short-term pro­jects in lock­down and incar­ce­ra­ted situations.

On cultu­ral sen­si­ti­vi­ties when wor­king with Indi­ge­nous youth 

Hi eve­ryone. My name is Moe and I am a two-spi­rit mul­ti-dis­ci­pli­na­ry metis artist. I’d like to talk now about cultu­ral sen­si­ti­vi­ties and pro­to­cols when wor­king with incar­ce­ra­ted youth, 

spe­ci­fi­cal­ly indi­ge­nous youth as a Métis artist and crea­tor. I’ve wor­ked exten­si­ve­ly with indi­ge­nous com­mu­ni­ties folks coming from dif­ferent nations, dif­ferent walks of life, dif­ferent per­so­nal and col­lec­tive histories. 

I think, first and fore­most, what’s impor­tant to note and what’s impor­tant to do your home­work on, is what are some of the his­to­ri­cal sys­te­mic and cultu­ral notions that have led to the cur­rent situa­tion of the youth or the com­mu­ni­ty you’re wor­king with. So I real­ly like to exa­mine and look clo­se­ly at the his­to­ry and impacts of resi­den­tial schools, on the his­to­ry and impact of contact in dif­ferent com­mu­ni­ties. So, when did set­tler com­mu­ni­ties come into Indi­ge­nous com­mu­ni­ties and how has that impac­ted the cultu­ral conti­nuum, lan­guage conti­nuum, and tra­di­tio­nal land-based prac­tices of that com­mu­ni­ty. And I like to bring these notions into the work so that I can exa­mine and explore, and also faci­li­tate from a place that is more know­led­geable, and more aware and cultu­ral­ly sen­si­tive to what the par­ti­ci­pants might be expe­rien­cing, and how those expe­riences have been infor­med and impac­ted because of sys­te­mic situa­tions and colo­ni­za­tion. So that’s step one. 

Step two is also loo­king at an unders­tan­ding that each indi­ge­nous people and each indi­ge­nous nation have dif­ferent cultu­ral contexts, dif­ferent lan­guages, and dif­ferent prac­tices of rela­ting, of expres­sing, of com­mu­ni­ca­ting. And this type of pro­cess is one that as you conti­nue to work in the com­mu­ni­ty, you become fami­liar and you get to know and you build rela­tion­ships with the communities.

So I think that’s real­ly the most impor­tant not to make assump­tions, to come with as much infor­ma­tion as you can, and to main­tain a level of curio­si­ty and open­ness to lear­ning about and lear­ning from the com­mu­ni­ties you’re wor­king with. 

In addi­tion to this, I always ensure that I am wor­king with a coun­cil of elders, of com­mu­ni­ty, people that I know and I’ve built trus­ting rela­tion­ships with so that wha­te­ver I take with me when I leave those work­shops, I can pro­cess and work through with the sup­port and cultu­ral sup­port of elders. So this might include wor­king with plant medi­cines, wor­king with dif­ferent hea­ling tools. So that wha­te­ver I might have picked up during the work­shops, wha­te­ver trau­mas and chal­lenges might have been sha­red or expres­sed, I also have a method and a pro­cess of wor­king through those dif­fi­cul­ties. And in rela­tion­ship and in conver­sa­tion with elders and coun­sel, whe­ther that be other arts faci­li­ta­tors, other tea­chers, I’m also able to speak to and to pro­cess some of the chal­lenges that have come up, some of the things where I didn’t neces­sa­ri­ly know how to respond, to deve­lop and fur­ther my tool­kit to be a bet­ter ally and a bet­ter advo­cate for the needs of the stu­dents and the par­ti­ci­pants I’m wor­king with.

On the impor­tance of connec­ting with Elders when wor­king with Indi­ge­nous youth 

Hi eve­ryone. My name is Moe and I am a two-spi­rit mul­ti-dis­ci­pli­na­ry metis artist. I’d like to talk now about cultu­ral sen­si­ti­vi­ties and pro­to­cols when wor­king with incar­ce­ra­ted youth, spe­ci­fi­cal­ly indi­ge­nous youth as a Métis artist and crea­tor. I’ve wor­ked exten­si­ve­ly with indi­ge­nous com­mu­ni­ties folks coming from dif­ferent nations, dif­ferent walks of life, dif­ferent per­so­nal and col­lec­tive histories. 

I think, first and fore­most, what’s impor­tant to note and what’s impor­tant to do your home­work on, is what are some of the his­to­ri­cal sys­te­mic and cultu­ral notions that have led to the cur­rent situa­tion of the youth or the com­mu­ni­ty you’re wor­king with. So I real­ly like to exa­mine and look clo­se­ly at the his­to­ry and impacts of resi­den­tial schools, on the his­to­ry and impact of contact in dif­ferent com­mu­ni­ties. So, when did set­tler com­mu­ni­ties come into Indi­ge­nous com­mu­ni­ties and how has that impac­ted the cultu­ral conti­nuum, lan­guage conti­nuum, and tra­di­tio­nal land-based prac­tices of that com­mu­ni­ty. And I like to bring these notions into the work so that I can exa­mine and explore, and also faci­li­tate from a place that is more know­led­geable, and more aware and cultu­ral­ly sen­si­tive to what the par­ti­ci­pants might be expe­rien­cing, and how those expe­riences have been infor­med and impac­ted because of sys­te­mic situa­tions and colo­ni­za­tion. So that’s step one. 

Step two is also loo­king at an unders­tan­ding that each indi­ge­nous people and each indi­ge­nous nation have dif­ferent cultu­ral contexts, dif­ferent lan­guages, and dif­ferent prac­tices of rela­ting, of expres­sing, of com­mu­ni­ca­ting. And this type of pro­cess is one that as you conti­nue to work in the com­mu­ni­ty, you become fami­liar and you get to know and you build rela­tion­ships with the communities.

So I think that’s real­ly the most impor­tant not to make assump­tions, to come with as much infor­ma­tion as you can, and to main­tain a level of curio­si­ty and open­ness to lear­ning about and lear­ning from the com­mu­ni­ties you’re wor­king with. 

In addi­tion to this, I always ensure that I am wor­king with a coun­cil of elders, of com­mu­ni­ty, people that I know and I’ve built trus­ting rela­tion­ships with so that wha­te­ver I take with me when I leave those work­shops, I can pro­cess and work through with the sup­port and cultu­ral sup­port of elders. So this might include wor­king with plant medi­cines, wor­king with dif­ferent hea­ling tools. So that wha­te­ver I might have picked up during the work­shops, wha­te­ver trau­mas and chal­lenges might have been sha­red or expres­sed, I also have a method and a pro­cess of wor­king through those dif­fi­cul­ties. And in rela­tion­ship and in conver­sa­tion with elders and coun­sel, whe­ther that be other arts faci­li­ta­tors, other tea­chers, I’m also able to speak to and to pro­cess some of the chal­lenges that have come up, some of the things where I didn’t neces­sa­ri­ly know how to respond, to deve­lop and fur­ther my tool­kit to be a bet­ter ally and a bet­ter advo­cate for the needs of the stu­dents and the par­ti­ci­pants I’m wor­king with.


For more info on Moe Clark, see their artist pro­file HERE. For a taste of what Moe Clark does, see the fol­lo­wing pro­ject fea­tu­red on the PCM Hub :

Sound Sto­ries From the Land

For more info on Music In Incar­ce­ra­tion & Reha­bi­li­ta­tion, see HERE

Hugh Chris Brown – On Making Music in Prisons

As part of the Music in Incar­ce­ra­tion & Reha­bi­li­ta­tion Resource, Hugh Chris Brown des­cribes his expe­rience in making music in his pro­gram Pros & Cons and it’s ori­gins, the effi­ca­cy of music in pri­sons, what making music brought him and the inmates, and self-care prac­tices he uses to sus­tain him­self in this work.

On his first steps esta­bli­shing the pri­son arts pro­gram Pros & Cons

Hi, my name is Hugh Chris­to­pher Brown. I iden­ti­fy as he/him, always open to sug­ges­tions for impro­ve­ment. My expe­rience with incar­ce­ra­tion and rehab has stem­med sole­ly from a music pro­gram that I deve­lo­ped cal­led the “Pros and Cons » music program. 

Ini­tial­ly, it was a res­ponse to the clo­sing of the agri­cul­tu­ral pro­grams in pri­sons, a very high­ly suc­cess­ful pro­gram that was being shut down. As a musi­cian, I just thought « Oh I’ll get inside and do what I know how to do and do some­thing posi­tive in there ». Because I didn’t feel that a bene­fit for incar­ce­ra­ted people or offen­ders was actual­ly going to work, I rea­li­zed at that time that we were dea­ling with a vul­ne­rable popu­la­tion. They were vul­ne­rable because they had per­pe­tra­ted harm to others, which is a hard thing for people to get their heads around. Over the course of the last 10 years, it’s grown to mul­tiple ins­ti­tu­tions. It’s now a natio­nal cha­ri­ty and it’s gone from song­wri­ting work­shops to buil­ding recor­ding stu­dios in pri­sons and relea­sing the recor­dings that are made by the inmates that are then lin­ked to cha­ri­table pur­suits of the per­pe­tra­tor’s choice. So it’s a model of res­to­ra­tive jus­tice and a way of har­nes­sing peo­ple’s time inside of sen­tences in a fruit­ful way. 

My first steps to get­ting inside were through buil­ding rela­tion­ships, in my case, with Kate John­son who was a pri­son cha­plain and made those first work­shops pos­sible. Fol­lo­wing that, it was about buil­ding rela­tion­ships with inmates them­selves asking them what was wor­king, get­ting their advice. I always thought I would build a pro­gram and then give it to Cor­rec­tions but both inmates and Cor­rec­tions offi­cials them­selves said no. This is wor­king because it’s inde­pendent and people are coming in of their own volition. 

Fur­ther rela­tion­ships star­ted being built with pro­gram­ming offi­cers and the local Regio­nal Depu­ty com­mis­sio­ner’s office, which was inva­luable. To this day, I would say com­mu­ni­ca­tion and rela­tion­ships are pri­ma­ry. I’ve also been men­to­red by people who’ve done work in pri­sons for years and in dif­ferent aspects, eve­ry­thone from cor­rec­tio­nal offi­cers to people coming run­ning well­ness and health activities.

The­re’s a lot to learn and a lot of people have alrea­dy done those basic steps, so learn from them.

On the effi­ca­cy of music in prisons

Okay, I’m just going to speak a lit­tle bit now on the effi­ca­cy and pur­pose of music, and, I would say, the arts in gene­ral in incar­ce­ra­ted populations. 

One of the things that’s very dif­fi­cult is the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with cri­mi­na­li­ty, both as a stig­ma­ti­zing fac­tor, and then as a means of self-defense inside. What I have noti­ced is folks coming into groups, either recor­ding or sin­ging, will be reticent to share. To lite­ral­ly open their mouths. Then all of a sud­den you’re par­ti­ci­pa­ting in music and it’s attrac­tive. And music is a tem­po­ral art. You have no other alter­na­tive but to be present, and that present tense as pain­ful as it is, music and art is an emo­tio­nal plat­form which can help ease that chal­lenge. I have seen it mul­tiple times where folks go from being total­ly reclu­sive to com­ple­te­ly enthu­sias­tic, because once they’ve cros­sed that thre­shold, they want to share that expe­rience with others. 

It’s also giving people the reins to their own lives. Music is some­thing that they can work on pri­va­te­ly. It’s not ordai­ned or jud­ged by others pri­ma­ri­ly, although they will ask me quite often. They just want me to treat them like any other pro­fes­sio­nal musi­cian, which I do. The pur­pose of this pro­ject keeps chan­ging and expan­ding. At first, it was a res­ponse to the can­cel­la­tion not only of the Agri­cul­tu­ral pro­grams, but the modi­fi­ca­tion of the cha­plain­cy and the can­cel­la­tion, in some cases, of the culi­na­ry programs.

And so, it was filling a void. Now, what it’s doing a decade in, is employing people on the out­side, both in music, engi­nee­ring, spe­ci­fic tasks, but also some­times in com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­zing. I’m brin­ging inmates back inside to work with cur­rent­ly incar­ce­ra­ted people because that incar­ce­ra­tion at that moment goes from being a lia­bi­li­ty to an asset. So I, as a musi­cian, can do a lot of work when I bring in someone who’s been inside. Mere­ly by their pre­sence, they’re doing work that I can’t neces­sa­ri­ly do. So the pur­pose has expan­ded as a way of glea­ning an employable aspect out of the expe­rience of incar­ce­ra­tion. Hope­ful­ly that expands for us as the pro­gram expands, now that we’re a natio­nal cha­ri­ty. That’s one of the aspects that the music might serve someone when they get out of pri­son in terms of re-inte­gra­tion. The other way that it defi­ni­te­ly serves is just in socia­li­zing people while they’re inside.

On pri­son culture, and issues expe­rien­ced by inmates inside and out­side pri­sons 

The other way that it defi­ni­te­ly serves is just in socia­li­zing people while they’re inside. Incar­ce­ra­ted popu­la­tions can be very iso­la­ted, very encam­ped, and the music just natu­ral­ly becomes ecu­me­ni­cal. It becomes sha­red across dif­ferent cultures. We’ve had an expe­rience where in one case, a white inmate was making music with rap­pers and he was saying, « If my fami­ly knew I was in the room with black people they would disown me ». As you know, not a sho­cking sta­te­ment, and also some­thing that then led to weeks of conver­sa­tion, and I would think would affect that per­son’s atti­tude when they’re on the outside. 

By taking care of music toge­ther and by crea­ting a pro­per form of inter­de­pen­dence, I think we wit­ness what other people are use­ful for. We build trust and we rea­lize that a lot is pos­sible when we have that trust. And that trust that has often been denied to folks who end up in pri­son long before their incar­ce­ra­tion. Some of the cultu­ral sen­si­ti­vi­ties I’d say that we have to reco­gnize are from the gene­ral popu­la­tion. I’ll start with the stig­ma­ti­za­tion of incar­ce­ra­tion and sca­pe­goa­ting the­re­by, because it’s easy to pick on someone who’s alrea­dy been fin­ge­red for doing harm and then trig­ge­ring people who are trau­ma­ti­zed. If they meet someone who’s a per­pe­tra­tor of a crime that they’ve suf­fe­red very often, it’s going to be trig­ge­ring for them.

So these are chal­lenges that we’re mee­ting in our pro­gram as folks gra­duate, and as we inte­grate them. The dif­ferent ways of addres­sing this, I would say, imme­dia­te­ly stem from com­mu­ni­ca­tions and then just fol­lo­wing the legal codes as they are. You know, it’s cal­led Cor­rec­tions. It’s not cal­led ‘draw and quar­ter in the public square and throw people away’. We work under the tenant that eve­ryone is res­pon­sible and no one is dis­po­sable. Some people can’t hang with that and you don’t want to push but­tons. Howe­ver, expo­sing those kind of pre­ju­dices is what we need to do as a civil socie­ty if we’re going to advance. And we have gone from dra­wing and quar­te­ring people in the public square to incar­ce­ra­tion. Hope­ful­ly we can get a lit­tle more per­fect constantly.

The other cultu­ral sen­si­ti­vi­ty, of course on the part of incar­ce­ra­ted folks, is impos­ter syn­drome. When people start taking res­pon­si­bi­li­ty for them­selves, it’s sca­ry. I mean you’ve been depen­ding on an ins­ti­tu­tion almost the way we are when we’re in school, and so how that is met is by actual­ly being vul­ne­rable your­self. 

I, as an artist, have to relate all the time. « Oh yeah I was sca­red shit­less that time on stage », or this is what I lear­ned from this per­son, or when I bring in people to do work­shops and an incar­ce­ra­ted per­son will say to me, « Wow I lear­ned a lot that day » … I lear­ned a lot that day ! So regu­la­ting and put­ting your­self on the same level as people real­ly helps to address that state of impos­ter syn­drome which can be debilitating.

It can be debi­li­ta­ting for all of us, let alone people who have ser­ved time.

On ano­ny­mi­ty, and the ethics of content creation

In terms of the ethics around content crea­tion and what hap­pens to it, I can speak spe­ci­fi­cal­ly to our model, which is ano­ny­mi­ty in release of the music. So what that does well is it pro­tects the per­pe­tra­tor. It also pro­tects vic­tims who could be trau­ma­ti­zed if they saw someo­ne’s name tied to a piece of work which might have been very ear­nest­ly made, but still it wouldn’t mat­ter to them. So ano­ny­mi­ty, it pro­tects both sides from being tar­ge­ted and at the same time you give crea­tive control and owner­ship to the creator.

So we work on publi­shing, on tea­ching people how to real­ly regu­late and control their own content. They can always do ver­sions when they’re on the out­side. The stuff that they make for the pro­gram is put out free of charge, tied to cha­ri­table works. So it’s a way of har­nes­sing the time that people are spen­ding inside in a very pro­duc­tive way. Using that time to bene­fit others, and kee­ping it clear of the com­mer­cia­li­za­tion, and any other thing that might kind of hot­ly become under criticism.

On what making music in pri­sons brings to him and to inmates

I guess the other thing to talk about is so you know why I’m doing this. I saw the agri­cul­tu­ral pro­grams being des­troyed that had a 0.1 % reci­di­vism rate, mea­ning no one who went through those pro­grams were reof­fen­ding. And I star­ted to unders­tand the rea­sons why were because they were loo­king to load pri­sons, and break some­thing, and ratio­na­lize pri­va­ti­za­tion. It just see­med so cyni­cal and dark to me that I just nee­ded to become enga­ged and invol­ved. Music is one of my prin­ci­pal enga­ge­ments with the world, so that’s what I had to offer. I think very qui­ck­ly it became evident to me how impor­tant music is, when I saw it create so much ener­gy. And the­re’s lots of sto­ries of people being reu­ni­ted with their fami­lies through this work, and a gro­wing concern for each other in incar­ce­ra­ted states. 

People have been saying to me when they’re about to go and get parole, « Oh I don’t want to leave until this pro­ject’s fini­shed » or « Are you going to stay here because this was very impor­tant to my friend who’s still invol­ved here. » And just that notion that they’re thin­king in a out­side method to me is a por­tion of free­dom that this work is affor­ding the indi­vi­dual by their own work. And what I consi­der suc­cess is when I see that. The­re’s two or three people who have been with this pro­gram a long time that at the end of the day, if it was only about those three people, the decade of work has been worth it. It’s esti­ma­ted that over a thou­sand have gone through our pro­gram. We’re loo­king to expand and natio­na­lize currently.

That will be great. The suc­cess is real­ly, real­ly per­so­nal and very indi­vi­dual, and the amount that I’ve lear­ned doing this has dee­pe­ned and rei­gni­ted my rela­tion­ship to music and myself.

On self-care and dis­cer­ning your role when wor­king in pri­sons 

All of this work is dee­ply emo­tio­nal. We’re very keen into the expe­rience of others, so it takes a great deal of self-care. Some of the things that I prac­tice are meditation.

I per­so­nal­ly sit an hour a day. I find that’s very, very help­ful for me to dis­cern what my role is with others. When you’re facing folks who have had a rough go, the seduc­tion is the fee­ling that you can fix. That’s not real­ly what we’re here for. We’re just here to abide and present ano­ther option, and art can help make that attrac­tive. And if you can get out of that ego men­ta­li­ty that you’re fixing or hel­ping, again, put­ting your­self on the same level as eve­ryone else, that’s good self-care. It’s kind of let­ting your­self off the hook of res­pon­si­bi­li­ty that way, and I’d say again, making your­self vul­ne­rable. It’s heal­thy. It can be sca­ry but it’s the only way I know how to do it. And 10 years in, I’ve had expe­riences where I’ve done the­ra­peu­tic work, plant medi­cines, well­ness work, the pri­son work never comes up within that context as some­thing that is taxing me. Quite the oppo­site, it actual­ly is giving to me.

It might not be what you’d expect, but when you’re in a place where eve­ry moment of atten­tion is appre­cia­ted, it is very, very, very posi­tive and you just have to divorce your­self from that ego side – of the cor­rec­tor or fixer. 

You’re not that, you’re just a friend really.


For more info on Hugh Chris Brown, see their artist pro­file HERE. For a taste of what Hugh Chris Brown does, see the fol­lo­wing pro­jects fea­tu­red on the PCM Hub :

Pros & Cons

Get­ting Star­ted in Cor­rec­tio­nal Institutions

For more info on Music In Incar­ce­ra­tion & Reha­bi­li­ta­tion, see HERE

Leah Abramson – On Making Music In Prisons

As part of the Music in Incar­ce­ra­tion & Reha­bi­li­ta­tion Resource, Leah Abram­son des­cribes her expe­riences making music in a women’s pri­son in the pro­ject Women Rock, the chal­lenges she encoun­te­red, and what making music brought her and the inmates.

On her first steps making music in prisons

Hi, my name is Leah Abram­son. My pro­nouns are she and her. I’m a musi­cian, com­po­ser, and ins­truc­tor based in Van­cou­ver, BC – on the unce­ded ter­ri­to­ries of the Mus­queam, Squa­mish, and Tseil-Wau­tuth Nations. 

I began wor­king with incar­ce­ra­ted women in 2008. I star­ted as a volun­teer tea­ching music les­sons and, after a few years of volun­tee­ring where I could, I star­ted a pro­gram cal­led Women Rock, which was loo­se­ly based on the Port­land Girls Rock Camp model to teach rock band ins­tru­ments, then song­wri­ting and then help them to form a band. Those pro­grams ended around 2016. 

So ini­tial­ly to get star­ted, I loo­ked up the Eli­za­beth Fry Orga­ni­za­tion to find out how to become a volun­teer, and they sort of put me in the right direc­tion. But I didn’t join them or any­thing like that . Then, I also had to contact the pri­son itself and the social pro­grams offi­cer there to see what nee­ded to hap­pen, in order for me to come in and bring ins­tru­ments there, and to talk spe­ci­fics about who might want to learn, who might want to be a student there. 

So I went through volun­teer trai­ning, just gene­ral volun­teer trai­ning for the pri­son which was a few ses­sions, then orga­ni­zed it with the social pro­grams offi­cer. I kind of did it myself but, in order to find those contacts, Eli­za­beth Fry was helpful. 

On the chal­lenges of get­ting music into prisons

It was actual­ly har­der than I thought to go in and pro­vide a free service. 

The­re’s  a lit­tle bit of skep­ti­cism on the pri­son’s part – why would you want to come in and do this, and why do you real­ly need to bring in all these ins­tru­ments ? I sup­pose there is the most skep­ti­cism around the Rock Band pro­gram because rock band, in gene­ral, is not seen as a reha­bi­li­ta­tive sort of music or reha­bi­li­ta­tive sort of acti­vi­ty.  It’s often vie­wed as rock and roll, deviant, sex, drugs, etc., which was defi­ni­te­ly not our pro­gram. In fact, mee­ting people where they are in terms of the music can be quite reha­bi­li­ta­tive, in terms of lear­ning an ins­tru­ment and get­ting good at some­thing from week to week. 

But we had to pro­vide a lot of infor­ma­tion, demons­tra­ting what had been done in the past in dif­ferent places, in order to convince the pri­son autho­ri­ties. I guess that it was a wor­thw­hile acti­vi­ty. Also brin­ging ins­tru­ments in, eve­ry­thing needs to be scan­ned, eve­ry­thing needs to be pro­vi­ded as a list befo­re­hand. So you need to know exact­ly what you’re taking in. So it’s a chal­lenge. Just on a real orga­ni­za­tio­nal level. Often also, the pri­son is quite far away from Van­cou­ver so it’s quite a drive. So the­re’s a com­mute of about an hour and a half each way in traf­fic depen­ding on the timing. Then the­re’s fun­ding which is a whole other thing. 

So for Rock Band for Women Rock I was able to part­ner with an orga­ni­za­tion cal­led Ins­tru­ments Of Change which fun­draises eve­ry year for things like this. So, at the time, we were able to pay our­selves that way. But when I was ini­tial­ly just volun­tee­ring, that was just volun­tee­ring. So fin­ding fun­ding for these things can be real­ly dif­fi­cult as well. Again, because the­re’s this idea that music is sort of an unne­ces­sa­ry thing or it’s just not neces­sa­ri­ly as impor­tant as edu­ca­tion or other things that people might learn. The­re’s a view that it’s sort of icing on the cake that people don’t need, which is defi­ni­te­ly not my point of view. But I think the­re’s the per­cep­tion that it’s not some­thing that people should get. It’s almost like the­re’s this puni­tive idea that people should be suf­fe­ring for what they did, ins­tead of reha­bi­li­ta­ting and loo­king at their lives that way. 

So those are some of the things that were a barrier.

On the impor­tance of music in prisons

It’s an expe­rience I think of fond­ly. It had its chal­lenges for sure. It’s not an easy place to go to eve­ry week. It’s defi­ni­te­ly some­thing that you digest throu­ghout the week that you think about a lot in your day-to-day after­wards. You’re mee­ting lots of people from dif­ferent walks of life, who have poten­tial­ly had a very dif­ferent life from you. Also, there are simi­la­ri­ties where you think, “oh if my life had gone slight­ly dif­fe­rent­ly that could have been me. I could be lear­ning music here ins­tead of this per­son”. So it makes you think a lot about your life and cir­cum­stances, and upbrin­ging and pri­vi­leges in the world, and things like that. 

But it was also very mea­ning­ful giving people the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn music, which is some­thing that I can’t ima­gine my life without. I think it is just so mea­ning­ful for people in their lives and it’s a skill that they can take with them on the out­side as well. I know that some people have and it conti­nues to enrich their lives, just giving people those musi­cal skills to car­ry on. 

I hope that the­re’s a way to create more oppor­tu­ni­ties for this, in a way that’s per­haps even natio­nal. A way for people to unders­tand how impor­tant it is to have arts pro­gram­ming in incar­ce­ra­ted set­tings. And I hope to find a way to cen­tra­lize so that people can more easi­ly find their way inside to pro­vide things like this.

There is one part of the pro­gram that I did where we actual­ly did recor­dings, and a num­ber of women were star­ting to write songs and we actual­ly wor­ked with them to make recor­dings that they could send to their fami­lies. And a num­ber of women sent songs to their chil­dren. That was one of the most mea­ning­ful things, and I think it was a real way for them to express them­selves and also connect with their fami­lies when they weren’t other­wise able to. Some­times their fami­lies lived far away and it was a real­ly mea­ning­ful expe­rience for them to com­mu­ni­cate in that way.

For more info on Leah Abram­son, see their artist pro­file HERE
For a taste of what Leah Abram­son does, see the fol­lo­wing pro­jects fea­tu­red on the PCM Hub :
For more info on Music In Incar­ce­ra­tion & Reha­bi­li­ta­tion, see HERE.

Sound Waves : An Approach to Layered Soundscape-Making

Sound Waves shares an approach to laye­red sound­scape-making that responds to research themes through mul­tiple art forms, in order to create inclu­sive and acces­sible sound­scapes, for groups of inter­ge­ne­ra­tio­nal mixed-abi­li­ty sin­gers, that can be laye­red into musi­cal com­po­si­tions. These sound­scapes can be pre­cise, impro­vi­sa­tio­nal and infu­sed with par­ti­ci­pant pers­pec­tives and experiences.


This inter­dis­ci­pli­na­ry work­shop demons­trates an approach to com­mu­ni­ty-enga­ged music making that comes out of prac­tices and approa­ched deve­lo­ped by Ruth Howard and Jum­blies Theatre + Arts.


The pro­cess was deve­lo­ped by Shi­fra Cooper, through com­po­si­tions by Binae­shee-Quae Nabi­gon Cou­chie,   infor­med by prac­tices deve­lo­ped by Ruth Howard and Jum­blies Theatre + Arts. It is part of the pro­duc­tion of What Was My Backyard ? a musial show co-pro­du­ced by Jum­blies, The Com­mu­ni­ty Arts Guild and Theatre Direct. inclu­ding over 100 sin­gers through The Gather Round Sin­gers and UTSC Concert Choir, and key contri­bu­tions from asso­ciate artists Tija­na Spa­sic, Nata­lie Fasheh and Patrick Murray.


We invite you to fol­low, enjoy and adapt these steps for sound­scape-crea­tion, to suit your own inter­ests and contexts. If you are inter­es­ted in the themes or pro­duc­tion of What Was My Backyard ?,  please don’t hesi­tate to be in touch for infor­ma­tion about licen­sing the music or show.


Sound Waves : An Approach to Laye­red Sound Making


1. Build Rela­tion­ships and Do Research

This flexible sound-crea­tion pro­cess can be as brief as one work­shop, or take many ses­sions, enri­ched by dee­per explo­ra­tions and gro­wing rela­tion­ships. Our col­la­bo­ra­tive work­shops grew out of many rich, long-term fac­tors, including :

  • Lear­ning from expert, inter­dis­ci­pli­na­ry com­mu­ni­ty-enga­ged artists at Jum­blies Theatre + Arts

  • Col­la­bo­ra­tions with Indi­ge­nous and non-Indi­ge­nous artists through the What Was My Backyard ? Project

  • And inves­ting in The Gather Round Sin­gers Choir as an inclu­sive, wel­co­ming, all ages cho­ral space for sin­gers of all expe­rience levels.

2. Share Research
In our case, this was a pre­sen­ta­tion by Com­po­ser Binae­shee-Quae to the choir about the role and impor­tance of Water within the musi­cal piece

But this could be any source content sha­red by an expert of any kind !


3. Choose an Image

Choose an image from what was sha­red. Our image was a wave, but you could choose any image that connects to your context. Examples could include : leaves, music notes, foot­prints, fish etc). Create enough copies so that each sin­ger can have one ; card­board and pas­tels are recom­mend. (See pro­ject score or video for examples).

4. Gene­rate Text
Come up with simple ques­tions that will invite com­mu­ni­ty res­ponses to the research sha­red. Use these to gene­rate text and write them on your card­board images. our ques­tions were :

  • Think of an out­door space that you spend time in, either cur­rent­ly, or in your own memory/personal history.

  • What is some­thing you know or won­der about the Indi­ge­nous and ancient his­to­ry of this place ?

5. Play with Move­ment and Sound
Lead par­ti­ci­pants through impro­vi­sa­tions to respond to key images and ideas. Our impro­vi­sa­tions star­ted with move­ment, led by Tija­na Spa­sic, slow­ly adding com­mu­ni­ty-gene­ra­ted move­ments and sounds to acti­vate our waves.

6. Select a Sound Vocabulary
Out of your impro­vi­sa­tions and explo­ra­tions, decide on a sound voca­bu­la­ry of 2–4 dis­tinct prompts. Our sound prompts for moving water were deve­lo­ped by Com­po­ser Binae­shee-Quae out of com­mu­ni­ty explo­ra­tions : Drip, Swish, Ahh. Take time to build sound­scapes using this voca­bu­la­ry and build fami­lia­ri­ty with the impro­vi­sa­tio­nal form.

7. Infuse the Sound Voca­bu­la­ry with Text

Invite com­mu­ni­ty sin­gers to choose one word they have writ­ten down. For example, if someone wrote : “I know this was once full of grass,” they might choose the word grass.

Prac­tice per­for­ming this word in a varie­ty of ways (ex : whis­per, sing, stretch) to build confi­dence and fami­lia­ri­ty with it.


Then, map this word against the sound voca­bu­la­ry to build a new sound­scape, infu­sed with par­ti­ci­pant stories/perspectives. For example, in our sound­scape, this would mean per­for­ming the word grass in the style of a Drip, Swish, and Ahh.


See pro­ject video for an example of this in action !


8. Layer in Other Music/Movement

Once your sound­scape is esta­bli­shed, you can layer in other forms, inclu­ding the move­ment gene­ra­ted in ear­lier steps.


Your sound­scape may accom­pa­ny a move­ment piece, or ano­ther melo­dy. In our case, the water sound­scape accom­pa­nied a solo melo­dy as part of the What Was My Backyard ? per­for­mance. See our pro­ject video to expe­rience these layers coming together.



For more infor­ma­tion about The Gather Round Sin­gers or What Was My Backyard ? visit


For more infor­ma­tion about Binaeshee-Quae’s music, visit

Energy Matters Workshop (Part A): Embodied Listening to Energy Crisis

Art causes people to ques­tion or consi­der their own beliefs, assump­tions, or values. It can offer new pos­si­bi­li­ties, solu­tions, and alter­na­tives to cur­rent condi­tions. Sound Arts enhance our capa­ci­ty to notice the world in unu­sual ways. Art helps us to lis­ten bet­ter. There are many bene­fits of lis­te­ning to the world dee­ply as it culti­vates empa­thy, trust, inclu­sion, com­pas­sion, and more. Hil­de­gaard Wes­ter­kamp, the pio­nee­ring sound­scape com­po­ser writes :

“Lis­te­ning not only grounds us within our own inner world from which ins­pi­ra­tion springs, but most impor­tant­ly, it ins­pires new ideas, and new approaches to stu­dying the sound­scape, and it changes the qua­li­ty of sound­ma­king, spea­king and musi­cal expres­sion. Taking the time to lis­ten goes against today’s 24/7 sta­tus quo of a hec­tic pace and stress, of racing toward riches and suc­cess, of never having time and always being impor­tant­ly busy. In this lar­ger context, lis­te­ning is a conscious prac­tice in lear­ning to change our pace in a socie­ty dan­ge­rous­ly spee­ding out of control. Out of that doing comes an enti­re­ly new expe­rien­tial know­ledge.” (THE DISRUPTIVE NATURE OF LISTENING : TODAY, YESTERDAY, TOMORROW, p.47)

As part of my artist resi­den­cy at FUTURES/Forward, the Inter­na­tio­nal Cen­ter of Arts for Social Change (ICASC) fun­ded by the Cana­da Coun­cil for the Arts and the Met­calf Foun­da­tion and Tri­co Chan­ge­ma­kers Stu­dio at Mount Royal Uni­ver­si­ty fun­ded by the Cal­ga­ry Arts Deve­lop­ment, I part­ne­red with Alber­ta Eco­trust to apply my artis­tic prac­tice of deep lis­te­ning and sound­scape com­po­si­tion to ini­tiate arts-ins­pi­red dia­logue on ener­gy affordability.

Ener­gy is an increa­sing concern for many Cana­dians ; howe­ver, spea­king about (un)affordability conti­nues to hold the stig­ma among­st people who are expe­rien­cing dif­fi­cul­ties paying the ener­gy bills on the one hand and on the other hand the issue is not prio­ri­ti­zed by new regu­la­tions for clean elec­tri­ci­ty and Canada’s prompt tran­si­tion to net zero. In the series of com­mu­ni­ty-enga­ged arts work­shops, Ener­gy Mat­ters, we invol­ved sta­ke­hol­ders to address ques­tions such as : How vital is ener­gy affor­da­bi­li­ty in deve­lo­ping #sus­tai­nable #cities ? How do cli­mate change and Canada’s tran­si­tion to Net­Ze­ro impact low-income groups strug­gling with ener­gy affor­da­bi­li­ty ? Why must affor­dable hou­sing inte­grate ener­gy affordability ?

The acti­vi­ties out­li­ned in this por­tal would be help­ful to any envi­ron­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion hol­ding a simi­lar kind of arts-ins­pi­red dia­logue on the cli­mate cri­sis, ener­gy jus­tice, and cli­mate jus­tice. The gui­ded medi­ta­tion atta­ched to this pro­ject would help prac­ti­tio­ners in crea­ting a safe and inclu­sive space where par­ti­ci­pants could dis­cuss their work on ener­gy poverty.

1) Begin each work­shop by crea­ting a safe space that brings toge­ther the community’s unders­tan­ding of what “safe space” means and how it would be nurtured.

2) Wel­come com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers into the space and prac­tice an acti­vi­ty for groun­ding and cen­tring that helps indi­vi­duals to over­come their resis­tance and nur­tures more open­ness. This can be done with a medi­ta­tion that brings atten­tion to the breath and to the sen­so­ry sti­mu­li around or with a wal­king meditation.

Here is an example of a gui­ded prac­tice and the atta­ched score and video is an example of how it is conduc­ted in a work­shop set­ting. See the score below for a down­loa­dable ver­sion. You can find audio examples of simi­lar gui­ded medi­ta­tion prac­tices for work­shops in the gui­ded medi­ta­tion links below.


Wal­king Medi­ta­tion for Groun­ding and Lis­te­ning to the Earth’s Pulse

Stand with feet about shoul­der-width apart. Shoul­ders relaxed, soles of the feet connec­ted to the earth, knees a lit­tle soft, palms at the sides. Eyes are in soft focus, seeing everything.



Adopt a natu­ral stance. Bring your atten­tion to the soles of the feet. Ima­gine that you are gro­wing roots down into the earth. Let the roots be your ancho­ring to the earth.

Since the soles of the feet let the ener­gy of the body sink into the soles and roots. The knees are a lit­tle soft to pro­mote circulation.

Shoul­ders are relaxed. Palms of the hands relaxed.



Visit your heart and allow a very plea­sant memo­ry to emerge.

Visua­lize and light up your spine tra­vel­ling from the tip of the tail­bone, ver­te­bra by

ver­te­bra up into the skull.

Ima­gine a gol­den thread shoo­ting out of the crown of your head to a dis­tant star.

Ima­gine that the upper part of your body is floa­ting sus­pen­ded from a star. Try to

balance the fee­ling of the lower body roo­ted to the earth and the relaxed floating

sen­sa­tion of the upper body.

The chin is tucked under a bit to help ali­gn the spine.

Try to bring your body into this ali­gn­ment at dif­ferent times of the day whe­ther you are

sit­ting, stan­ding or walking.



Now repeat this affir­ma­tion : With each step, I feel the earth hol­ding me, sup­por­ting me, sus­tai­ning me. I am simul­ta­neous­ly slo­wing each breath.”

Thank you for joi­ning me in this gui­ded practice.

*The words and phrases in square bra­ckets need not be said aloud. It is to help the gui­ded prac­ti­tio­ner to pause as the medi­ta­tion tran­si­tions from one phase into another.

  1. After this gui­ded medi­ta­tion, the par­ti­ci­pants can be enga­ged in ques­tions for reflec­tions on the jam board fol­lo­wed by acti­vi­ties that engage them in an artis­tic acti­vi­ty and a dia­logue per­tai­ning to ener­gy acces­si­bi­li­ty. For more details, please refer to part b) and part c) of this project.

Energy Matters Workshop (Part B): An Auditory Approach to Energy Accessibility

Art can become a means to inte­grate mar­gi­na­li­zed voices into the conver­sa­tion. It can voice aspects of the issue not other­wise expres­sed in public docu­ments or poli­cy sta­te­ments. Art helps us to lis­ten bet­ter. How might we har­ness the power of arts to explore issues around ener­gy acces­si­bi­li­ty ? Ener­gy affor­da­bi­li­ty is an increa­sing concern for many Cana­dians ; howe­ver, spea­king about (un)affordability conti­nues to be pro­ble­ma­tic. In the series of com­mu­ni­ty-enga­ged arts work­shops, Ener­gy Mat­ters, we invol­ved sta­ke­hol­ders to address ques­tions such as : How vital is ener­gy affor­da­bi­li­ty in deve­lo­ping sus­tai­nable cities ? How do cli­mate change and Canada’s tran­si­tion to Net Zero impact low-income groups strug­gling with ener­gy affor­da­bi­li­ty ? Why must Affor­dable Hou­sing inte­grate ener­gy affordability ?

I was pri­vi­le­ged to col­la­bo­rate (as the FUTURES/for­ward and Tri­co Chan­ge­ma­kers Studio’s artist-in-resi­dence in co-crea­ting and faci­li­ta­ting the Ener­gy Mat­ters pro­ject) with Alber­ta Eco­trust (SEE the LINKS BELOW for more infor­ma­tion) and their part­ners (ACORN, Kam­bo, Ener­gy Effi­cien­cy, All One Sky, and others) in their Ener­gy Pover­ty and Home Upgrades Pro­gramEner­gy Mat­ters was a series of par­ti­ci­pa­to­ry arts work­shops where par­ti­ci­pants (sta­ke­hol­ders who were ener­gy advo­cates within their orga­ni­za­tions, inclu­ding Home Upgrades pro­gram staff at Alber­ta Eco­trust and advo­cates from Ecotrust’s part­ners : ACORN, All One Sky, and Cal­ga­ry Alliance for the Com­mon Good) enga­ged in arts-based dia­logue around ener­gy pover­ty using crea­tive acti­vi­ties to reflect on the ways ener­gy affor­da­bi­li­ty is connec­ted with cli­mate change and the pro-poor poli­cies that could gene­rate more equi­ty.  The pro­ject was based on inter­sec­tio­nal ethics of care that loo­ked at the ways ener­gy affor­da­bi­li­ty impacts various sec­tions of our socie­ty, inclu­ding seniors, people with disa­bi­li­ties, women, and newcomers.

Each work­shop star­ted with an acti­vi­ty that invol­ved embo­died deep lis­te­ning and attu­ning the ear to approach ques­tions about ener­gy unaf­for­da­bi­li­ty from an audi­to­ry approach that faci­li­tates crea­ting sound arts for social change. Refer to Part A in PCM hub to see an example of this acti­vi­ty. Part B will assist you in crea­ting prompts for par­ti­ci­pants to reflect on.


1)    Fol­lo­wing a gui­ded medi­ta­tion, involve the par­ti­ci­pants in an audi­to­ry reflec­tion acti­vi­ty that per­tains to their eve­ry­day rea­li­ties and their expe­rience of them. See below for examples :

Example 1 : What is the one sound that you heard this mor­ning that brought you here today. [See the atta­ched video]

Example 2 : What are the sounds that you find agreeable and calming ?

Example 3 : What are the sounds that you find unplea­sant and dis­rup­ting your comfort ?


2)    Next, engage the par­ti­ci­pants in a reflec­tion that per­tains to their work on ener­gy accessibility.

See the images below as an example of how the par­ti­ci­pants were invol­ved in a cri­ti­cal­ly self-reflexive dia­logue that ensu­red the crea­tion of a space of open­ness and mutual res­pect where they sha­red the biases and pre­ju­dices that they bring to their work on ener­gy acces­si­bi­li­ty. Par­ti­ci­pants were asked to ques­tion the biases and pre­ju­dices they bring to their work addres­sing ener­gy inac­ces­si­bi­li­ty. What are the limi­ta­tions to their lis­te­ning to people expe­rien­cing the cri­sis of ener­gy affor­da­bi­li­ty ?  [See the res­ponses of one group in the jam board in the image gal­le­ry below]


3)    Ask par­ti­ci­pants to read other res­ponses on the jam board and share their pers­pec­tives. [See the atta­ched video for an example of this activity].



Energy Matters Workshops (PART C): Deep Listening to Energy Accessibility with Sound Recording Activities

The Ener­gy Mat­ters work­shop series was loca­ted at the inter­sec­tions of inter­dis­ci­pli­na­ry and par­ti­ci­pa­to­ry sound art for cli­mate action and jus­tice, invol­ving sto­ries, sounds, word bubbles, ges­tures, and move­ment. In these work­shops, we co-crea­ted deep lis­te­ning expe­riences and new sound­scape com­po­si­tions based on artis­tic acti­vi­ties faci­li­ta­ted by Shu­mai­la Hema­ni. The content of these work­shops will be adap­ted to tai­lor par­ti­ci­pants’ needs, inter­ests, and assets.

We aimed at crea­ting a safe and inclu­sive space where par­ti­ci­pants can dis­cuss their work on ener­gy pover­ty, what brought them to this work, and how it has impac­ted the ways they unders­tand and engage with the concept of home or dwel­ling. It will give them a space to share how their sub­jec­ti­vi­ty (age, race, gen­der, disa­bi­li­ties, etc.) influences how they approach ener­gy poverty.

We inves­ti­ga­ted the present unders­tan­ding of this sub­ject within Alber­ta and Cana­da, and what kinds of chal­lenges or stig­mas people confront in acces­sing sup­port to ensure ener­gy affor­da­bi­li­ty. To ensure equi­ty, inclu­sion, and fair­ness, we enga­ged the par­ti­ci­pants in a cri­ti­cal­ly self-reflexive dia­logue that ensures crea­ting a space of open­ness and mutual res­pect. One such prac­tice could be gathe­ring par­ti­ci­pants’ pre­cepts around pover­ty and ener­gy consump­tion, ener­gy tran­si­tions, and ener­gy pover­ty through a varie­ty of crea­tive activities.

There are many bene­fits of dee­ply lis­te­ning to the world as it culti­vates empa­thy, trust, inclu­sion, com­pas­sion, and more.

1) Ini­tiate a dia­logue on ener­gy acces­si­bi­li­ty by asking the par­ti­ci­pants to lis­ten to their domes­tic set­tings and how dif­ferent sounds in their spaces make them feel.

Example of a Prompt : How do you lis­ten to the sources of ener­gy and ener­gy consump­tion around you such as the bur­ning of fos­sil fuels through fur­naces, engines, and more ? Can you list the sounds of ener­gy consump­tion in your domes­tic set­tings and how you relate to those sounds ? [See the image below for how par­ti­ci­pants respon­ded on the jam board] [Lis­ten to the atta­ched audio to see how par­ti­ci­pants des­cri­bed the sounds in their domes­tic settings]


2) Ask the par­ti­ci­pants to make any sound recor­dings of the ener­gy end uses in their domes­tic set­tings. Allot 5 minutes for this activity


3) Ask the par­ti­ci­pants to share any sound recor­dings of the ener­gy end uses in their domes­tic set­tings and why did they choose this sound, how do they relate to this sound, and whe­ther are there any memo­ries that this sound brings to their mind ? [Lis­ten to the atta­ched audio for an ite­ra­tion of this activity]


4)    Next, engage the par­ti­ci­pants in a dia­logue about their jour­neys and work on ener­gy acces­si­bi­li­ty. [See the atta­ched video of par­ti­ci­pants tal­king about how they came to this work.

Example of a prompt : How do you relate to the ques­tion of ener­gy inac­ces­si­bi­li­ty in your life ? Reflect on defi­ning moments that ins­pi­red you to become advo­cates, lea­ders, chan­ge­ma­kers, and artists addres­sing ener­gy pover­ty. (Watch the video below for an ite­ra­tion of this activity.)



Energy Matters Workshops (PART D): Deep Listening to Energy Accessibility with Dialogues on Energy Accessibility

The sound­scape com­po­ser, Hil­de­gaard Wes­ter­kamp writes, “True recep­tive lis­te­ning comes from an inner place of non-threat, sup­port and safe­ty. Para­doxi­cal­ly, while a groun­ded and calm state of mind, a sense of safe­ty, peace and relaxa­tion are essen­tial for ins­pi­ring per­cep­tual wake­ful­ness and a willin­gness and desire to open our ears, nor­mal rou­tines, habits and pat­terns will be dis­rup­ted and laid bare in such a pro­cess of lis­te­ning ; noises and dis­com­forts inevi­ta­bly will be noti­ced, and all kinds of expe­riences will be stir­red and unco­ve­red. Lis­te­ning in fact implies a pre­pa­red­ness to meet the unpre­dic­table. and unplan­ned, to wel­come the unwel­come. As such, lis­te­ning is inhe­rent­ly dis­rup­tive as it puts a wrench into the habi­tual flows of time, and habi­tual beha­viour of dai­ly life. ” (THE DISRUPTIVE NATURE OF LISTENING : TODAY, YESTERDAY, TOMORROW, p.45)

Is there a sin­gu­lar expe­rience of ener­gy pover­ty ? The experts des­cribe ener­gy pover­ty as an ele­phant in the room being explo­red by people who unders­tand ener­gy pover­ty from their own posi­tio­na­li­ty. Yet, des­pite the ambi­gui­ty of this term, there conti­nues to be a high degree of stig­ma around dis­cus­sing ener­gy inac­ces­si­bi­li­ty in public debates. What is usual­ly men­tio­ned in the reports is impor­tant but equal­ly so is that which is left unsaid or does not find its way into the mains­tream conver­sa­tion. In these arts-based acti­vi­ties, we will re-dis­co­ver those places of vul­ne­ra­bi­li­ty that make us look at ener­gy pover­ty through a com­pas­sio­nate lens.


1) Dis­tri­bute a recent report on ener­gy inac­ces­si­bi­li­ty or a rele­vant topic and ask the par­ti­ci­pants to reflect on it in advance. Example : Clean Elec­tri­ci­ty report by Cana­dian Cli­mate Ins­ti­tute publi­shed in June 2023 (please see score sec­tion for report).


2) Involve par­ti­ci­pants in a dia­logue about the report.  Use the fol­lo­wing prompts as an example :

Prompt 1 : What do folks think about this report ?
Prompt 2 : Has this report mis­sed anything ?

Prompt 3 : Are the sta­tis­tics to be accep­ted as facts or is there some­thing that the report is not saying ?


3) Depen­ding on the com­fort level of par­ti­ci­pants, go dee­per and take a more ana­ly­ti­cal and cri­ti­cal stance by asking a direct ques­tion where their exper­tise will be prompted.

Example 1 : The report says that clean elec­tri­ci­ty is chea­per. Do you agree/disagree and why ?

Example 2 : Are there any other ideas that are coming to your mind ?


[Watch the video example as an ite­ra­tion of this activity]

sonic cellphone meditation

This sonic medi­ta­tion allows par­ti­ci­pants to impro­vise vocal­ly while explo­ring an out­door space with others. It is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to walk while sin­ging, obser­ving the constant­ly chan­ging sounds of other sin­gers and phones. It is also an oppor­tu­ni­ty to lis­ten to the effects of phy­si­cal space on cer­tain sounds as well as the evol­ving res­ponses of other sin­gers. It invites focal lis­te­ning (to one’s own cell­phone) as well as glo­bal lis­te­ning (to the other voices, other cell­phones and sur­roun­ding sounds.

The cell­phone, using a free app ( plays a series of GPS trig­ge­red sounds as par­ti­ci­pants walk through each zone. Ins­truc­tions are given (soni­cal­ly) at the begin­ning of the walk, invi­ting sin­gers to either sing in uni­son or on any other note any­time in res­ponse to the sonic prompts they receive from their phone. The prompts are easi­ly pro­gram­mable on the Echoes app.

In one case, the words “here” and “now” were sung on exten­ded tones and played in dif­ferent zones around a park area. Gra­dual­ly par­ti­ci­pants began to explore inter­ac­ting with each other. See video below.

It is social sin­ging while being out­doors, ideal­ly in a public space giving eve­ryone equal foo­ting on the area. (GPS is not as effec­tive indoors).

Where : Any out­door area with any par­ti­cu­lar inter­est, geo­gra­phi­cal­ly, social­ly, logistically
Dura­tion : 20 minutes would be a minimum
Participants/Target Audience : Anyone who loves group sin­ging and listening.
Group Size : Any size is pos­sible. The grea­ter the num­ber, the more vocal and cell­phone prompts, enri­ching the sonic possibilities.

Find a site that you would like to explore vocal­ly with others, one that you enjoy being in. Use the app to create your own walk by crea­ting “zones” of any size filled with any sound you like, on a loop or just once. Invite par­ti­ci­pants to down­load the free app which plays your walk when ente­ring the desi­gna­ted zones. One can stay in any zone for any length of time.

Par­ti­ci­pants sing along in uni­son or any other note any­time in each zone. Other sonic medi­ta­tions can be crea­ted from dif­ferent kinds of sonic prompts to eli­cit dif­ferent kinds of vocal responses.

« The chal­lenge of com­po­sing loops, their tona­li­ties and rhythms, was ins­pi­ring for me. To hear stac­ca­to orches­tral hits, on my device and then mil­li­se­conds later on another’s tick­led me. To hear har­mo­nies and dis­so­nances dance at their own whim also was endea­ring.  » Josh Four­ney, participant.

Newcomer Youth Engagement Program : Music and Literacy

The New­co­mer Youth Enga­ge­ment pro­ject connects music and lite­ra­cy while also connec­ting our uni­ver­si­ty and a com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tion that sup­ports edu­ca­tio­nal ini­tia­tives for new­co­mers to Canada.

Who we are : Our music team at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Sas­kat­che­wan part­ne­red with the Sas­ka­toon Indus­try Edu­ca­tion Coun­cil and New­co­mer Youth Enga­ge­ment Pro­gram which is fun­ded by Immi­gra­tion, Refu­gees and Citi­zen­ship Cana­da.   There are approxi­ma­te­ly 18 stu­dents in each of the two classes, and they range from 17–21 years of age.

Our goals : Toge­ther, our team has deve­lo­ped ori­gi­nal cur­ri­cu­la and we engage the stu­dents each week in musi­cal acti­vi­ties of sin­ging and playing ins­tru­ments that connect to themes of their lan­guage stu­dies to deve­lop lan­guage skills in writ­ten and oral communication.

An impor­tant goal of the col­la­bo­ra­tion is to “Cele­brate that everyone’s music is Cana­dian music and contri­butes to the fabric of Canada’s culture” and that this lear­ning expe­rience will faci­li­tate the sha­ring of the stu­dents’ cultures and sup­port the youths’ sense of belon­ging and connec­tion to their own culture and the new coun­try to which they are integrating.

Songs of Success :

1) The music we use in our ite­ra­tive cur­ri­cu­lum desi­gn invites the music from the stu­dents’ coun­tries of ori­gin and we also use some tried and tes­ted ear­ly years songs in English that teach voca­bu­la­ry and deve­lop their lite­ra­cy skills.

2) We have incor­po­ra­ted Popu­lar Music songs throu­ghout the pro­gram. As the stu­dents’ lan­guage skills deve­lo­ped and we had deve­lo­ped a rela­tion­ship of trust where they felt valued through their music, we explo­red concepts of rhythm and beat through contem­po­ra­ry songs that they sha­red from their coun­tries of ori­gin. We also incor­po­ra­ted some more contem­po­ra­ry English songs into the lan­guage stu­dies and the stu­dents respon­ded very favou­ra­bly to lear­ning the words, themes, mes­sages and mea­nings of the songs we introduced.

Com­ple­men­ting Acti­vi­ties : Since many of the stu­dents would have heard the songs, we could focus on writ­ten lite­ra­cy skills through rea­ding and wri­ting the words.

We incor­po­ra­ted various acti­vi­ties with the lyrics inclu­ding post-it note acti­vi­ties in which stu­dents had to uns­cramble the phrases in the song or song titles to put them in order, or find the incor­rect words (often rhy­ming words) on the board and cor­rect them with the pro­per word found in the song.

At the end of the year, we com­pi­led a play­list of the songs we have lear­ned and sung that show­ca­sed the stu­dents’ art­work from their art class that high­ligh­ted the theme of each song.

Les­son Struc­ture :  A les­son is one hour and fol­lows a typi­cal les­son struc­ture as follows :

  • Wel­come song
  • Call & res­ponse rhythms & melodies
  • Lear­ning new songs – (Gra­phics on screen, hand ges­tures – to indi­cate oppo­sites, contrac­tions, literal/figurative, etc. – and tac­tile & kines­the­tic acti­vi­ties – post-it note games, assemble a snow­man on the board, stand up when your bir­th­day is sung in the “Months of the Year” song, raise hand when we sing an adjec­tive, etc. are all essen­tial as we learn new song lyrics.)
  • Playing per­cus­sion ins­tru­ments (lis­ten & play-back exer­cises, playing along to a song, fin­ding the beat of a song, and using ins­tru­ments to help create word-based rhythms)
  • A review of today’s learning
  • Good­bye song

Pro­ject Outcomes :

  • Increa­sed social bonding/cohesion
  • Increa­sed lan­guage com­pre­hen­sion, faci­li­ty, and fluen­cy which can even be mar­ked by obser­va­tions of stu­dents using lan­guage for humour
  • Ease of com­mu­ni­ca­tion through singing
  • Rich oppor­tu­ni­ties to explore new words, gram­mar concepts, col­lo­quia­lisms, connec­tions, and ideas pro­vi­ded through exa­mi­na­tion of song lyrics
  • The sense of pride & belon­ging stu­dents demons­trate when their favou­rite music and places from their home coun­tries are part of class activities.
  • Increa­sed agen­cy in their deci­sion-making and input for artis­tic choices