Therapy Choir of MichiganLen McCulloch
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TCM Choir Therapy is the assembling of individuals who share a common challenge so that they can experience the joy of singing with others (good singing ability is not required!). While providing this pleasure, Choir Therapy also aids the individuals’ recovery through two different mediums: the music itself and the camaraderie of the group.
Music has long been known to aid individuals in their recovery from obstacles, usually of a traumatic nature. Music therapy is widely used in institutions such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities, and schools for special populations.
Individuals receive many benefits from participating in a therapy choir. Some of the benefits are increased self esteem, improved memory and related cognitive functions, and enhanced social skills. In addition, Choir Members gain the opportunity to construct interpersonal relationships and obtain personal enjoyment through membership in a group which is supportive, educational, and congenial. Choir Therapy does not purport to produce a “musical masterpiece.” The mission is to 1) allow the Choir Members to have fun, 2) provide a therapeutic experience for Choir Members (and their family members and friends who might join as Volunteer Voices to assist with the choir), 3) increase public awareness of the impairments or disorders represented by the choir, and 4) supply entertainment which is both pleasing and inspiring to listening audiences.
Typically, organized rehearsals are scheduled at a time, date and location suitable for the particular Therapy Choir. Songs that are easy to learn are selected from the areas of contemporary music, folk music, and holiday music (when in season). Performances are almost always “a cappella,” which means “voices only.” We sometimes make exceptions when an individual expresses the desire to perform with a musical instrument. The individual can either perform a solo or get backed up by the choir. Performances are scheduled in the community at venues suitable for carrying out the therapy choir’s mission. Media coverage of the Therapy Choir can be sought through newspaper articles, etc. The media is used to spread the word about the Therapy Choir and to provide recognition for Members.
Again, good singing ability is not required! There may be some individuals who, because of stroke, dysarthria, or other injuries are unable to sing. They might be able to hum, tap their cane, clap their hands, or tap their foot to the rhythm of the music. In our experience over the past decade, we have found Choir Therapy to be a wonderful experience for all participants and audiences. In fact, Choir Therapy’s impact is so profound on those associated with it that the originally founded Choir has been written about in 44 newspaper articles, in addition to receiving a Nomination for Outstanding Achievement in the Areas of Performing Arts by the Farmington Area Arts Council. The Original Therapy Choir has also been the recipient of many other awards and recognitions.