Benjamin Zander is highly comedic in this internet talk, yet very inspiring. He discusses the presentation of classical music, as well as the passion and intention behind much of the music. There are two things he mentions that I would like to discuss and apply to music therapy. The first is Zander’s assertion that no one is tone deaf, and the second is the quote that is the title of this post.
How often during sessions do we hear, “Oh, I can’t sing,” or “I’m tone deaf.” We hear this from everyone, from patients and family members to nurses and other professionals. At what point did music become so “professionalized” that those who are not world-class performers could not participate? Music is the so-called universal language, yet many believe they are not qualified to sing. Zander uses a neat little trick to prove to the audience that they are not tone deaf, and also provides some examples of how we all perceive tone, whether it is in music or automobile gears. In the field of music therapy, an assumption of tone deafness may exclude someone from the therapy. How can we bust this myth (to use a phrase from one of my favorite Discover Channel shows)? One way may be to use the descending diatonic scale, like Zander did. Can you think of any other ways to demonstrate to clients that they are not tone deaf, other than just telling them? Please comment with ideas.
I also want to discuss the quote that is the title of this post. Though he used it in a musical context (as the director of an orchestra), this is the essence of music therapy. We use the scientific and artistic qualities of music to get to the core of an individual, and discover and awaken possibilities that lead to a more fulfilling life. Many of our clients could never perform in an elite orchestra, but that is not the goal. Our goal is that five minutes of joyful reminiscence in a client with Alzheimer’s. It is a child with Autism who says, “I love you” to his mother for the first time through a song. Or perhaps sustained attention from an adult with severe cognitive impairment. Music has a unique ability to uncover and awaken these possibilities. I would like to thank Mr. Zander for summing up our profession so eloquently, even if it was unintentional. He has certainly given me something to think about.