Music has the ability to heal and to transform! We’ve all felt that to some degree, however the visible results from two music classes taking place at BaptistCare HopeStreet Port Kembla, in the Illawarra, speak for themselves. During the class it’s common to see HopeStreet clients who are experiencing multiple issues including mental health, legal concerns, drug, alcohol and gambling addiction and social deprivation, start to change. Participants often begin class withdrawn and reserved, giving little to no eye contact. By the end, they have big smiles on their faces and make positive eye contact as they are play music.
For Chere, a class participant, music as therapy helped to pull her out of a very dark place; while in the words of HopeStreet Chaplain, Rev. Brian Pember who runs the class, music can give people like Chere a way to respond to trauma. “I was really, really down and depressed. The music class, and HopeStreet itself, helped me get back into life in a big way. It got me participating rather than just sitting there ruminating on everything,” said Chere. “Class really allows everyone to open up and relax. It teaches us to breathe. It’s a good icebreaker.”
Chere was supported by HopeStreet after leaving her job in aged care due to bullying inside the workplace not being addressed. “HopeStreet kept me fed with meals and food parcels. I no longer had an income, so it really helped…I’ve been doing the percussion class for a couple of months now. I borrowed a drum from the centre to take home and practise a couple of times a week,” said Chere. After volunteering as her way of ‘giving back’, Chere now has a paid position in the HopeStreet kitchen. “I love this place. It’s helped me so much in my personal life,” said Chere.
In the percussive group, beginners learn dynamics which helps in teaching them how to regulate their emotions. They also learn new motor skills, playing along with other people, and activating different parts of their brain which are known to hold trauma. The class, and a more advanced version of it for more accomplished musicians, creates the opportunity for greater confidence and connection between clients and HopeStreet team members. The class allows people to build confidence and self-esteem, meet new people and make new friends.
Rev. Brian Pember says it’s a privilege to be a part of. A competent bass guitarist with decades of experience in ‘plugging things in’, he’s an invaluable resource to the class. “There’s times where all of a sudden it just works. It’s nothing to do with the skill of the players. People sense it. People become part of something bigger than themselves, and they’re like ‘Yesss!’,” said Brian. “I think that’s one of the things around music, it brings out people’s creativity. Music changes people and affects people in ways we can’t imagine – nor can we measure,” said Brian.
“Putting my chaplain hat on, if we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that making of us resembles the character of God, then we are creative beings. Music is one of those easy to access, hard to master creativities. I don’t think there is a culture on the planet that doesn’t have a form of music. It’s in us. And we respond to it…My experience is where you create something with someone, there is a bond. For me, it’s how I leverage that – in a creative way of my own – to start talking to them about what’s going on, on the inside?” said Brian.
Much like chaplaincy, Brian believes the trick to playing good music is listening to others. “And not just listening to yourself. Once you listen, you can empower, accommodate and contribute in a really genuine way.” Aside from paid chaplaincy positions like Brian’s, BaptistCare also offers volunteering opportunities for people interested in reaching out to their community. Perhaps helping to coordinate music therapy classes resonates. If this sounds like you, you can visit https://baptistcare.org.au/volunteer for more information.