When I first became a music therapist many years ago, I worked with small children between the age of 3 to 5 in a community setting where both typical children and children with disabilities attended during the day. There were about 20 of them in the class. Half of them had disabilities, such as autism and Down Syndrome, while the other half did not.
When I sang old tunes, such as "What a Wonderful World," Herb would calm down and smile. At the end of each song he clapped loudly, even though I told him he didn't have to do that. Through music we were able to make a meaningful connection. I thought this was a small miracle, but what followed was even more unexpected.
We sing to, dance with and buy music because it matters to us. It matters usually because of how it makes us feel, but also who it connects us with, what tribes it creates. That interconnection both within us and between us is irresistible, I suspect increasingly, because just as more of life is becoming virtual, music can't not remain real.
My friend from Brazil tells me that much as he loves our traditional seasonal music, he feels it's always sad too. I think he has a point. Even in more recent Christmas songs there's a pang, isn't there? Note how it's always Cold Outside, the weather outside is frightful, and yet...if you really love me so... well then... the boys of the NYPD choir will still sing Galway Bay.
We all use music to help us get through life, and to enhance its good bits. What music therapists are good at is bringing that power of music to people who - for many reasons - can't claim it for themselves. Nordoff Robbins might deserve celebrating too, for growing this use of music, protecting it, and perhaps for reminding us what music is really there for.
Silence, perhaps counter-intuitively, is one of the most powerful tools in a music therapist's armory. Because through the journey from silence into music and back again, comes meaning. And often our job as music therapists is to help clients find a balance between the two; for example with clients on the autistic spectrum.