Singing Our Stories with Kate Beever
This workshop invited participants to join board-certified music therapist Kate Beever for self-exploration through song. The group selected music that represented either their personal or work-related identities and then rewrote the lyrics to create original songs that described the goals of their post-pandemic lives. This allowed people to process the difficulties brought on by this situation while looking to the future with hope.
A tangible recording and lyric sheet of each song was the final product for participants. The project culminated in a virtual event on Friday, April 16th, which showcased select songs composed during the workshop. In addition, workshop instructor Kate Beever discussed the broader role of music and music therapy during the pandemic with fellow Jack Pine Project instructor Carla Tanguay. To view the recording of the event, click here.
Kate Beever is a board-certified music therapist and owner of Maine Music & Health, which helps those with illnesses and disabilities reach their goals through the power of music. She has developed programs with Maine Medical Center, York Hospital, the Dempsey Center, Boston College, and the Portland and Bangor Symphony Orchestras, as well as thousands of clients with medical needs. Her online support groups for both children and adults include verbal therapy as well as music-making such as drumming, percussion games, songwriting, singing, and relaxation to music. She also runs online training programs for teachers and healthcare professionals to learn how to incorporate the arts into their work. Kate has an BA in percussion from USM and a Master’s in Music Psychotherapy from NYU. Her website is www.mainemusicandhealth.com.
Songwriting allows for a particular kind of self-expression that comes out very directly because it is such a safe format. While I am willing to work with anyone, I am most interested in working with people who are experiencing job loss or cuts in employment hours. This group helped us understand the socioeconomic effects of COVID-19.
This essay is by workshop instructor Kate Beever; more information is available on her website Maine Music & Health.
As we move into a new year and leave the present one behind, I wanted to share a project I recently led that helped a courageous and creative group of people process the difficulties brought on by this year while looking to their futures with hope.
Singing Our Stories was a month-long self exploration through song, sponsored by the University of Maine’s Jack Pine Project. Participants used song choice and lyric discussion to choose music that represented their identities and then wrote lyrics to create original songs that described their dreams and goals.
Each week included assignments like making a playlist of songs that represented how participants felt during the year and journaling as they listen to them to help guide the process of songwriting, and a drop-in weekly Google Meet for reflection and discussion.
The group was a mixture of people who had never picked up an instrument to professional musicians who wanted some motivation to get re-started in a new way. Each person needed a different kind of support.
One participant said they hadn’t written music in almost 25 years, and the program helped them reconnect to their musical self. Another said they learned how to focus an emotional experience into a musical style, while some said they felt less alone after the program.
In guiding the group, I tried to help people let go of the need for perfection and “getting it right” to allow for space in creativity and flow. I started by recording a guided musical meditation to help people get started, which you can listen to here.
“I could keep ‘perfecting’ it ad nauseum,” one participant wrote of his song. “Instead, I am being vulnerable and sharing it unfinished, too dramatic at times, a little slow in tempo, and altogether quite imperfect. Yet the process was powerful for me and re-awakened some parts of me that have been quiet for a couple of decades.”
Although I wish the workshop had been a bit longer, since four weeks is fast for writing and recording a new song, the results took my breath away. You can listen to and read the lyrics of some of the songs we created, including one of my own that came to me in a dream, here.