Music therapy is a ministry all by itself. I am totally convinced of it and I hope to convince you as well after you will have read the story that follows:
I learned to play an accordion from the age of 8 to 11 and from 13 to 17. My teachers were not professional musicians, they just knew music and how to play an accordion. And none of them were great players because they would never play in front of their students.
I used the skills I learned to play in my youth group in church and in a little dance group for a while. Then school became more demanding and I played just a little bit here and there.
When school finished, I looked for a job and in a single year, I started a new job, I got married, we moved in a city where we knew nobody and we welcomed our first child. Needless to say the accordion did not make the trip and it was stored at my parent's house.
We would visit them periodically and I would take the instrument out of the closet, play for about an hour the only pile of music I had and put everything back in the closet again. In 1981 our marriage went down the drain and I would visit much less often but still play for an hour and store everything away again.
Through job changes I moved farther and farther until crossing the Atlantic ocean. After reaching the Pacific ocean 10 years later, I would eventually start to move back closer. Over the years, my music skills had lost a lot of their capabilities. At some point it started to hurt when I would play. It was nerve based, not muscle based, but playing the instrument became painful, there was no more pleasure left playing music. I considered stopping playing definitely.
Now we are in 2011, I am on my way to visit my Mom and I get the accordion out of the closet. As I start playing, there is no more nerve issue in my fingers and playing goes quite well and it is pleasant. I look at the accordion and the almost empty suitcase I brought with me and I say: "You make the trip back from France to California".
There is no opening for my style of music in CA. I have to wait 2 more years, after the loss of another spouse, until coming to Altoona, PA, where there is a place with another musician playing an accordion (and a half dozen other instruments), and that is Fourth Street Church of God.
After caroling at Valley View, we were asked to play for everybody in the place. This took us aback, we needed to have a fitting repertoire, and make it a serious ministry.
Today we play regularly in a dozen places every month. I say "we" because it has been team work from the very beginning. Everything in God's economy contains the word "together". We may play as individuals in many places but we still think "together" because it would not work any other way.
We have now been playing for almost 5 years and we have a very special relationship with our listeners. Many of them know us better than their family members. Having a conversation requires a good mind and a good memory and many people who have dementia or Alzheimer's disease have lost those faculties. Music talks to your heart. The heart takes it to the mind and some memories can be reached again. In order to accommodate a wide range of people, we play songs from 1920 to 1960. A lot of Love songs. A lot of known tunes and known lyrics. And some waltzes and polkas, of course. We have to. We help bringing back good memories from better times.
Now you might wonder where the message is. After all we are church people and we are supposed to tell the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, wherever we perform, our 2 last songs are: "The Beer Barrel Polka" to wake everybody up, followed by "Jesus Loves Me" because it is true, it is real, it will never change and everybody we play for knows the song and the words.
Music therapy is a ministry all by itself, blessed by God with gifts and talents we would never dare to bury in the ground.