"With clinical improvisation, patients make spontaneous music, and then we do some therapeutic processing," says Colombian-born Alfonso de la Espriella, who has a degree in music therapy from the Berklee College of Music. "Sometimes treatment involves listening to songs with adolescents and reflecting on lyrical meanings. It can also be drum circles in a hospital; it can be songwriting with clients to get them to self-express -- even dancing, singing, or drawing artwork to music."
Espriella has used music therapy as an aid in treating disabled children, teens in crisis, addicts going through recovery, terminally ill patients, and people with mental illnesses. "J. was a schizophrenic homeless man, probably in his 40s. He wouldn't even shake hands -- verbal communication didn't seem possible, he just mumbled incoherent words, out of context and directed to no one...I put a drum in front of him, I took another drum, and he grabbed his and began rapping on it. I replied in a similar way, and he would answer back with his drum." Eventually J. began making mouth sounds, like singing, which Espriella mimicked, and the call-and-response communication continued.
"This proved J. wasn't lost in his own world and devoid of all communication and language skills; he was capable of social interaction by using music. Not only could he communicate, but he was highly creative in his interaction...in a case like this, music doesn't solve or cure anything. It does, however, provide a basis of communication, of sharing and opening up to one of the most meaningful human experiences. Most of us seek being with, sharing, giving, and receiving with one another."
His debut, self-produced album Trazos de Ser was recorded and mixed at Strate Sound studios by Alan Sanderson (Elton John, Rolling Stones, Weezer, Fiona Apple).
Espriella won second place in the 2006 Sprint Battle of the Bands in Los Angeles. In 2007, he returned to live in Columbia, though he still occasionally visits and performs in San Diego. In 2012, he released a new 5-song EP, Anima.