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Music Heals

'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 aide 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."

WHAT'S IN YOUR CD PLAYER?

1. Vivaldi, The Four Seasons ("One of the few classical music CDs I have.")

2. Björk, Vespertine ("She is such a creative artist, and so much fun to listen to.")

3. Placebo, Meds ("Feels authentic; it's smart, rocking, and has deep emotion.")

DESERT-ISLAND DVDs?

"I would take a DVD of a talk by some teacher of consciousness, like [American spiritual instructor] Gangaji, to continue to hear and understand the fundamental truths of life."

DUMBEST SONG EVER?

"'Fire Water Burn' by the Bloodhound Gang -- 'The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire.' Especially when sung by the American soldier in Michael Moore's movie Fahrenheit 9/11. It's not a problem of the song itself but of that moment."

A LOCAL DESTINED FOR FAME?

"Carlos Olmeda. He has great talent and sensitivity, he's bicultural, and his music is both funny and heartfelt."

EARLIEST MEMORY?

"I was maybe four or five -- it was Christmas in Colombia. I was upset 'cause the adults wanted me to put on some nice sweater and stand by the Christmas tree for a picture, and I didn't want to do any of that."

LENNON OR McCARTNEY?

"Maybe Lennon...he's a more fun and dramatic icon."

FINISH THIS SENTENCE: "MY BEST DAY EVER WOULD HAVE TO INCLUDE..."

"...female energy, music and dance, self-discovery, and love."

SOMETHING ABOUT YOU FEW WOULD KNOW OR GUESS?

"I really enjoy a good death-metal band. For a while."

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'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 aide 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."

WHAT'S IN YOUR CD PLAYER?

1. Vivaldi, The Four Seasons ("One of the few classical music CDs I have.")

2. Björk, Vespertine ("She is such a creative artist, and so much fun to listen to.")

3. Placebo, Meds ("Feels authentic; it's smart, rocking, and has deep emotion.")

DESERT-ISLAND DVDs?

"I would take a DVD of a talk by some teacher of consciousness, like [American spiritual instructor] Gangaji, to continue to hear and understand the fundamental truths of life."

DUMBEST SONG EVER?

"'Fire Water Burn' by the Bloodhound Gang -- 'The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire.' Especially when sung by the American soldier in Michael Moore's movie Fahrenheit 9/11. It's not a problem of the song itself but of that moment."

A LOCAL DESTINED FOR FAME?

"Carlos Olmeda. He has great talent and sensitivity, he's bicultural, and his music is both funny and heartfelt."

EARLIEST MEMORY?

"I was maybe four or five -- it was Christmas in Colombia. I was upset 'cause the adults wanted me to put on some nice sweater and stand by the Christmas tree for a picture, and I didn't want to do any of that."

LENNON OR McCARTNEY?

"Maybe Lennon...he's a more fun and dramatic icon."

FINISH THIS SENTENCE: "MY BEST DAY EVER WOULD HAVE TO INCLUDE..."

"...female energy, music and dance, self-discovery, and love."

SOMETHING ABOUT YOU FEW WOULD KNOW OR GUESS?

"I really enjoy a good death-metal band. For a while."

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