Overcomes Obstacles with Music Therapy

Article excerpt


They've toured extensively throughout Canada and the world, recorded more than 25 albums, and championed the string program at Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU). The Pendericki String Quartet has become one of the top performing chamber ensembles. One of the keys to the string quartet's success: music therapy.

"The more you know someone, the more you can trust them," says violinist Jeremy Bell of Local 149 (Toronto, ON). "Music therapy is another way of opening doors to each other, to let each other in, and to make musical connections more alive and real for each other."

Music therapy has fostered personal bonds between Bell and Local 226 (Kitchener, ON) members cellist Jacob Braun, violinist Jerzy Kaplanek, and violist Christine Vlajk and led them to challenge themselves musically.

The quartet, now in its second decade, began with a group of Polish graduate students at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, and it then moved to Canada for residency at WLU in Toronto. "We're very Canadian in terms of our diversity of spirit," Bell says. "We're very malleable."

The quartet has experimented in many different music genres, with a variety of musicians, including Brazilian jazz musician Egberto Gismonti, pipa virtuoso Ching Wong, and Local 293 (Hamilton, ON) violinist Martin Beaver. In some of its most diverse performances, the group performed with New York City DJ Spooky, and even a quantum computer.

"It's very humbling for a string quartet to go about trying to be eclectic," Bell explains. "We're inspired by challenge for the sake of a challenge. You hear a genre that is sort of foreign to you and you want to know more about it. Sometimes we're jumping in blindly-sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."

Music therapy has helped the quartet learn to trust each other to take blind leaps of faith. The idea to try music therapy came from Dr. Colin Andrew Lee, a music therapist for 26 years and the music therapy director at WLU. Although music therapy is most often used for individuals with special needs, Lee was interested to see how it could be applied to professional musicians. He saw its potential after the quartet's members began changing, and approached them to partake in music therapy sessions. …