Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Music Therapy

Interdisciplinary Research through Community Music Therapy and Performance ethnography/Recherche Interdisciplinaire : Musicothérapie Communautaire et Ethnographie De la Performance

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Music Therapy

Interdisciplinary Research through Community Music Therapy and Performance ethnography/Recherche Interdisciplinaire : Musicothérapie Communautaire et Ethnographie De la Performance

Article excerpt

I want to act

I want to sing

I want to sing like Celine Dion

I want to see

my family

I want to see them proud of me

'Cause I'm here

on the stage

like a princess

in a play.

(verse repeats)

'Cause I'm here

on the stage

like a princess

in a play.

Feeling good

feelingfree

that is what I want to be

I want to be something in my life!

In June 2007, the Centre for the Arts in Human Development at Concordia University in Montreal presented an ethno drama based on the life experiences and stories of 18 adults with developmental disabilities. The key words and themes used to write the lyrics quoted above came from one of these adults, Annette, as part of the community music therapy processes utilized in the course of creating this ethno drama. This article will define ethno drama and the community music therapy process, and describe how they were combined in an innovative example of interdisciplinary research involving the creative arts therapies.

The Ethnodrama Project at the Centre for the Arts in Human Development

An ethnodrama featuring 18 adults with developmental disabilities was developed and performed in previews at Concordia University's Centre for the Arts in Human Development. These adults were participants in the Centre's three-year program of creative arts therapies. The Centre is a clinical training and research centre for music, drama, art and dance-movement therapies, which, at the time of this writing, had been in existence for 10 years. In 2006, the Centre received a three-year Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant from the Canadian government to develop an ethnodrama with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities that would integrate processes related to each of the creative arts therapies. The principal investigator, Stephen Snow, was a drama therapist with a background in performance ethnography who had become interested in ethnodrama as a way for clients at the Centre to give voice to their own stories about what it was like to live their lives. Prior to this, the Centre had had a ten-year tradition of involving its clients in bi-annual theatre productions, but these productions had never been based on the true-life experiences and stories of its actors (Snow, D'Amico & Tanguay, 2003). Thus, this ethnodrama production was the first attempt of its kind at the Centre, and involved a leap in a dramatically different direction for all involved.

The Centre for the Arts in Human Development is unique in that the core team of staff is made up of experienced creative arts therapists who take on roles as theatre practitioners. The drama therapist becomes the director, the art therapist is involved in design, the dance-movement therapist assists with choreography, the director of the Centre (a social worker) becomes the producer and, most significantly here, the music therapist assists with the music.

As the music therapy consultant at the Centre, I was particularly interested in the Ethnodrama Project because I was simultaneously pursuing an interdisciplinary doctorate in music therapy and anthropology, and had some experience conducting ethnographic interviews. I was hired as both an ethnographic researcher and music therapist on the project. As a music therapist, I would be helping clients give expression to their lives using their own songs and music. I saw this as taking the music to a whole new level in terms of client empowerment and autonomy within the context of a theatrical musical production. In our previous musical productions, I had composed, in collaboration with professional lyricists, all of the music for the actors with intellectual developmental disabilities to sing, and had hired a band of professional musicians to accompany our actors on stage. In the Ethnodrama Project, the actors would be involved in creating the music and songs and playing instruments on stage. …

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