Music Therapy + Louie Morand + Irving S. Gilmore
A LOVE SONG IN THREE-PART HARMONY
MARY KATHERINE QUASARANO
THURSDAY JUNE 23rd, 2011
The powerful and resilient lifeline of the music therapy program at the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home is a glorious weaving of three Michigan gifts: the field of Music Therapy, the passion and heart of the kids and their teacher, Louie Morand, and the legacy gifts of Irving S. Gilmore.
Adolescents naturally construct figurative walls around themselves as a shield from the pains that come with growing up. These walls come tumbling down with love and trust and generally present little obstacle to open communication with adults and those in authority. Troubled adolescents, on the other hand, construct brick walls around their emotional selves as a means of protection from real hurt and trauma. The adults and authority figures in their lives will struggle to find any opening that might provide an opportunity for communication. In an attempt to create this opening, The Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home employs Music Therapy, and the efforts are changing the lives of the kids and the teachers that work with them.
It’s important to identify each unique element of this powerful collaboration. The synergistic and healing energy created when they come together in three-part harmony is a song about the Arts in Kalamazoo worth singing.
What is Music Therapy?
The formal discipline of Music Therapy came about as musicians responded to the desire to serve wounded veterans of both World War I and World War II. Professional and amateur musicians of all kinds made their way into hospitals to play for those suffering both physical and emotional trauma. Music made a tangible difference in the healing process and led staff to formally hire musicians. In order to transform well-intentioned volunteers into effectively trained practitioners, the first music therapy degree program in the world was founded in 1944 at Michigan State University. Music Therapy recognizes the great restorative and healing powers of music, while acknowledging that to maximize results, there is a need for those powers to be administered in a safe, research-based setting, and by a board certified and trained clinician.
The Heart of Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home’s Music Therapy Program
Louie Morand (a proud alumnus and graduate student of Western Michigan University) is a board-certified music therapist and self-described empathetic person with the deep belief that all humans are inherently good. He’s the first to tell you that working with youthful offenders has been a challenging and exceptionally rewarding journey.
“Truthfully, I had difficulty understanding how to best serve the young offenders population when I began to work with them almost five years ago,” shared Morand. “It took time and experience for me to understand how to validate their emotions in a holistic manner. Change begins with my ideas presented to an individual, which then lead to the individual’s interaction with peers in the therapeutic setting. The path below might be a logical breakdown of the process. Note how it begins with the students changing me, which then leads to my response of how to help them change.”
>A student → Me → a student → their peers/group → their facility → their community → the world
In the knowledgeable and caring hands of a professional therapist like Louie, and through the gift of music, students are reached at unconscious brain areas that lie beyond their defensive, conscious borders. This is the place of transformation and change. The process can be scientifically recorded and observed and yet the outcome (healing and transformation) remains a mystery.
What is the anticipated end goal of this artistic endeavor? For Morand it’s this – “I tell each of my students: Your honesty, positivity and creativity make your community stronger. I’d like my students to be recognized for the value that they bring to our community rather than them being seen as a burden.”
Legacy Gifts to the Arts Change the World – The Gilmore Foundation
Irving S. Gilmore was an accomplished musician that played piano as a child, studied in New York following his graduation from Yale in 1923, and in 1925 returned to his hometown of Kalamazoo to help manage the family business, Gilmore Brothers Department Store. He was an active manager of the store for 47 years and his love of keyboard music and admiration for its performers never diminished.
He retired in 1972 and in the same year created the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation to ensure that his philanthropy would continue to enrich the Kalamazoo community and citizens for years after his death. As stated in the foundation website, “The Mission of the Foundation is to support and enrich the cultural, social, and economic life of greater Kalamazoo.” The Kalamazoo County Government’s Youth Offender Transitions Program is supported by the Gilmore Foundation and its Piano Learning Lab. Morand’s work in music therapy, is supported, by extension, through the Gilmore Keyboard Festival. Through Morand’s work with juvenile offenders, Gilmore’s mission is being realized.
Music therapy is a wonderful synthesis of ancient wisdom (music can soothe and heal) and 21st Century technology (brain mapping). In the hands (and heart) of a trained, dedicated professional like Louie Morand, it reaches into the souls of troubled youth. Through the legacy gift of Irving S. Gilmore, a new song is being composed for each of the students at the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home. This new song, as one of Louie’s students eloquently observed, “…is just another way of telling someone’s life story.” Through music therapy, hopeful new notes are entering the composition of many stories/songs.