[Section Voices: Genre]
By Daniel Richardson
This report describes the current state of the Music Therapy study program (Postgraduate Specialization in Music Therapy) in the Universidad de los Andes in Venezuela, along with a special feature of it's curriculum; the Venezuelan Music Therapy Ensemble. (ENVEMUST by its Spanish intitials), which groups Students and Teachers, focused on the communities for therapeutic intervention.
Keywords: Venezuela, Community Music Therapy, ENVEMUST, Study program.
My name is Daniel Richardson a flutist and music therapy student from the first music therapy program (Postgraduate Specialization in Music Therapy) of Venezuela that officially started in 2010 at the Universidad de Los Andes (Mérida) [ULA] under the direction of Dr. Yadira Albornoz. Within the activities of this program, a point of special importance that caught my interest was the Venezuelan Music Therapy Ensemble (ENVEMUST by initials in Spanish) consisting of teachers and students belonging to the program. The essential objective of ENVEMUST programs is to promote change and wellness through workshops on social development and group musical experiences that connect the person with her/his personal and collective life experience to stimulate community development (Albornoz, 2002). The ensemble is designed to facilitate communication within the various communities and its scope ranges from health and/or educational institutions to direct contact with communities in the city.
In a typical intervention, ENVEMUST presents a concert, and conducts a conference. Then the ensemble organizes the discussion of the issue being raised as a work objective, getting an immediate connection with the public since the whole approach is based on the needs of the community. The music is presented as an offering that allows the “opening of consciousness” and the clarifying of positions before the reality or issue treated. Note that the ensemble has variable instrumental configuration depending on issues previously assessed in conjunction with community spokesmen. The ensemble is enriched by the variety of instruments used together with the use of voice for all the participants; dance is added when considered relevant.
The first concert of ENVEMUST was held in 2010 at the “Centro de Desarrollo Humano” at Bailadores, a rural community near to Mérida city. This institution hosts students with special needs, presenting different pathologies, most of them related to development. The musical intervention began in a typical western concert form, musicians in front of the public, with the scores and musical stands separating the two groups. As the experience progressed, it involved the public participating and making music along with the ensemble. The group played some pieces based on Latin percussion rhythms, and the people participated moving around the place and dancing with the music.
After all the participants had this wonderful musical and social beginning, two students from the ensemble, “took the baton” and conducted a presentation of the Constitutional Rights of People with Special Needs. This intervention was very well directed at the core of the issue there in Bailadores, as the “Centro de Desarrollo Humano” has undertaken a very intense campaign of sensitization to the inhabitants, the government officials and the media. They find lots of difficulties in that process and consciousness is what they strive for.
The following discussion was very rich, full of emotional contents and sincerity. A young man in a wheelchair stood out as a potential leader in his community, with a very clear thought and message of what they really need to overcome their problems. We at ENVEMUST were completely impressed by the degree of involvement and power that this group was able to develop. Through these kinds of social interventions, we can anticipate very significant changes in the status quo of medical care and educative policies established by the regional authorities.
Members of ENVEMUST belonged to the first cohort of the ULA (Universidad de Los Andes, in Mérida) program, nevertheless the next generation already has begun to take part in the musical work. While the ensemble is open to different formations, the arrangements have to be done in advance. The whole group contributes to the repertoire for the ensemble. For example, for my composition seminar, I composed a piece dedicated to ENVEMUST in its typical configuration (Flute, Violin, Mandolin, 2 Clarinets, Piano, Percussion and Electric Bass). Also, Dr. Tripputi (our composition and guitar teacher) kindly collaborates with arrangements and original compositions or transcriptions, so the musical content of the ENVEMUST interventions is always fresh and "variado."
When the first students graduate the ensemble will continue with a different rehearsal plan that works for the majority of the musicians and teachers. This has been challenging because thus far almost all of the participants live far from Mérida, and something apparently easy as setting a rehearsal date is sometimes complex. Regardless, the motivation is high, the work pays artistically and therapeutically, and this is only the beginning. We can expect many interventions in the Western region of the country, as a second step. ENVEMUST is planning to participate in the Latin American Congress of Music Therapy that will be held in Sucre-Bolivia. We are excited to share our program with others.
I would like to share a project in the planning stage, the creation of The Venezuelan Foundation for Music Therapy (Fundación Venezolana de Musicoterapia – FUNVEMUST). This organization will be responsible for matters relating to organization, practice, research, creation and lawful exercise of the profession. This issue is virtually untouched in Venezuela because of the relatively recent beginning of the discipline. So far, the general public is not aware of music therapy, its objectives, and methods. We think the general knowledge of people contains only the commercial trends of the global welfare business and the generic so-called "Therapeutic Musics". However, consumer education is one of the objectives that FUNVEMUST projected; and once the first generation of music therapists certified by the ULA graduate, these projects will take shape.
On the Venezuelan horizon promising possibilities await the discipline. Dr. Albornoz has proposed a Doctorate in Music Therapy for the ULA. This degree would offer further specialization in music therapy studies as the first doctoral program in our hemisphere. The program awaits approval from the University of Los Andes and the National Council of Universities of Venezuela.
ENVEMUST, will benefit from the creation of the Doctoral program, as students from different states work together in Mérida. And continue as a group in the ULA. This music therapy community will strengthen the artistic qualities of ENVEMUST, by working in a more effective way.
The first cohort of the specialization in the ULA is making its final term, including field experience, internship and professional grade projects. The beginning of the professional practice of music therapists will enable a better quality of life for many clinical populations and at the same time, further research in the discipline because of the wide availability of institutions that can house investigative programs, ensuring progress in the study and knowledge of Music Therapy in Venezuela.