The Music and Community Center
In a country marked by religious, ethnic, and ideological fault lines, music making can be a successful, cost-effective means of both strengthening and creating communities. All it takes are innovative music therapists—and a university with a vision
Seven hours a day, five days a week, 15 individuals with cognitive impairments study drumming, singing, band work, and music history at Bar-Ilan. Musically talented but excluded from communal music life, these students form an ensemble whose year-end show is a sold-out sensation. More important, their training places them at the locus of a system of concentric circles, each representing a relationship of its own: with students, with staff, with teachers, and even with the audience in the music hall. Music making brings them out of the margins and into the center of a social life.
Keilim Shluvim (“Instruments of Communication”) is just one of the ways that Bar-Ilan’s pioneering music-therapy program is helping individuals and their contexts relate to each other more harmoniously. Like other projects that broaden the traditional understanding of music therapy, the program demonstrates that music can be an effective part of societal health planning, as well as offer an opportunity for solidarity.
Now, the program seeks to establish a first-of-its-kind Music and Community Center (MACOM, in Hebrew “The Place”) to expand the notion of client to include social and cultural contexts in the Jewish state. By applying musical rituals connected with healing to entire ecological systems, MACOM can widen the openings music creates between peoples and build new communities at the same time.
Instruments of Dialogue and Empowerment
Situated at the intersection of applied music, psychology, and social work, MACOM will integrate education with research and clinical practice, harnessing the unique advantages of its university setting toward the creation of a truly holistic approach. Its community music practitioners—all of whom are doctoral students in the Music Therapy program—will work to expand and create new projects in the following areas:
- Musical Dialogue Projects: Bar-Ilan music therapists bring women from Beit Shemesh’s secular, religious-Zionist, and ultra-Orthodox communities together to make music and discover new instruments for mutually respectful discourse. Hailed by municipal officials and leaders of all three of the city’s religious streams, the weekly program was shown to be an effective means of building trust and a model for other mixed cities to follow. The popular Department of Music course for Jewish and Arab students, “Let’s Talk Music,” similarly encourages a newfound acquaintance between participants on campus, humanizing communities in conflict through the act of collaborative music making.
- Musical Empowerment Projects: Studying the effects of musical synchrony on autistic youth, helping to rehabilitate teenage girls in nearby residential home care, and the Keilim Shluvim project for young musicians with intellectual disabilities are just some of the ways that Bar-Ilan community music therapists help disadvantaged and marginalized populations find a healthy means of self-expression, build supportive networks, and connect with their surrounding communities.
- Lifespan Projects: By creating musical documentaries of elderly people’s pasts, Bar-Ilan students offer seniors a way to reconnect with their own memories and engage others in their life stories. And by offering a musical intervention to mothers of premature babies in the critical period after their reunion at home, Bar-Ilan community music therapists help compose a new course for an interrupted relationship, one whose starting point is not disappointment, but the desire to delight in each other.
- Community Music Therapy Conference: Featuring lectures, workshops, panel discussions, and demonstrations, an annual Community Music Therapy Conference will serve as a venue for exposing community music’s potential, as well as for sharing knowledge and ideas among professionals both in Israel and abroad.
Move the Margins into the Center of Israeli Society
By launching an innovative center for community music therapy at Bar-Ilan, you can help us integrate academic and clinical research with practice for more effective outcomes. Moreover, you can help us attract, educate, and train a generation of talented musicians committed to using their skills for the benefit of Israeli society at large.