Music Therapy songwriter showcase to feature Van Bruggen on campus

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The Sam Houston State School of Music is hosting a songwriter’s showcase featuring guest artist Monique Van Bruggen next Monday, October 12, at 7:30 p.m. in the James and Nancy Gaertner Preforming Arts Center Recital Hall.

Music Therapy is an established health profession that uses music to engage and address any needs of the client, whether it be physical, cognitive, social or emotional. Van Bruggen is a music therapist, researcher and professor from The Netherlands who will be sharing her research and original songs with clients at the showcase.

School of Music professor Karen Miller talked about the kind of music that will be played at the showcase and how this performance will be a first for the Music Therapy program.

“This is the first event of its kind on the SHSU campus,” said Miller. “It is also the first concert of all-original music presented by the music therapy programs.”

Before this event, there has never been a music therapy guest lecturer.

“We have never had a guest that doesn’t play an instrument,” senior music therapy major Brittany Munoz said. “All the other studios have a guest that plays saxophone but we have never had a guest lecturer for music therapy. So that is really exciting, because it means there is actually going to be some more awareness to what music therapy is.”

Van Bruggen reached out to Miller after she learned that she would be spending a great deal of time in Texas over the next couple of years.

“She wanted to connect with students and professors at SHSU to establish a professional relationship with the potential for educational exchanges,” Miller said.

Song writing is a technique used in music therapy that helps with self-expression. Munoz talked about the kind of work done in music therapy sessions and how it is used to help people cope with personal issues.

“Sometimes clients won’t open up if you just talk to them,” Munoz said. “You have to bring a song that is relevant or start making chord progression and adding your own words so that together you can make their song. It will be their go-to song when times are hard, because they wrote that themselves.”

Miller has personal experience in the song writing treatment and shares the same passion for it as Van Bruggen.

“Ms. Van Bruggen and I decided to devote a portion of her visit to sharing original songs with our students and the Huntsville community,” Miller said. “We will highlight both songs written collaboratively by therapists and patients, and songs written by therapists for their own creative outlet and self-care.”

The showcase will present original songs in a songwriters-in-the-round format with Van Bruggen, Miller and a couple of other surprise performers. They will alternate around a “circle” so that the stories, songs, and presenters are continually changing.

“It will be a little like story telling to kind of put the songs in context and then present the songs. It is not just a coffee house where people just come and play their songs,” School of Music assistant professor Carolyn Dachinger said. “There is a story behind it. There is a client attached to that, and so understanding that context makes the song much more powerful.”

This event is a great way for music therapy to see their field in action. Munoz talked about the benefits of listening to other students’ original work.

“For musical therapy students, at this point, not a lot of us are skilled in the song writing and it is really good to see examples of what we learn about,” Munoz said. “It is beneficial because you really see how future clients may think and feel. A lot of the songs will be deep and emotional because that is how strong the emotions are.”

According to Dachinger, having international perspectives is very important in the field of music and it is impressive that SHSU is able to host guest artist like Van Bruggen.

“Huntsville is such a small town and it just kind of shines a light on that there are cultural activities happening here, there is music here, that the program is really strong, and that there are opportunities here for students to get a world class education, even if they are in a small town,” Dachinger said.

Music Therapy has more students in their program than Musical Education at SHSU. Dachinger talked about how despite that large amount of major, many students are in the dark about music therapy.

Munoz talked about why it would be beneficial for other students to attend the recital even if music is not their area of study.

“Students should go to the showcase because they will be exposed to what music therapy really is,” Munoz said. “A lot of people assume music therapy is Kumbaya around a campfire and there is so much more depth to it than that; It is so much more than playing music.”

The songwriter showcase is actually part of a larger two-day mini-conference that features Van Bruggen on Oct. 12-13 on campus. The whole event is free and all majors are encouraged to go.