“Music Therapy & Wellness at Home”
By Ricardo Hurtado, ETM-LA Teacher & Music Therapy Specialist
Music has always existed in every society in the world; it’s always been part of humans. I love when I see kids connect back to their nature because it’s part of our human nature. When they connect and understand that they can create music, their self-esteem starts growing as well as their sense of identity and belonging. They are also developing social and communication skills. Those are all amazing parts of being a music teacher.
I immediately fell in love with the way ETM-LA has connected with the public system and how they deliver services to the schools; the program that they offer is amazing. I’m very fortunate to be part of it.
There has always been in me another part, the scientist part. I think I got it from my Dad, who was a neurologist. Since I was a little kid, I have been fascinated with anatomy and medicine. I would always tell my father, “When I grow up, I want to be a doctor just like you.” I also started learning guitar from my siblings. So I wanted to find a way to combine both passions — music and medicine.
After about ten years of teaching, my wife told me about this relatively new discipline starting in colleges: music therapy. We were living in Georgia at the time, and there were only two universities in the whole state offering it. Knowing that it’s exactly what I wanted to do, I immediately pursued it and took classes at the University of Georgia.
During these challenging times, music therapy is especially important. One of the aspects of this pandemic that affects the human brain is the feeling of being isolated; it can start raising anxiety and stress levels because people become worried. Fortunately, music therapy doesn’t require much in order to benefit from it. For instance, you can reduce anxiety by simply meditating with music. Progressive muscle relaxation is another method of focusing on breathing and relaxing. We use music in these exercises to achieve a slower heartbeat rate and lower levels of blood pressure and anxiety.
I would recommend a few wellness strategies as everyone stays Safer at Home. Focus on the positive. I call it a “Six-Second Rule”; don’t let any negative thoughts mingle within your mind for more than six seconds, since it’s just going to create more anxiety. There is bad anxiety, but there is also good anxiety — it helps us deal with stress and adjust to changes in our lives, whether they’re positive or negative. Eating healthy and exercising is also very important.
I’m still adjusting to this new normal and to teaching classes virtually, but I think it’s a great challenge because it has taught me about many software programs and other virtual learning resources. It has challenged me to find creative ways of engaging with my students even further, so they can receive a good education and have an outlet to enjoy life a little bit in this time of uncertainty.