The Canadian Croatian Choral Society was pleased to host two music therapy workshops for over 60 people at Oakville’s Queen Elizabeth Park Community and Cultural Centre on June 22 and 24, 2018.

CCCS President Mira Lorkovich Omura opened each session by welcoming participants and introducing facilitator Dr. Amy Clements-Cortes, Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Music and a registered psychotherapist and certified music therapist. Dr. Clements-Cortes began her career as a music therapist, performer and vocal teacher. Her extensive clinical experience involves working with clients across the lifespan, providing clinical music therapy, psychotherapy, and guided imagery and music imagery sessions. She has worked in hospitals and nursing homes, focusing on persons at end-of-life and those diagnosed with dementia and mental health issues.

Before calling Dr. Clement-Cortes to the podium Mira acknowledged and thanked the Ontario Trillium Foundation for its funding grant that helped make the workshops possible.

Singing for Health and Wellness: Choral Works with Older Adults

The first session explored evidence-based research on the social, emotional, physical and cognitive benefits of singing to older people.

Dr. Clements-Cortes explained that some of the key social benefits include collective/group bonding, individual growth and learning, increased pride and morale and decreased loneliness. Emotional benefits include improved mood, increased wellness, verbal participation, energy, happiness and positive feelings as well as decreased depression and anxiety. Participants also learned about the psychophysiological benefits to seniors of singing and listening to music, which include better posture, stamina, respiratory rates and breathing, increased feelings of relaxation and reduced stress.

Guided Imagery in Music

The second workshop focused on the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music, a music-centered psychotherapy practice used to explore clients’ inner world and work on significant life issues, such as losses, trauma, abuse as well as self-actualization. Through therapeutic sessions, clients often release and explore unresolved emotions and often find helpful resolution. Dr. Clements-Cortes shared a compelling case study in palliative care music therapy, and guided participants through an experiential activity. The case resonated with everyone in attendance and highlighted the significant and life-changing work that a certified music therapist can accomplish.

Both sessions were informative and inspirational. Participants learned a great deal and left with a much better understanding of music therapy, what it entails and its significant impacts.

A Significant Ending and Looking Forward to Next Time

The CCCS looks forward to having Dr. Clements-Cortes work with them in the future and choir members in attendance surprised her at the end of the second session by singing one of her favourite songs “You are my Sunshine.” After thanking her, Artistic Director Ed Mavrinac led all participants in a touching rendition of this deeply meaningful song, which made for a very special moment of interaction and bonding.

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