New Free Workshop Explores Wellness Through Music

Does music help you relax or de-stress? Would you like to learn simple ways to deepen your engagement with music to support your day-to-day well-being? Join COVID Support VT support counselor, Nate Reit, and special guest facilitator, Devon Nelson, a professional musician and educator, for a free virtual workshop on exploring music as a tool for wellness. Register here.

Devon Nelson remembers a particular moment as a teenager that indelibly demonstrated the power of music to influence mood. It was a music class that was “always really intense, very intellectual, very theoretical.” One winter day the teacher took them by surprise. He opened the curtains on a huge picture window to reveal soft snow falling outside. As the students entered the room – normally a space bursting with intensity – they were met instead by something completely unexpected. 

“He played us this Beethoven piano sonata and just let us sit there for nine minutes and be in the music, with the snow falling,” Nelson recalls. He had transformed the atmosphere of the space merely by the choice of music. “It was very, very meaningful.”

‘Entry Music’

Now, as a music teacher herself to 11- to 14-year-olds, Nelson uses this kind of “entry music” in her own classroom. She gets jazzed by helping people – kids and adults — understand how to use music as a tool. It could be a tool to create a certain space, a certain feeling around them. Or a tool to change their mood. She hopes participants in the workshop, Wellness Through Music, can walk away with a new understanding of these tools. 

Nelson is co-facilitating the workshop with Nate Reit, a support counselor for COVID Support VT. Both Nelson and Reit started playing an instrument in preschool – piano at 4 and euphonium at 5, respectively. They met at a music camp in Vermont when they were teenagers, and have remained friends and musical comrades. Nelson was handed a bassoon by a music teacher at age 13, and fell in love with the difficult-to-master instrument. She now teaches music at a public middle school in Newton, Mass., outside Boston, and moonlights as a music instructor. Reit is a long-time professional trombonist and composer in Burlington, New York City, and Boston. They will reunite for Wellness Through Music.

Register here for the free Wellness Through Music workshop with Devon Nelson and Nate Reit.

Altering the Music Vibration

Nelson recalls another gem from a teacher. “One of my professors used to say: ‘The teacher creates the weather in the classroom.’ That can be true for music too. You create the weather in your environment. You can change your energetic space by altering the type of vibration around you – literally.”

She’s not talking about some nebulous New Age concept of vibrational qualities in subtle energy fields. Rather, it’s about the sound waves that are the measurable vibrational output of music. Think about a heavy bass drum and how that vibrates through your body. The character of that output is determined by a number of elements: composition, rhythm, timber, texture, form, volume, lyrical message, and more. Understanding even a little about these elements of music and how they work together can be telling, Nelson says. 

“It’s one way to inform a deeper understanding, appreciation and relationship with music. To tune into why certain music can be important or meaningful to us.”

~Devon Nelson, workshop facilitator, Wellness Through Music

Music as Mood Lifter

Music can be a double-edged sword, mood-wise, as anyone who’s cried over a radio song after a breakup knows. If we’re feeling down or upset or disillusioned, we may not feel like listening to uplifting music. We may feel more like matching our music to our mood,” Reit says. “But if I want to feel better, how might I use music to change my emotional state?”

Reit says Stevie Wonder is his personal go-to. “If I put on Stevie Wonder songs, I just know I’m going to feel better. It’s individual for each of us. And it can be really valuable for people to experiment with different types of music to see what affects them.”

A wealth of research supports the stress-relieving potential of music, done right. In fact, “music therapy,” in so many forms, is being studied as treatment for a wide range of conditions. These include pregnancy, postpartum depression, preterm infants, anxiety in children and adolescents, cancer anxiety, migraines, tinnitus, Parkinson’s disease, pain, and to improve the quality of life of people in nursing homes and hospice. Music as a therapy is only beginning to be explored. 

Learn More and Register for the Workshop

Wellness Through Music requires no prior experience or special materials. Nelson will facilitate a few simple exercises that anyone can do.  Guidance and encouragement will be provided for individuals interested in finding creative ways to engage with music as a tool for practicing wellness and managing stress. All ages are welcome, and the workshop is free.

Blog written by Brenda Patoine on behalf of VCN/Vermont Care Partners for COVID Support Vermont, a grant funded by FEMA and the Vermont Department of Mental Health

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COVID Support VT is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency, managed by Vermont’s Department of Mental Health, and administered by Vermont Care Partners, a statewide network of 16 non-profit community-based agencies providing mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disability services and supports. 

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