Music as Medicine | National Endowment for the Arts

When we think of the art of opera, we probably think of ornate, embroidered melodies, gorgeous costumes, and stories told in a language we may not understand. However, at its most basic level, the art of singing is simply the ability to control your breathing. The air on the vocal cords creates a shiny sound, and more air amplifies and sustains the sound as it comes out of the mouth. In other words, while opera can indeed be spiritually uplifting, it’s also rooted in one of the body’s most basic functions. In a holistic sense, music can be an important part of therapy and is linked to our physical and mental health, which is at the heart of LA Opera’s health, wellness and recovery programs.

The company’s commitment to these events reflects its firm belief that, as a nonprofit arts organization, it exists to serve the Los Angeles community. This includes not only the presentation of high-quality opera performances –Don Juan and barber in seville is a highlight of this year’s season and the power of opera as a vehicle to meet other community needs.

Tevon Fowler-Chapman at the helm connect, the company’s community engagement and learning arm. As he explains, “Everything we do at Los Angeles Opera is for the community, right? That’s part of the opera company’s philosophy of social impact. When we talk about community service and social impact, it’s more or less Saying that art is great, but it is not the center, it is a catalyst in service to something greater than the community itself.

Under the umbrella connectThe company’s health-related activities range from one-on-one bedside hospital visits for Alzheimer’s patients and traumatic brain injury patients to hosting virtual breathing sessions for patients facing long-term COVID-19 and lung issues like asthma. seminar. The company also works with veterans suffering health issues to host post-performance conversations that use the opera as a starting point to encourage participants to share their own stories and develop a sense of connection to the larger community.

A man watches the course on his phone while lying in a hospital bed.

A patient attends a distance music therapy workshop at the National Rehabilitation Center in Rancho Los Amigos.Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Opera

“Now that we have looked at health in a more holistic way, we are thinking about our education programs beyond just the fact that they teach people about opera. They also provide opportunities for people to connect as a community and participate in the creation of the arts. This Both of these things are therapeutic in their own right and not only help people make sense of the world, but they can help them in ways we haven’t thought of in terms of happiness,” Fowler-Chapman explains.

To develop and promote its health, wellness and recovery programs, Los Angeles Opera works with a number of health care partners, including Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, UCLA Health and the Mindful Veterans Program. “We’re not doing this in a vacuum. This is being done in partnership with health care professionals,” Fowler-Chapman admitted. “So another important thing for us is taking feedback from our healthcare partners.”

Fowler-Chapman believes the company’s wellness events offer the community another way to connect with the company, allowing for a personal connection even if someone doesn’t consider themselves an opera lover. “Our music and mindfulness program tries to give people space to really use music as their own catalyst. It doesn’t feel like we have to be the center of it, but we’re actually giving them the tools to process what they’re doing, “He said.

Nani Sinha is a long-time teaching artist with Los Angeles Opera, certified as a trauma-informed instructor and provider, and certified by the National Association of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Caregivers and Practitioners. Like Fowler-Chapman, Sinha also believes arts organizations have a powerful role to play in supporting community health and wellness efforts. “I think it’s important for opera or any arts organization to be involved because music is inherently human,” she said. “Music is important for brain health and physical health, and it’s very important that LA Opera recognizes that and advocates for that. important.

A woman in a black dress and a large gold necklace sits at a piano and sings in front of an audience.

Nani Sinha holds seminar at Los Angeles Opera connect Program. Photo courtesy Los Angeles Opera

After experiencing a life-changing accident that initially left her paralyzed and unable to sing, Sinha experienced firsthand how training as an opera singer helped her recover emotionally and physically. “A doctor at UCLA, Dr. Nida Kadir, who is a member of the pulmonary team there, said, ‘Opera singers are Olympic respiratory athletes… who is better suited? [to teach breathing] Than an opera singer?

Inspired by their own medical experiences and similar programs at English National Opera, Sinha and Los Angeles Opera teaching artist Michele Patzakis partnered with UCLA Health to organize a six-year Weekly seminar, which can be held via video chat to help lung patients as they recover. Each session includes mindfulness exercises, gentle movement and breathing exercises, and singing simple songs such as nursery rhymes.

“The more we learn about the human body, the brain, diseases and treatments, the more we realize it’s not just medicine, music, art and dance… help us downregulate our nervous system, help increase serotonin and feel good,” Xin said. Ha said. She added: “Singing isn’t just for special occasions. It’s part of a nervous system reset. It’s part of mental health. It’s part of physical health.

through connectLos Angeles Opera also convenes artistic and civic leaders, healthcare practitioners, teaching artists, art and music therapists, and more for the annual Los Angeles County Arts and Health Week Summit, designed to build relationships among those working at the intersection of arts and health Connect and share knowledge. NEA President Maria Rosario Jackson participated in the 2023 Summit in June this year; the summit focused on creative aging, and participants included Renee Fleming and Christopher Bailey of the World Health Organization.

A woman with short light brown hair and a light blue suit jacket stands on the podium.

Renee Fleming at the 2022 Arts & Wellness Week Summit.Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Opera

As Fowler-Chapman describes, “Not only in Los Angeles but across the country, there are a lot of people who practice musical forms in therapy, art forms in therapy, and art forms in therapy. But we rarely get together. Coming Together to Discuss Shared Challenges and Opportunities Arts and Wellness Week was created more or less to really get people into the room to share ideas and talk about both. [theory and practice] So that we can get away from feeling like we’re gaining new knowledge, gaining new connections, having the ability to make the world in which we exist a little bit smaller, but we can expand the impact that we have to offer through these programs.

He also said that this summit can help redefine the scope of healing art. For example, at a recent summit, a martial arts practitioner noted that while martial arts are considered a sport, they also include mindfulness and therapeutic elements. Fowler-Chapman noted: “As an asthmatic and a black belt in Taekwondo, I have learned that meditation can be practiced through the art of movement. The core of Tai Chi is concentration and mindfulness.

It goes without saying that investing in community-focused events can have the added benefit of helping companies build their audience. Still, Fowler-Chapman said there are bigger issues than ticket sales. “We always need to sell tickets, but I think when we talk about being a nonprofit, we’re more importantly talking about being a cultural institution,” he said. “It’s important to meet the needs of the community because I believe nonprofits are where the needs are.”

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