Music Therapy in Africa

Berklee music therapy student, Amanda Maestro-Scherer, helping a child communicate through music

In May 2007, music therapy students at Berklee College of Music embarked on an outreach effort to bring music to children in orphanages in Kenya and Tanzania in partnership with the nonprofit organization Musicians for World Harmony. These children have lost their parents through HIV/AIDS, and many themselves are infected with the virus.

Nine music therapy majors and two faculty/staff members used the power of music to make connections with the children. Through this work, the therapists can provide a soothing outlet for expression, release, and healing. The Berklee team will also exchange clinical music therapy techniques with local musicians to establish ongoing, self-sustaining programs. The students will gain knowledge of the importance of music and its uses in other cultures.

While Berklee students have experience with populations in nursing homes, schools, and medical centers in this country, the Music Therapy in Africa project will provide the opportunity to extend service to populations elsewhere that are significantly underserved.

The students participating in this trip have been selected through a competitive audition and interview process. They are the leaders and pioneers of the future music therapy field.

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Africa 2007

Student Profiles

Claudia Eliaza

A talented vocalist from California, Eliaza is wonderful performer who has been chosen to sing in many exclusive Berklee shows that showcase the best vocalists in the school.

"I have seen the positive effects that music can have on people," Eliaza says. "I have seen the impact that music has on people from different cultures and backgrounds, and I want to experience and share the gift of music to those who desperately need it. I want to contribute to this in any way that I can, however big or small; to be able to help in any way is truly essential. I aspire to someday work internationally, and I think that this trip will be a great start for me to begin to see the endless possibilities of this dream."

Miriam Greenbaum

Greenbaum is from New Orleans, Louisiana. She has a degree from Boston University in sociology and decided to also pursue her love for singing at Berklee by doing music therapy.

"I want to travel to East Africa to gain experience about a culture that I have a deep curiosity about," she says. "For me, the purpose of this trip is to give children what they need, especially those who are shunned by society. I want to be a part of these children's lives by helping them feel satisfied with who they are through music—playing instruments, singing together, and, most importantly, through spending time with them. I will learn skills I can forever take with me."

Spencer Hardy

A local Bostonian, Hardy grew up with music and has played the saxophone for 12 years. An extremely active music therapy student, he is the president of the regional student music therapy association.

"This trip will be a life-changing opportunity that I know I may never get to have again," Hardy says. "I know I will learn a lot and come back with a much different view of the world. I think it will be an amazing way to help people in a way I haven't experienced before, as well as to learn about a culture that is new to me. I have done volunteer trips in the past, and the unity and cohesiveness of the group is an amazing experience within itself. I am looking forward to experiencing this with my fellow music therapy classmates."

Adrian Hendarta

Hendarta is an accomplished pianist and well-rounded musician. He is from Indonesia and is in his last semester at Berklee. He is the musical director and arranger for all of the music events for the Africa trip.

"I have seen how music therapy is conducted in the United States," Hendarta says, "and I am so inspired to introduce and bring music therapy to my country, Indonesia. I have learned that both Africa and Indonesia have many similarities, such as the struggle to fight poverty, the richness of the culture, the strong spiritual beliefs, and also much multiculturalism. I know this trip will teach me many tools that I can use in my country."

Gwyndolyn Jones

Jones is a Boston native and a recent Berklee graduate. She is an active performer in the Boston area, both as a vocalist and as a bass player. She plans to start her music therapy internship in the fall of next year.

"As a U.S. citizen, sometimes I forget about the war, hunger and disease that is taking place around the world and particularly on the African continent," Wyndy says. "It is not enough to read about it and shake our heads feeling sorry for people who are less fortunate. It is time that I take an active role in these lives. The statistics for orphaned children with HIV/AIDS is astounding. I realize that behind those numbers are real faces, personalities, gifts and talents. I'm hoping that with the universal language of music, together we can create musical experiences that transcend their harsh realities."

Beth Longwell

Longwell is an outgoing and active music therapy student with a beautiful singing voice. She is from Colorado and is a senior at Berklee this year.

"Being in my final year at Berklee," she says, "I want to take this amazing opportunity to bring my musical and therapeutic skills to others through this trip. I can't think of a better way to get hands-on experience in music therapy. I love traveling and meeting new people, and I know this trip will be a life-changing experience for me."

Amanda Maestro-Scherer

Maestro-Scherer is a native of Ithaca, New York, and is a singer and songwriter. It was initially her idea to orchestrate this trip. She traveled to East Africa in January 2006 with Musicians for World Harmony and came back to Berklee with the idea brewing.

"My experience last January in East Africa was life-changing and eye-opening," says Maestro-Scherer. "Many of the kids I was with are dying, or have been abandoned by their parents. But what astonished me the most was how hopeful they were. They were so willing to give their love and so willing to receive it. I saw the positive effect that our group's visits had on these children who have been ostracized by their community and who receive precious little in the way of social services. I want other students to experience the awakening that I experienced when I was there. It's really important to realize that we can do so much more with what we're given at Berklee."

Summer Mencher

Mencher is from Portland, Oregon, and is a talented singer and songwriter. She is a recent Berklee graduate and will be doing her music therapy internship in California starting next year.

"I believe strongly in the power of music to break down language barriers and cultural barriers," she says. "I have always had a drive for travel and reaching out to others in need. Not only do I have a strong desire to give of what I have to offer, but also I know that what I will take away from this experience and what I will learn from my African brothers and sisters will enrich my life forever."

Becky Vaudreuil

Vaudreuil is an energetic and upbeat music therapy student who is incredibly active in the department. She is a Massachusetts native and is a very charismatic performer and songwriter.

"I am an activist for social change and equality," she says. "Everyone is exposed to injustice daily, some instances larger than others. I consider the AIDS pandemic to be one of the world's most substantially neglected needs. I would love this opportunity to help the children suffering from this terminal illness, especially in countries where there is not enough outreach. It is in these places where it is the most necessary."


For further information about the Music Therapy Department, please email musictherapy@berklee.edu or call 617 747-8677.