Music therapy helps local, African hospices

By Nate Linhart

Musicians exemplified the importance of music therapy Sunday at the Transformation Through Rhythm music event.

The third Annual Transformation Through Rhythm Concert took place at the Music Building’s Boutell Memorial Concert Hall.

Staffers at the event received donations to aid Knysna-Sedgefield Hospice of South Africa and KishHealth System Hospice of DeKalb. The proceeds will be split in half and go to both hospices.

“Music therapy is using music for a nonmusical goal,” said Jen Conley, KishHealth System music therapist. “You find people who have stopped responding to any other form of communication, but they’ll still respond to music.”

Music also affects people’s heartbeat, respiration and blood pressure, and certain brain waves specifically respond to music, Conley said.

At the start of the concert, a video was put on a projector to show members of the African Hospice greeting the audience and singing the first song of the evening. Live performances followed by the NIU Percussion Ensemble, Bau-House and DeKalb High School Percussion Ensemble.

Percussion associate professor Greg Beyer participated in the NIU Percussion Ensemble and Bau-House acts. Those performances featured an African instrument called the berimbau, a musical bow, and incorporated the Brazilian martial art capoeira during the songs as a form of dance.

“From my perspective, the event serves [as] an opportunity to bring the community together through percussion and rhythm,” Beyer said. “It’s an opportunity to celebrate the richness and diversity of community that we have here in DeKalb … . So it’s really thrilling and special to share the stage with different backgrounds and age groups.”

After a brief intermission, DeKalb High School Percussion Ensemble started off the second half and was joined by Rich Holly, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Harambee African Percussion Ensemble and the Underground Kpanlogo Band were the next performers, dressed in African attire. Some of the instruments the performers played were made out of gourds that created a unique rhythmic tune.

All the groups performed together in the end to play the song “Amani Utupe” by Patsy Ford Simms. “Amani Utupe” is an African-style piece, and the audience was encouraged to join in singing.

Last year’s proceeds helped purchase drums for the therapeutic drumming program, and Knysna-Sedgfield Hospice used its donations for food parcels.

“I know that what we did last year was to buy food packets for families, so it had a variety of things in it that would be pertaining to their diet. And it helped the hospice families over there,” said volunteer coordinator Sue Goudy.