Transcript - The Power of Music, with Val, Music Specialist from Musicality (Episode 10)
Libby: In today’s episode I talk to Val, Music Specialist at Musicality, Therapeutic Music Intervention. We recorded this episode at the wonderful Havens Community Hub in Westcliff - which the Constellations team adores - but as you will be able to tell from the recording, it was extremely busy whilst we were visiting! We apologise for the bumps and extra noises throughout the episode, but do make sure you listen all the way to the end, as Val talks about her plans for the future, her journey from a sole trader to a Community Interest Company as well as sharing some touching stories about the power of therapeutic songwriting. There’s also an extra special treat at the end of the episode.
As always, if you enjoy the episode, please do share it with your friends and family, and make sure to check out the Show Notes and full transcript at constellations-podcast.org. Without further ado, let’s get going!
Libby Today we are joined by Val music specialist at Musicality, Therapeutic Music Intervention. Thank you so much for coming to join us today.
Val You’re very welcome, hello!
Libby What exactly is Musicality for anybody listening that doesn't know
Val Right so musicality, musicality is me finally being able to work with music as a job as opposed to just a hobby.
Val So, coming from a different country, in Italy, if you're a musician, they say, “yeah, but what do you do?”
Libby Okay, yeah
Val You still have to have another little job on the side to pay the bills. But finally, musicality is me working solely with music, in all sorts of different projects, and I'm really happy about it, because it feels, like, natural.
Val To me. It’s finally what I wanted to do. And it's also my way of sharing music and what it means to me, to other people. So, by doing all my different sessions I can convey the message that music is not just you know, to listen to, you can make it, not necessarily be a musician to do that. I recently registered as a community interest company.
Libby Wow, fantastic.
Val Which is brilliant, a really big achievement for me. And this will mean that I can apply for funding.
Val Which will allow me to offer my sessions for free, so people don't have to pay to access for it.
Libby That’s wonderful.
Val Which is really my way of giving back to the community all the passion I’ve got for music.
Libby Yeah Val And yes, I'm really excited about it because I've got already a few different ideas of bigger projects, and now I can actually do because it will be more people that can have access to it.
Libby Yeah, that's so exciting. So how did you get into doing it as a career?
Val I've always taught music to people, children especially since I was in Italy. Then a few years back, I found a job in a music academy in Westcliff.
Libby Okay, yeah.
Val Just to teach music. And I realised that I could actually just do that. I didn't have to have another job on the side and I just started from there. Then all my jobs after that have been music related. I’ve worked in mental health hospital as a music specialist. Then I took that outside into the community with my little business. Musicality was just a sole trader type of business.
Val And then I spoke to a few different charities and they were like, “well, what about a Community Interest Company? Because that way more people can access”. So I looked into it and it seemed like the natural progression at that point. So here I am.
Libby Brilliant. What do you offer people now?
Val At the minute I’ve got singing and toddling, which is a group for children between zero and five and their parents. And the aim of this group is really to get parents and child to bond, especially after the pandemic. Most of these covid babies are not really sure to do at some point. I remember the first few sessions and then you may last year. It was very weird because the children wouldn’t join in with other Children, they would move away from, and to their parents.
Libby: Yeah, one of my kids is coming up to two and when we go to classes they’re very unsure to begin with.
Val: Yeah, exactly. So I think, because of music, you know, children are, they don't really care what you think - they just start dancing and all that. So that group I’ve really tailored to get the children to mingle with each other, and you know, copy each other, get involved in singing and all this. So, I've had a few children that go to speech therapy, and they really enjoyed the session, because they can actually see the progress.
I've got the sound of memories, which is a group for the elderly and people with dementia. For this one, I'm collaborating with Age Concern, at The Haven Community Hub, which are brilliant, have been really helpful. They've offered me a venue from the very beginning. I remember coming here and talking to a couple of the ladies to organise the sessions, and they were like, yep, go for it. I think at that stage the support was really appreciated. We have, you know, some Frank Sinatra, we got Beatles, also we've got we will rock, you know, that old enough that everyone remembers, but also a bit more. Some of them are like I would walk 500 miles, you know, that was quite wordy. There's quite a lot of words. So it helps with the breathing because you have to be able to say all the words. And I also put in a few exercises, like stretching of your relaxation at the end. Drum circle where I play a rhythm and they have to play it back with an instrument. So it’s a bit more interactive than just sitting there and listening to the music, which I quite like and I've noticed that every week I keep going and they get more comfortable around me. So when I say who is going to go next and play a rhythm for us, someone would always volunteer for it
Libby Uh huh, Brilliant. Is there anything else that you're offering at the moment?
Val I'm doing the tune your mood sing along session that is tailored for people struggling with mental health, not necessarily for diagnosed mental health. It's just, you know, sometimes you're not having a good time. So there's so much scientific research on singing and the benefits of that not just physically because you know, the heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, all the hormones, you know they feel good hormone and exactly. Also mentally not only relaxes stops you from thinking of other things because you're focusing on the music so much So whatever is going on not fixed. But for the 3.5 minutes worth of song, it's no longer there. Yeah, and also, you know, sense of belonging, because by sharing something that we both like, we kind of belong to a group right away. You know, it's a genuine, supportive environment which I quite like and I think with mental health. Sometimes the issue is people don't start off with a lot of self esteem, and there's a bit of shame or guilt for whatever reason. But having someone genuinely supporting you and say, Well, you know what? That was brilliant, really good voice. I know it sounds small, but it makes such a difference.
Libby: And small things are the things that make a big difference sometimes. That sounds brilliant
Libby: Um so yeah. What exactly is therapeutic music?
Val: Yeah, right. We both know that music is powerful. We don't entertaining. You have a good time, listen to music and dancing. But well, I think it's not really what if I understood, but it's being underestimated is the therapeutic power of music. So what I try to do with musicality is to sneak in a bit of that as well, so therapeutic as in physically, as we were saying before, blood pressure, heart rate, the hormones and all that, but also the power that it has over the mood. You know, if you're feeling not really great because specific someone with the intent of actively getting your mood a bit higher or if you're feeling a bit unsure what's going on, you have that playlist that you put on when you need to just let things out and you know you will cry your eyes out for a couple of songs. But then you feel better. Don't you. It's just out and it’s much better to let it out and then keeping it in , and also self expression, I think because it does have a core. Some lyrics are so powerful because you they resonate with you. You identify with them so by singing along to a specific verse.
Libby: Yeah, like someone was inside of you and I wrote it down.
Val: And yeah, definitely. And that's why I like also about music, that something that you used to listen to when you were younger. I mean, completely different now that you're older and you're like, Wow, I used to listen to that, you know, thinking of this specific memory. But now it reminds me of something different now. It means, yeah, something else. And so, yeah, the musicality element there is the entertainment and the therapeutic is all the therapeutic stuff that I do around it. And I like to tailor it to the different groups. So it's also for the Children. I've got the language element, you know, the movement of fine movement gross movement. Listening to instructions. For the elderly because of the dementia memory issues, we tend to repetition to cater for that. Specifically, Um, yeah, the mental health group is being about pride and self-esteem.
Libby So what's coming up for you this year?
Val Right? I am in the process of helping out with a fundraiser. So a friend of mine from a counselling course, she's doing 150k ride on the bike, set up support that with a little thing that Yes, um, to raise money towards the tune your mood projects so that we can do that for free, because at the minute people have to pay for that, because I haven't got any funding application back yet. And so the goal is £1500 which will allow us to get at least six months worth of weekly sessions that people, can access for free and can refer themselves be referred by social prescribers. You know, even just word of mouth doesn't have to be someone necessarily, as I said has issues could just be someone I really enjoy singing. And being able to sing in tune is not a requirement because you can imagine. If everyone is singing together, it balances out, and the point is not the quality of what it sounds like it's, you know, being together and making the most of the music.
Libby: Yeah, Is there anything else coming up.
I've got, um, a project that I'm gonna be doing with local schools. It's an award, yearly award that I'm hoping set up. And it’s in the memory of your friend passed away recently. Paul, he was my mentor in terms of music production. He taught me everything there was to being a musician. But he taught me how to do music production, which is very different. Yeah, exactly. So you know, to honour his memory, you wanted to do what it did for me. For someone else. So something will have a topic. I would do some workshops in school on how to write lyrics. And then the winner will get to record the song professionally. My studio. And they will also have the opportunity to get this song out there. so they can put it on Spotify. YouTube and all that.
That sounds amazing.
So I'm excited for that one.
Libby: You said previously that you worked on a mental health unit. How did that come about? And how did you get involved?
Val: Well, the time it was a music teacher, but I was also really interested in mental health and psychology. And all that stuff, I've got diploma in psychology and sociology from Italy.
Libby: You got a bit of everything haven’t you?
Val: So, yeah, it was interesting for this position as a music specialist came up and I applied for it. but yeah, my role initially was to just entertain the patients. They potentially teach instruments if they were up for it. But then, looking around, it was like, This is not Can't just be it as music as we would say, so powerful. I wanted to make it count. You know, the one hour a week specific person wanted to count. So and I came up with therapeutic songwriting, because what I found in hospital is that people don't feel like they've been heard. People throughout their lives have been rejected, diminished, you know self esteem is really low. They don't feel like they have any value. Sometimes it's difficult for them to express how they feel because they think, you know, what’s the point no one will listen. So writing a song with that after their mhm becomes a piece of art, doesn't it? Whatever you have to say, I'm angry about this. I'm sad about this. I hurt about this. It becomes something everyone will stop and listen to. So whatever you want to talk about becomes meaningful for other people because it resonates inevitably. A backing track for them with all the instruments. And they would just sing along to it. Even if you can't sing in tune, it doesn't matter, because all the different software you can click the tune and all that, you know, the pitch correction and all that. So we still sound good enough for them to be proud of it. And then, uh, a couple of times a year, we would do a performance for the rest of the hospital and the staff, and it was really, really interesting to see because they would pass the file to all the other patients. So everyone will know the lyrics to that song, and you will see people singing along to Britney Spears. And then the next song was going to be something that you wrote. And everyone is singing along to it and to see the difference from someone that would just, you know, sit down or curled up and then standing tall on the stage and sing it with a microphone, you know, what I mean really, really brilliant. Which I think is a certain for it. Chips away all the guilt and shame. Yeah, And pride.
Libby: And helps to build them back up. If our listeners would like to get in touch and follow what you've got going on, where can they find you on social media.
Val: I am currently working on a website. So bear with me for now, I'm on Facebook and Instagram and its musicality with Val.
Libby: Pop that in the show. And if you don't mind, Can you play us out with a song?
Val: Yes. Sounds good.
Libby: Thank you so much for coming along to join us today
Val: Thank you for having me.
<Val plays her song “Sabotage” which is from “Sunny Side Up”, her album from 2019>