Berklee Music Therapy students traveled to Panama this past summer where they worked at Fundación Danilo Perez , Hospital del Niño, FANLYC, UDELAS and other local organizations. Students got the opportunity to share their Berklee knowledge and experience first hand by healing through music. Patricia Zarate, Berklee Alumna from the first Music Therapy graduating class, was the program leader and mentor for the students during this trip.

Emma Byrd, Piano, USA

DSC_0113 (1)The Music Therapy Service and Learning trip to Panama was, without a doubt, the most profound experience of my training thus far. During our week in Panama, I was challenged in ways I could not have been challenged in a classroom or practicum setting. At the same time, I was exposed to people and situations, which inspired and touched me greatly. It would be impossible to over-stress the impact this trip has had on me personally and professionally.

Working at FANLYC, Hospital del Niño, and Fundacion Danilo Perez gave us the opportunity to experience a number of populations and stretch our Music therapy knowledge and skills to new extremes. It was impossible to go through this week without having to innovate and re-evaluate the interventions we have traditionally used.

Mark Frazee, USA, Piano

DSC_0216“Making one person smile can change the world—maybe not the whole world, but their world.” Working in Panama has given me experiences that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, and the children I had the chance to spend time with have absolutely changed my world. I have been challenged, been put in stitches with laughter, and have learned to, “Invite chaos” into my life. There were so many inspiring moments in that one week that left me wanting to continue the work we were doing. Whether it was in the hospital working in the cancer unit and getting the whole room involved and bringing smiles and laughter to everyone (parents included), or singing to a young boy who’s entire body was severely burned and watching his heart rate go down and breathing relax as the music progressed. Whatever group we were working with it was all about bringing fun, support, and love into the room.

Music is such a powerful force and after a week of working at the foundation, hospital, and cancer center I was absolutely convinced how important music therapy truly is. These children are starving for music and hopefully the people working with them on a day-to-day basis were able to see just how powerful music therapy can be. These children loved so hard and I hope to carry that love to any avenue that I pursue.

Esteban Roa, Colombia, Drums

DSC_0194My nerves kicked in right before we were being introduced to a crowd that consisted of medical professionals, premed students, and every-day citizens. As soon as we got to the front of the auditorium and began singing the Music Therapy ‘Hello Song’ the nerves disappeared and the team took the lead. We used the song to introduce ourselves and to create a friendly environment. The clinic at The University of the Americas was a huge success and a-one-of-a-kind welcome to Panamanian culture. The crowd was extremely participative and engaging. They went along with all of our activities, shared their personal anecdotes, and asked challenging questions. At one point some of the people began to dance and sing along showing no type of shame or embarrassment. During the second half of the clinic, a woman shared a video of her son, explaining to everyone in the room how music has help him overcome different challenges and stigmas that come with a disability. Their enthusiasm made it very easy for us to teach them what we know and it shows that there is interest in the field of Music therapy and potential Music Therapists in Panama City.

So far in my life I have been able to gather that often times the best experiences are those that you cannot really prepare for, and having any sort of expectations for those experiences will most probably be followed by disappointments. The week we spent in panama was full of surprises, excitements, moments of beauty, smiles and music, but also moments of challenge and chaos that we could not have possibly been expecting or known how to prepare for. We were exhausted after just the first day working at the Danilo Perez Foundation and at Hospital del Niño. We questioned ourselves, but instead of being pushed into paralysis by something we did not quite understand yet, we took the challenge more as an invitation, to take everything that we have been learning this far and finally apply it to practice. The rest of the week went incredibly smooth and in each session I learned about the importance of transition and how every single space of time during a session is extremely valuable and it’s the small moments that will dictate the success of the session. I learned how physical affection is crucial to the development of all children. During the session we as music therapists see how certain things change and improve in the child, but when the parents take their time to tell us how much is helping outside of the session, it only pushes us forward to keep doing the work we do and to improve the techniques to see even better outcomes.

Tessa Kaslewicz, USA, Voice
DSC_0139 (1)I am so grateful that I could be a part of this amazing service trip to Panama. I could not have imagined it going any better than it was, and experiencing any more than I did this past week. Between working at the Foundation, Hospital del Niño, and with the children at FANLYC, I have learned so much that I could have never learned if I was not a part of this group and had the incredible support of Patricia Zarate and Danilo Perez.

While in Panama, not only did I get the opportunity to learn about another culture and speak their language, I was able to learn about myself and how truly powerful music therapy is. Music therapy, as we already know, is able to bring joy to children in the hospital to help them recover, encourage attention and communication in the children with Down syndrome, and bring hope to the children suffering from cancer. But what I learned this week, is that it can brake down any language barriers, influence change in a community, and deserves to be recognized as a powerful tool in the healing of any person.

Although this service trip can act as a personal opportunity to learn and grow as a music therapist, it is more importantly an opportunity to teach a community how powerful music therapy can be and give them the chance to experience it first hand. We hope to create a ripple effect in Panama and see that the work we have done continues each year, and eventually can sustain itself without our help. Panama is a country full of life and musicality and music therapy will only help the communities and individuals to thrive.

Bobbi Jo Vandal, USA, Voice

DSC_0215The experience of the music therapy service trip to Panama was profoundly moving for me, and greatly advanced me in my music therapy training. One of the most significant things that I learned was the ability of music and music therapy to transcend cultural barriers. Although my Spanish was very limited, music was able to cross the cultural differences, and connect us.

Working with the Danilo Perez Foundation was extremely inspirational to me. We were exposed to some truly incredible music and musicians while we were there, as well as getting to represent the foundation while working with our amazing groups of kids at the day programs we ran. The volunteers and all the workers at the Foundation were absolutely incredible, and it was very touching to be part of a group that was working towards making such positive musical and social change. I am so grateful to have been a part of this trip! I will always remember the incredible team I was able to work with and all the amazing children we were able to play music with. This service trip was incredibly impactful on my music therapy training and on my view of music’s ability to break down barriers.

If you want to know more about this program watch the video of the trip!