In a recent music therapy trip to Panama, undergraduate students aim to empower the community to build sustainable music therapy programs at cancer centers, children’s hospitals, and nursing homes. Some of the students from the group, who go by the name “Panamaniacs,” kept travel journals of their experience. Below is a selection from Meghan Griffith’s entries. Read journal entries from Denise Oliveras and Meera Sinha.

Megan GriffithBy Megan Griffith

August 16, 2016
Today we traveled to the orphanage of La Ciudad del Nino, and finished the day with some group music therapy with the children there. The children that end up here generally have a traumatic background and are underdeveloped or at risk. It really hit me how much I wanted to help when we were singing a song that was about everything having a solution. During the song, a child of around six years of age turned to another child and in Spanish said “no, not everything.” My heart was breaking for them. I wanted to be there and help these children, so we did that in the only way we could: through music. The music that we played did provide a break and a distraction from their day. Judging by the smiles on their faces, it also brought joy. As I walked out of the room, the children clung to my leg and were thanking us for bringing music into the orphanage. I now understand my purpose in Panama. I’m not here soley for myself as previously thought. I am not here to have the credentials and the résumé. I am here for moments like this. Moments that can change my life in ways that I didn’t think was possible. Moments that can help others in need through the one thing that I know through and through, which is music. I am extremely humbled by my experience here today.

August 18
Today, we worked at the Hospital Del Niño, the children’s hospital in Panama City. I got the opportunity to partake in a couple of music therapy sessions in the ICU unit with the children. I can honestly say that this was one of the most humbling and most fulfilling experiences of my life. Most of these children that were in this unit have nothing. They come from poor families. They come from traumatic backgrounds and hard situations and are extremely ill. The music that we played caused extreme positive changes within the rooms. I even saw progress with the children in just one session. But throughout today I realized one very important thing: I am not doing this for me. In fact, becoming a music therapist isn’t about me at all. I am doing this for them. For these children and for any others, that struggle. For those that can come to know the power of music. Today I figured out that this is why I want to do music therapy.

August 21
This is the last full day that us Panamaniacs are in Panama. 🙁 We were able to go out to the Latin American Percussion Festival at the Danilo Pérez Foundation, and learn so much about Latin percussion. I took a particular class on Tablas that was awesome. I had never seen this type of drum in person. The sounds that resonated within the hall of the building were unlike anything I had ever heard. That evening, there was a concert consisting of various teachers from the percussion festival. The festival lasted around two hours and there was so much incredible music played. Every single musician was well-versed and a master in their craft. I wish to be like this, but in music therapy. This trip has truly inspired me to become the best music therapist I can be, to create hope, and mainly to Help. I now have come to know international music therapy, and the opportunity that it offers, which is unlike any other. As I travel back to Boston tomorrow, I have realized through the professional music therapists on this trip acting as my mentors that music has an extremely powerful effect on one’s state of being. With music therapists being the beacon and music being the shining light, the two can be used to change the world in a positive direction, and that is exactly what I intend to do.

Megan Griffith is a singer from Washington D.C. She is a fourth semester music therapy major at Berklee, and hopes to pursue research in creating new technologies to use in music therapy sessions to promote wellness and to reduce anxiety of her clients. She believes that music holds a power far greater than what we currently know. She wishes to use the power of music throughout her future career in music therapy.