With approximately 45 million inhabitants, Colombia is the second most populous country in South America and its capital city, Bogotá, built on a 2,640-high plateau, boasts a population of almost seven million people.
In the Andes Eastern Range, 2,640 meters closer to the stars, the IV Latin-American Music Therapy Congress was hosted by the Colombian Association for Music Therapy (Asociación Colombiana de Musicoterapia) in July 2010, therein represented by Juanita Eslava, Álvaro Enrique Ramírez, and Patricia Ramos Pardo, backed by the Latin-American Music Therapy Committee – [Comitê Latinoamericano de Musicoterapia (CLAM)] – then chaired by the Brazilian music therapist, Marly Chagas.
Welcomed by the Colombians, over 200 Latin-American music therapists from Argentine, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela gathered around the international guest – Dr. Cheryl Dileo, from Temple University, US of A – for a free discussion both on the main issues of their countries and those common to the Latin-American community taken as a whole.
Initially, it seems important to present the situation in which music therapy in our region now is. Spanning a broad specter of political, social, and economic differences along with a great ethnic diversity leading to large cultural diversities, Latin America is formed by 20 nations and the clinical practice of our profession is to be found in twelve countries among these, to wit, Argentine, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
Until 1990, Latin-American music therapy followed “a free interplay of forces”, to borrow the phrase from Brignol-Mendes (1994), thus referring to the aspects presented by economics in the area. However, since that year, it was realized an official space for communication and interchange was necessary and therefore the Latin-American Music Therapy Council – (Conselho Latinoamericano de Musicoterapia [CLAM]) was created, whose name was changed, back in 1993, to Latin-American Music Therapy Committee – (Comitê Latinoamericano de Musicoterapia [CLAM]) by music therapists representing nine countries and gathered in the VII World Music Therapy Congress then gathered in Spain, Europe.
Respecting the regional differences mentioned above, the Latin-American Music Therapy Committee (CLAM) adopted for its initial goals, the elaboration of its by-laws, the analysis of the situation of music therapy throughout that geographic area, the creation of regional delegations, the divulgence of information of music therapy, the backing of formative graduation courses creation, and the gathering for events, journeys, and congresses in different countries, besides the Latin-American meetings.
Currently, within a scenario where CLAM performs an important role – considering as pillars for our field the clinical practice, the professional college-level formative majoring both in theory and research – distinctive levels between these areas in each country can be identified, corresponding to the similarities and differences extant among the countries in that region.
It is easy to identify that some aspects are common to all countries, like the fact that music therapy started out as clinical practice in all of them, though it may be observed that there are similarities and differences in the performance of said practice which, levered by the development of medical science, has considerably broadened its acting spectrum. In some of these nations the practice is only beginning and we can therein pinpoint that those professionals that work with music and education are to this day people who started out by working with individuals presenting special needs which then gathered into groups and these ended up by getting organized into music therapy associations. Sometimes, music therapists get their training in other countries and then come back to become aggregating poles from whose kernel a seed germinates and fructifies into the creation of associations. However, the inexistence of such is still to be felt in two of the aforementioned countries, for all that information from the performing of clinical work there can be gleaned.
As to formation, we must highlight that five countries so far had no conditions for organizing any training facilities in whatever possible level, all the while some others have had locally college-graduated professionals for more than thirty years. In relation to theory, there can be pinpointed an enormous range of possibilities and depth in grounds and the creation of new models/methods, along with new techniques, among which can be particularly underlined a growing relationship between music therapy and the neurosciences (Barcellos, 2010).
However, as far as I am concerned, research must be the object of greater care and strategies should be designed for its implementation throughout the region because, among the four areas aforementioned, this is the least developed one. Research developed in the field are mostly conducted by music therapists intending to achieve master’s degrees and doctorates in other fields where they are forced to face what seems to be the new “Achilles’ heel”.
CLAM Directors’ Board, aware of the issues now present in our field, established a number of goals for the new term began in the IV Latin-American Music Therapy Congress, whose chairman is the Colombian music therapist, Juanita Eslava.
Among said goals we have: the strengthening of communication with every country belonging in CLAM and offering the necessary aid for the training of professionals, their updating, and the implementation of research in the field of music therapy; organizing working committees aiming toward collecting data from music therapists, like research trends and breakthroughs in music therapy; the establishment of bonds with other music therapy organizations and the strengthening of CLAM and Latin-American presence in the World Federation of Music Therapy, although its main goal is the growth of music therapy.
The different uses and sounds that emphasize a large cultural diversity surfacing from the different ethnic groups that shape up the population of the countries involved may make difficult an effective mutual contribution between them. However, an effort must be made to overcome this issue. Therefore, Latin-American music therapists meet in yearly events, though not yet on official terms, and they will get together in the city of Sucre, Bolivia, built on another 2,790-meters-high plateau, even closer to the stars!
Barcellos, Lia Rejane Mendes (2010). Investigación y práctica musicoterapéutica en Latinoamérica [Music Therapy Investigation and Practice in Latin America]. Lecture presented in the IV Latin-American Music Therapy Congress, Bogotá, Colombia, 2010.
Brignol-Mendes, Raul (1995). El marco externo y el desarrollo de la agricultura en América Latina y en el Caribe [External Patterns and the Development of Agriculture in Latin America and the Caribbean]. Santiago de Chile: FAO Sectorial Workshop for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Barcellos, Lia Rejane Mendes (2010). Latin-American Music Therapists Get Together 2,600 Meters Closer to the Stars!. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved May 15, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=colbarcellos181010