The life of Japanese music therapists is busy. The sessions that can't wait, the accumulating session documents, the demand to obtain knowledge extending to 360-degree, the latest treatises to be read, the seminars to attend, investigation and purchase of the useful instruments and equipments, teaching, writing articles and reports on requests, conference presentations, practicing the instruments, and if all these works do not make enough income, we have to schedule the jobs outside our field too. Meanwhile we have to somehow take every meal, keep the dwelling minimally livable, wait in the line of doctor's when feeling sick, and secure the time with the family. Furthermore, we can never rest on our laurels of the employment and the work environment, and have to be always in an active mode or at least to put the antenna around. The only reason that we can live such a superman-like life is that we love this work, but it is not surprising if we sometimes become exhausted, hurt by the trifles, or get suspicious about what (s)he and the others are doing. However, the reality of the music therapists' does not give us enough time to ponder such problems. We have to keep going every day.
We all know that the days like this are not exactly healthy as human-being. In addition it will narrow our vision, build defensiveness over time, which will be reflected right onto the mannerism of the therapy sessions. And this vicious circle makes us isolated. I wish that we could give a breeze to this situation by talking with someone. But it shouldn't be just complaining nor asking for advices, not to mention loading more knowledge. Things like workshop and group counseling are too intense. We only need a safe spot to have a company where the mind space is broaden, where we see the new landscapes, and listen to the voiceless messages inside the selves.... But with whom? Those who know nothing about this work won't do, but it is risky in many ways to expose oneself carelessly to the colleague in the field. Where? The session rooms and the schools make us feel stifled. When? We are all chronically short of time, and even if we happen to find some left, we don't want to waste it with the colleague if we just chat over the work.
How would music therapists in the world deal with such problems? The relationship within music therapists is more distanced and complex than we think. Looking for the answer to this question, I have been holding the open house for music therapists and their family, for a couple of years now. In the beginning I was just inviting some of the close colleagues to our house, but gradually it became my project overlapped with my long-time incubated ideas on "human-connection" and "music.". The key words for this project are "playfulness, not the seriousness," "company, not the information exchanges," and "today, not someday."
I have often felt that the nature of Japanese music therapists' gatherings is too serious in general. I don't know if it is just in Japan or similar in other Asian countries, but let me introduce my impression here. When I attended the Japanese music therapists' seminar for the first time after coming back from the States, I was struck by two things. One was that the seminar was so highly organized despite it was run by the volunteers. And the other was that both the organizers and the attendance were so focused to "study" music therapy in a well-ordered fashion. Even the casual conversations and laughter, and some troubles that pertain any human gathering seemed to be based on the strong but rather narrow presupposition "we must learn about music therapy." To describe it more concretely, I felt a climate in them that "we have to make a progress as much as we can, because we are behind." Consequently the communication with others seemed not going much beyond "information exchange" rather than "company and fellowship."
But I think it is not only in Japan or in Asia that the road of music therapists is far and complex, and that "we are still behind." The studies we have to face, the sessions we have to deepen, and the researches we have to work on are commonly piled up in any places in the world. Music therapists are busy all over the world and are under the many-sided pressures. That is why we tend to cope with them every moment of our lives and to leave our own Beings and co-Beings on a back burner. (Talking about "back burner," it had been more than 10 years in my case.)
But it is not possible for the music therapists to cut off just the session time with the clients to "pursue the healthy Being and co-Beings." We all need the living experiences to touch each other's healthy Being in the actual life space and time. On the other hand, this kind of statement advocated as a didactic task loses its meaning and essence right off. We are not trying to create saints.
At any rate, this thought made me decided to hold a playful company gathering now, and when I looked at us with this idea in my mind, I realized the rich resources we have about human-beings and music, thanks to our work. There must be so much we can do! I invited the several work friends to join with the following rules:
Bringing one dish:
The potluck system is essential to gather light-heartedly. It does not need to be an exquisite dish, since the dishes cooked or picked by someone else are always exceptional and tasty. In addition, just like music, food is a time art to represent the personality and the creativity of the presenter. It is also the great seed for talking (verbalization.) It seems to be just a right start to make a small shift from the working mask to the private mask.
Bringing one music:
It seems to be internationally common that music therapists do not have enough time for themselves to enjoy music. It is also a universal excuse to neglect their practice. However those who participate in this gathering have to bring some kind of music. It can be performing by him/herself or involving other participants...it does not have to be an elaborate performance, but a boring or a not-sincere music does not fit.
May bring one's families or friends:
In pursing our vocation of music therapy, we are all helped by the strength and the generosity of the people around us in one form or in another. Just think about this disturbing profession as a family member: We make noise, we keep instruments and other stuff in the closet, we spend time and space much more than other members but our economic reward is much less, we brood over the session day and night with empty gaze. If these reasons are not enough, just having a family member or a partner who has an occupation so hard to understand and to explain, is simply inconvenient. And yet, we tend to push our ways in such a selfish manner, fascinated by the interest and the importance of this work (In fact, this work is so interesting and so important!) Therefore, I sometimes think it is one of the important qualifications music therapists have to grow that they can express the appreciation to the people around. Putting it in another way, it is an ability to look at ourselves from an objective view. Anyhow, that is why I planned this gathering as an opportunity for music therapists to bring their family members and friends, so that they can appreciate their partnership. At the same time, I wanted the family members and the friends to understand the wonderful, fun, and capable natures of music therapists.
Under these concepts, the 8 music therapists, the 4 husbands of them (in Japan, it is not always common to bring partners to this kind of party), and the 3 children gathered at our house last week. First we enjoyed each other's best dishes, creative dishes and local dishes with some alcohol. And just as the children started to be bored, we moved to the music room to sit on the floor.
There we heard the Classics, the children's animation songs, the Latin, poetry readings, etc., performed by the couple ensemble (for the first time in their 27 years marital life!), the mother-child ensemble, or the improvisation by the participants..., all profoundly unique to each presenter.
It is never easy psychologically for musicians to present music in front of people, that we have to admit. But being forced in a way by the situation setting, we pushed ourselves to do it anyhow. Then the tension of the room was eased as we exposed ourselves to just a right degree and at a right angle each other, which led to the openness on the verbal level. It was simply an ordinary example of the music effects, which we always explain people and students as a music therapist. But how rare it is to do it for ourselves in our ordinary clothes?
Following to this, we went back to the living room for the teatime. Having made music together, there was already a fresh air established among us, something different from the lunchtime. We talked, fell silent, and moved around the room in a much freer way than before. Meanwhile, our conversation spontaneously turned to the topic on our work and our relationship with the colleague. The subjects we usually tend to keep covered for the safety were woven into the talk off and on, for example, the complicated notions, the opposing opinions, and the questions picking into the details. But at the same time, there was a kind of stopper working within us not to be heated too much, not to fall into the complaints or gossips. The husbands sometimes listened to these conversations trying to sense the inherent theme in their wives' vocation that must have been new to them, or sometimes they made a new circle within themselves, of the same fate of "husband of music therapist" (even more isolated than music therapists!) Until dark, people stayed as long as they wanted, played with the children, cleaned the table and the room, talking and eating again.
Writing about this open house project, I am surprised what an ordinary party we had. At the same time, how rare we Japanese music therapists have this sort of opportunity! ? Do we not tend to forget to be healthy in an ordinary way, make music in an ordinary way, and communicate with the company in an ordinary way, which we always ask our clients to do? And isn't it possibly a very important thing for us?
Ikuno, Rika (2006). An Open House for Music Therapists - For Our Ordinary and Healthy Being. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved June 12, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=colikuno220506