On January I had the chance of traveling to Cuba, in order to give a course in the Music Therapy Master. This is the second course of its kind in Latin America, together with the one that takes place in Colombia. The Master is a joint project of the University of Havana (Universidad de La Habana), a 280 year old institution, and the National Institute of Arts (Instituto Superior de Arte –ISA-), an institution in which the most prestigious musicians of Cuba are educated.
The ISA is located in a lot that used to be a country club for the Cuban high class before the Revolution. The Music School stands in that place, between the soft hills that once were part of a golf course. A privileged place, in which you can stroll surrounded by the sounds of the birds and the wind on the palm trees, mixed with those of violins, trumpets, guitars, cellos, saxes, fagots and the voices of the students that play beneath their shadow. In that spot, we met every morning.
It was the fulfillment of a dream that we have started to create fifteen years before with Teresa Fernández, the Master’s Head, while walking the streets of Old Havana. But, on the other hand, it was a major challenge. It was not about going to teach to any place. It is about a country with a very peculiar political context, with a society and a way of life very different from the ones that I live day to day in Buenos Aires. It was also about teaching Music Therapy in a country with different expressive and receptive ways, and with a musicality that has spread songs throughout the planet. And, as if that weren’t enough, it was about training music therapists in order to become part of the best health system of the region, and one of the most highly recognized of the world.
But what does it mean that a new Music Therapy Master has been opened?
This is not only a step forward for a certain country (in this case, Cuba). It is not only an advance for the Caribbean or for Latin America. Each new Music Therapy course, in any university of any part of the world, is a step forward for the global Music Therapy community, and it is of great help for all the music therapists of the world. If we think about it thoroughly, this is not a utopia, but a concrete fact. We cannot be unaware that Music Therapy situation is different in each country, and Voices gives us a wonderful example of it each month. There are several elements that contribute to it, and certainly there are particular situations in each place. There are countries with a great development in Music Therapy and others where it does not exist. In some places, our profession is part of the health system, in others there are specific laws to regulate its professional exercise, and in most countries there is still a legal gap; no law supports, protects and establishes clearly the scope, the possibilities and the responsibilities of our job. Are these situations to be solved in each country? Yes, indeed, and it is a task that has to be carried out by the intermediate institutions, such as professional associations and universities. But there are also common problems, that we must solve working together as an international community of professionals. These are not particular issues of ones or others. These are Music Therapy and music therapists issues. And they exceed what can be done in each country. These are issues that should, from my humble perspective, be treated in a multilateral and permanent way in regional and international organizations.
We have to work ourselves to develop the legal instruments to support us. One of the many ways to go perhaps would be to increase the "critical mass" of music therapists. How could we claim to raise the number of music therapists in hospitals if there are not enough professionals to cover these positions? How could we demand the legislative body to include in their agenda the consideration for our professional laws? On one hand, it depends on the ability of the intermediate organizations. But, on the other hand, it also depends on the development of more Music Therapy, and more music therapists. That is why a new course with a responsible design based on academic excellence, anywhere in the world, can support the work of all of us.
We need more Music Therapy courses. We need more music therapists. We also need to increase the research and the possibility of sharing our knowledge, between the Music therapy community and with the rest of the scientific and professional community.
Next July we will have the great chance to do it. The XII World Conference of Music Therapy will take place in Buenos Aires, my native city. It will be an excellent opportunity to update, to meet, to know and to recognize each other. An excellent opportunity to have a vision of Music Therapy’s situation in the world, where we will be able to discuss, disagree, agree, and also to have fun with our colleagues. It will be an excellent opportunity to go on building a professional community of music therapists.
From Buenos Aires, we are waiting all of you with open arms. We will spend together a warm week within the cold winter.
Schapira, Diego (2008). More Music Therapy, More Music Therapists, More Health. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved June 12, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=colschapira070408