Thu | Nov 15, 2018

Music Therapy showing potential in Jamaica

Published:Thursday | November 2, 2017 | 12:00 AMStephanie Lyew
Eric Wills (standing), music professor at the State University of New York, Fredonia, oversees a recording session with two aspiring musicians in a small studio at the Claudia Williams Life Centre in Ocho Rios, St Ann.

Once a child enters the pre-kindergarten stages of life, he or she is introduced to music (for some it is as early as in the womb).

Nursery rhymes are created from stories recorded over instruments combined to make ear-catching rhythms that even a child who is unable to speak will remember.

The beats stays in the head and it helps with the simple learning of the alphabet and even mathematical times tables. Many educators have realised that music can assist a student with learning and developing and understanding social roles. However, the idea to align music with a general reading or integrated studies class may not be common practice.




The Jamaica Field Service Project (JAFSP) is an ongoing volunteer service that incorporates student-teacher learning, a series that is accredited by the State University of New York. The group works with persons from the American Music Therapy Association to provide music education, music therapy, and literacy sessions around Jamaica in five different trips to the island.

The entire programme is organised by Professor Eric Wills, a music professor and dedicated volunteer to the mission of providing music education to persons. However, for the last 12 years, his sessions have expanded into music therapy.

"It is a blossoming field and a great fit for Jamaica," said Professor Eric Wills.

JASFP does five trips each year with students enrolled in colleges and universities across the US, and Canada (approximately 80 students per year) that study music education, music therapy and literacy. The professor has been conducting and supervising it for 12 years now, but has been taking trips to Jamaica for the purpose of music education and 'voluntourism' since 1999.

"We give the music therapy students a list of songs to memorise before they come down (to Jamaica) and they study for a whole semester first," said Professor Wills.

"The songs include reggae music in particular, for use with some of the clients," he added.