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Children and volunteers had fun during one of the rhythm and drums classes at the recent Music Therapy Summer Camp.

Published 30th August 2011, 12:8pm

Bells, drums and tambourines are simple percussion instruments, but for a group of 17 special needs children they were both music makers and therapy tools that made a huge difference in their summer.

The children participated with their siblings in a special musical camp hosted by Cayman Music Therapy.

Along with one local volunteer and six student volunteers from Boston’s Berklee College of Music and Lesley University, Cayman Music Therapy Principal Julianne Parolisi hosted her summer camp in late August.

“I decided to offer a camp after several parents at a Special Needs Foundation meeting noted that there were no activities for their children during the summer,” Miss Parolisi explained.

“As such, it catered specifically to special needs kids and their siblings,” she continued. “Music is a medium through which people from different cultures and backgrounds can connect, so why not siblings? The camp provided activities that they could enjoy together.”

The camp, which came free of cost for participants, allowed the children to explore different areas of music by rotating them through three activities: rhythm and drums class, movement class and a singing and song-writing workshop.

One group of six participants pooled their talents during the camp to form the band JJ and the Pink Berets. They performed their interpretation of Ritchie Valens’ La Bamba at the closing concert to much applause from their attending parents.

Local volunteer Dainya Pinnock, who completed her bachelor’s degree in music at the UK’s Oxford Brooks University last year, saw the camp as an opportunity to gain practical experience in music therapy.

She said her interest in the profession was sparked several months ago after first observing Miss Parolisi in action. It was then that she decided to do her dissertation on music therapy and eventually to pursue post-graduate studies in the field.

“I was drawn to the way that something as simple as music could help change a child’s perspective on life. I just love how it helps special needs children. It also shows the world just how similar they are to everyone else.”

Lesley University post-graduate student Stephanie Samborowski was amazed by the diversity of Cayman’s resident population and consequently the camp attendees. “I’ve always had an interest in experiencing how music affects people from cultures outside the US,” she explained. “Everyone has this innate connection to music, and though it affects people differently there are also instances in which the effect is the same.

“I’m thousands of miles away from Boston but I’m surprised at how similarly the kids here respond to music therapy.”

The camp was offered as a joint effort by Cayman Music Therapy and the Special Needs Foundation of Cayman, and the venue was sponsored by the Lighthouse School.

Miss Parolisi plans to make the camp an annual event, inviting different groups of student volunteers to assist each time. For more information on music therapy, email Julianne Parolisi at CaymanMusicTherapy@gmail.com or visit www.musictherapy.org.