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Feel the Music! Program Launched to Help Heal Children Who Lost Loved Ones on 9/11
by Jason Hollander

More than 30 children from the tri-state area recently attended the first session of the Feel the Music! program, which offers free workshops to children coping with personal losses suffered on September 11, 2001.

The World Foundation for Music and Healing (WFMH) recently launched an interactive music program entitled Feel the Music! for children and teens who lost a parent or close family member on September 11, 2001. Throughout the year, the program is offering three free seven-week interactive music workshops in songwriting, percussion, singing, and jazz to children and teens still working through their personal losses.

“Feel the Music! allows children to create music, thereby building resilience and providing an opportunity for them to experience joy,”says WFMH founder and NYU alumnus Valerie Ghent. “Music reaches places for which we have no words. Through songwriting and singing, percussion and improvisation, Feel the Music! can help provide a musical vocabulary for creative self-expression.”

When Ghent conceived the Feel the Music! program, she turned to the NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, which her father, Emmanuel Ghent, co-founded over 40 years ago. She found valuable support from Steven Knoblauch, faculty member and supervisor in the postdoctoral program and head of the Independent Track, and Spyros Orfanos, clinical director of the postdoctoral program.

Ghent consulted with Knoblauch and Orfanos on designing the program and obtaining funding for it. In the process, they trained a group of therapists who now work with the music teachers primarily as observers but potentially as interveners if they think a child requires additional support. The therapists include postdoctoral candidates and graduates of the NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychology and Psychoanalysis.

A native Downtown New Yorker, Ghent is the founder/director of The Songwriter’s Beat and West Street Records, and has spent over 20 years writing, performing, recording, engineering, and producing music with some of the top names in the music industry – including Ashford & Simpson, Nina Simone, Roberta Flack, and Deborah Harry. She knows first hand the power of music to transform audiences and participants alike and called on contacts within the music industry.

Feel the Music! was created by WFMH in partnership with Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, Lincoln Center Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra Music Director Arturo O’Farrill, NYU’s Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, Tuesday’s Children, September 11th Families’ Association, Saint Peter’s Church, and Rhythm Healing. The program is supported in large part with funding by a September 11 recovery grant from the American Red Cross Liberty Disaster Relief Fund.

The program will be expanding to provide arts-based healing weekend retreats for family members in spring 2006, says Ghent, and Feel the Music! will also be offering demos outside Manhattan in such places as upstate New York, Long Island, and New Jersey. Anyone interested in supporting Feel the Music! by offering a workshop space, instruments, or a donation should visit http://musicandhealing. org or call 212-669-6126.