Listen for Life

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Travels with Music

Donna Stoering

Visit Donna Stoering at:


View, download or print our 2-page PDF brochure
describing the use of Travels with Music in the field of Music therapy!

Many of our Listen for Life projects (and productions as well) are centered on education, with after-school, home-school, in-school and adult school programs all using cross-cultural music to teach a wide variety of subjects, or address an equally wide range of social issues. But we have also spoken to UN-related organizations, at their request, about the use of music to address conflict resolution, gang prevention, international education issues, and humanitarian concerns. To our way of thinking, this is really a form of Music Therapy in action, especially as it relates to gang prevention and conflict resolution. But for more specifically targeted music-therapy activities within LfL, we would offer the following examples:

1) Listen for Life co-sponsored a mobile music-therapy unit, in collaboration with the Suncockret Foundation based in New Zealand and Bosnia, to go throughout all refugee camps in Bosnia/Croatia after the war. This mobile unit was a specially-fitted van that turned into a mobile room once it arrived at any camp. Individuals (of all ages) had been so traumatized by the atrocities committed by all sides in the 1990s conflicts that countless numbers had stopped speaking or communicating. It was found that when hearing/singing their own traditional music forms in a one-on-one situation of safety, their emotional and verbal doors would “open up” and only then could near-miraculous levels of communication or healing begin. These refugee camps are still not closed or totally unnecessary as safe havens for these life-long traumatized families, so their needs for music therapy services continue to this day for some of the residents who have other issues beyond the residual war effects. The music therapy is carried out by professionals trained in New Zealand and Bosnia, and we someday hope to take this model and replicate it, in other regions of the world where people desperately need such therapy but have no transport to get to a city where some form of music therapy programs might be provided. Listen for Life has connections with the Music Therapists in each region who would be open to helping provide this service, either as volunteers or at a largely discounted rate, because they see the great need and they trust our leadership, our NGO contacts, and our “street-cred” that can make this service happen, once we obtain the funding or sponsorship.

2) For the last year Listen for Life staff and musicians have been working in partnership with the Sounding Joy Music Therapy, a non-profit organization founded in Hawaii, to make it possible for them to increase and expand their services to A) more centers throughout Polynesia and B) helping more patients/clients per center in the locations where they already serve.

LfL has funded our own music experts and staff to go on two different trips to work in person with their Board members, their therapists and their interns as well as interviewing their clients/patients, and we have funded, produced, hosted, and donated performances on several LfL Notes for Nourishment concerts ( throughout the Hawaiian islands thus far, to raise awareness and financial donations for Sounding Joy’s music therapy programs and services. They have a small staff of very well trained therapists, but little experience in publicizing or marketing their services or their existence on the Islands, while there are so many different social and health issues on the Islands that could benefit hugely from Music Therapy.

Meanwhile we have been approached by several other professional Music Therapists residing on the islands, each working privately but needing an organization behind them to centralize services. And there is a very kind, very successful real estate broker in Honolulu who would like to help acquire a building where Listen for Life could have a center, primarily to bring together all interested organizations, volunteers, musicians, and related professionals to provide all manner of projects and music-therapy services that are so sorely needed by all demographics there. Meanwhile, we are thinking that the terrain and economic situation of the islands, particularly the poorer ones, would make the mobile music therapy units (such as in Bosnia) a highly successful option, and we would only need one unit per island and 1-2 music-therapists per unit, plus some initial marketing resources and minimal operational overhead to get the project started.

3) Because Listen for Life is a global family of music listeners, professionals, and performers, we have many, many independent Music Therapists among our members in so many regions of the world. Our goal is not to “re-invent” any wheels, but to be the catalyst for energizing, supporting and inspiring ALL music professionals and music-listening volunteers to give of their gifts in their own communities and enable them to increase the difference they each make. We frequently seek out or contact individuals providing a particular service, when a specific donor wants to donate to a specific activity, location or cause, and we act as the “vetting” agency for that donor to choose a particular group, individual, project, or organization that is already under the Listen for Life umbrella. There are many of these doing Music Therapy, so if you are reading this with a particular region, service, or population in mind, just let us know! With the help and participation of individual volunteers, Listen for Life has been able to provide Music Therapy in several hospitals and rest homes {across the USA}; in prisons {in UK and USA}, in after-school programs in USA and Lebanon, and in community centers and anti-violence programs in several cities.

4) We would like to mention a particular project of LfL that in our view combines Music Therapy and Education. We created the MusicMessage Campaign ( in response to the comments and horror of K-6 educators in California who had been telling us that children as young as six were merrily walking down the hallways, (innocently) singing the lyrics to very violent gang rap songs which they did not understand but had nevertheless memorized, simply from hearing them nonstop at home with their older siblings’ music playing. Meanwhile, the older siblings were/are going to school in a negative or violent mood, having listened to these lyrics on their iPod the whole way there, not realizing the impact of music on their mood and behavior.

So, we devised MusicMessage Campaign assemblies/workshops in schools that are in 4 stages:-
A) we bring in live musicians of all cultures, show some positive and negative uses of music and lyrics, and make students (and teachers!!)  more aware of the powerful impact that this music has (for good or bad) on their thoughts, study habits, mood, and behavior in the larger community. We show them how they can make positive choices to listen to particular kinds of music in order to change their mood, calm their anger or fear, increase their study skills, etc. (which is, in effect, a type of music therapy that all of us can do on ourselves! )  
B) the musicians leave the assembly stage to go out into the student body, now divided into circles of 10-15 students each, and each musician takes a group, working one on one with each student, helping each of them to create their own melody, beat, or lyric, as a “musicmessage” for peace or any other positive theme
C) we record each students’ “musicmessage” on hand-held recorders, so that each student sees that they have the individual power to not only create positive music but they can also choose to turn out the songs/messages that surround them, which are negative and harmful for them to listen to
D) using the recordings where necessary we combine all of the melodies, beats, and lyrics created by the kids of each small group into a group song, and all of the groups perform for each other in a sort of “battle of the bands”….then we combine all of the group efforts/contributions into one “school song” that they will always have and will know that they created it themselves, together.

That again, in our view, is truly music-therapy and the results and testimonials from these workshops have been incredibly positive. We would like to do a lot more of these in schools whether locally, regionally or nationally. It just takes more volunteers – and/or music therapists – to get involved!

5) Listen for Life has also created interactive cross-cultural educational music content in a series called Travels with Music ( that is now licensed to schools nationwide but also to the BBC and 3 other digital TV networks. More recently we have been overjoyed to learn that the TWM program has been enthusiastically embraced and recommended for use by independent music therapists throughout the country. Just in the last months we have been hearing all kinds of individual stories on different ways the TWM content can be used in Music Therapy.

View, download or print our 2-page PDF brochure
describing the use of Travels with Music in the field of Music therapy!