The Healing of Trauma Through Music: How a Nonprofit is Helping Survivors

Music has been acknowledged for centuries to be powerful enough to heal - and that is something Tamara Williams believed wholeheartedly from experience when she founded Music Beyond Measure. Based in Montclair, New Jersey, the nonprofit organization uses music to help survivors of trauma to process their emotions and heal.

Williams is a jazz musician, and in 2009 she realized she had emotions and trauma related to sexual assault and domestic violence that she needed to acknowledge. She turned to counseling, and started writing and creating music to express how she felt. She looked for classes that were based in therapy through music and couldn’t find any, so she founded Music Beyond Measure (MBM).

MBM’s vision is to use music and the creative process to better the lives of those who have faced trauma, and help their recovery process. Focusing on developing healthy discussions with community and family members about domestic violence, assault, child abuse, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Their main program, “Sing Your Story Project,” creates songwriting pairs of survivors with volunteer musicians. The survivors create a song with the help of the musician, and invites whoever they choose to perform it in front of. By creating a song about their experiences, the survivors see their trauma “through a different lens,” and this helps them develop songwriting as a coping skill.

Their other programs include music instruction in groups or one-on-one classes, where participants learn music theory and improvisation in multiple genres and instruments of their choice. Here, expression without words and concentration on sound instead is the focus.

MBM also has school programs, and works with K-12 students during the day and after school. These focus on healthy expression, awareness of self, conflict resolution and communication skills. They also do interactive performances for older students to teach awareness and prevention methods of sexual and domestic violence. In addition to the school programs, the nonprofit provides free workshops to the community of Montclair to help people have healthy discussions about drugs, LGBTQ issues, and sexual, domestic, and gun violence in order to develop preventative strategies and create support.

Recently, MBM has switched to virtual platforms due to COVID-19. For now, they are sticking to online workshops and livestream performances. For more information, visit their website: https://musicbeyondmeasure.org/index.html

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