By Lindsay Zehren, MT-BC, National Program Director
Now, more than ever, clients we serve at Resounding Joy need us.
Now, more than ever, we need your support to continue to enhance the human experience through therapeutic applications of music.
Join us virtually on November 20th to celebrate a year of innovative music making, a year of reaching our clients no matter what, and a year that, despite social distancing and social and political upheaval, made us realize more than ever that we are in this together. Before our virtual event, here is some background on how Resounding Joy met the challenges of 2020 head on and with a song in our hearts.
February 14, 2020 was a typical Valentine’s Day. I sat at a table at Casa Sol Y Mar, my husband across from me, and a glass of wine in my hand. The only difference was that surrounding me at that table were the full staff of Resounding Joy, members of our Board of Directors, and MusicWorx staff and interns. We were all together to wish Barbara Reuer, our CEO and Founder, bon voyage before she set out on her three-month sabbatical awarded by the Fieldstone Leadership Clare Rose Sabbatical Program. The atmosphere was light, happy, and full of well-wishes for a woman who more than deserved this break from her lifetime of dedication and service to the field of music therapy and from the nearly twenty years she had dedicated to the nonprofit that she started in 2004. How was I going to ensure that I could not only honor and protect her legacy but keep us as a nonprofit moving forward while she was gone? Three months seemed like it was going to be an eternity.
As music therapists, we work with some of the most resilient populations, from active duty military and wounded warriors in our Semper Sound® program; to pediatric patients in the hospital, at home, on palliative or hospice care in our Healing Notes program; to isolated older adults on memory care and first responders through a partnership with the Iverson Foundation for Active Awareness in our Community Connections program. It was imperative that our team stick together and look out for one another so that we could provide the best possible support and care for our patients, even while Barbara was gone. Our team motto for 2020 was “Living in the Green,” an affirmation that this year we were going to focus on living and working in tune with nature, with a focus on health, from a place of love, and, of course, keeping our bottom line in the green. We had a big job ahead of us, to maintain this affirmation and team dynamic without our fearless leader.
After numerous toasts and hugs the party began to disperse. With a heavy heart and a lump in my throat I said goodbye to Barbara and wished her a restful and rejuvenating sabbatical full of adventure and self-care. My colleague, Cory, turned to me and said, “This is going to be great. What’s the worst that could happen?”
Fast forward less than three weeks later. COVID-19 was then a household name, and concerns about the health and safety of our patients were on the forefront of our minds. As the pandemic began to sweep across the West Coast, we adapted to keep our patients and staff safe. On the evening of March 12, 2020, I called an emergency staff meeting at my home. I sat in a sea of color-coded index cards, each one with a contract or client written on it, and each one coded to represent cancellation, continuation, or assumed cancellation. I strategically placed them in a pile that could be moved to a virtual platform and a pile that needed some more creative thinking, my two-year-old daughter next to me lovingly throwing the neat piles into chaos. As our team gathered, we worked together to figure out solutions for each contract and patient, our focus always on how we could continue to support each individual. We worked through the weekend to prepare to move all of our sessions online so we could continue to safely support our patients.
On Monday, March 16, the staff met at the office for the last time. We sat six feet apart, a huge feat for our team of therapists who love to give and receive hugs, and our Board of Directors’ president, Mychelle Mowry, joined us. We worked socially distanced, side-by-side to make bins of instruments to distribute to our families who would be moving to virtual sessions so our patients would have instruments to engage in therapy.
We packed up drums and keyboards, and everything we might need from our desks to prepare to work from home. Before we left the office, we sat in a socially distanced circle and sang together, not knowing how long it would be before we could do this again.
The team learned quickly as the week was a blur of cancellations, closures, official stay at home orders, and lots of virtual music therapy sessions. The hard work and dedication paid off. By April 6th, our creative team had come up with a variety of new ways to engage and support our patients virtually. From live streaming sessions on how to make instruments at home to virtual community piano lessons to telehealth music therapy, our team was there to support our clients during this unprecedented time of uncertainty.
Our annual Heart of a Child Concert on April 25 was shifted from in-person to a livestream, in less than two weeks with the help of our staff, board of directors, and event Chair, Dr. Jeff Miller. After sleepless nights and endless work, this event was a huge success. On April 27, 2020, the staff (in partnership with our sister agency, MusicWorx) kicked off a two-week-long virtual music therapy conference in support of our music therapy community across the country. We operated under the belief that we have to do something, and something was better than nothing. It was not the time to wait and discuss options, it was the time to try, and mess up and try again and keep trying and keep innovating as we went. Nothing was ideal, but what the worst-case scenario was for our patients and clients to have no support. Some form of support was and is always better than no support.
We kept moving forward. We learned new things, changed our strategy, adapted our virtual protocol (due to a horrible “Zoombombing”), developed and grew, and persevered. Nothing was stopping us to meet the needs of our clients. None of us thought the pandemic would last this long, but as May started taking shape, we began to settle a little more into this new normal. As we continued to meet the need in our community several programs expanded to add new groups and client, and referrals grew. When Barbara returned, her tiny nonprofit was blazing forward, and in many ways, was actually growing during this turmoil.
Over the summer, Resounding Joy continued to weather the COVID storm. Our motto for the year expanded from “Living in the Green” to “Be Positively and Pleasantly Persistent” as we continued to reach out to places to offer support and assure people that music therapy can be as beneficial virtually as it is in person. Our staff continued to support one another from a distance as social injustice protests exploded across the country. We began to recognize our own shortcomings in diversity, equity, and inclusion. We took a training as a team and developed strategic action steps to provide more equitable and accessible music therapy services to our community. We certainly felt the weight of 2020 in our personal lives as we continued to work from home without being able to be with family or friends, stocked up on masks for those essential times we had to leave the house, and watched the chaos across the world in dismay. We persevered through this tough time to continue to bring music therapy to our community and beyond.
We have now made it to the fall, and we have acclimated to the new climate and virtual tools. Casa Sol Y Mar, the restaurant we loved and enjoyed that Valentine’s dinner together at, such a short time ago, is gone. Armed with more experience and ability to adapt, we are able to focus more on program development and less on constant change. We have transitioned from survival mode to thriving mode.
Truly, now, more than ever before, our patients and their families need us. We are incredibly fortunate to have been able, and continue, to meet the incredible need for support that we have witnessed this year. We know that our work is far from complete, and as the end of 2020 approaches, we have our eyes set on 2021. We have no doubt that it will be another unprecedented year of change, and we know that a large majority of it will be out of our control. As a team, we are committed to continue our mission, no matter what, and to continue to support our community and one another. To the people reading this, we sincerely hope that you have the support that you need during this incredibly difficult time, and, if you do not, please reach out to your support systems today. Now, more than ever, we need one another.