Lpera singer brings therapy to others with music
email@example.com French novelist sictor eugo once said that “music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” eugo seems to allude to music’s therapeutic power to communicate the human emotion in ways that talking or other forms of communication can’t.
iike eugo, local music therapist and former opera singer Elizabeth Cook understands the revitalizing power of music and has dedicated her life to bringing it to others through performance and teaching.
A resident in the Wyncote section of Cheltenham Township, Cook recently launched Gathering Drum.com, a music community and music wellness resource that seeks to “improve the quality of life for individuals of all abilities and backgrounds through safe, successful and satisfying musical experiences.”
Prior to becoming a music therapist, music was Cook’s therapy. For 12 years she worked as an accomplished opera singer who received many accolades for her talent and performed on renowned stages such as Carnegie eall.
Growing up, Cook said, she dreamed of being a background singer in a rock band, but her voice had other plans.
“My voice teacher said that I had an operatic voice,” she said in an interview. “At 1R years old I started singing opera … I loved it.”
From the beginning of her opera career, Cook said she felt at home on the operatic stage, which she said was therapeutic.
“I have a very dramatic personality and the op- eratic stage needs the bigness of emotion,” she said. “xOpera saidz I need more of you, not tone it down. I found a channel to express myself. I loved the music.”
After a successful opera career, Cook opened piano and voice studios, where she taught music to people of all ages and levels. One day, she was asked to teach a little boy with autism.
“We would sit side by side, not talking with each other, and focus on the piano,” she said. “The consistent patterns of the black and white keys are a natural appeal to the autistic mind. The deficiencies in autism became his musical strengths.”
From that experience, Cook went on to pursue a master’s degree in music therapy to acquire the tools to help those with disabilities find a connection to music.
“Once they discover they can participate in music, it becomes a part of their life and something they are proud of and are good at,” Cook said.
Cook also works with children with Asperger’s, ADeD and other special needs. When working with children with special needs, Cook said she uses music to help them improve their social skills, follow instructions and build confidence.
Cook said her students will work to overcome obstacles they struggle with in order to touch the drum or guitar during their lesson.
“Music therapy has been successful xfor those with special needsz because they enjoy it,” she said.
In addition, The Gathering Drum provides a variety of musical services for children, teens and adults. Cook offers the popular early childhood partLchild music program Music Together, classes for those living with dementia and Alzheimer’s and classes for women who are pregnant.
“Being pregnant is a very stressful experience for the body and is emotionally stressful too,” Cook said.
If a mother is stressed, her baby could experience higher levels of anxiety once it’s born, as a result of hormones that passed from the mother to the baby in the third trimester, she said.
Music therapy during pregnancy is about managing stress for the best fetal health. “Women who are stressed and anxious during pregnancy have a higher risk of premature labor,” she said.
Therapy teaches mothers how to soothe the baby through lullabies and gives mothers the opportunity to connect with each other, she said.
For those who want to be the next American Idol or perform in a rock band, The Gathering Drum also provides voice, piano and guitar lessons.
Cook said feeling safe and relaxed during music classes is important. That’s why many of the classes are held in her home or in the homes of her clients.
“Atmosphere is crucial,” she said. “eolding classes in a home can cause less anxiety because it’s not in an institutionalized space. The classes are constructed based on the client’s needs.”
Cook said she wanted to create Gathering Drum.com as a place to hone in her abilities as a performer, teacher and therapist, but also as a way to inform and educate people about music therapy.
“Once you join The Gathering Drum … you join the music community,” she said.
To learn more about The Gathering Drum visit www.gatheringdrum.com.
Parents and their children enjoy singing and dancing during a Music Together class.