One Brisbane teacher is proving the power of sound, the therapy in music and the fun in drums.
There’s immense power in music. Have you ever found yourself belting out big lyrics in the privacy of your car while driving? Dancing to music while doing some mundane housework? Tapping along to a song playing in the background at a shop? And in experiences like these, have you noticed how the music has changed your mood, spurred memories and evoked emotion? No one knows the power of music more than music teacher Doug De Jong of Chisholm Catholic College at Cornubia, on Brisbane’s southside. A lifelong musician, Doug’s world was flipped on its head when he was 23 and lost his sister, aged 18 at the time, to murder. Doug admits to spending the best part of the 18 years since that gruesome and fateful day looking for understanding. And most times, he’d find sparks of the answers he sought in one of his guitars, or in the notes of a song he’d write. Just recently, Doug released an EP, “Post Traumatic Express“, uniquely capturing Kübler-ross’s famous ‘Five Stages of Grief’ in instrumental music (find it on Spotify and itunes). So impressed with Doug’s talent was Grammy Award winning uber-guitarist Steve Vai that, after ‘shredding’ with the Brisbanite on stage in California, Steve organised for his own producer to master Doug’s EP. While the EP has been personally cathartic, Doug hopes that it will also support others, especially his students. “In our Western culture, death is such a taboo subject. But depression is real. Grief is real,” he says. “I’d hope the EP could stimulate healthy, peer-based conversation. It might mean a young person is better prepared to deal with a death – it could be something in their toolkit that they could call on.” On International Men’s Day later this month (November 19), Doug will tell his remarkable story as guest speaker at a lunch hosted by River 94.9 breakfast show host Paul ‘Campo’ Campion at the Treasury Casino. When he’s not inspiring audiences, teaching music at school, teaching guitar and drums after hours, engineering new artists from his studio and playing in his pub band, Doug also heads up Chisholm’s ‘Drumline’ – writing and choreographing 11 student percussionists who perform competitively – complete with stick tricks and light show (think Led-powered drumsticks!). As an educator, Doug is a fierce proponent for students learning music. He encourages parents to consider music as a potential option for their kids’ extra-curricular studies. “Most times, it’s the music itself that is the teacher,” he says. Brisbane registered music therapist Karen Richmond explains music therapy as “the intentional use of music to actively support people in their health, functioning and wellbeing”. Karen agrees with Doug in that music can be a powerful tool, and especially so for young children in the development of social and emotional skills, motor skills and cognition. “Other ways music can act as a therapy for children is by reducing stress and agitation and it can help control behaviours and improve self-regulation and awareness. Participating in active music making activates the brain, helping join pathways and firing up little minds in ways no other single activity can,” she says. “Music in the early years encourages all aspects of a child’s development and can also assist with bonding and relationships,” Karen says. “It can be a tool for teaching different academic concepts as well, as it is motivating and fun.”