Sonic story

Haven Magazine - - EDUCATION -

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.”

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