Ridge Meadows Association for Community Living music therapist Birgit Giesser with one of her students during a drive-by session. (Contributed)

Drive-by music therapy helps those with disabilities in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

Program run by the Ridge Meadows Association for Community Living

Music is known to help improve people’s lives.

From children in hospitals to seniors, palliative care patients, those with AIDS and HIV, at-risk youth, people in rehabilitation and people grieving the loss of others.

However, music therapy programs across the country are facing an uncertain future.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some programs have put on pause, while other therapists have turned to virtual methods to support their students.

But, a musical therapist with the Ridge Meadows Association for Community Living came up with a novel way of bringing her services to those who need them – drive-by music therapy sessions.

“I realized that we all had to adapt and find ways to function, and that I needed to model not only survival but also how to thrive in a rapidly changing world,” said RMACL music therapist Birgit Giesser.

READ MORE: Pop-up Tea-ki Bar Social in downtown Maple Ridge

Ridge Meadows Association for Community Living provides services for adults and children with disabilities and Giesser thought it was crucial to connect with her students who might potentially feel isolated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

People, “who may not fully understand the pandemic but are still experiencing the full breakdown of their normal lives,” she said.

So, Giesser created mobile sessions for her students following provincial health guidelines.

“Music therapy for me is about activating the joy, curiosity and skills we have within us and sharing them with one another. Music makes our lives meaningful and helps us cope with challenges,” noted Giesser.

Music Heals, an organization that raises money and awareness for music therapy across the country, funds the Community Living program in Maple Ridge, and matched money raised from last years Tea-ki Bar Social hosted by T’s Once Upon A Tea Leaf, where the back alley is turned into a cocktail party with DJ’s, vendors and food trucks.

READ MORE: A thirst for positive change

But, like many charities across the country, Music Heals has lost about $970,000 in revenue due to the cancellation of fundraising events, including this years Tea-ki Bar Social.

Since Taryn Stephenson, who runs the Music Heals Charitable Foundation and who is also co-owner of T’s, started working with Music Heals, she has become more “hyper-aware” of the healing power of music.

“I really wanted to make sure that people in Maple Ridge had access to that,” she said.

And, said Stephenson, if they don’t have people who believe in the power of music and want to make donations to the charity, then they run the risk of current programs not being sustainable.

“What a sad day to not have music fill the hallways of facilities and hospitals,” she said.

Since 2012 the organization has funded 32,000 hours of music therapy across Canada.



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A student of Ridge Meadows Association for Community Living music therapist Birgit Giesser during a drive-by session. (Contributed)

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