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WAR DIVIDES, MUSIC CONNECTS
Using music to bridge divides, connect communities,
and heal the wounds of war and conflict.
December 26, 2010 •• Palestine Community Music
You Are Late!!!
We are late.
In the last two weeks we were a bit too early, but today we are late.
I’m not sure why. We don’t have a good reason to be late. We just left too late.
It has been three weeks now that Karolien and I play music with the Bo’az boys, a group of boys, age 9-30, with special needs.
To be honest, I think it doesn’t really matter that we are late because most of the participants of the music workshop don’t know how to read the clock. They won’t realize that we are five minutes too late.
How wrong I was!
S. is surprised to see us entering the living room.
“I thought you would not come today!”
You see, I think, even S. who is the best talker of the group, did not expect us to come.
And again I’m wrong.
“Why did you think we would not come? We come every Wednesday!” I try.
“Because you are late!”
“Late? We are not late! Well, maybe just a couple of minutes…”
“No you are late, look at the clock!”
I look at the clock and S. is right, of course. We are five full minutes too late. Maybe even six.
I apologize and realize that S. has just taught me a lesson. I feel ashamed that I thought this group would not mind us being late, just because some of them don’t talk, sit in a wheelchair or are autistic.
***
The first time, M. didn’t seem to make any contact with me during the music workshop. He rocked his body back and forth, slowly.
The second week, I tried to follow the advise of a music therapist: “when you play the guitar, try to play in the same tempo as his body movements”. When I sang the welcome song, in which every participant of the workshop is addressed with his name, I changed the tempo when it was M.’s turn. I play the welcome song slower to match the rocking movements of M. The other participants seem to enjoy the slow version of the song, but M. doesn’t seem to care much. The same happened in the third workshop.

This time, during the fourth workshop, I want to adjust to M.’s movements again, but suddenly I realize it is not needed. M. starts to move already in the same tempo as the guitar while I am singing the song to the others. Maybe this is just by chance, but maybe….M. found a way to communicate with us by rocking his body in the same tempo so we know that he is with us.
***
I feel frustrated that I can not make any contact with A. He is very calm during the workshops and doesn’t seem to react on anything. I suspect he is blind and severely autistic. The only reaction I ever got from A. was when I played the cello. He smiled.
During the fourth music workshop, Y., a supervisor is joining us. I’m happy with this because he is very active and the whole atmosphere is very positive. Y. sings the songs with us and offers support to the boys when needed. When I announce that next week I can not come to give a music workshop, Y. reacts by telling the groups that he will practice the songs with them until I come again. This makes me so happy, because it means that these boys, who obviously love music, will sing with their own supervisor during the week.
After the workshop, I ask him about the boys. He tells me where they come from (Hebron, Gaza, Jenin) and I decide to ask him about A.
“A. can not see, right?”
“Yes, he can only see some shadows. But he is as good as blind. 
And deaf.”
Deaf??? The boy I’m trying to get contact with for four workshops now is blind and deaf. Aha.
That’s why he never reacted to his name or to the music.
But the cello? He did smile, Karolien saw it as well.
Again I ask for advice from a music therapist. He explains to me that deaf people can not hear anything through their ears, but they can feel sound in other ways, especially the lower sounds like the sound of a cello.
The supervisor tells me he communicates with A. by touching his hands, and A. likes to smell things.
Next time I will give him a balloon, so he can feel the music, the guitar, through the vibrations of the balloon.
***
We listen to some music, and every time there are three clear beats, we clap with our hands. Well…S. , Karolien and I clap with our hands. The others don’t. I look around, hoping that more will join the clapping. Nothing happens.
Nothing?
Suddenly I see B.’s foot tapping the 3 beats. Happy with his input, I tell the group that not only we can clap the three beats, but we can also tap them with our feet. When B. sees me tapping the three beats with my feet as well, he starts smiling.
But nobody else joins us, no clapping and no tapping.
I. a boy with very high muscle tension, suddenly hits his ears a couple of times. Although this was by far not the movement I expected or preferred, I decide to go for it and copy his movement as well. I. starts laughing and during the rest of the music, he chaps his ears. 

The whole group seems to be more relaxed and I notice how almost all the participants make their own movements on the music.
***
Next time, MwB trainer Marijke will join me in the workshop, and hopefully afterward I can be joined by one of the MwB trainees.