As we closed the first week’s training of Tanzania Youth Music, one of the trainees picked up my guitar and began to play and sing the refrain “Storm is over now…”, with an acoustic reggae groove. The group caught the words and the feel, moving and singing along. The words shifted into “Music without Borders…”, each of us called out one by one to the middle of our circle to improvise dance, words, or melodies. Five days earlier, on Monday morning, Otto and I had stood with a cup of tea and commented, “Looks like a quiet group…”
On the Monday morning, we began with 45 minutes of opening music-making. We were introduced to each person through rhythm, improvisation, and ensemble. We played name games offering gestures and melodies to share a part of ourselves. The emphasis of the day was experiencing music, and in creating a positive learning environment for everyone. We looked at models of constructive feedback to enable our learning.
Already on our second day together, the trainees were leading activities with each other, as we moved through sessions on singing, body percussion, movement, and song-writing. On Wednesday they worked in groups to prepare workshops for children, structuring their timings, planning their presentation of music and their leadership methods.
In September 2012, Chris Nicholson set up a music therapy program for people living with HIV and AIDS at a clinic in urban central Rwanda. In September 2013, he returned to continue his therapy work with vulnerable HIV+ adolescents and to train staff in Music & Health. He is Project Manager of Rwanda Youth Music and Tanzania Youth Music. Prior to his involvement with music therapy, Chris had an international performance and teaching career as a classical guitarist. He studied classical guitar at the Royal Academy of Music, London, and in Spain with maestros Jose Tomas and Alex Garrobe.