Whimsical with Animusical!
by Steven Atme
Last spring, an unexpected idea occurred. Spiritual and Community animator with the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) Rocco Speranza sent me an email asking with excitement, “What do you think of combining both animal and music therapy?” My response? “Uh, let me think about it… Yes, please!”
Then came the question of how we would work this out. For instance, when animals hear relaxing live music, they become happy and fall asleep. After all, both humans and animals are so much alike. Animal sounds are like our singing voices. Then came the name, “Animusical.”
The pilot project started with a dog named Mindy, who was brought into classrooms at Edward Murphy Elementary School in May 2022. No one knew what to expect. Has it become part of the routine? Was there a test? On the contrary, it was all fun!
We received great feedback and after summer vacation we started to bring Animusical to Edward Murphy Elementary and L.I.N.K.S. High School twice a month. Beforehand, Rocco and I would exchange ideas on different themes with some requests from students that included things like music, meditation, sing-along, dance, pet Mindy and more. In multiple cases, we improvised!
Students come into class carrying emotional baggage and needing a break. Some don’t have pets or haven’t experienced the arts. By having them pet Mindy, it brings calmness and smiles. With music, it brings movement and laughter. Animation included!
With anxiety coming from Covid-19, fears of falling behind, getting sick or having difficult situations at home, some were sad or shy to speak about their worries. But through their talents and abilities, they were able to build self-confidence until they felt more positive and could head back to class.
Through music, we find our balance and stay grounded, focusing on the present. Even during the first day at L.I.N.K.S., a teacher came up to us afterwards in tears, saying, “This was the best medicine I've received in a long while. I truly needed that. Thank you!”
Rocco, Mindy and I encourage everyone to come in, interact, express themselves, have fun and feel good. Instead of watching the show, everyone participates, making them THE greatest show being, “Whimsical with Animusical”! That’s a cherry on the cake.
Steven Atme is a pianist and composer, gives private piano lessons and is a public speaker, enlightening on his experience growing up and living with autism. Contact Steven at email@example.com.