Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Music and Colors: Their Effects on our Wellbeing and Health

Maria Teresa De Donato, Ph.D., 
Naturopath, Life Strategist, Author

Music and Colors: Their Effects on our Wellbeing and Health

-- Interview with Francesca Durham
 Clinical Harp Musician and Facilitator 

For millennia both music and colors have proved to highly affect our psyche and mind and, as consequence, our wellbeing and health.  Their impact has been quite remarkable in so many cases and circumstances related to emotional, mental and even physical conditions that during those last few decades even our western scientific community has recognized them as forms of what has been defined “Art Therapy”. The latter, in fact, can be seen as a standalone methodology to be used in our everyday life whenever we feel the need for or as a therapeutic tool that can integrate more
conventional psychological and emotional treatments. 

In this regard, it is my greatest pleasure today to interview Francesca Durham from Ontario, Canada. Francesca is a Clinical Harp Musician and Facilitator of both the Rainbow of Sound and of the Color My World Programs.

Hello, Francesca, and thank you so much for taking the time for our interview today.

Hello, Teresa, and thank you for inviting me to this interview.

You are very welcome. Thank you to you too for being with us. Francesca, why don’t you start with introducing yourself to our readers?

My family traveled throughout Europe before deciding to call Canada home.  In fact, I was born in Changi Singapore.  My brother was born in London England.  After college my career started in Retail and Image Consulting.  However, after a few short years working in Retail I decided to shift into Human Resources and stayed in this field for over a decade.  Counselling, training, and job placement were the real focus and core of my work.  As a generalist, the task at hand was constant multi-tasking while working for clients and candidates.  Years later a move into business management and development initiated my own transition into coaching and mentoring.  This is where my business started to evolve:  Building my holistic practice working with women in transition and
facilitating personal development workshops using colour and sound.

Can you elaborate how you transitioned into coaching/mentoring after a corporate

Sure. It started with volunteering after taking some time away from my corporate career. Volunteering with women in hospice is where I realized an opportunity to bring harp music, specifically therapeutic bedside harp music.  Using a small lap harp, as a practitioner I can be interactive with patients when I can or play for the patient what seems natural in the moment… It could be familiar or unfamiliar music.  Mentoring is an extension of a program I took called Harp For Healing.  I was asked if I’d like to mentor after going through the program and I was happy to do so.  So currently I mentor 10 students.  My oldest is a 73 years old student who graduated recently and two more are nearing the end of the program.

The harp is a very old instrument that we find in so many ancient cultures, such as the Greeks and the Romans, just to name a few, and I have personally been always fascinated by it both for its quite unique shape and for what I would define as mystic sounds that can produce.
What led you to choose this particular musical instrument as a tool for your personal use and to coach people, and why?

Historically the harp has been a symbol of relief and comfort.  As practitioners we use the artistic application of the intrinsic element of live music and sound to provide an environment conducive to the healing process.  So music played on the harp has several unique healing properties:

Resonance from strings
Range of pitch
Relationship between sound and recipient

Our intention is really to support the recipients’ goal of healing which might be emotional, physical, mental, or spiritual.  The benefit to live harp music is the sound of the harp strings to enhance quality of life.

Did you need to get certified to become a Harp Musician and Facilitator and if yes, How did you go about certification?

When I decided to get involved with Harp Therapy it was important to get certified.  The programs I have studied are accredited by the National Standards Board for Therapeutic Musicians, so we have met a minimum standard set by the board which includes an extensive curriculum demonstrating musical proficiency and training in hospice/hospital internship playing at the bedside.

There are two designations from different programs I’ve completed.  I started with the International Harp Therapy Program in 2011 and overlapped toward the end with a second program, Harp For Healing.  Both my internship experiences were amazing and now I play therapeutic harp music in long term care facilities, hospice and palliative care. I create many custom workshops on request and always look forward to returning to the Girl Guides to host workshops for their young girls helping to build confidence and self-esteem.

Why don’t you tell us more about the Recreational Harp Therapy Workshops that you facilitate, How people generally respond to them, and How and to what extent they may possibly benefit from them?

Our goal is to change lives one harp at a time bringing community together to enjoy the experience of music making.   Our workshops are focused on strengthening health & wellness on all levels of our being.  Qualities of hearing live harp music, therapeutic and calming, can provide a beautiful bonding and healing experience… Each person does their part, no matter how easy or simple it may be, to add to the complete experience.

Recreational Harp Therapy is expressive in a one-to-one session with a client or it can be inclusive so that the individual feels as being part of a whole if in a group environment. The atmosphere created would be effective in decreasing distress levels, again improving quality of life through the experience and some participants want to play and sing along while other just listen.  Therapeutic harp music promotes a positive state of mind, pain management, ward off depression, calms participants, and eases muscle tension.  

As you know, Teresa, our vital signs are expressed in rhythmic terms like brain wave, heart beat, pulse right…so that’s why music as therapy works so well: it resonates in SYNC with BEATS!!!!
Together we create an atmosphere of community and togetherness.  Now, and I want this to be clear, I am NOT a music therapist, so I’m not working toward a goal for rehabilitation with anyone.  Playing therapeutically, I am there to SERVE and recreationally there is an expression, “to get out of one’s head and into the heart.” When a harp workshop is being facilitated a musical experience is being created.  And that’s the key…in a recreational atmosphere we come together for a music making session that is all about having an experience.  For participants in pain of any kind the objective is to forget, if just briefly, their pain and suffering and join in…participate in something different.

Where else do you play therapeutic harp music? What kind of service do you offer?
and Who can really benefit from it?

Halton Harps is a certified regional provider of complementary therapeutic support services to special care facilities seeking innovative, competitive and non-invasive methods for improving and sustaining quality of life.  

All our workshops are delivered in a safe and positive environment reflecting the different needs of the group and of each individual.  We design and develop workshops bringing our unique rainbow of harps to the community.  As a facilitator of the Rainbow of Sound® and Color My World© programs, we have workshops to fit the needs of children, youth and adults.

Although it is NOT a treatment for any health related issues, Harp Therapy can be
beneficial to:

• Augment pain management of the terminally ill
• Relieve anxiety of the chronically ill
• Accelerate physical healing of post-surgery and injured patients
• Support end of life process
• Reduce stress and blood pressure of the chronically ill
• Relieve body and mental tension of pre-operative patients.

I know you have written a very interesting book called, ‘Colorful Self-Improvement ~ 7 Keys to a HAPPIER, Healthier, Wealthier YOU.  Your book is a tool used for personal development working with women in transition coping with Loss of Self, Career or a Loved One.  You’ve recently decided on integrating Harp Music & MARI to facilitate Authentic Heart Connection Workshops.
Why don’t you tell us more about the marriage of these two therapeutic tools and How you intend to use them?

As I continue to build my holistic therapeutic practice my intention is to work together with the harps and MARI.  Both have helped me greatly to get through very difficult time in my life.  I am able to speak from experience about the benefits of both.  I will share with you my recent Healing Flower Mandala.

As for MARI, it stands for Mandala Assessment Research Instrument.  MARI is more than art therapy.  It’s an experience like the one of music making.  MARI allows you to visualize from your own sense of knowing, insight and awareness of where YOU are on the journey, your Life’s Path. Adding music to a workshop experience with MARI brings you back to your centre, the very essence of YOU.  

So, to all our readers: Stay tuned!

What kind of relationship do you see between color and music?

Energy. Energy means movement.  To release negative energies trapped inside the mind is possible through music and expressive art creation.  How?  To expend energy on music making and expressive art can bring us back in time or imagine into the future.  That said, it’s the act of being present in the moment and engaged in such activities that creates the necessary space for the mind to unwind, relax and expand.  We can heal blocked memories and emotions by shifting our energy, allowing the potential to transform our lives.  That’s the magic of combining a unique workshop offering harp MUSIC & MARI.

That’s really interesting. I wish I could be there and take part to these fascinating

I wish you were there too, Teresa. But who knows… Maybe in the future you will…

I hope so. Francesca.  Before closing our interview:  What if our readers want to get in touch with you either to buy your book or – especially if they live in your area – take part to one of your courses, workshops or retreats: How can they contact you?

Everybody is welcome to contact me either through my websites or through social media.
I will look forward to hearing from our readers. Thank you, Teresa.

Thank you, Francesca, for having been with us.

Disclaimer: All material presented in this article is for educational purpose only and not intended as medical advice.  If you have any health issues you are concerned with, consult with your physician or primary health care practitioner first.  For more information about how Maria Teresa De Donato, Ph.D. can help you as a Traditional Naturopath and Homeopath, you can contact her at   -  Thank you.