SALEM Va., Oct. 11, 2016 —
For the first time a section of the U.S. Air Force Heritage of America Band participated in a collaborative music therapy program with veterans at the Salem Veterans Affairs Medical Center, here.
After nearly a year of planning, the Blue Aces packed up their vans to make the trip to the Salem Veterans Affairs Medical Center, to see all of the hard work come into play and begin collaborating with patients at the center.
“Engaging in playing with a professional military band gave the veterans other opportunities they never really have,” said Lisbeth Woodward, Salem VA Medical Center music therapist. “[In the music therapy program veterans] can improve memory skills, as well as functional communication skills and can help them interact with people.”
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jason Cale, Blue Aces NCO in charge, said this collaboration uses the Air Force Band in a different way – an impactful way – leveraging music therapy to help our veterans.
“I was hoping for some smiles, I didn’t want to make a negative impact on us or the music therapy program,” said Cale. “I wanted to give it my all, by giving my all it’s not just singing, it’s talking to the veterans, with those who want to talk, those who want to share their story.”
The stage inside of the auditorium of the medical center was arranged in a small circle and the band members still had smiles on their faces from the previous day of interacting with the veterans. They were not the only ones excited for the day’s events.
Woodward said the patients the band interacted with had been excited and looking forward to the moment they got to perform with the band since she told them they were coming to visit.
“Having collaborations like this gives them other means for community,” said Woodward. “They’ve got to have meaningful interactions, to find their voice.”
Each patient had different backgrounds, disabilities and talents, but once on the stage performing with the band, the pain disappeared and giant smiles appeared on their faces.
As the band strummed through a few tunes, they interacted with the veterans, whether it was helping them with notes or just discussing their love for music.
“It was a great privilege for the Air Force Band to come here and take their time and have the talents to come and play with us,” said Clifford Chittum, music therapy patient. “I enjoyed them; I was watching them to imitate them, so I can one day get that sound. With the combination of the music, and the teaching and conversations really changes me a great deal, in my feelings and my attitude.”
Chittum, who has never played an instrument before has been working with Woodward on memory skills with an electric drum set and during his time with the band, they had the patients play one of their memory games showing off how music is useful in that manor.
During their time at the center, the Blue Aces had a full schedule, which included interactive performances in the oncology wing and inpatient floor, two Guitars for Vets classes and three one-on-one interactions to record a few tracks for a CD that each patient will receive as a memory of the time.
“The neat thing about having the Air Force Band play here was the military connection,” said Woodward. “It didn’t take but just a minute. They saw the uniforms and they had a connection, they could communicate right [away], they had a connection that meant something to them.”