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Seattle Harpist Adds Patient Therapy to her Repertoire

monica-headshot“My work as a therapeutic harpist is a service and not a performance. I don’t expect any kind of recognition,” multi-talented Seattle musician Monica Schley explained when she sat down to discuss her experience as a Certified Clinical Musician. Most of Schley’s musical roles, such as her chamber-pop band, The Daphnes, or role in the experimental pop opera, “Now I’m Fine,” involve performance and entertainment but through her service as a therapeutic musician, she says, she’s found “soul purpose” and improved aspects of her musicianship.

Schley began her journey with the harp at the age of 14. Since then she’s gained mastery of her instrument and acquired a wide repertoire of music which will  soon debut on her first full length album “Keep the Night Dark.” Her experience spans classical, chamber, rock, jazz, improvisation and avant garde. She teaches, composes, and has collaborated with dozens of musicians. Three years ago she did something different. She enrolled in a course in clinical musicianship accredited by the National Standards Board for Therapeutic Musicians. In addition to the coursework she served an intensive internship playing roughly 40 hours in hospitals and kidney dialysis centers and 20 hours in hospice. This is the first year she’s been practicing with full certification. As a therapeutic harpist, Schley says, her ability to memorize music has improved and “It really opened up my ears to how I connect music and sound.”

Schley has played for over 250 patients and each environment calls for a unique marriage of sound and music. “If I go into a room with an oxygen machine or beeping I’m going to play in that scale to avoid disharmony,” she explained. “Like any doctor, I want to make things better and not cause any anxiety.  I enjoy that about what I do. I’m attuned to sound. If I’m playing for someone recovering from surgery I choose something with a regular beat and play chord progressions that are soothing. When someone is passing on simplicity is sometimes the best thing. Sometimes I play just one note.”

monicainsituSchley brings a small 22 string harp with a guitar strap to her therapeutic sessions.  She plays for various lengths of time depending on the audience. “What I do is passive,” she said. “I’m never asking anyone to do anything. Sometimes I introduce myself. Sometimes I just play.”

Therapeutic harp benefits everyone listening to it including staff, medical professionals and family. As a service, Schley doesn’t expect any audience response to her music its goal is to simply promote healing yet the feedback she does receive is positive. “Monica has shared her incredible harp music with our patients and staff, bringing relaxation, therapy and healing to us all,” writes an R.N.  “A lot of the time a family member is in the room and they may enjoy it as well,” Schley said. “Sometimes family doesn’t realize—they need it too!”

According to the National Standards Board for Therapeutic Musicians therapeutic music enhances a patient’s environment to make it more conducive to healing.  Curing is done by the medical community but healing is facilitated by addressing the emotional, spiritual, mental and physical aspects of life which can be done with the universal language of music. “Whether you’re aware of it or not sound goes into your body and organs,” Schley explained. Therapeutic music can relieve stress and tension, augment pain management, reduce blood pressure, aid mental focus, ease transitions, or accelerate healing among other benefits. “I’m happy to be able to use my skill to help people,” Schley said. Clinical musicianship “has helped me in so many ways to be a more compassionate and better person. It’s truly meaningful work.”

Contact Monica or email harp@nullmonicaschley.com for more information on her services.

Looking for Certified Clinical Musicians throughout the states? Try the National Standards Board for Therapeutic Musicians database.

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