O’er The Land of The Free, and the Home of the Brave: Star-Spangled Veterans Discover Music as a Way to Transition Back to Civilian Life

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, large numbers of soldiers are returning with a variety of injuries that severely impact their physical and mental health. Overcoming these challenges is so important for a successful transition to civilian life.

Musicorps, created by composer Arthur Bloom, began in 2007, after he was invited to visit a soldier recovering at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The soldier had been badly injured in combat, and was concerned about how his injuries would impact his ability to play music. Bloom and Resources in Music Education, his organization that uses a curriculum of music to help people in need, devised one for veterans in need. To quote from the Musicorps website, “Musicorps replicates real world music relationships. It integrates individualized projects, regular visits by professional musicians, and the use of specially-assembled computer-based music workstations, along with traditional instruments.” Soldiers are able to learn, play, write, record and produce original music.

One of Musicorps’ advisers, Dr. Allen Brown, director of brain research and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic, believes that for veterans with brain injuries, playing music may literally help the brain recover. This is because the process of learning to play music requires the use of many parts of the brain.

As far as the results of the Musicorps ccurriculum are concerned, one soldier, who was never musically inclined, described how much it helped him. Sgt. Levi Crawford was hit with a rocket propelled grenade while serving in Afghanistan in 2010. He was permanently blinded in his right eye, and almost lost his right arm. Sgt. Crawford also suffered traumatic brain injury, which affected his memory, speech and overall brain function. Musicorps helped him gain the confidence to not only learn to play the guitar, but to perform other normal activities such as rock climbing and hiking.

Below is a YouTube video of professional celloist Yo Yo Ma performing with the Musicorps Wounded Warrior Band.