Lima Symphony Orchestra offering Healing Through Music Series

By Merri Hanjora -

LIMA — The Lima Symphony Orchestra was awarded an American Orchestras Futures Fund Grant in the amount of $30,000. This two-year grant was awarded to just 17 orchestras across the nation, and the LSO is hoping to use its grant funds to not only offer entertainment, but also healing.

Elizabeth Brown-Ellis, executive director of the Lima Symphony Orchestra, spent countless hours writing for the grant.

“I found out about this in June of last year while attending the League of American Orchestras conference. The Getty Foundation teamed with the League of American Orchestras and committed to awarding 18 Futures Fund Grant, which creates a tremendous opportunity for the Lima Symphony Orchestra to develop a healing through music initiative. There was a two-round application process. The Getty Foundation decided only to award 17 grants. We were very, very fortunate to be one of them,” said Brown-Ellis.

The “Healing through Music” initiative was born after much discussion with the staff.

“I came back and said we have to do this, we have to do something. We had a staff meeting and we all talked about various ideas, community outreach education ideas and just as we were really sort of defining this was when there was so much in the press about the opioid crisis in the region, and a young woman that my children went to high school with overdosed and it just hit too close to home. This is everyone’s responsibility. We all have to do what we can to address this and, for the Symphony, we don’t usually have these opportunities. We’re so busy performing concerts and using the funding that people donate to us to fulfill that part of our mission, the education and performance part of our mission, that when this came up, it was a great chance for us to reach into the community in a different way and to actually be of service to our community,” said Brown-Ellis. “You can’t wait for someone else to act. Everyone has to do whatever they can do when you’re looking at kids dying. It’s devastating. These are kids, this isn’t a throwaway; this is something we have to address.”

The Lima Symphony Orchestra teamed up with the Mental Health Recovery Services Board to address the idea of healing through music.

“We will do monthly performances at one of four locations with an ensemble from our orchestra,” said Brown-Ellis. “It could be a quartet, or could be three to five to six, who knows, but a small ensemble group will play. Music is just so primal, it speaks to us, it affects our emotions, it makes us happy, sometimes it makes us melancholy, but we can then deal with that in a constructive way. It is not a music therapy program — we are not trained music therapists — but by having a mental health professional there we can kind of move into that a little bit and have it be legitimate. It’s really neat.”

From the viewpoint of a mental health professional, the idea is excellent.

“Well, I think that the great thing about this initiative is the fact that we’re not typical partners, not the usual partners in this kind of a situation. The Lima Symphony Orchestra is thought of as presenting a high-level classical music, black tie sort of thing. People with mental illness or an addiction aren’t normally thought of in that light. Yet so many composers and famous musicians did suffer from mental illness. But the nice thing about this is it brings this music to the street. When Elizabeth and I talked about it, we picked venues that wouldn’t be a typical place that you’d find a symphony ensemble playing,” said Mike Schoenhofer, executive director of the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

Some of the venues will be Coleman Professional Services, SAFY and Mercy Health, to name a few. The concerts will be open to not only the people struggling with addiction and mental health issues, but also to their family and caregivers. A facilitator will be present and the conversation surrounding the music will be a guided conversation with the musicians themselves.

“The most important impact I think is the fact that oftentimes people with a serious mental illness or addiction are often overlooked, they become invisible, they’re regarded as not important, and for the Symphony to come to them, has a terrific impact on their sense of self worth and self-esteem. I think that’s probably the most important thing. The folks that I’ve talked to at Coleman and at St. Rita’s and at SAFY have said they are going to make this a big deal. They’re going to bring people together, they’re really excited about the fact that it’s an opportunity for them to engage in a different way in the community,” said Schoenhofer.

While the community will be impacted from the “Music is Healing” series, Brown-Ellis feels the musicians themselves will be just as affected.

“I think this is going to be a wonderful opportunity for the orchestra and a chance for us to be of service and I’m really looking forward to seeing not only the kind of affect it will have on the constituents we are trying to serve, I expect it to affect all of us. I expect as we go through this and create those community bonds, I think we will all find ourselves changed because of it,” said Brown-Ellis.

By Merri Hanjora

Reach Merri Hanjora at 567-242-0511.

Reach Merri Hanjora at 567-242-0511.

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