WOOSTER − A small recording studio at The Village Network is an oasis for creativity.
Residents of the Akron Road facility have access to five guitars, a laptop, microphones and headphones and an electric drum set, which they can use to create music as a form of therapy, said Danielle Coffinbarger, a music therapist of five years with the organization.
The Village Network is a nonprofit behavioral health agency that works with children and families through community-based and residential treatment programs. It serves thousands of youth in 21 locations and more than 90 schools in Ohio and West Virginia, according to its website.
“With music, kids can get stuff out in a way that doesn’t always happen in therapy,” she said. “It’s another way to express themselves.”
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To improve both the musical arts and the power of music therapy, the Wayne County Community Youth Foundation provided a $1,000 grant to The Village Network in 2020 to purchase updated music equipment for the studio.
The network showed its appreciation to the foundation for its support with a tour of the studio Thursday morning. In attendance was Executive Director Melanie Garcia, who listened to some music created by the treatment facility’s residents.
“The music recording studio has become a safe haven of creativity for so many of the youth here, and I am eternally grateful that we were provided the opportunity to do it for them,” Coffinbarger said.
How music therapy helps
While discussion-based therapy is typically helpful, Coffinbarger said, some experiences, stories or feelings are more difficult for youth to describe. That’s where the arts come into play.
Music allows some people to open up in ways they otherwise might not with traditional therapy.
“(They) have even opened up with me about experiences they have had, and then they’re able to process them therapeutically,” she said.
Studies have shown that music therapy can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, improve memory, manage pain and help individuals cope, according to a post on the Cleveland Clinic’s website.
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It is often used with military service men and women, veterans, people with autism and Alzheimer’s, those in correction facilities and people with histories of trauma and crisis.
Since the studio’s creation in 2019, kids have created countless hours of musical content, most of which is entirely original as a team or as individuals.
“Sometimes we have the kids partner up with one doing lyrics, another singing and the other making the beat,” she said.
For one music therapy participant who dreams of making it big in the music industry, the studio challenges his creative side. It’s where he can relax and have fun while expressing himself.
“Some of my friends like it because it helps them calm down,” the participant said.
Creating a musical space
The idea for the recording studio goes back to 2018 when Coffinbarger first joined The Village Network.
The studio was then used as a music therapy storage space.
The next year, the network began working with the Wayne County Community Youth Foundation on a $1,000 grant to update and modernize the burgeoning space.
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While some art programs, such as the drama club, have yet to return from the pre-pandemic days, Coffinbarger said, the studio has been a hit.
“We get a lot of requests to use the space,” she said.
The studio is open to all Village Network residents, even those without musical experience.
Coffinbarger hoped the music room would become a safe space of fun, learning and expression, and she believes that goal has been accomplished.
When a resident leaves the treatment program, Coffinbarger gives them a hard copy of their music.
“For many, holding that physical copy of their music gives them a sense of ownership, and that’s because it is their music,” she said.
Supporting mental health care
For Garcia, the studio space is exactly the type of project the nonprofit charitable youth foundation should support.
Not only does it help youth express themselves, but it looks at mental health with a perspective not often considered.
Before leaving after the tour, Garcia asked Coffinbarger what the studio still needed to become the best space for residents.
On that list is a nonelectric drum set and various soundproofing elements for the walls — items Garcia hopes to help Coffinbarger make a reality.