English Translation

7 November 2020 | GUITANESIA

Laura Sekarputri: Music Therapy

Written by Theduardo Prasetyo

Guitanesia got the chance to interview Laura Sekarputri, who is currently in the United States and works as a music therapist. As a multi-instrumentalist and locally renowned guitarist in Indonesia, Laura remains active in performing outside of her clinical work as a therapist. Check out our interview with Laura Sekarputri:

Laura, how did you discover music therapy and why did you want to become a music therapist?

When I had the opportunity to pursue education at the Berklee College of Music, I was initially interested in becoming a film composer. However, after I experienced depression in the second semester, I had to take a medical leave and so took a gap year back home in Indonesia. That said, my days took a turn for the better as I also discovered the benefits of music to regulate and lift my moods. In addition, I had been actively performing with piano and guitar, both of which are essential instruments that are widely used by music therapists [both on their own] and to accompany themselves singing. Since then, I’ve had a growing personal and professional interest in music therapy and felt the calling to become a music therapist. After recovering and returning to Boston, I decided to major in music therapy.

How was Laura’s experience while studying Music Therapy?

Despite the lengthy courses and the required 1200 hours of clinical training, I was often amazed by the therapeutic power of music, such as when witnessing how music therapy can be applied to help many people “from womb to tomb”; from premature babies to pediatric inpatients, children with special needs, adolescents, adults with mental disorders, to the elderly suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s, and to hospice care. I also enjoy the process of learning various types of music (jazz, country, folk, etc.) as well as other instruments (such as drums & percussion) because the types of music used in music therapy sessions vary greatly and we use patients preferred music, i.e. utilizing songs based on their musical preferences. It’s really exciting nonetheless!

What was the most interesting experience while working in this field?

A memorable experience was an individual music therapy session with an adult inpatient whose family members were visiting him after a relapse. After getting a referral, I visited his room and observed that he looked downcast and seemed very frustrated by the recent hospitalization. When asked what kind of music he liked, he said quietly “James Taylor”, and so I opened my book, sat by the bedside and started to played the guitar intro to “You’ve Got a Friend” (one of the classic hits by James Taylor & Carole King). I purposely chose it due to its positive theme despite the trying times. At first, I was just singing by myself, but gradually to my surprise, he started to sing together with me in an expressive manner. In the middle section of the song, I decided to create an interlude (instrumental break) and facilitated a lyric substitution technique, whereby instead of the original line “you’ve got a friend”, I prompted the the patient to think of his support system, i.e. family members and close friends, most of whom happened to be in that room visiting. We then sing all of their names, as well as the ones not in that room…“You’ve got [insert his/her name here]… You’ve got [insert another name here]” over the chorus of the song. We all shared laughter and eye contact, making this section the climax and very personalized for him (since of course it’s not included in the pre-recorded recording). To my surprise, this turned out to be a successful intervention as he was able to shift his negative thoughts into a more positive reflection as he pondered and expressed his gratitude for his support system despite his current condition—being stuck in the hospital, but he’s never alone. It was also beautiful to see his friends and family sing together with us and later hugged him at the end of the session. To this day, I still remember closing the song (after that special improvisation) with the original chorus “Winter, spring, summer or fall…all you got to do is call..and I’ll be there…You’ve got a friend…” , as well as seeing his grateful tears and lifted mood at the end of the session.

Is Laura still actively performing and making music? What is your current project(s)?

I am still actively performing at international festivals and concerts, such as the International Folk Festival [in Boston] as well as being the bassist and guitarist for two churches in Boston. There are several projects currently underway, including my ongoing collaboration with Jon Samson, a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter who is also a music therapist, the release of my original pop songs (one of which reached the semi-final category of the 2020 Indonesian Songwriting Competition), as well as the Yamko Rambe Yamko remix project.

Has the Covid-19 pandemic situation affected your work in the Music Therapy field?

Yes, unfortunately because of this pandemic period, there is a lot of work that must be postponed because most of my patients are elderly and are vulnerable. However, music therapists are currently trying to shift to ‘tele-health’ sessions online.

What music do you like the most and what music does Laura listen to on a daily basis?

The music that I like to perform the most is gospel, pop, and world music (such as Gamelan). On a daily basis, I like listening to pop, neo-soul / funk and instrumental (classical & jazz) songs.


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