Project Beat It!: Empowering SAMH Clients through Percussion Music

Following the positive response to the earlier Capstone music programme with the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH), three CAPT students explored how percussion could provide opportunities for individuals with mental illnesses to master a skill, gain self-confidence in a group setting and improve their emotional health in the process. For their Capstone project, they worked with SAMH to identify needs, conducted a review of the literature on music-based interventions, and attended training workshops conducted by SAMH and a music specialist. The team planned, implemented and evaluated an 8-week programme for 6-10 persons (clients of SAMH) using group-based percussion activities to develop rhythmic sensitivity, improvisation and facilitate interaction. Through the weekly sessions, participants had opportunities to explore ensemble playing (using cups, and handbells) and took turns to lead a drum circle. The programme was well-received, and in the process, the team discovered the value of celebrating small victories and of meeting each individual wherever they were. Both SAMH and the team hope that future projects will be able to build on this.

Reflections from Capstone team members

“What is most heartwarming is the fact that music truly brought people of diverse backgrounds together. Even though we were all vastly different, we made friends with one another, held interesting conversations, played wonderful music and enjoyed our time immersing in the wonders of music. Through the course of interacting with the clients, I gained a more realistic understanding of mental illness and the invisible battles that these people fight every day. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed the academic component of the Capstone experience. The research, though tedious, allowed me to gain a deeper understanding into the field of music therapy and specifically the positive effects that percussion can bring. One of the most valuable lessons learnt from this Capstone experience is to never discount our efforts, to keep track of gradual progress and acknowledge shortcomings objectively.”

– Chen Si, Year 2, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

“The Capstone Project was my first time working with persons suffering from mental illness, and the experience granted me greater awareness of the struggles these individuals face, and fostered a deeper sense of empathy. It inspired and humbled me to see how they continued persevering despite their challenges, and seeing their faces every week – being eager to learn and enjoying the sessions – brought immense joy to me. I am honoured to have had the opportunity to speak into their lives in small intangible ways; to empower and bring joy, and teach them music skills which they could then apply into their daily lives. I saw with my own eyes, the power of music in bringing people together. From a group of strangers to individuals who were comfortable to have fun and learn together – this was what music could do.”

– Nathania Chua, Year 2, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences