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Mind Matters: The Odd Couple

mental-health-2019924_1280

When I returned to graduate school in psychology, writing papers was a typical assignment. This was often the case in courses dealing with clinical material. I remember being assigned a paper in a class on Family Dynamics; we were asked to describe a family we were treating and discuss how the work was progressing. At the time of this assignment, I was not treating a family, yet I still had to write this paper. Thinking creatively and drawing upon my music background, I asked the professor for permission to write about Mozart's family. I wanted to explore the complicated relationship between Wolfgang and his father, their estrangement, and the impact on Mozart of his mother's death when she traveled with her son to Paris in 1778. When I proposed this idea to my professor, her reply startled me when she inquired, "What does psychology have to do with Mozart's family?" I privately wondered if she thought I wanted to write a project on the comic escapades of two dissimilar movie characters who shared an apartment: Felix Unger and Oscar Madison, famously known as the "odd couple." I was astounded at her inability to think outside the box. I did not believe that combining psychology and music was odd at all. I wrote my paper on Mozart's family. I am reminded of this assignment as I write this article. 


Music teaching and mental health

Last spring, not long after the MTNA Conference in Las Vegas, I was invited by Gary Ingle, Executive Director of MTNA and Brian Shepherd, Chief Operating Officer of MTNA, to co-chair with my colleague, Gail Berenson, Past President of MTNA, a full day of programs on music teaching and mental health at the 2016 MTNA Conference on Pedagogy Saturday in San Antonio, Texas. Clearly to the officers of MTNA, combining music and psychology does not create an odd couple. In my experience, I have found that these two disciplines share and create a relationship that works! by Julie Jaffee Nagel The opportunity to offer an entire day on the important topic of music teaching and mental health was music to my ears. To provide well-rounded, in-depth programs, I was able to arrange for the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA), of which I am a member, to co-sponsor this important premier event with MTNA. The April 2 program, now available online at http://members.mtna.org/ conference2016/Wellness.html, offers an impressive array of topics. 


Teaching the whole person

The Pedagogy Saturday program, Developing Self-Confident and Resilient Musicians: Teaching the Whole Person, will bring together music teachers, student performers, and psychoanalysts to address the emotional issues that music teachers confront daily while working with students of all ages. All sessions will emphasize themes of psychological and musical development of the whole person throughout the life span, and will include both music teachers and psychoanalysts who will examine a variety of issues that come alive in the teaching studio. The therapist-client relationship is quite similar to the one-to-one teacher- student relationship that develops over many years of music study. Students and clients do not bring a simple emotional slate with them to music lessons or psychological consultations. All sessions are designed around exploring this complex "slate" that students bring to their lessons. Wide-ranging topics such as competition, shame about performance anxiety, boundaries in the teacher/student relationship, and music teaching in the twenty-first century are among the areas to be explored. There also will be a live teaching demonstration followed by a dialogue between students and psychoanalysts. Movie clips that concern music teaching and learning from the evocative film The Visitor will be shown and discussed. The audience will be invited to ask questions, share comments, and participate in discussions. To further this "odd couple" collaboration, Professor Berenson will be the presenter (along with Seymour Bernstein as guest) in a program that I chair in New York at the winter meetings of APsaA titled "Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Music." The co-sponsorship between MTNA and APsaA creatively establishes a unique collaboration. It sets the stage for additional interdisciplinary programs involving in-reach and outreach for both disciplines beyond our consulting rooms and teaching studios. Please plan to attend and participate in this special MTNA Pedagogy Saturday Program on Developing Self-Confident and Resilient Musicians: Teaching the Whole Person. The opportunity to focus upon teaching emotionally healthy musicians showcases how music teachers play a significant role in helping students develop as individuals, both musically and psychologically, and it promotes the awareness that both students and teachers are greater than the sum of their musical parts. By the way, the professor who originally was suspicious about my pairing "unrelated topics" eventually invited herself to be on my dissertation committee. She became interested in the fascinating connections between music and mental health. Never deterred by her doubts about the presumed odd coupling of topics as a graduate student, I have published articles about Mozart's family and his music and even composed a fantasy dialogue between Mozart and Freud. An odd couple? Just thinking creatively outside the box. Hope to see you in San Antonio!

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