Lights, Camera, Action! Music Videos With At-Risk Youth

Jordan Godwin
Journicle Review

Smith, L., (2012). Sparkling divas! therapeutic music video groups with at-risk youth. Music
Therapy Perspectives, 30(1), 17-24.

A study done by Camilleri in 2007 concluded that youth who live in poor urban neighborhoods struggle with self-identity, self-esteem, academic success, self-expression, and the ability to work with others in a group setting (Smith, L., 2012). These challenges arise from negative life exposure, such as drug use, gangs, and violence. Due to this situation, there are state and federal organizations that are dedicated to developing programs specifically for at-risk youth.

One of these programs is the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, which provides services and a positive community for at-risk youth. In these programs, the arts play a huge role: dancing, art, and drama. But what about music therapy? Is there a place for that in these programs? Lauren Smith, in this pilot study, suggests that there is not only a place, but an absolute need for it.

As an arts-based program, music therapy is slowly being integrated into these types of federal and state programs (Smith, L., 2012). The goals when using music therapy with this population are to develop trust, group cohesion, and spark creativity. However, there is a lack of the use of technology in the music therapy experience. Smith argues that in the lives of teens, technology plays a huge role (i.e., social media, music videos, texting). The purpose of her pilot study was to use that generation’s relationship and understanding of technology in a musical setting in order to achieve a community-based therapeutic experience.

The study included seven girls aged 10 through 13 participating in nine sessions dedicated to create a safe and supportive environment that promotes self-expression, healthy peer relationships, and non-violent communication (Smith, L., 2012). The group had to work together to write, direct, and produce a music video that they could show to their friends and family. Sessions 1 through 5 were dedicated to creating the musical elements and recording the lyrics. Sessions 6 through 8 involved recording and editing the actual video. Session 9 was the premier party of the video. Garage Band and iMovie were the technologies used to complete this project. The girls in the group were all given leadership roles, whether that was vocal or dance solos, or a behind the scenes leadership role. The girls were given a creative outlet to express themselves, make friends, work together to reach a common goal, and a safe environment to just be teenage girls.

Smith concludes that the therapeutic music video process provided a way to reach therapeutic goals that was relevant, accessible and fun to these girls. This experience not only created strong friendships with their peers, but it gave them a sense of their worth and potential, all through making music together.

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Image credit: Flickr user SPDP