Monday, March 25, 2013

Jakarta Globe: Using Music as the Soundtrack For Emotional Self-Discovery

Jakarta Globe: Using Music as the Soundtrack For Emotional Self-Discovery

Jakarta Globe | November 04, 2012

Using Music as the Soundtrack For Emotional Self-Discovery


In 2004, Sara Michieletto was in the West Bank performing at a public school in Palestine when a young girl burst into tears.

Sara is an internationally renowned violinist from the La Fenice Symphony Opera Orchestra, who has played with everyone from the London Philharmonic to Marusya Nainggolan. She was in Palestine as part of a collaboration between Unesco and the UNDP.

Sara was performing short pieces meant to teach children how to embrace and recognize moods and emotions, when the girl ran out of the classroom in tears. Sara said that at that moment she had realized the power of the music she played.

Spreading the music

Sara has since played around the world, from the slums of Chennai, India, to the famed Carnegie Hall in New York City, with one aim in mind: bringing emotional awareness to the children of the world.

This mission is what has brought her to Panti Asuhan Pondok Taruna in East Jakarta, where she is helping orphans at the center identify and embrace their emotions.

Sara is using music, acting and games to help the children identify complex emotions, foster harmonious relationships and dialogues, and encourage them to have empathy for others.

“I was amazed to see how music can really be a universal language that everybody loves deeply,” said Sara, who currently lives in Jakarta and has spent three to four hours every week at Panti Asuhan for the last year and a half.

“After playing for children and people with no opportunities to hear high-quality live performances, I decided I wanted to find a way to divide my time between performing for upscale audiences and for people with little or no access to performances.”

Identifying feelings may seem a little too New Age for some, but Sara believes that some of the breakthroughs she has seen at the Pondok Taruna would transform even the hardest skeptic.

“A few years ago I had the chance to meet Professor Bruno Rossi, professor of general and social pedagogy at the University of Siena in Italy and a renowned expert on emotional competence. He gave me the idea of connecting the pure feelings of hearing music with fostering emotional intelligence.”

Music and health

More importantly, Sara believes good emotional health means one is better prepared to handle difficult events that might occur in life. For children, learning to identify and understand their feelings is a valuable skill needed to grow and thrive in life.

The hard-working staff at Panti Asuhan have embraced Sara’s interaction with the children wholeheartedly.

“One of the girls used to be very shy, she used to come to the activities and sit in the back, stay silent, look very serious and would be very embarrassed when participating [in the activities],” Sara said.

But slowly, day by day, the young girl came to love Sara’s visits. She started talking more openly, expressing her opinions, and, at the end, she became one of the most active and enthusiastic actresses in the class.

Another success story involved a young boy, who was also very shy but blossomed into a creative and expressive storyteller who even created the plot for his own show.

“One year later, I met him,” Sara said. “Now he can speak English, he is doing very well at school and told me he would like to become a political representative for his home district in Sumatra.”

Stories like these are the ones that keep Sara and the other volunteers coming back to Pantai Asuhan week after week.

Finding their spotlight

Currently, Sara, a mother of two, has spent the last few months working tirelessly with 14 children from the Pantai Asuhan on “Flowers,” a short play written by the children, which tries to make people realize how often and easily our perspective changes, and how our moods dictate our life views.

The play centers around Myuki, a flower seller who is under the influence of naughty elves. These troublemakers alter Myuki’s perception of her customers. For example, when the ugliest boy in the world enters her shop, she is a excited and enthusiastic mood because the elves make her see the boy as handsome and charming. She eventually falls in love with him. But when the next customer arrives, the Elf of Fear plays a trick on her and alters her mood so she sees a criminal boss in a new light.

The play will be performed live for the first time as part of the Jakarta Fringe Festival on Saturday at Lippo Mall Kemang. The performance is in Indonesian but playbills will be distributed in both English and Indonesian.

Although she has done a lot of work on the play, Sara insists that none of the work she has done with the children would be possible without the dedicated staff of Pantai Asuhan or fellow volunteers like Nancy Fox, who has been instrumental to the development of the project.

“‘Flowers’ is an interesting mix of a Cinderella story that the kids came up with and how we deal with emotions,” Fox said. “We’ve seen the kids change in the process of putting together this play in the sense that they’ve become more confident about themselves, and they feel secure enough to open up to us about their emotions.”

In recent months, Sara has invited other artists from around the world to volunteer and work with the children in an effort to bolster the children’s confidence and give them a chance to interact with a wide range of international performers.

In August, the Italian actress Ippolita Baldini generously joined the project and held a one-week workshop on emotions, and Canadian violinist Lyndi Prendergast is currently teaching the children violin and helping with the music for “Flowers.”

Next Saturday will be the culmination of months of hard work for Sara, Nancy and 15 of the kids at Panti Asuhan. But the most important thing that comes with stepping on stage at the Fringe Festival will be witnessing the confidence of the kids of Panti Asuhan, and that is something we can all applaud.

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