EVERETT — There were solos on the box drums. A musical version of follow the leader. And a karaoke sing-along to Joan Jett & the Blackhearts’ “I Love Rock ‘n Roll.”
Welcome to Thursday evening at the Snohomish County Music Project.
A therapeutic group meets weekly at the Northwest Music Hall, inside the Everett Mall. The Music YoU-ROCK program is for teens and young adults with special needs.
“These guys are my life,” said Anthony Moore, 20. “I’m here enjoying it with my friends. The thing I like the most is the band. I have a lot of friends here.”
Moore was one of five participants for a session in early November. They were all from Everett or neighboring communities and ranged in age from 16 to 21.
Leading the session was Ben Kendall, a board certified music therapist. The multi-instrumentalist with long, dark hair and an introspective air opened with hand-drumming to get people moving.
“I just let them play to start with, kind of an open jam,” Kendall said.
Over the next hour and a half, they moved through other activities. For follow the leader, they took to keyboards, drum sets and open-tuned guitars, while Kendall manned the bass. He described it as a play-how-I-play activity.
“It’s a way to build social skills as well as a mirroring activity,” he said.
As they went around the circle, it came time for Amanda Winsor to lead. Wearing a shirt with “Girl Warrior” on the front, the 16-year-old sat cross-legged with a small purple guitar.
She would strum for a few seconds — then stop abruptly. A few more seconds — and stop. A quick chord — and brief silence. The others, on their respective instruments, tried to play and pause along.
They rehearsed an original song, “Friendship of Magic,” playing along with tone chimes. They wrote the lyrics in October. The song begins:
We believe in magic
It’s all about being nice
Not being a bully and
Keeping others safe
They finished with a mini dance party and a goodbye song.
Kendall graduated in 2015 from Seattle Pacific University, where he studied music therapy and psychology. He later interned at a psychiatric hospital in New Orleans.
His main instrument is percussion. He’s been playing drums since he was about 10 and has played in several bands, adapting to styles as diverse as heavy metal, indie rock, jazz and funk. He also plays guitar.
“Ben is a good teacher to me,” said Maya Bristol, 19, who enjoys singing, guitar and piano. “He knows a lot of instruments, a lot of different kinds of music.”
In addition to the weekly Everett sessions, the Snohomish County Music Project runs another Music YoU-ROCK program in Tulalip. The programs are operated in partnership with the Washington State Developmental Disabilities Administration.
That’s just one brand of music therapy from the Music Project. There are sessions tailored to incarcerated and homeless youth.
Other forms of music therapy are available for people of varying ages with conditions such as traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder and dementia. There are programs for children —from infants and toddlers on up— and seniors. For military veterans, too.
Launched in 2011, the Music Project grew out of the Everett Symphony, which fell on hard times during the economic downturn.
The nonprofit also manages the Northwest Music Hall, a former triplex movie theater in the Everett Mall. That’s where the group of friends meets Thursdays for the therapeutic rock band.
Scott Grossman, 20, likes the box drums best. He has drums at home, too.
“That’s my favorite,” he said.
Drew Rogerson, 21, chimed in to sum up what his friends were probably thinking.
“I love it so much,” Rogerson said. “We have a good time.”
More info: www.scmusicproject.org
Want to join in?
The Snohomish County Music Project has planned its annual Music YoU-FEST for March 23.
Program administrator Erica Lee described it as “a festival that promotes wellness through music therapy.” The festival includes workshops led by board-certified music therapists, group performances and a scavenger hunt, among other activities. It’s free to all participants.