Vasheti Quiros, executive director of the Snohomish County Music Project, is more than pleased with the former Purdy & Walters with Cassidy Funeral Home facilities. The site on Everett’s Pacific Avenue is the nonprofit’s new home. Here, she shows a small room, circled by stained glass, used for drum circles and meditative activities. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Vasheti Quiros, executive director of the Snohomish County Music Project, is more than pleased with the former Purdy & Walters with Cassidy Funeral Home facilities. The site on Everett’s Pacific Avenue is the nonprofit’s new home. Here, she shows a small room, circled by stained glass, used for drum circles and meditative activities. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Music therapy breathes life into former Everett funeral home

The Snohomish County Music Project moves downtown from what used to be a movie theater at the mall.

It was once Purdy & Walters with Cassidy Funeral Home, a place where grieving families came to bid final farewells. Through the doors on Everett’s Pacific Avenue, visitors now see signs of its new purpose — bringing hope, help and healing through the joy of music.

The Snohomish County Music Project, a human services and arts organization, has a new home at 1702 Pacific Ave., once the funeral business. Ten guitars line one wall in a big room, once used for memorial services. Two drum kits, a keyboard and a vibraphone are ample evidence that it’s no longer a venue for eulogies or silent tears.

“It’s set up for loud music,” said Vasheti Quiros, the Music Project’s executive director. As many as 17 musicians fill the space on Tuesdays to play in the Music YoU JAM band for veterans and other men. “They make a big circle and enjoy making music together,” she said.

A nonprofit that evolved from the Everett Symphony, the Snohomish County Music Project offers music therapy on site and around the community. Services are provided to infants and children, people in recovery from substance abuse, incarcerated and at-risk teens, seniors with memory issues, military veterans and others.

From its previous home, a former Everett Mall movie theater called the Northwest Music Hall, the Music Project moved downtown July 1. Guests, supporters, clients and Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin were invited to celebrate its new home at a grand opening Friday afternoon.

“It’s really been a blessing,” Quiros said. The nonprofit leases the former funeral home’s main floor and upstairs space from the building’s owner, Skotdal Brothers LLC. “It really is perfect for our needs. We are just ecstatic to be downtown,” she added, noting nearby agencies the Music Project works with.

She said the building, near the courthouse and on a bus line, is both affordable and appropriate for clients’ differing needs. The funeral home had been closed for years.

A smaller room, with outdoor light shining through stained glass, is used for more meditative activities to help people with post-traumatic stress disorder and for drum circles. “It’s peaceful and creates great sound,” Quiros said.

“The majority of our clients are served for free,” Quiros said. The Music Project’s main funding sources are the Tulalip Tribes, Snohomish County and contracts with other agencies, she said.

A monthly Memory Cafe brings together seniors, their caregivers and music therapists. The Music YoU PLAY program is a way for teens and young adults with special needs to join a band.

On Friday, music therapist Cassie Fox and music therapy intern Yana Ramos helped a youth in an alternative to detention program learn to play guitar chords. Ramos, who has studied music therapy at Oregon’s Pacific University, is visually impaired and works with her guide dog, Greta.

Along with Victoria Fansler, the nonprofit’s senior music therapist, and the intern, the Music Project has five other music therapists.

“It’s just really, really wonderful,” said Dallarie Horne-Mosby, a clinical manager at Evergreen Recovery Centers’ residential program in Everett. Music therapists work with women in the program and their infants and toddlers. Women at what was once Evergreen Manor are in treatment for substance use, and some have psychiatric issues.

Some women come in pregnant, Horne-Mosby said, and children age 5 and under are allowed to stay with their mothers during treatment. Music therapy, with its singing and eye contact, helps the moms learn new skills for relating to and soothing their children.

“They get the moms to come up with a lullaby, and their names are in it,” Horne-Mosby said. “The women, it’s surprising to them. This is so helpful.”

At 62, Scott Alexander has been part of the Music Project’s jam band for veterans and other men over 50 for six years. The Mukilteo man, who isn’t a war veteran, said he suffers from depression and PTSD related to other situations.

A bass player and backup percussionist, Alexander joins in Tuesday morning therapy sessions — “drumming, breathing and mindful meditation type stuff” — and jams with the band on Tuesday afternoons. From the start, when a counselor helped him find the program, “it was helping me so much,” he said. “It saved my life.”

Quiros said a majority of Music Project clients have experienced trauma — drug use, domestic violence, poverty, war or something else. “If they’re not able to express themselves verbally, music therapy is a wonderful way to begin kind of breaking through,” she said.

Alexander likes the new venue better than the mall theater, which he said was dark and too big. Was he bothered that it was once a funeral home? “I had some trepidation. But once we sat there, did a little drumming and meditation, it turned out it was awesome,” he said.

And, he said, “we didn’t see any ghosts.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Learn more

From July 2018 through June 2019, the Snohomish County Music Project served more than 3,800 people. Music therapy services were provided to 652 infants and toddlers, 605 children, 963 teens, 208 seniors, and 674 other adults. And 742 other families and people were involved.

Information: http://scmusicproject.org/

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