Music workshops teach RRC students song writing, mental wellness

By Emily Sinclair

RRC’s Healthy Minds Healthy College Initiative gives students access to mental health resources through events, classes, and more./Photo supplied by RRC

The Manitoba Conservatory of Music & Arts (MCMA) gave RRC students a chance to add to their musical toolboxes in their Song Sharing workshop on March 24. 

“The whole idea is to explore music and learn a little bit more about music,” said Norine Harty, executive director of MCMA. “It’s also a way to connect in this world where we’re all so isolated.” 

Harty said the session, facilitated by local singer-songwriter Lindsey White, was a chance for students to share what they like about their favourite songs and open up a discussion about song meaning and structure. 

Song lyrics written by participants of Manitoba Conservatory of Music & Art’s Songwriting Collaboration Workshop on Feb. 17./Photo supplied by Norine Harty

“Music is all about sharing, especially in these tough times,” said Harty. “Music is something we can hang onto – something that can help us.”

The workshop was a part of the organization’s virtual Music Workshop Series. The events are partnered with RRC’s Healthy Minds Healthy College initiative, which encourages mental health awareness.

Jessica Heise, a music therapist at Transformative Music Therapy in Winnipeg, said sharing songs that are important to us is a way of connecting and being vulnerable with others.

“Whenever I think of song sharing, I think of when we’re teenagers and we’re so deeply connected to the music we listen to,” said Heise. “It’s almost a part of who we are.”

Heise said that music therapy can be a way for post-secondary students to alleviate the physical and mental impacts of pandemic-related stress.

The happy, positive feelings people experience when they eat good food or spend time with friends is caused by the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. 

Even the anticipation of listening to music is enough to trigger the feel-good hormone, according to a 2011 study from McGill University. 

“Music is a great way to help transport us somewhere else,” said Heise. “You’re able to go to a space and just leave that at the door and participate in play, creativity, expression and just be who you are in the moment.”

Harty said participants were welcome to play instruments during the session, but she said she didn’t want to limit the events to people who already had musical backgrounds.

“Music really is a universal language,” said Harty. “Because of our diverse culture in Manitoba, music can really make connections between people.” 

RRC will host their final music workshop of the year on April 21 and registration for that event opens on April 7. Visit the Healthy Minds Healthy College page on Red River College’s website for more information on the workshop series.