As Berkshire Hills Music Academy continues to grow its student body and presence in surrounding communities, the organization is attracting the attention of skilled educators in the Pioneer Valley and beyond. In a recently published blog post, you read about a young woman who ventured to BHMA from South Africa to conduct research for her doctoral dissertation; this week, we had the pleasure of speaking with music therapist, Andy Anderson— a Virginia transplant, and the newly appointed Assistant Director of Music and Music Vocation at BHMA.
Andy’s love of music began in the second grade when he got his first drum set. Shortly thereafter, he picked up the guitar. Music quickly became more than just a hobby for Andy, who showed an interest and aptitude for most instruments that crossed his path. Andy’s passion led him to pursue a degree in music therapy from the Berklee College of Music in 2004 so that he could share music as a tool for development with those who would benefit most from its integration. His skill sets as both a musician and educator are expansive; he’s equipped to offer person-centered instruction to our students on the drums, guitar, bass (electric & upright), fiddle, mandolin, banjo and piano. Andy also possesses an incredible knack for accentuating just about any song with his ability to harmonize.
Post Berklee, Andy acquired a breadth of experience in the human service field at early childhood, elementary and high schools, nursing facilities, Mclean Psychiatric Hospital, Shriner's Burn Hospital and Boston Medical Center. He also served as the Co-creator and Director of Experience Music Program at the Community Music Center in Boston-- a program that bridged the existing gap between early childhood music programs and typical music lessons. Just before choosing BHMA, he was working as a studio musician for two years.
Currently, Andy facilitates the American Roots ensemble, teaches a number of private lessons, and works with one of BHMA's two LIVE (Long-term Independent Vocation Experience) bands-- a group of graduates who design and deliver music programs for older adults. Andy has forged partnerships with 13 area nursing facilities where the LIVE bands and second year Music & Human Service group rotate through over the course of the year. As he approaches his fourth year as a music therapist/instructor, and member of the BHMA community, here’s what Andy had to say so far about his experience:
What do you love most about BHMA?
"I appreciate that there is a place with an established culture of supporting students with innovative and creative thinking. I appreciate that I am able to be part of a team that is constantly ready and willing to break the mold if it benefits our students. Our strength lies in our ability to combine both structure and flexibility."
Can you describe the relationship the LIVE Bands have fostered within the greater community?
"My belief is that anytime our students have the opportunity to be in the community, learning, the community benefits by learning from and about them. The impact is not only felt by the residents of these facilities but by the staff as well. Our students are seizing the opportunity to use their tools as, not only great musicians and performers, but excellent communicators and ambassadors of BHMA. The investment and expectations for these groups are high and coupled with compensation for their craft, it helps to foster an increased level of professionalism and reliability. It's been huge for our students and for all who show up to see them perform."
How have you seen music-infused programming impact our students?
"The use of music as a teaching tool is nothing new. I know it would have taken me years to learn the alphabet had it not been for the song. I think many can relate to that. A quick look at a student's schedule and one would see "Drum Lesson," "Alternative Takes Ensemble," "Dance Ensemble," "Variety Hour," to name a few. At face value, these can be looked at as enjoyable musical activities. At their core, they are opportunities to engage with staff and fellow students in one-to-one and group environments within a format that is incredibly fulfilling and uplifting. While musical development is certainly important, it is the development of those abilities that lie outside of the musical realm that is our primary objective. These activities are our designed opportunity to build on communication, social and physical boundaries, diction, motor skills, and a host of other skillsets. This structure, coupled with classes like banking and budgeting, cooking, social skills, health, etc. provide an extraordinarily well-rounded, and supportive, opportunity to develop and hone a multitude of new and familiar abilities."
Do you have any favorite moments?
"Some of my favorite moments have been watching as someone new enters the building and is forced into a smile by the music and the energy of the environment, much like I was when I first set foot in it."
Andy's dedication to the art and science of music therapy, commitment to lifelong learning, and personalized approach to teaching others makes him an incredible asset to the Berkshire Hills team. He hopes to continue building the music and music vocation program at BHMA to further our reach and increase our impact, while putting the goals and needs of our students first.
When he's not at BHMA, Andy enjoys spending time with his family, woodworking, and tending to his hobby farm. We're so happy to have you on board, Andy, and we appreciate all that you bring to the BHMA!