November is Military Appreciation Month, and we would like to introduce you to an Atlanta non- profit working to enrich the lives of veterans through music therapy. Alchemy Sky was founded in 2014 by Jaye Budd, with the simple goal to bring music to the people who need it. Alchemy Sky started out by bringing music therapy sessions to homeless youth at Covenant House Georgia and has recently partnered with the Atlanta VA Medical Center. Within the VA, Alchemy Sky regularly hosts music therapy sessions at the Community Living Center to veterans who may be wheelchair bound or bed bound, and they have done over 40 music therapy sessions so far.
“We’re doing music therapy at the VA,” Jaye Budd explains, “and we average about 14 veterans for the nursing home right on campus at the Veterans Medical Center on Clairmont Road. There are 50 veterans that call the Community Living Center home, and we get about 14 every time we go. We hand out percussion instruments, and try to get them to interact with us and sing songs, and then we use the songs as a doorway to express whatever is on their mind. So we’re kind of creating this sacred space in the community room on the 3rd floor of the VA.”
Music plays a vital role in self expression and healing, especially to those who may be unable to verbalize emotional distress. Alchemy Sky works with with licensed music therapists from Metro Music Therapy, an Atlanta organization during these sessions. “We always try to get as much music interaction and social stimulation as we can. The staff will tell you that having them being able to communicate and being in a social environment and express their feelings will actually lead to a decrease in behavioral outbursts and agitation.”
“We want them to interact. We want them to tell a story, or tell us how they feel. What’s cool about music therapy is that you can kind of customize it on the fly. Not only do the residents love it, but you’ll find staff coming in and singing.”
The music therapy sessions also serve a healing moment to the veterans’ family members as well. Jaye tells us about one of his favorite sessions, “We had a wife come in, who was I think kind of frustrated that [her husband] had to be there—let’s face it, it’s a nursing home, so it’s not absolutely ideal…so she came in and she was looking after her husband; most of our veterans that we work with are bed bound or in wheelchairs. She ended up singing ‘What A Wonderful World’ to her husband, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.”
“You never know where the magic is going to come from, but there is always magic that happens.”
If you are interested in becoming involved with Alchemy Sky, you can reach out to them through their website. They are looking for people to help spread the word and raise awareness of their programs. Musicians can also contact them to become involved in the music therapy sessions.
“We’re just really trying to get the word out. We’re really trying to do community outreach, because the more people that we can communicate to about what we do…[sometimes] you have to cut through some of the noise. We’re always looking for people who can help tell our story or support it in any way. Our vision is to have a program in every one of these Community Living Centers throughout the country.”
Alchemy Sky hosts their first fundraiser this Friday, November 11 (Veteran’s Day), at Smith’s Olde Bar in the Atlanta Room with special guest Thunder Gypsy. Tickets are available online or at the door.