Posted on July 8, 2019
Musical achievement at the highest level can make disabilities disappear and severely injured veterans soar. Since 2007, MusiCorps has worked with hundreds of wounded service members, helping them find joy and recover their lives through music. Founded by composer/pianist Arthur Bloom, the organization has its roots in a visit Bloom paid to a soldier who had lost a leg to a roadside bomb in Iraq. The soldier was a drummer and feared he would never play again. Bloom committed to helping not only that soldier, but any injured soldier who wanted to put learning or relearning a musical instrument at the core of their rehabilitation efforts.
Ranch & Coast recently sat down with Bloom, who is in the process of establishing a West Coast home for the group.
Studies show music can reduce anxiety and help brain injuries heal, and Bloom sees music as medicine for the mind. “I’ve seen guys come in here, and they’re going through such a tough time with their injuries that they become very withdrawn. The music opens them up, restarts the engines,” he explains. “By injecting music into this space, we can inject life.”
Many injured soldiers undergo a lengthy recovery process involving numerous, sometimes dozens, of surgeries. MusiCorps has been recognized and honored for its work in adaptive music. Among other things, the organization works with soldiers who have injured hands or missing limbs to create the specialized tools they need — though sometimes it’s as simple as taping a drumstick to a soldier’s arm.
“There’s so much downtime,” Bloom says. “That’s what we fill up with music.” For some, the opportunity simply to play again or to sit in a jam session with other service members is enough to begin the healing process, but as Bloom stresses, MusiCorps is a conservatory-level program. A big part of the soldier/musician’s day is made up of drilling/practicing. In that sense, they already have the discipline to become experts and, at the very highest level, the MusiCorps Band has wowed audiences throughout the country, performing alongside Roger Waters, Yo-Yo Ma, and Sheryl Crow in venues such as the Kennedy Center, Grand Ole Opry, and Madison Square Garden. The group has also been featured on PBS, The Colbert Report, and NCIS, and will be playing this July 4th with the National Symphony Orchestra on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Most exciting for San Diego, which receives more returning vets from Iraq and Afghanistan than any other county in the country, Bloom is working to secure a West Coast home for the group similar to the one it has in the Washington, D.C. area. So far, MusiCorps West has found only temporary digs, but some members have made the cross-country trip to play with local veterans and, as Bloom is quick to note, just being here is a powerful experience for those given the opportunity to take part. musicorps.net Bill Abrams
Arthur Bloom: Photo by Bob Stefanko All other photography: courtesy photography