Wendy Becker and Rik Howard are long-time MFAS musicians and we talked to them about their experience working with us and what a performance is like from their point of view.
- How long have you been working with Music For All Seasons?
We have been working with MFAS about 10 years. A musical colleague of ours, Harvey Cohen, was coordinating artists on the West Coast, knew our work and invited us to be a part of MFAS.
- What is your musical/education background?
Rik is a self-taught musician, but has written and sung themes for about a dozen network television series, and has scored several series. He has also won grand prize awards in several huge international songwriting contests. He plays guitar, piano, and sings.
Wendy earned a B.F.A degree in Music Therapy from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and has been performing onstage since the age of five. As she grew, so did the stages, and she has shared them with Barbra Streisand, Josh Groban, David Foster and many other musical celebrities. She has written songs that have charted in Europe. In addition, as an actress she has performed on TV, the stage and in films. She plays piano and sings.
- What programs have you participated in with MFAS?
– Children’s Oncology Ward and Kidney Dialysis units at Childrens’ Hospitals in Los Angeles and Orange County
– Venice Free Clinic
– Orangewood Childrens’ Home- emergency shelter for neglected and sexually, physically or emotionally abused children
– Shelters for families victimized by domestic violence in Los Angeles and Orange County California as well as in New Jersey
– Henry Street Settlement, New York(helping families feeling the effects of urban poverty)
– Juvenile Detention Center, New Jersey
- What is the most rewarding part about working with MFAS?
It is truly amazing to see and experience the healing powers of music before our eyes. This is a very general description, but it seems that no matter what type of population we are dealing with this kind of scenario occurs. We know that we are walking in to an audience of people of all ages who have possibly never experienced live musical performance. They have suffered and/or are suffering from various kinds of pain, both physical and emotional which is often evident by a sense of stiffness, but when we begin performing, within just a few moments, the whole room energy changes. There are smiles, and an easing of tension that we can see on their faces. As the performance goes on the whole general energy of the room shifts from tension to ease and joy. It is exhibited also by maybe clapping or singing along as well as interest in what we are playing. By the end of the hour, there is a definite difference that everyone feels.
- Do you have any experiences/stories to share about your time with MFAS that really stand out?
W-It is profoundly rewarding to do this kind of work. Utilizing our talents to lift the spirits and alleviate some of the pain that people may be experiencing is profound. I believe that we give a sense of hope in an otherwise dreary and hopeless kind of existence, sometimes without even having to say a word. It seems almost magical. I guess it’s the magic of music. I know from my studies that we have physical changes that occur in our bodies, just from listening to music-our heart rate changes, our posture and sweat glands even change. But here I also experience firsthand the fantastic changes that occur on many levels, and that change can stay for quite a while.
For me (us) it is a natural high.
R-I would imagine that a child that is not living with their nuclear family, or an abused woman and child, might have trust issues as a result of their experiences. I have seen the tentative expressions and uncertainty in their eyes. After a short period of time, they start to believe that we are there for their enjoyment and they start to relax into a new stance, with a sense that we won’t hurt them, or let them down. It is very important for us not to have any judgment in our hearts, and just maintain the hope that they will join with us on this journey. We must bring all of our talent and intention to fulfill this mission. I believe that each of these encounters can change a person forever.
- Do you have any final comments?
This work not only heals, but when we can touch others with our music, the effects for us are also very powerful. It is a real sense of doing work that is worthwhile, and so it becomes a healing process for us as musicians. Music heals and heals the healer.