For many Boys Town Jerusalem students in crisis, the path to rehabilitation begins with “do, re, mi.” The school’s music therapy program is scoring success in sparking communication with boys whose emotions are repressed.

“Adolescent boys don’t like to talk about themselves,” admits BTJ music therapist Shlomit Elyasaf. “At first, a troubled boy might not even speak to me at all. Yet when I offer him to select an instrument – anything from ocean drums to castanets – and let him play it at his own rhythm, the barriers begin to fall. I join in with a different instrument, and our dialogue has begun.”

Shlomit, who holds a BA in Special Education and dual MA degrees in Musicology and Music Therapy, explains the magic of music: “When we play an instrument, we speak. The instrument that a boy chooses to play, the tempo that he sets and keeps – all this is language.” Recently, Shlomit reports, a student simply refused to speak or even to choose an instrument to play. Once she began playing music for him, the soothing melody calmed him to the point that he suddenly began to sing. Ultimately she gained his trust, and he opened up for the first time to describe family conflicts he faced.

BTJ’s Music Therapy program, located in the school’s modern Miller Counselling Center, operates in full conjunction with the Center’s team of counselors, social workers, teachers and rabbis. The music room’s collection of instruments  running the gamut from temple blocks, guitars, and various drums to shepherd’s flutes  contains “tools” for every purpose. Shlomit stresses that a background in music is not required for music therapy, which espouses creating, singing, moving to and listening to music in order to address emotional needs.

On a case-to-case basis, the therapy is conducted either privately or in small groups. “In many situations, it’s advantageous to face issues together with your peers,” Shlomit notes. “Here a boy can begin to see himself as others see him. Throughout the process of the therapy and the creation of music, the group members can dare to explore, express themselves, and change together for the better.”

The Music Therapy program is already seeing success, with boys making incredible progress. And that is music to our ears.


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