“Inclusion is something everyone should practice in their daily lives,” freshman Rosie Lynch said. This statement is the core idea of Lynch’s club “Special Melodies,” which aims to use music therapy to create a community of embracement.
Music Therapy is a health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address the physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of individuals. Special Melodies brings this type of therapy to persons with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities (IDDs). A host of musical activities could occur in any given session of the club, ranging from bringing in instruments to listening to a performance from an artist or a band.
A Miami native, Lynch started Special Melodies at her high school and hopes to “bring the best part of high school to college” by continuing the program at Villanova. Lynch always had a love of music-related activities, such as dancing, singing karaoke and creating instruments. When she discovered that she could bring those personal joys to a community, specifically that which she had become a part of Best Buddies, she was excited: “Everyone is into some element of music— if you make it fun, it can be a very powerful experience”
Lynch believes that music therapy is something that easily and authentically connects people to others. Her favorite club memory involves such a connection. Lynch was assigned to a nonverbal partner in Best Buddies and worked for months to communicate and form a friendship. When the two began to be involved in Special Melodies, their bond was finally forged through dancing.
“He finally started being excited about activities and engaging with me,” Lynch said. “Once I connected with him, he was so open-minded. It was a real bond. I could feel it.”
The goal of the club is unique in that it is not only focused on those with IDDs but also the club members: Lynch wants the club to teach and connect the students involved with helping just as much as the people who the club is targeted to help. In fact, the organization’s background is just as deeply rooted in her personal growth as it is in her desire to help others.
“I used to be very closed off to people, and my childhood was based upon trying to escape that,” Lynch said. “If I can help others create a connection and live their true selves, I feel like I’ve accomplished something.”
When asked about the best aspect of the club, Lynch answered, “Special Melodies will get you out of your personal bubble. It’s a risk-taking experience because everyone changes through being involved. Your preconceived notions about anyone you see will be defied when you watch and involve yourself with making real bonds.”
Lynch plans to bring Special Melodies to the University by her sophomore year. She is currently in the process of garnering interest and, further researching the program. Lynch hopes to utilize her connections as a Local Program Host in the university’s Special Olympics program as well as the musical resources and organizations on campus in the club’s activities.
When asked about her greatest desire for the program, Lynch says that, if anything, she wants everyone involved to be accepting and feel included: “No matter who you are or what your background is, everyone deserves to be heard.”