In addition to the physical, emotional and financial challenges of recovering from addiction, many women face the additional strain of being separated from their children.
Three local non-profit organizations have partnered up to help them reconnect through the Lullaby Project Reno. Now in its third year, Reno Phil musicians and Note-Able Music Therapy Services (NMTS) music therapists work with women from STEP2 (a residential additional treatment center for women) to write, sing and record lullabies for their children.
Music therapists first guided participants through the process of identifying and then releasing the complicated emotions surrounding the mother/child dynamic. The music therapists then helped them find the words and music to fully express the bond between themselves and their children. NMTS music therapist Sharon Hickox says with some women, they had to start with identifying what a lullaby was because many of the women had never been sung to or soothed as children.
With lyrics and music written, the women then chose the instruments they wanted, and musicians from the Reno Phil backed them up as they sang their lullabies. The project ended with recording sessions at Tanglewood Studios, with each woman receiving a copy of her lullaby to share with her children.
Sunflowers, daisies, and little butterflies
The mood is yellow so softly close your eyes
Eskimo kisses, chicken nuggets, melted ice cream pops
I am here and you are there, but we are not apart.
“The stories of the women in the Lullaby Project demonstrate the power of music to create lasting change,” shared NMTS Executive Director and Music Therapist Manal Toppozada. “Each of them describes a newly gained sense of confidence, strength and self-worth from participating in this project.”
One of the STEP2 participants, Analyse shares, “It gives me more confidence that I can do what I set out to do. Before I didn’t have a lot of encouragement. This gives me encouragement and inspiration.”
Another STEP2 participant, Victoria had a similar experience, “This project has helped me recognize that all the doubts I had about myself are illusions.”
In addition to helping the women in recovery, the project also impacted the people working with them. “The Lullaby Project was one of the more immediately impactful things I have been able to participate in over the course of my career as a musician and educator,” said Eileen Brownell, a cellist with the Reno Phil. “This offers these women a shining and rare opportunity to receive affirmation and validation and take pride in something beautiful they have created. It is a truly wonderful thing.”
Toppozada had a similar experience. “Watching this project unfold over the past two years has been so inspiring for me, both as a therapist and a musician,” she said. “I have been humbled seeing each woman open up and commit fully to the project, to her recovery, and to her children. Each woman glows with vibrant positivity, hope and empowerment — a glow they did not know they had or lost in their struggle with addiction.”
I love you both more than you know
More than the stars shine
More than moons glow
You’re so perfect I wish you could see
How absolutely amazing you both are to me.
The local project was inspired by Carnegie Hall’s Lullaby Project, which “pairs pregnant women and new mothers and fathers with professional artists to write and sing personal lullabies for their babies, supporting maternal health, aiding child development and strengthening the bond between parent and child.” In New York City, Carnegie Hall works with parents in healthcare settings, homeless shelters, high schools, foster care and correctional facilities. Lullaby Project Reno is one of 25 international partner sites of the Carnegie Hall Lullaby Project.
Reno’s Lullaby Project will be celebrated in a special Mother’s Day weekend brunch and fundraiser, which is open to the public. The Lullaby Brunch takes place at The Grove (95 Foothill Road) on Saturday, May 11, from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Your $85 ticket gets you a three-course brunch, a gift for mom, piano played by Reno Phil musician Aren Long, breakfast cocktails and mimosas.
Money raised from the Lullaby Brunch will be used to continue the local program, enabling even more women to use the power of music to reclaim their lives and heal their relationships with themselves and their children.
“We are so grateful to the Reno Phil and Note-Able Music Therapy Services for providing our clients the opportunity to write and sing lullabies to their children,” said STEP2 CEO Mari Hutchinson. “This process and the outcome of a recorded lullaby for their children are extremely therapeutic and impactful to our women as they work to rebuild their lives.”
The Reno Lullaby Brunch is supported by Mt. Rose Drinks, Steinway & Sons and Swag Blue.
“The project has been amazing, and an incredible opportunity and blessing,” shared Kamara, a Step2 participant. “Without their support, I don’t think I could have done it.”