Inspired by Carnegie Hall’s ‘Lullaby Project’Note-Able Music Therapy Services (NMTS) partnered with STEP2 and the Reno Phil to make the Lullaby Project a reality in our community. For the last month, women from STEP2 (a residential addiction treatment center for women) have stepped out of their comfort zones with guidance from NMTS music therapists to write, sing, and record lullabies for their children. The project culminated in recording sessions at Tanglewood Studios with each woman receiving a copy of their lullaby to share with her children.

The stories of the women in the Lullaby Project demonstrate the power of music to create lasting change. Each woman glows with vibrant positivity, hope, and empowerment; a glow they did not know they had or lost in their struggle with addiction. Each of them describe a newly gained sense of confidence, strength and self-worth from participating in this project. For these women, the Lullaby Project has been more than just writing a song, it has been an opportunity to connect, and heal their relationship with themselves and their children.

We are so grateful to all of the women who participated in this project, and we’re honored to be able to share some of their stories.  

Emily

Who are you writing your lullaby for?

I have Mason. He’s six years old and he’s autistic. He was hard. When he was one or two years old he wasn’t making any of his goals. I spent a lot of time in isolation and depression; just why me, why him, why can’t I go to the park and be normal, what is this going to mean for his future? It was torture. He doesn’t talk yet but he knows ‘no’ and ‘mommy.’  He loves the water and he LOVES music. We have a grand piano and he’s very meticulous on what keys to press.

I can sing to him and it just captures his world. He’s just in your eyes. You know it brings a real peace to him.

Is there one line in your lullaby that holds special significance in your heart?

‘I’ll kneel down next to you to understand your way’

So much time is spent with children that are different, trying to pull them into our world and make them like us. And I’ve more recently realized I need to be in his world, I need to be at his eye level for him to even think about mine existing. That patience. When I was using, I had no patience. It’s not about me, it’s about him and what I can do for him. Again he can never say, ‘Wow mom I love that song you wrote for me.’ But he can just gaze into my eyes and I can feel that love. Then I know I did something right.

What feeling do you hope your child feels when he hears your lullaby?

I don’t know what he’s going to understand from it, because I don’t know what goes on in his little head but the love you know. I hope he can just see that [love] illuminate from me, that this is yours. I made this for you. Mommy didn’t just go away to rehab just to be gone from you. I went to build not only a love and compassion for myself but to work on the love I have for him.

What makes music so powerful?

When I was in residential when all the [Reno Phil] musicians came in here, it brought tears to my eyes. [Music] is…emotion. [Music] brings it out of you. It’s a huge part of us as living, breathing, listening creatures. It just wraps itself around your soul and…comforts you.

Do you have any memories of someone singing lullabies to you?

My dad, he sang Animal Fair to us every night. I can totally visualize all of it. I remember my dad’s voice being soothing, just like structure and normalcy. That was always at the end of the day where you know you were safe.

How did you conquer challenges like self-doubt?

With the support of my peers. Rai and I are really close friends. We would share with each other and she’d be like, “That’s really great!” and I was like, “It is?!” To be able to give advice is like ginormous because it takes a lot of confidence to say, “I think it would be a little better this way” and to have her take that advice and agree with it. You’re like, “Woah! I can make a difference! My voice does matter!” I was always told, “You’re an addict. You can’t make choices for yourself. Somebody else has to make them for you.” I’ve always prevailed, but I’ve never really had that self-worth. I have pride that I’ve never had before. We always say in here [Step2], “Love me some me.” And I do now. There are so many addicts out there, so many, that don’t have this chance. And I’m just so incredibly grateful to have had this experience.

Trista

Who are you writing your lullaby for?

The one I’m pregnant with is the one I’m writing it for. She’ll be the first one ever of my kids that has a song just for her, so it’s very special.

What has it been like to sing your song to your child?

It’s really scary ’cause I can’t sing. I can’t hit certain notes. I sing along to songs but when it’s my own song it’s so much different, it’s harder to sing. I’m really nervous, I’m really scared but I’m happy (for the opportunity).

What reaction do you hope your child has when she hears your lullaby?

Just smile and feel loved. That it’s beautiful because it’s from me. Feeling happiness and love and bonding and everything ’cause I’ll probably hold her while I’m playing the song and she’ll fall asleep hopefully cause I’ll rock her and I might sing with it. Just something that will stick with her forever.

Do you have any memories of someone singing lullabies to you?

I don’t, so this is all new and different. I do wish someone did but my mom was never there. Maybe [my daughter] can pass this on when she has kids and do the same thing. It can be something that I started and it stays in the family type thing.

Is there one line in your lullaby that holds special significance in your heart?

‘I’m the moon and you are my star’

Like in the sky how they are together and they come out together. The moon is the big part, and the stars are like all around the moon. She’s the star cause she’s going to shine and she’s little. I don’t know what her face looks like or anything so I can’t say, ‘Her beautiful blue eyes.’ It’s just how I feel. I tried to make lyrics for her to feel safe and loved.

Has this project made you see yourself differently?

Yea, that I’m stronger and I’m trying to try things I’ve never done in like a healthy way. It’s different, it’s very different.

What has been one of the biggest challenges?

My nervousness, like I know I’m not being judged but in my head, I judge myself so trying not to judge myself so negatively about it. I’m just proud I’m pushing myself forward and doing something for my daughter that I had never done for me.

Rai

Who are you writing your lullaby for?

I wrote it to my inner child, so it’s a song to myself. Things that I wish someone would have told me when I was young. It [The Lullaby Project] can fulfill a variety of purposes.

What has it been like to write a song?

When we were writing the actual song itself it was more of a struggle of like what are you writing, what is it about, can you write this, and then once we moved to the music side of it and the members of the Reno Philharmonic came in,”Ahh!” As soon as the gentleman with the upright bass started playing, I started crying immediately because live music and just music, in general, is so beautiful and just touches a part of you that nothing else can.

Is there one line in your lullaby that holds special significance in your heart?

‘You are my heart, near or far, but should you find yourself on your own, please know just how very loved you are, remember dear you’re never alone’

The first stanza of the chorus is kind of what I wanted to hear when I was younger because my mom left and I didn’t know who my dad was and so I just kind of felt like I was free-floating and that no one was really taking charge. So, I kind of wish that at some point, someone would have said, ‘I love you so much. You’re very important to me, but I can’t be there right now. Just know that you are everything to me, you’re my child, and you’re never not going to be important. I need to go do this thing right now.” 

Do you have any memories of someone singing lullabies to you?

No one ever sang me lullabies. I didn’t have a lot of affection in my life when I was younger. I grew up raised by my grandmother and my aunt. My mom wasn’t really in the picture because she was going through her own substance abuse problems and she was in prison and then she was in rehab. By the time she was done with everything I was in high school and I was kind of not willing to uproot my whole life to go live with her where she was.

What makes music so powerful?

It’s the universal language. It’s so interesting how it interacts with the brain and the way it brings people together. You don’t even need words when you have music. It’s so cool how certain notes in music and tones can bring about emotions that like a million words can’t. And it’s just so beautiful. I think that it’s a really incredible human gift that we have. I always want more of it in my life and that’s how I found a lot of my closest friends and that’s how I relate with the world through music in a lot of different ways. 

Has this project made you see yourself differently?

I think I trust my own creativity a little bit more. I think I tend to downplay my talents in a lot of different areas. I never really give myself enough credit. Moving forward, I think I can approach projects with more confidence. From now on I’ll be less hesitant or reluctant to involve myself in projects or even learn more about making music. I think it just kind of made me feel more like myself, like a more turned up version of myself. This project has gifted all of us with the knowledge of our capability, of our talent, of our willingness to do things that are uncomfortable. Those are all incredible gifts. I can’t even begin to express the gratitude for Manal and Jodi [NMTS music therapists] because they’ve spent so much time just kind of baby stepping with us, being so gentle and encouraging when almost everyone in the program was just like, “I don’t know if I can do this, this is really hard.” I still don’t know if I would have done it by myself.

One week after I’m scheduled to finish this program, I’m turning 30 so I really like this idea of starting out this whole new decade with a squeaky clean version of myself. [I’m] really excited to do things that are good for me, enter into relationships that are healthy and to pursue the things that I had always wanted to but have been too afraid to do. So, I think it’ll be a nervous excitement that I remember feeling and kind of just relief that I’m relating to myself in a different way that involves a lot of love and compassion.

C.C.

Who are you writing your lullaby for?

I’m writing mine for my two boys. My oldest will be 15 and my youngest will be 12.

Do you have any memories of someone singing lullabies to you?

I don’t know, I don’t know my real mom, I don’t have too many memories as a child.

What has it been like to write a lullaby?

It’s nice, it’s something different, something I never did before. Something new that I’m achieving. I think it’s a great experience

Is there a specific lyric in your lullaby that holds special significance?

‘His smile is something amazing’

My sons’ unconditional love for me, no matter what I did, it’s always been unconditional. They never looked at me any differently for what I did in my life or what’s happened. I just want my kids to know that I love them.

How do you hope your children will react when they your lullaby?

I’m just going to say, “I have a present for you guys and I want you to listen to this and I want to just listen to it together.” I think they’re gonna be really happy, it’s gonna be something. They’re probably going to be satisfied and grateful. It’s gonna be something that they really cherish, I know that.

How is music more than just words?

It’s expressions of your feelings. If you can’t express the way you want to when you talk, you can do it through music. I’ve been an addict most of my life, since I was thirteen, so it’s been a struggle and music kind of puts me in a whole other environment. It takes me out of my environment of using and puts me in a good state of mind, a positive state of mind.

How has this project made you see yourself differently?

Yeah, I see me as someone that can achieve anything, that anything is possible. You know if I can do this, I can probably stay sober. It’s a big eye-opener for me. 

Kris

Who are you writing your lullaby for?

It was so hard to start with, because what I thought I wanted to do was something about me and my recovery. The more I got into it and the more I talked with the ladies, it [became] a song for my kids. I have five kids, my kids are adults, and I’ve told them I’m doing this, but they have not heard the words [yet].

How have NMTS music therapists helped you through the process?

Oh my Gosh! It’s been amazing! You know I can’t even imagine anything without them. [At the beginning], they started playing and showing us how [to participate in music]. Then they told us to go write the song however we wanted. The next Wednesday we had like a rough draft of what we wanted to say and they helped us from there. And then all the [Reno Phil] musicians came to the house and we got to pick out which instruments we wanted. I tried to pick the loudest (laughs). I picked the saxophone and the cello with piano.

How do you think your children will react?

I think they’ll be excited. I think it’ll be funny though because my one son will probably say, “Is that what you think of me?! That I’m dreadlocks and honey?” And my daughter will say ‘Pickles and hound?!’ She’s a pickler and has a hound dog. He’s a beekeeper and has huge dreadlocks. I think what it shows them is that I’ve been working real hard to overcome challenges. I think that’s showing that I’m persevering in something that I’m not good at all.

Do you have any memories of someone singing lullabies to you?

My mother never read books, never [sang] lullabies, anything like that. So, I think that’s why I was such a hands-on kind of mom. I read to the kids and things like that. 

How has the Lullaby Project helped in your sobriety?

It helps with the whole process of addiction, because if you can overcome this little thing, you can overcome something bigger. And that’s what addiction is. It’s just huge. It will be with us forever, you know. We just don’t walk out of Step2 and say, “Phew, I’m cured.” So, I think it’s been empowering because it shows me I can do better. It’s very uplifting, it’s just empowering to know that I did this, even to this part, not even the finished product. It was a challenge. We overcame that, every one of us.

We have a lot of groups where they’ll say, ‘what was the most important part of the day?’ and everybody here says the lullaby project. And the other people here are like, ‘I wish I would have done that.’

I won’t forget this, I won’t forget this experience. Thank everyone here for doing this. I think the community has really stepped up to keep STEP2 going.

Need Help?

Are you or someone you love struggling with addiction?

Call our community partners for immediate support:

The Life Change Center – (775) 355-7734

Step2 – (775) 787-9411

Contact Note-Able Music Therapy Services about how music therapy can support addiction recovery.

(775) 324-5521 or mail@note-ables.org

 

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Please join dozens of people in our community to support the Lullaby Project and similar programs. Music is making a difference in peoples’ lives, from the youngest to the oldest. You can give the gift of new beginnings today.

 

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