by Miami mentor Natalie Cole

The Choose Your Sound program is a new collaboration between Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Irie Foundation, and Guitars Over Guns run by a new mentor in a new format. Going into this program, all I could think about was how everything could go wrong with something so new. I’m a board-certified music therapist and I’ve been in the profession for almost five years, but I’ve been comfortable working with adults within a controlled hospital setting. Working with a community program has been my dream for so long, though, so I couldn’t throw away my shot. 

We meet every Monday and Wednesday evening at a gorgeous new Big Brothers Big Sisters building. The group is made up of middle and high school students; all the boys are in 7th grade, and all the girls are in high school. As a board-certified music therapist, I hope to provide an additional means of support for the students in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. I teach some guitar, adapting techniques to their learning styles, and we talk about life and school during the process. As a music therapist, I’ve learned how to watch for cues indicating how someone is feeling, how they learn best, and why they saying what they are saying. It’s also been helpful in situations when the students bring up difficulties at home, school, or with diagnoses. 

But the main thing that has me excited about this group is working with the students. They are motivated to learn and quick to catch on. Within our five sessions we’ve had so far, they’ve learned specific notes on the high and low E strings, how to read a scale diagram, how to play an E minor pentatonic scale, how to read a chord chart and how to play chords G and C. During their first class, they were holding their own with the top two strings while I accompanied them with some blues. These students are phenomenal, and I’m excited to see how far they’ll go. They’re receptive to feedback, they work well together, and communicate with me when they need help. I couldn’t ask for a better group. 

As this program continues, I would love to see what more these students can accomplish. I want them to feel confident in sharing their goals and putting forth the effort to accomplish them.