“Early one morning, at 7 am, she starts asking for me. On my arrival at the hospital, staff asked me to go to her immediately. I go, and she tells me ‘today I want to sing a song with you’. It seemed to me that she had a plan. She was only eight.
We came up with an improvised song together. This beautiful little girl starts singing about the beauty around her. The trees, the birds, the clouds, the music. From things, she moves to the significant others in her life. Her mom, her dad, her family, the hospital, the nurses, everyone she knew. It was more than clear to me that this was a farewell song. Her way to sing “Goodbye”. She sang for a while and I agreed to bring her song back the next day. By morning she passed away.
Maria Samara is a Music Therapist, MA-SFMT, FAMI and a GIM-Psychotherapist sharing a glimpse into the world of Music Therapy, her rewarding practice, and the blessings that transpire.
We are chatting, and she is answering my question what the outcomes of music therapy are.
“My mind fills with many vivid images from my work. This one was when I was working with children suffering from life-threatening illnesses. I had been working with her for a while. The view outside of her hospital room was looking over Central Park in New York and she loved to watch the birds in the trees and clouds moving through the sky.”
The Sound of Music
Working in Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, Maria also worked with babies born with severe medical issues or other afflictions. Music helped babies cope with pain, and in a way provided the “hug”, security, and safety on behalf of the mothers.
Maria is passionate and in love with what she is doing. Her path in life is guided by music. Growing up in a musical environment, Maria was blessed with two loving, caring, and giving parents and a challenging and sometimes hard life.
She was raised to love life with passion, to always follow her heart, and be brave to fight for whatever mattered to her and for whatever she believed in.
The Dance Of Love
“I was working in New York in a home with elderly suffering from Alzheimer. This one lady, already deep into the pathology, required everyone who came into her presence to re-introduce themselves. I met her daughter and was struck by the daughter needing to introduce herself to her mother.”
Both Maria and I lost our mothers. We spent a moment talking about the pain of not having our mothers to hug, to hold, to talk to. We agreed that sometimes the pain of the loss seems easier to handle, than physically having your mother to hug and hold but without the realization of bond and reality of connection.
“I asked the daughter to share with me few of the songs that related to her mother’s past and their family life and invited her to join in the next session. I started playing the songs and suggested the daughter ask her mother to dance. They armed themselves and after a few seconds, they look into each other’s eyes. As if a veil raises, the daughter sees her mother recognize and understand her as her daughter. The mother speaks her daughter’s name and they start crying and hugging each other.
I didn’t want to stop the music. They had this connection of their life together, once again they were mother and daughter. I repeated the song more than few times and when I could see the mother becoming exhausted, I brought it to an end. Within seconds the recognition was gone.”
Maria tapes all of her sessions, so that loved ones can share such electric and precious moments. A recording like these has always been a valuable and priceless keepsake especially for the families of the people who suffered life-threatening illnesses and faced death and loss.
Finding Her Calling
Maria was 3 when her visually impaired sister was born. Music was a way of coping with many issues related to her sister’s medical condition. Maria had to spend a lot of time with her grandparents as her parents were gone for periods of time treating her sister.
At five and a half, she performed her first solo and it was natural that she chose to be a music teacher. As she studied, she wondered whether and how music could help her sister. That was how she came across Music Therapy for the first time.
I remember clearly the 16th of September 1995. It was 2:30 in the afternoon. I called my mother to say ”I am flying to New York to become a Music Therapist.”
That started her career and life journey through many countries, institutions, medical and mental health settings. Maria found her calling but is still feeding the creative part of herself through performing, singing and composing when possible. Music provides solace, a creative place to express emotions, to recollect and be.
Life Is A Journey
Even with such a stellar career, Maria considers her two beautiful daughters to be her life’s greatest achievement. For Maria, being a mother is the most challenging and the same time the most rewarding job.
Providing for our kids is a constant struggle. As parents, we are there to support and hold, to teach and guide our kids. We grow together, we learn together, we fail and win together, we cry and laugh together. We guide their steps, we support their dreams, we encourage them when they fight their own battles. Seeing them happy, and content with their own choices becomes our life goal.
But after having leaved with a handicap sister as well as having worked for many years, with children suffering chronic or life-threatening illnesses and having experienced not only their physical and/or emotional pain, but the pain and frustration in their parent’s eyes, what I come to realize is that, what matters for me the most and what I come to wish most of all for my kids, is for them to be healthy.
Teaching them to value, appreciate, and acknowledge life to its full, became for me a life task.”
Being A Woman Is A Challenging Task
Maria and I talked about being a woman in these times and I asked if she had any advice for women contemplating change.
“I don’t feel wise enough or in a position to give out any advice. I would just like to share a piece of experience with all of you out there, hoping that it might help you understand my perspective and relate.
So, what I know is that being a woman has always been a challenging task, maybe even more through the years. We, as women, not only have taken on so many different roles, but we tend to put ourselves in a constant struggle, if not in a battle against ourselves, trying to prove, that we are capable enough to perform all these different roles, the best way possible. We are trying to be the best mothers, the best housewives, the best and most attractive wives, the best businesswoman, and so on. What we all tend to ignore though, of course until is too late sometimes, is that what is really at stake, is us and us only. Our relationships, our happiness, our peace of mind, if not our health.
I still remember my grandmother asking me when I would tell her that I am so happy in life referring to my job, and career choices: “Yes, but is that really enough? Is that what life is all about? Is this what YOU are all about?”
Its been long since my grandmother shared these words of wisdom with me. Things have changed for me a lot since then. Life wise, work wise. What I realize now is that most of us, share a common, ground feeling of what we are looking for, of what we are hoping, of what we need, what we are striving for in life. That is being healthy, (both physically and mentally), being happy and content. Being able to live life to its full potential. Be the best version of ourselves. Enjoy every day, be open to the here and now, have a better control over life, experience positive relationships, gain insight and inner peace.
Give Up The Power Woman Role
For myself, things changed when I decided to debunk this “power woman” role in my life and made allies with all the significant others in my life. My man, my kids, my friends, my extended family. You see, life is not a one-man-show and we should all put our efforts together and invest in keeping everything together in our common lives. It’s not always easy, I know. It can be challenging and needs constant work and effort.
For me, life is all about giving and taking respect, trust, support, and love. Things like sharing, holding, listening, feeling, and being, unconditionally in any type of written or spoken contract. It is about being creative and open, about grasping the moment, about living every day like a new day. And It is about walking through life, trusting that you can make it, no matter what, as long as, you are together with the ones you love.<
All people, as kids, adolescents, and adults we receive advice. How to be, how not to be. Maria shares that often it is not just one piece of advice that lights our life path. For her, it was an attitude. Life is a give and take, we give love to take love. She shares some insight into what helps bring harmony in her life:
Be A Realist
There is no “absolute” happiness. Life brings everything; the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, the laughter and the pain. Life is about balance. We should take nothing for granted and certainly, nothing of value comes without struggle.
Make Time for Those That Matter
We need the people we love. One must make more quality time with and for the ones that matter. Only then, life can be full, challenging and most of all, rewarding.
Go “Fake Free”
“I use this as a personal motto to all of my Creativity Empowerment Workshops and to all of my interviews. I think that as women, we have gone a long way to realize that one of the most important things towards being happy and free is to let go of all Fake in life. To go Fake Free.
There are times in life when we must compromise with everything “fake” around us, and that can be challenging and sometimes even painful. ” What I realize is that getting rid of everything fake in my life, was one of the most rewarding, revitalizing, and liberating experiences in my life! I feel free.”
Continue to Learn
Learning goes well beyond getting academic knowledge and adding new credentials behind your name. Life itself is a learning and a growing experience. We learn something new every day. Can you ever hold the sand? No. As there is always more to hold and still it is always seeping away. Such is learning. You learn from the people around you, from your kids, from your clients. You learn from your mistakes and the process of living itself. All its circumstances.
As we close our time, Maria quotes Osho “…to be in love with life, means that you want to enhance its beauty. You want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it”!
What Is Music Therapy?
An established health profession which can provide you and your loved ones with a safe environment where music is used to address the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals.
Music Therapy: How It Works
A treatment plan is created and the long and short-term goals are set, after assessing the needs, but most of all the strengths, as we tend to focus and begin from them in order to reach our therapeutic goals.
The treatment plan can include creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music. Clinical Improvisation is the main tool in Music Therapy practice. As clients’ abilities strengthen it transfers to other areas of their lives. Music therapy can provide avenues for communication to those who cannot or find it difficult to express themselves orally. The work itself and the outcomes are very powerful.
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Maria’s extensive working experience includes people of all ages dealing with life-altering realities including psychiatric, abuse, drugs, HIV, cancer, cerebral palsy, developmental disabilities, emotionally disturbed, visually impaired, autistic, Down syndrome, and people with Dementia.
She has practiced in health settings including Psychiatric Hospitals, Institutions, Schools, Day-Care Centers, Rehabilitation Centers, Homes for people with Dementia and private practice, in New York, Greece and now in Switzerland.
Maria speaks three languages, English, German and Greek
She has participated with research papers on Music Therapy and GIM in many Psychiatric Conferences is a guest lecturer in Universities, Training Programs, Hospitals and Centers for children with special needs.