By STEPHEN FLANAGAN JACKSON
Music has charms that soothe the savage beast. That’s another old adage that is true, at least most of the time, depending on the style of music.
In the case of the flute — especially the Native American Flute — one person avows that playing the musical instrument will ease stress and other dysfunctions and physical and mental maladies.
A Kansas “jayhawk” and musician, flutist and music teacher, Janalea Hoffman is a Sun City Center resident who lives half the year in Overland Park, Kan. and the other half in Florida. Hoffman has been a snowbird for about eight years and has owned a home in SCC for three years. Her love for music and interests in music and psychology have led to her forming her own cottage industry in Music Therapy. She shares her gifts with area residents in a free workshop at the DaVita Medical Group, 787 Cortaro Dr. in SCC in March and April. The first workshop is free and is on March 15 from 2 to 3 p.m. The other two sessions on Learning the Native Flute carry a $20 fee. The first of these is at The Atrium at the SCC Community Association on Thursday, March 21, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Advance registration is required. So you will have the experience of making music from the heart in the native style, each participant will be provided a good quality loaner flute with a plastic straw for sanitary purpose. To chill out and to reduce stress, come on out and give it a try. As Lauren Bacall once told Humphrey Bogart in an old movie: “Just put your lips together and blow.”
Hoffman is a Registered Music Therapist and has been in a private practice doing various forms of Music Therapy since the 1980s. There is a country/western song that says, “I was into country before country music was cool.” Well, that describes Hoffman who says she was into Music Therapy before anybody was making a big deal about it and before it was cool!
According to Hoffman, “One aspect of my work is using the Native American Flute as a therapeutic tool. In Kansas I work in a hospital part time doing bedside Music Therapy using a bass Native American Flute. It was very soothing to patients and also helps them connect to their spirit and emotional selves, which is very important for the healing process. Many times in hospitals, there is a focus on healing the physical body without regard for the emotions and the spirit. Through the flute and music I help people connect with these very important aspects of ourselves, which can expedite healing or greatly retard healing if certain emotions are repressed! I have used the native flute as a focus for cancer support groups, COPD support groups, depression and anxiety. Another aspect of my work with the flute has been teaching it to adults as a tool for relaxation and meditation. It is amazing after my workshops/lectures on this subject, that people come up to me and express that one of their regrets in life is that they didn’t learn music or didn’t practice more. Many say they wish their parents had pushed them more to learn music rather than so much emphasis on sports, because music can be enjoyed for a lifetime, whereas most people do not keep up with sports past high school or college age.”
Hoffman has been engaged in the music therapy business since she was only 26 years old. Before that she played organ in churches to earn a living.
She grew up in Sedalia, Mo., attended high school at Smith Cotton, and got a bachelor’s degree in Music Performance and also a bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy at the Kansas City Conservatory of music. She then got a master’s in Music Therapy from the University of Kansas as well as a master’s degree in Psychology. Her two interests in music and psychology came together by pursuing a career in Music Therapy.
One of the challenges of her business at first was that it was very new in the 1980s. Hoffman conducted many free lectures on the benefits of Music Therapy. “I found people were hungry for ways to go deeper within and express themselves through music,” she exclaims.
Asked what gives her a sense of contentment and satisfaction with her business, Hoffman happily says, “My work has been very satisfying because I introduced many people to a practice and therapy that had practical benefits and was also fun! Playing the native flute has helped many people through depression, cancer treatments, anxiety and addictions. It is an easier instrument to learn than our traditional instruments. This is why it lends itself so well to therapy because you can learn it much faster, it is soulful and meditative and brings a sense of joy and satisfaction through self expression. You do not need to read music with this instrument and you don’t need any prior musical knowledge to fully enjoy the class.”
Hoffman declared that her goal is to raise awareness about the power of Music Therapy for wellness in this area. “I call it music with a purpose when you learn to use specific music for things like hypertension, anxiety and even pain control through music. A large study in a hospital showed that 30 minutes of music had the same effect as 10 milligrams of Valium. Also, I want to offer the Native flute classes to people in this area who would enjoy learning an instrument that is relaxing and much faster to learn than traditional instruments.”