Music industry veteran and radio programmer Patrick Zulinov has witnessed firsthand the therapeutic impact music can have on someone.
But it wasn’t through his years with Sony Canada or Shore 104 FM that drove this point home for him. It was with his own mother, who struggles with basic speech after suffering a stroke, but lights up when one of her favourite songs comes on.
“Any song you tell her to sing, she can sing it perfectly, but for her to tell you she wants a glass of water is a struggle,” he said. “Music is a way for a lot of people to communicate.”
Zulinov is the co-founder and organizer of Music Therapy Ride, a yearly event bringing motorcyclists and drivers from Vancouver to Whistler to raise funds for musical therapy initiatives. Going into its 12th edition, the event has raised awareness of the power of music as a healing tool, and has earned the support of a number of accomplished musicians and media figures over the years, like The Barenaked Ladies, Chantal Kreviazuk, George Stroumboulopoulos, 54-40 and Juno winner Dan Mangan, who will be along for the ride on the Sea to Sky Highway this Saturday (Sept. 14).
“Language and social context often fall short in the complicated nature of existing,” Mangan said in a release. “Thankfully, the wonderful gift of music helps us not only make peace with the chaos, but to explore our emotional frameworks and facilitate healthy discovery. I'm proud to support this year's Music Therapy Ride.”
Started by a group of industry and media veterans with a shared love of motorcycles and music, Zulinov said the ride was borne out of what they saw as a serious lack of support for music therapy programs.
“We knew the music therapy programs in our area were not getting any assistance,” he said. “Music therapy really helps (patients) to do something creative, to have an outlet for their expression and their emotions. Sometimes when someone’s trapped in a hospital bed for months at a time they need something to keep themselves going, and music’s this wonderful, magical thing that we have in common no matter what race, religion or country you come from. It’s rare that someone is not hit by music in a positive way.”
So far over $560,000 has been raised for Music Heals and the Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund, which hands out money to a variety of deserving groups, including the BC Cancer Agency, the Vancouver Oral Centre for Deaf Children and BC Women’s Hospital.
Proceeds from this year’s ride will go towards maintenance and ongoing use of two mobile recording studios designed specifically for music therapists, called Bandwagons. The ride has funded the creation of two Bandwagons so far, one permanently stationed at the BC Children’s Hospital, with the other traveling to hospices, recovery centres and other healthcare institutions across B.C. for six weeks at a time. The units were designed by Vancouver’s Nimbus School of Recording Arts and contain state-of-the-art recording software, sound processing equipment and a variety of musical instruments. The Bandwagons can provide a source of joy for patients facing some of the most challenging times in their lives, said Zulinov.
“Imagine a kid in a hospital bed who’s been in a burn ward for five months being able to create their own music, hear their own music and work with a music therapist to express themselves,” he said. “Music therapy is a really important thing for people beyond the drugs and the formal medicines brought to people who are in a pretty horrific state.”
Still, Zulinov is frustrated by the government and medical industry’s reluctance to explore music as a viable form of therapy, despite the many positive impacts he’s seen firsthand.
“It confuses us that there’s really no government or medical company funding for music therapy, and I’m sure much of that has to do with there not being a lot of money to be made by pharmaceutical companies,” he said.. “Music is a pretty simple thing that’s been enjoyed through the ages. Since the dawn of time people have been beating drums and making music to heal each other and celebrate each other, and we’ve seen how well it’s worked in our own communities.”
The 12th annual Music Therapy Ride is Saturday, with all vehicles starting from the River Rock Casino in Vancouver at 9:30 a.m. Registration for the ride costs $199.
Riders will be escorted by police to the GLC in Whistler, where there will be a barbecue lunch and live auction featuring a number of unique music industry collectibles.
Visit www.musictherapyride.org to register, or for more information.