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Conduits of healing

Education professors say Lullaby Project makes composers out of us all

By Angela Hunt

Lullabies are often associated with new babies and rocking chairs.

Drs David and Jan Buley stand in front of a guitar and some artwork.
Drs. David and Jan Buley
Photo: Submitted

But they can also be conduits of healing and empowerment for those experiencing challenging life situations, say Drs. Jan and David Buley of the Faculty of Education.

Sometimes, a lullaby can be a response to an experience in life. They might be written for the land, a loved one, the person one might have been or even the person one might want to become.

Learners and teachers

After attending three summer institutes at New York’s Lincoln Center Education, Jan met Thomas Cabaniss, the founder of The Lullaby Project.

Mr. Cabaniss shared the stories of his work with the teaching participants. Jan was hooked immediately.

The project invites participants to be poets, artists and musicians in a collaborative and respectful space. Through an immersive experiential process, participants are encouraged and supported in order to create texts and tunes that they find meaningful in their lives.

Music has tremendous power to build a sense of community and belonging, and many participants have shared very positive comments about writing a lullaby. Sometimes, the lullabies are shared in a final concert, but the goal is not product‐driven.

“We knew that this would be the perfect place for us to launch the project.” — Jan Buley

Ultimately, it is often the act of singing and creating that is celebrated.

The Buleys launched The Lullaby Project-N.L. in 2018 with the help of a Quick Start grant from Memorial’s Office of Public Engagement.

“We are educators who are passionate about community engagement and we are always seeking experiences that will help us grow as learners and teachers,” said Jan.

“The way in which The Lullaby Project has spiralled all over the globe was so inspiring. After careful consideration and some connections with community partners, we knew that this would be the perfect place for us to launch the project.”

Global impact

The Lullaby Project initially began in a New York City laundromat nearly 20 years ago and has since grown to include hundreds of collaborations around the globe.

Projects have had tremendous successes in various settings including prisons, health-care centres, hospitals, daycares, homeless shelters, youth drop‐in centres and, more recently, in refugee camps.

The Buleys’ first partnership took place at the Clarenville Correctional Centre for Women (CCWC). They continued with Stella’s Circle and Iris Kirby House and launched a second Lullaby Project-N.L. partnership at the CCWC. They also look forward to more experiences with Iris Kirby House, as well.

Heart Art is a visual reminder created by Clarenville Correctional Centre for Women Lullaby Project participants to signify the emotion that went into the lullaby writing process.
Photo: Submitted

At the CCWC, the Buleys met with the women weekly to share stories, write, sing songs and create beauty. As the yearlong process unfolded, memories and stories sometimes found their way into lullaby texts and tunes.

“Sometimes the songs were about missing family members, coping without a child present, not being able to attend family celebrations and cherishing memories of being together during happier times, and these texts reached listeners in powerful ways,” said Jan.

“For many of the women, it was the first time their voices and words about personal issues were shared publicly, and the experience was empowering.”

The participants in each setting can come from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Most discover that they are capable of creating beautiful pieces of art, music and poetry, while also growing in confidence in themselves as composers and musicians.

“As educators, we learn that just because someone is shy, not physically present, irritated, angry or acting out, it doesn’t mean they’re not receptive,” said David.

“Instead, that’s when we need to step back and make room for time to take its course. Creativity can only really happen after a supportive relationship is formed with humility and vulnerability.”

Community healing

Thanks to an Accelerator Grant from the Office of Public Engagement, grant funding from The Segelberg Trust and donations from The Concert Crowd, The Women of Wolfville, and several anonymous donors, the Buleys continued their work at the Just Us Women’s Centre at Stella’s Circle in St. John’s.

At the conclusion of the project, the participants requested a public sharing of their lullaby creations at an event complete with a meal provided by the Hungry Heart Café.

To learn more about The Lullaby Project-N.L., and to listen to Waiting for the Time, a CBC podcast created about the project by Angela Antle and featured on Atlantic Voice, please visit the website.

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