NAMM Foundations Grantee Profile: UCLArts & Healing’s Beat the Odds

Elizabeth Dale

The NAMM Foundation is proud to announce a new 2019 grantee, UCLArts & Healing’s program entitled Beat the Odds®: Social and Emotional Skill Building Delivered in a Framework of Drumming (BTO).

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Founded in 2004, the organization’s mission is "to transform lives through creative expression by integrating the innate benefits of the arts with mental health practices for self-discovery, connection and empowerment.” In broad service of this mission, the BTO program “serves a whole classroom at a time and is sustainably designed for delivery by school personnel or individuals without musical experience. It can easily be adapted for other age groups and serves as an effective tool for community building with staff and families.”

We recently sat down with program’s Founding Executive Director, Ping Ho, to discuss the announcement of the NAMM Foundation grant to support UCLArts & Healing initiatives.

  • Ping Ho, MA, MPH

What was your inspiration for starting UCLArts & Healing?

Having graduate degrees in counseling psychology and public health, as well as a lifetime of personal involvement in the performing arts, UCLArts & Healing represents the integration of all three areas. The origins of this organization were personal wonderings: ‘Why don't doctors use music to calm or distract patients who are experiencing pain or waiting for procedures to be done? Why don't mental health professionals use techniques from the theater world to access emotions, since they can be evoked immediately through acting techniques?’ I was struck by the vast, unmet, and growing social-emotional needs of humanity, the extraordinary power of the arts to heal, and the diminishing presence of the arts in schools and other places.

When I discovered the emerging field of creative arts therapies, I began to collaborate with these mental health professionals to develop a new career pathway for members of the public in what we call social emotional arts (SEA). SEA facilitators are equipped with tools from mental health to safely facilitate socially and emotionally supportive experiences through the arts for public health, without crossing the boundary of therapy (i.e., without identifying or treating disorders). The mental health tools integrated into UCLArts & Healing training programs include simple strategies, such as the language of non-judgment and reflection on the arts experience as a metaphor for life. This enables a sustainable approach to mental health. Moreover, these practices are accessible in that they can be delivered anywhere, bridging the gap of mental health access, or lack of utilization due to financial, legal, or cultural concerns.

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The NAMM Foundation has recently awarded UCLArts & Healing with a grant, what program will be funded by receipt of this grant?

The grant from The NAMM Foundation will go directly towards our Beat the Odds program which “is an evidence-based and trauma-informed program that integrates activities from group drumming and group counseling to build core strengths such as focus and listening, team building, leadership, expressing feelings, managing anger/stress, empathy, and gratitude.” Research has shown that participation in BTO significantly reduces a variety of behavior problems in children, including those related to inattention, depression, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity, oppositional defiance, and sluggish cognitive tempo. In addition, new studies are showing promising results when BTO is implemented in special needs classrooms.

What is the best way for NAMM Members to get involved with the mission of UCLArts & Healing?

I encourage NAMM members to attend our trainings, including new ones online that can be found at https://uclartsandhealing.org/our-programs-list-pg/. Besides Beat the Odds, we offer a spectrum of signature training programs such as a Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts (SEA) and a program called SEA on a Shoestring: Supportive Art, Movement, Music, and Writing for Individuals and Groups in Any Setting. A description of our current signature programs can be found at https://uclartsandhealing.org/services/professional-development/.

In addition, they can also attend our annual conference, which features more than 150 hands-on workshops offering arts-based tools for facilitating communication, building connection, promoting positive emotions, fostering engagement, enhancing mindfulness, reducing stress, and managing the impact of trauma. Information for this conference can be found at https://uclartsandhealing.org/programs/annual-conference/.

For local members, we offer a variety of volunteer options for serving the community while gaining experience at the same time. Information on these opportunities is available at https://uclartsandhealing.org/services/community-services/.

What does being named as a NAMM Foundation Grantee mean for the mission of UCLArts & Healing and Beat the Odds?

This funding enables us to develop a formal eight-session version of our Beat the Odds program for adolescents as well as evaluate the second year of implementation of this program at Willard Intermediate School, based on our experience of documenting its benefits in the first year.

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For more information about the work of UCLArts & Healing please visit https://uclartsandhealing.org/ or follow their progress on Facebook at UCLArtsAndHealing, Instagram @UCLArtsAndHealing, or Twitter @UCLArtsHealing. For information about all 2019 NAMM Foundation grantees please visit https://www.nammfoundation.org/what-we-do/music-making-grants