In some ways, the Center of Music Therapy’s newly opened venue is similar to most Austin music clubs. It hosts shows every Thursday night that feature performers in genres like folk, jazz, and classical.
The venue differs from the typical Austin club in at least one way: it doesn’t offer alcohol.
“I wanted a venue that was a safe place for artists [with substance abuse problems] to come back and play, a place for fans that want to come back to the music, but have the same problem with triggers,” founder Hope Young said.
Opened on Dec. 1, the venue is part of the Center of Music Therapy’s main facility at 2700 W. Anderson Lane, Ste. 119. While Young stresses that the venue does not directly tie in with patients’ treatment, all money the venue makes goes toward scholarships for clients unable to afford treatment.
“It’s a safe place to come, but it’s not treatment,” Young said. “Any money we make goes back to the clients who can’t pay. We’ve said stay. We’re not kicking them out.”
In lieu of alcohol, the venue sells food and drink from local sponsors. Vendors that donate to the venue include Snap Kitchen, Gluten-Free Queen, Honestea and Nile Valley Herbs. “When we started this, we said we’d only use local [vendors],” center representative Shannon O’Shea said. “We’re not bringing in Odwalla bars or anything.”
For Young, the venue is the next step in achieving a dream that began in the early 1990s. She graduated in 1989 with a degree in music therapy from The University of the Pacific’s Conservatory of Music in Stockton, Calif., and moved to Austin the following year. After arriving in the city, she serviced local hospitals, while also running a private office for group and individual music therapy.
By 2001, her practice had grown to include 21 music therapists and was officially renamed The Center for Music Therapy. Therapy conducted at the center focuses on a wide range of problems, including developmental disabilities, psychiatric orders and Parkinson’s disease.
One of the center’s success stories is Carlos Mixson, a pedicab driver left paralyzed after being hit by a car. After receiving treatment from the center, he has recovered to the point where he is capable of running a marathon.
“If you think the support we give isn’t going to help, like it’s a drop in the bucket, that’s just not true,” Young said. “He’s running, walking, talking, drumming, dancing, and playing with his son.”
Young plans on introducing transducers, devices that convert sound into physical vibrations without the use of high volumes, to the venue. Currently the center’s staff are putting three transducer platforms in the venue and plan to add more in the future. This process is meant to serve as a prototype to The Sound Well, a larger no-alcohol venue with 24 synchronized transducers, the largest number in one place in the world.
“People who are hearing-impaired and even people who aren’t hearing impaired can experience that booming in their bodies without damaging their ears,” Young said.
Even without the transducers, Young stated that the venue at The Center for Music Therapy was created to connect people to music and connect people through music.
“This is a way without having sex or going out drinking that we can [connect people],” Young said. “It’s meant to facilitate music as the center part of our humanity.”