Posted on March 11, 2011 by Tia Lalani

Community Service-Learning student Nate Chan talks to Laurie Callsen of the Camrose Canadian.

By Laurie Callsen, Camrose Canadian –

Not many university students would spend their spare time at a long-term care facility. But, then again, they aren’t Nate Chan, a future recreation therapist and Augustana CSL student.

"I love it, every time I come here," he said, sitting in the indoor courtyard at Rosehaven after playing some love songs for residents on Valentine’s Day.

"You can use [music] anywhere where people are hurting. Music can really heal."

Chan, who is working on a Bachelor of Arts degree in music with a minor in psychology, said that he has personally seen how music has helped change a person’s life for the better. A friend was on the brink of death, said Chan, and doctors told her to get some bed rest if she wanted to live a few more months.

"But she said, ‘If I’m going to keep living, I’m going to keep singing,’" he recalled.

Chan originally wanted to work with children who had disabilities or a terminal illness, but is happy with the niche he found working with the Bethany Group. The greatest goal he can accomplish is improving someone’s quality of life through some sort of recreational therapy.

"There’s this huge hype about medicine and how it keeps life going. People stay on life support and they’ll stay a vegetable for 50 years before they die. But is that life? What really is life?"

The first time Chan tried his hand at music therapy in a senior’s living home, he walked into a random facility, sat down and played a few songs and then left. He said that he prefers this more structured format, get feedback from a supervisor and work on a concrete schedule.

Chan did his CSL classes with the Bethany Group for the fall semester and continues to do special performances on holidays, like Valentine’s Day or Thanksgiving. He would also bring in his friends and classmates to share the experience with.

"It’s not only a therapy for the listeners, it’s also therapy for the performers. It gives them a chance to feel like they’ve accomplished something," he said.

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