1 of 2
Harp therapist Cynthia Green Libby teaches students the basics of music therapy at Missouri State University. Cynthia is also a skilled oboist but turned to the harp to comfort her mother after she became ill.
2 of 2
Courtesy of Julie Enstall
Amy Camie has been studying the harp since the fourth grade. She created Magic Mirror, an album which has been proven to reduce pain and stress in patients.
By Emily McIntyre
My grandmother lived with us for the last year of her life, enduring increasing pain from cancer and senility from Alzheimer’s disease.
One of the few things that calmed her was the peaceful sound of my harp. Often, I sat by her bed and played simple songs she recognized, exercises, and classical repertoire. Her face would grow quiet as she listened.
It turns out I was unofficially practicing harp therapy. Harp therapists spend time with those who are in pain or very ill under hospice care.
A clinical study done at San Diego Hospice demonstrated a skilled harp therapist can help seventy-one percent of patients breathe more easily, lower anxiety levels in eighty-four percent of patients, and reduce pain for sixty-three percent of patients.
Harp therapists, or practitioners, often undergo intensive certification processes, which teach evaluation of patients, adaptation of music to suit the particular needs before them, and bedside manners. Standards of practice for therapeutic musicians have been established by the National Standards Board for Therapeutic Musicians (NSBTM).
The harp therapy movement has slowly grown since the nineties, and Missouri has its fair share of talented harp practitioners with stories to tell.
While many harp therapists came to the harp later in life, Amy Camie, adopted by two music teachers, began studying classical harp in fourth grade.
After years studying under talented teachers, attending camps and workshops, and touring Europe with an orchestra, her shift toward the freer art of composing and improvisation began with the recording of a tape for a family friend going through hospice.
“This music was not a performance, but a sharing of love from the inside out without any attachments to the outcome,” Amy says.
Amy’s exploration into therapeutic rather than performance music forced her to face her fears and uncertainties about her ability to play harp without any sheet music, an insecurity common to classical musicians.
“The pathway from my heart to my fingers was opening as my self-judgments and inner critics were dissolving,” she says. “This music is simply an expression of my love. It became the only way to share music.”
Several of Amy’s healing harp CDs have been used in nine different research studies indicating how they reduce pain, distress, and anxiety levels. The Magic Mirror, Amy’s first original CD, has been shown to increase neurological functioning in cancer patients and support the immune system after one listening.
In 2010, Amy was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer and began her own experience with the healing power of music.
“Rarely in life does one have the opportunity to receive for herself the benefits of her gifts,” Amy says. “Now I am one of those patients being comforted by that same music, expressed from the deepest part of my soul.”
Amy feels her own experience with a life-threatening disease has helped her connect with her patients more deeply and added a depth to her music.
Currently, Amy is healthy and thriving after her journey with cancer and continues to create inspired books, musical CDs, concerts, and healing events.
Learn more about Amy at www.amycamie.com.
Cynthia Green Libby
Cynthia Green Libby started as an oboist.
She’s studied in Germany and Canada, and she received her doctoral degree from the prestigious Eastman School of Music.
Serving as the professor of oboe at Missouri State University, the Missouri Fine Arts Academy, and as principal oboe of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, she has toured America, Europe, Scandinavia, and the former Soviet Union as a performer and has had nearly twenty oboe pieces by women composers dedicated to her. Cynthia’s journey into therapeutic music began years after her interest was first awakened.
“To be honest,” she says, “as a young person I had too much ego, too much to prove first as a performer. So the motivation has been more about my spiritual journey than anything else.”
In 2005, however, Cynthia’s mother passed away after a battle with cancer, providing the strongest nudge yet. During her mother’s illness, Cynthia had realized her inability to comfort her mother with the piercing sounds of the oboe. A sabbatical from Cynthia’s teaching position coincided with Cynthia learning about an intensive program teaching harp therapy, and soon Cynthia took her first step in learning to play the harp. She bought one.
Now, she teaches Introduction to Music and Healing, an introductory class in harp therapy at MSU. Open to non-music majors, in the course of sixteen weeks the class acquaints students with the harp and with basic principles of music therapy.
This groundbreaking university-level course has been highly successful, receiving coverage twice in Harp Therapy Journal.
“Becoming a harp therapist has changed my life in important ways,” Cynthia says. “It has positively affected my approach to music-making in all situations. Now I always enter the room with two instruments: the oboe or the harp and my spirit. It is no longer about me; it is all about channeling God’s love through the music.”
Amy and Cynthia are only two of the many dedicated harp and music therapists who bring peace and healing to people enduring illnesses of every kind in Missouri.
For more information on harp therapists, visit www.harprealm.com.
This story originally ran in the February 2013 issue of Missouri Life. For more stories like this, subscribe to Missouri Life.