The JAZZ.FM91 Music Therapy Project is designed to deliver jazz-oriented, weekly music therapy sessions to St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Sessions are led by award-winning musician, music therapist and educator Aaron Lightstone.

The socioeconomic benefits of music and the arts are well-documented and an extensive body of research supports the tremendous cognitive impacts of music therapy.

One aspect of successful, creative music therapy models is a healthy improvised component. Therapists engage in spontaneous music-making during therapy sessions, reacting to and encouraging musical exploration by clients. This kind of in-the-moment musical spontaneity is very much in line with training typically given to jazz musicians, but less so to classical musicians. Ironically, most music therapists receive their initial education as classical musicians, thus potentially missing out on an essential skill — that of fluency in musical improvisation.

In recent decades, music therapy has exponentially grown as a respected therapeutic model for improving mental health in individuals who have experienced trauma and distress. There are different clinical models within the discipline of music therapy, but as early as the 1950s, innovators in the field such as Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins determined that creative, spontaneous interactions with clients using voices and instruments led to significant therapeutic breakthroughs. It is this element of improvisation, so vital to jazz music, that is a perfect fit for JAZZ.FM91. By collaborating with Aaron Lightstone, the station is dedicated to bettering people’s lives through music.

Laura Fernandez and Walter Venafro chat with Aaron Lightstone during a fundraising campaign in 2019.