Music as therapy: Monty Clark

Music is storytelling, passion, an apology, it is uplifting and heart-breaking and life-changing. Music is cathartic and therapeutic to people all around the world – regardless of race, gender, class or capability. We spoke to two people, involved with our partner charities, who understand this better than some.

Music courses through Monty Clark’s veins, instrumentally and vocally. Embroiled in the foster care system from a young age, Monty was raised in Pukekohe by his grandparents until he was a teenager. Surrounded by music Monty picked up a myriad of waiata from his grandmother, who only spoke Māori, and got his percussion ability from his mute grandfather (a fact that he chuckles over when telling us).  

Monty’s first live performance was at the age of 16 and now he performs every week, teaching the ukulele to the homeless at DCM and busking on the streets of Wellington – although not so often in winter, and who can blame him? 

Monty first got involved with DCM about three-and-a-half years ago when they helped him find accommodation. But Monty doesn’t classify himself as homeless – instead he is transient, never staying put in one place for too long – a musical nomad. He is lucky to come from a big extended family so it was only on rare occasions he would have nowhere to stay. He’s lived in Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Bluff, Invercargill, Dunedin, Timaru, Blenheim and Pahiatua – to name a few! 

Now he has taken his previous experience with music and applied it at DCM. The therapy of music was something that Monty experienced early. It gave him confidence when he had none. It boosted the little self-esteem that he had. And this is something that he is trying to instil in the groups he runs at DCM. He looks back on his time with his grandparents and is grateful for the life they gave him. The knowledge of traditional music and embracing where you come from is not a fact that Monty takes lightly. He understands the importance of feeling like you belong, like you are part of something bigger than you. Seeing a lot of Māori and Pacific Island people coming through DCM, Monty tries to incorporate traditional songs into their lessons, and is always keen to see other ethnicities coming in and sharing their knowledge with the group. 

For the people coming to Monty’s classes their experience is threefold. One, they get to learn from someone who understands them, who understands the lives they lead – there is no judgement or harsh critique. Two, their confidence levels grow as they become more adept at their music of choice, just as Monty’s has. Three, some of them become performers! That’s right, when they are ready Monty takes members from his group out to busk with him to help them develop – and to earn a bit of money. For Monty this is one of his favourite parts: watching those that he has helped establish themselves with music. 

When we asked Monty what his thoughts of DCM and music therapy were he said, simply, that DCM is the winner. They have helped him turn his talent and love into a tool to pass on to others who need it the most. 

Photography by Pat Shepherd. Words by Jd Nodder

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