Melodic Connections

Chances are good you had the opportunity to see and hear Melodic Connectionsmusicians at events across Cincinnati. From LUMENOCITY to Riverbend to Clifton, Melodic Connections is doing just as its name implies — making meaningful and musical connections between its musicians and their community. 

We caught up with development director Lynn Migliara and executive director and co-founder Betsey Zenk Nuseibeh to learn more about Melodic Connections and see what’s coming up on the group’s calendar. 

AW: Thanks so much for chatting with us! Can you give us all a quick debrief on what Melodic Connections is, exactly? 

LM: Melodic Connections is a community music therapy studio serving individuals
of all abilities. We prepare our individuals for the community, and prepare
the community for our individuals. At Melodic Connections, each voice is
unique and every voice will be heard.
We have five programs that reach
more than 500 individuals with developmental disabilities, and we impact
thousands who attend our concerts and meet our musicians in the community. (One of our programs) serves 300 students with developmental disabilities in 25 classrooms. 

AW: Sounds like Melodic Connections touches a lot of lives. How did it come into existence? 

LM: Melodic Connections was formed in 2008, when (executive director) Betsey Zenk Nuseibeh, a board-certified music therapist and special educator, realized there was a need for music therapy in the classroom, but no funding available to provide it. She decided to form a nonprofit organization that would provide music therapy services at no to low cost to individuals who needed it, from early childhood through adults. She brought together like-minded individuals for support, and she began by offering a handful of classes in donated space. 

BZN: When I was walking through the studio one day, I stopped and asked Roger, a musician in his 60s, why he plays music at Melodic Connections. He said simply, "Because I need it."  Humans have a basic need to be in and of community.  And since even before recorded human history, music is a social glue that binds us together.  It gives voice to our hopes and dreams and fulfills our need to be with others. It touches us in ways nothing else can. At Melodic Connections, music is at the heart of everything we do to create real and authentic community for our participants.

AW: What was the highlight of Melodic Connections’ 2015?  

LM: It's hard to pick just one. Our musicians performed in 16 concerts in 2015.  Every time our musicians perform, they get that applause for all their hard work and efforts,
and they know people are applauding for THEM! That's what keeps us going. At least 80 (of our musicians) regularly perform in our twice-annual concerts…at The 86 Club in Clifton (a coffee bar and concert venue) and at events such as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's LUMENOCITY celebration.

AW: What are you most looking forward to in 2016? 

LM: We have some amazing new programs that create genuine community for our participants.  We are launching two programs that give our musicians the opportunity to collaborate with others in the community based on their strengths and
shared interests — based on their abilities — which is what we see and focus on every day.

AW: How exciting! Can you tell us what those projects look like, and why they’re important to the musicians and our community in general? 

LM: The first project we are really excited about is a collaboration with Mount St. Joseph University service learning students. A team of their students and our adult participants are going to collaborate to create an original podcast called "Backbeat:  Stories Beyond the Music." They will create the podcast from initial concept to finished product.  Episodes will feature our participants interviewing Cincinnati musicians and telling their stories from our participants’ point of view." We hope to create a high-quality podcast that can stand alongside the storytelling we love from vehicles like NPR, This American Life and Serial.  We are currently looking for organizations to help us with equipment purchases and for musicians who would like for us to tell their stories.  This project is near and dear to our hearts and it has been a dream for a long time—to give our musicians a platform for their voices to be heard, not just in the disabilities community, but to showcase their experiences and talents for everyone to appreciate. We also love the potential for the bonds this project could create between our participants and Cincinnati's young people, and the potential this project has to deepen the college participants’ connections to Cincinnati and our music scene.

Another project we are very excited about is our new Music Career Modules. This will be once a week at Willis Music in Kenwood. Participants will ... attend workshops on career readiness and social skills. Employees of Willis music, who range from retail, to equipment experts to professional musicians, will share their experiences being employed in the music industry. The group will also do vocation-related projects to gain job skills. One proposed project is to clean and prepare the instruments used by local high school bands. Participants would maintain and deliver band instruments, and include a personal note introducing themselves to the high school musician using the instrument. Or, the participants will have the freedom to get entrepreneurial and maybe start a business on eBay!  Who knows where it could go?

AW: What an exciting year ahead for you! Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. 

For more information about Melodic Connections, please