Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Americans for the Arts today unveiled a documentary titled CAMMO: Healing Through Song, which profiles participating members of the Center for American Military Music Opportunities (CAMMO). The 12-minute documentary shows how the arts can strengthen the well-being of service members, veterans, and their families, and features members of Voices of Service, one of many community-based music programs that CAMMO offers.
Americans for the Arts has a history of arts and military collaborations. The organization’s National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military (NIAHM) works across the military, government, and arts sectors to advance the arts in healthcare, healing, and well-being for military service members, veterans, their families and caregivers. CAMMO has been listed in the National Initiative Directory since 2014 and Americans for the Arts frequently works with them in the field.
CAMMO was founded in 2009 by military veterans Cathie Lechareas and Victor Hurtado after they recognized specific challenges that veterans and active duty service members face. CAMMO and its companion program CAMMO Kids aim to create music-based therapeutic programming and outlets for service members, veterans and family members; and train and educate these participants in music career opportunities including artist development. Currently, Voices of Service performers are competing on NBC’s America’s Got Talent.
In 2018, Americans for the Arts partnered with Lechareas over the year to direct and produce the documentary and interview three Voices of Service participants—Sergeant Major US Army Christal Rheams (an active duty service member), Staff Sergeant US Army Ron D. Henry (a veteran), and Thomas Glasser (the child of a service member)—who have found that CAMMO has helped them cope, heal, and maintain their wellness while dealing with the demands of military life. Through the ability to express themselves using music while being within a group of people that share a similar life experience, the three can better integrate with their communities. CAMMO: Healing Through Song can be viewed at AmericansForTheArts.org/CAMMO.
“I am pleased that this documentary is bringing attention to the vital role of the arts in a military setting—the connection is bigger and stronger than ever,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “The arts, in all forms, are an essential tool for our service members and their families on bases and therapy settings throughout the world. The arts are there as a partner and a support system to the military.”
In the documentary, Rheams commented, “There are challenges that you face being a member of the military; those challenges come home with you. I spent nine years doing morale welfare tours over the holidays, for three weeks at a time, after my son's birth. Leaving my kids probably was the most heartbreaking thing for me. I actually wasn't there when my son took his first step. To think about challenges faced during deployment, that's probably it—being torn between two obligated duties. Music has followed me throughout my life. Music also helps me heal. It helps me feel, which I hope for myself, [and] whenever I sing or I try to present something, I hope people feel something. A lot of times, we don't want to feel. Music helps us do that, which is a healing property.”
Glasser commented, “I've had to move a lot, and it's really upsetting. You have to leave your friends and/or girlfriends. I've moved about four times. Singing, it helps me with my problems, and I can express myself in a way that words cannot. I can put feeling into my singing.”
More information about NIAHM, including contact information, can be found on Americans for the Arts’ website. Information on CAMMO community-based programs can be found by visiting cammomusic.org.