Making a Difference Through Music: Dr. David Stringham
Dr. David Stringham, professor of music education and director of JMU’s jazz band, is working hard to engage our community through music. Recently, Stringham helped create MUS 498: Music and Human Services at JMU. Taken for academic credit, the course allows students to select an offsite practicum for music outreach. One such practicum is the iPad Music as Therapy program that pairs JMU students with oncology patients undergoing chemotherapy at the Hahn Cancer Center at Sentara Rockingham Memorial Hospital Medical Center.
One JMU student involved with the program at RMH is interested in doing research on the impact of iPad music on patients. As Stringham believes, “there are those healing, wellness, therapeutic aspects of music that I think we can help people draw out themselves.” He would like to take the research one step further and explore “what it’s like at 19 to sit next to someone with a life-threatening illness and bond over music.”
The iPad Music as therapy program is one of many programs established as part of the JMU-RMH Collaborative, and it’s one that Janet McArthur, Director of Oncology, Hospice and Palliative Care at RMH, hopes to see “grow and continue.”
Stringham expresses, “Music is part of what makes us human and how we’re designed to communicate and express and experience things. We learn music in the same way we learn language: through a system of immersion.” Stringham was immersed in music at a young age; he grew up in a musical family and began taking piano lessons at age four.
Now, Stringham tries to nurture what students instinctively have to offer and is fascinated by “just watching kids and what they do that is inherently musical.” Stringham spends part of his time as a professor of music education working with pre-service teachers to “get them comfortable in their own musical skin,” and he stresses the importance of learning to “improvise, compose, and play something by ear.” Not only does Stringham help students cultivate these skills and teach music, he also prepares them to be performers. As Stringham states, “If they are an instrumentalist, I encourage them to sing in a choir, learn to play the guitar, play in a jazz ensemble or take vocal or jazz arranging.”
Stringham himself is not a stranger to the classroom or the stage, he earned his bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees in music from the Eastman School of Music where he played in jazz and wind ensembles and sang in choirs. He has also taught instrumental music in both middle and high school settings and has taught jazz ensembles, young composers, and small-group instrumental lessons as a K-12 educator.
A native of Western New York, Stringham enjoys the Valley, JMU, and being the change by always finding new ways to “expand music into people’s lives.”