Some children’s music is uplifting. Some children’s music is educational. Another important component is healing, especially after (or sometimes during, in relation to a pandemic) a traumatic event. President of the New York Art Therapy Association Nicole Porter created a series of everyday tools that could be used outside a clinician’s office, and directed her attention to assembling You and Us, a band featuring these concepts with the assistance of instrumentalist and producer Wyndham Garrett (known for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Lola Kirke, among others). Their collaboration, For Children Of All Ages, is a song cycle through the stages of art therapy trauma response – a technique Porter developed after the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
The Newtown strategies inspired Porter to establish Emerald Sketch, a mental health therapy trauma response team that circles the wagons around traumatized children and families. She has subsequently led trauma response projects at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, the March for Our Lives in Washington, DC, and others.
For Children Of All Ages is not meant as casual “trip to Grandma’s” music, unless Grandma has also suffered PTSD from lack of direct access to her family. The album shifts from country (“Nowhere Now Here”) to 60s British pop (“Mary Faery”). Ironically, “Soul Survivor” is not a beat-heavy blues tune, instead a dreamlike feel-good anthem about making through a tough situation and “facing inward to win.” Then there’s the “Raw Emotional Power” that can make us shake, but that we can control and shake in a positive way.
You and Us is seeking to make a statement to children – terrible experiences do not necessarily need to define us. As long as our community bands together and shares its strengths, children of all ages are resilient enough to get over seemingly insurmountable ordeals.