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Arthur Bloom: How the healing power of music helps wounded warriors

MusiCorps_2013CNN | By Marissa Calhoun

Bethesda, Maryland (CNN) — When Capt. Greg Galeazzi joined the Army seven years ago, he was well aware of the risks he would face. "Of course you accept that injuries or death is a possibility," Galeazzi said. "This is what happens to soldiers who fight wars."

In 2011, that possibility became Galeazzi's reality. While leading his platoon on a routine morning patrol, an improvised explosive device detonated beneath him. "It felt like I got hit by a wrecking ball," he said.

Though Galeazzi survived the blast, life as he knew it did not. Suddenly, he was a double, above the knee amputee and had a severely wounded right arm.

"I was a shell of a man," he said. "Who I was, was gone." Before his injuries, playing the guitar had been a special pastime for Galeazzi.

Before his injuries, playing the guitar had been a special pastime for Galeazzi. "Music has always been important to me," he said. "I felt a deep sadness because I thought I'd lost my ability to play music."

Galeazzi began to see things differently when he joined MusiCorps, a music rehabilitation program for severely wounded soldiers who are recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

"We match the injured troops with professional musicians," said Arthur Bloom ['86BA, '93MM, '94MMA], who founded the program in 2007. "They help wounded warriors play music and recover their lives."

"The music becomes their new way of communicating. It can be just as powerful as the spoken word. ... By injecting music into this space, we can inject life."
— Arthur Bloom

'Band' of brothers

Bloom, a graduate of the Yale School of Music, offers his services to patients at Walter Reed who have an interest in playing an instrument. Program participants practice technique. They write and record music. Or they may just get together for a jam session.

"Some of what we do you could call adaptive music making," Bloom said. "The folks who are missing limbs or have damaged hands and arms sometimes require specialized instruments, which we provide."

The journey to recovery for many troops is a long one. It can require dozens of surgeries and many years spent in medical treatment facilities.

"There's so much downtime at Walter Reed, and that's what we fill up with music," Bloom said. "What we didn't expect is that they'd get really, really good. So we formed a band."

The MusiCorps Wounded Warrior Band is the performance component of Bloom's program. The group has performed at some of the country's premiere concert venues, including the Kennedy Center and Madison Square Garden, and with world-renowned musicians like Yo-Yo Ma and Roger Waters.