MARILYN HAGERTY: Woman enables children with music, women with danceNatasha Thomas is not your usual, run-of-the-mill, young woman. She is a singer. She is a music therapist. And she teaches and performs belly dancing — known as Middle Eastern Dance.
By: Marilyn Hagerty, Grand Forks Herald
Natasha Thomas is not your usual, run-of-the-mill, young woman. She is a singer. She is a music therapist. And she teaches and performs belly dancing — known as Middle Eastern Dance.
So, I made an appointment to visit with Natasha, 25, in her music therapy office in the School for the Blind in Grand Forks. It’s an office chock-full of instruments she uses to introduce music to students with sight and hearing deficits.
She’s been interested in music therapy ever since she saw it used with her cousin who had autism problems. “He went from being nonverbal to the point where he could communicate with singing,” she said.
She was drawn to music therapy as a UND student. She is now working on a master’s degree in the field. North Dakota was the first state to license music therapy. Nevada was second.
Not long ago, the teaching of music to blind students was only in Braille. She finds that students will open their eyes when they hear music and it holds their attention. “They reach out,” she said.
“We do a lot of tracking. We want them to access music through Braille. We are trying to show students they can learn it and it is useful.
“It’s a challenge,” she said. “First, there’s the puzzled stage. Then, a frustration stage. Once they move on, they adapt and they play instruments.”
Her work — her mission — finds her traveling across the state to work with sight-impaired students. In Devils Lake, she works uses music therapy to help students with hearing deficits.
In her work, Natasha sees how people benefit from music She is amazed how infants react. “It blows my mind to see how technology is affecting human development,” she said.
She wants that for her students.
If Natasha has a pet peeve, it’s the way people fail to communicate. “If you have needs or concerns, talk about them. Otherwise there will be more problems down the road.”
Natasha is the daughter of UND faculty members David and JoAnne Yearwood. She was home-schooled for the first four years when they lived in Devils Lake. She is a singer and is well-known to local theatre audiences. She remembers competing for Little Miss North Dakota when she was 7.
She came in fourth, and she says she beat herself up too much. The pageants ended. The singing continued.
Natasha met her husband, Bernie Thomas, in the music library at UND. And she says, “The rest is history.”
She sang for his first album at Arioso Music Academy. They were married in 2009. They are planning to take part in presentation of a collection of love songs on Valentine’s Day at Fire Hall Theatre.
Meanwhile, as time allows, Natasha teaches and performs Middle Eastern Dance. The lessons are at 12 Houses, 2017 DeMers Ave. It’s what she calls a “cool place” for unique decorations and food items for vegetarians. Another class is held Tuesday evenings at The Y.
She likes teaching the dancing classes because she feels they empower women. She showed me how you stand up straight and tall and move back and forward. She did hip circles and rib circles. And she said, “Anyone can do figure-8s.”
About that time, I decided I should go home and walk the dog and leave the belly dancing to Natasha.
Reach Hagerty at firstname.lastname@example.org.