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And the beat goes on
Music therapy grad spreads music, love and peace


Philip Carlson
Contributing Writer

Issue date: 5/14/02 Section: News
 


DC Photo by Winston Cutshall
      MIchael Kenny was recently invited to enter his masterpiece into an art car parade this summer. If you want your art to be part of the summer exhibition, contact him soon at musictherapy4u@yahoo.com 

When music therapy graduate student Michael Kenny say people know him by his car, he means this in the most literal sense -- his name is painted across his driver's side door. Every inch of its original black paint is covered with pictures and statements on love, peace, music and harmony. The car is eccentrically painted to match Kenny's personality.

Kenny, a certified music therapist, bought his Honda Civic while living in New Jersey in 1992. Before moving to Dallas in 1995, he decided the car needed decoration. At a party four months after he bought it, Kenny began painting his car.

At first, people drew pictures of what they wanted him to paint, but a few hours later he ditched the pen and paper and let others paint his car. The only catch was that the paintings had to be positive.

Kenny said he has driven through more than 40 states, Canada and Mexico. In each place someone has painted on his car. Over the years, the Civic has been covered with pictures and quotes from people all over North America.

People don't have to go out of their way to paint it. He carries paints, brushes and thinner in his backseat along with numerous musical instruments - most notably, his drums.

Kenny uses percussion instruments as part of therapy sessions in a geriatric psychology unit at a Dallas hospital. He also plays in nursing homes and detention centers and holds drumming sessions for schools, parties, art festivals and peace demonstrations.

"Everybody has music in them. It's just part of our being," Kenny said. "My mission is to get everyone in the world to play music together."

Bestsy Brunk, head of the SMU music therapy department said Kenny is constantly thinking up fresh and creative ideas.

"The thing that he's most known for is drum circles," said Brunk. "Currently he is doing research on how drum circles can be used to help at-risk adolescents."

Last semester Kenny held a drum session by the flagpole as part of his involvement with the local non-profit organization Drums Not Guns.

Drums Not Guns founder Shel "Happy" Weisman, said the organization works with at-risk kids to show them there are alternative ways to solve conflict through the "power of percussion" rather than guns.

"If you're beating drums, at least you're not beating each other," Weisman said.

Every Wednesday night Kenny holds a drum circle at the Across the Street Bar as part of his involvement with Drums not Guns. Recently, he participated in the Main Street Arts Festival (a Drums not Guns Rhythm Ride) in Fort Worth and took part in a 150 - to 200 - person drum circle, his largest to date.

Kenny's car is a remarkable home. The front seats are topped with red and white flower-print car seat covers. A matching blue steering wheel cover wraps around the wheel.

An array of musical instruments, painting materials and other necessities fill the backseat. A bungee cord holds the front bumper on. Numerous bumper stickers with sayings such as, "I'm too sexy for this car," and "Music makes the world go 'round" accompany the pock-mark rust spots on the car's exterior.

In the future, Kenny hopes to move to the New England area, bringing what he's learned in Dallas. Weisman said Kenny will be missed when he leaves.

"He's one of the most unforgettable characters I've ever known," Weisman said. "He's one of those rare breed of humans that stay positive."



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