Stress. Everyone has it, some, more than others.
For the last decade or so, servicemembers have endured countless deployments, which has caused them stress as well as their loved ones back home.
There are many ways to combat stress.
One is music, whether listening, playing or performing.
A study published in the February 2005 issue of the Medical Science Monitor, an international research journal shows that playing a musical instrument can reverse elements of the human stress response on the cellular level. The study’s main researcher, Dr. Barry Bittman of the Mind-Body Wellness Center in Meadville, Pa., said in an article in Medical News Today, that this discovery not only shows the value of active music participation, but also extends the understanding of individualized human biological stress responses on an unprecedented level.
All science aside, Caitlin Reyna sees this positive reaction to music all the time.
Reyna, spouse of Sgt. Ruben Reyna, 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, is a voice and music instructor who has many Soldiers as students.
Caitlin’s love of music started early in life in her hometown of Chicago. As a young child, she watched her mother, Wanda McVeigh, an aspiring country singer, play the piano.
“I loved to watch the hammers hit the strings while she played,” she said.
Caitlin continued her study of music through school, including being accepted to the National High School Institute at Northwestern University, a school noted for its large and distinguished body of alumni, including U.S. representative Richard Gephart, newscaster Charles Kuralt and actors Cloris Leachman, Noah Wyle and Shelley Long.
Caitlin also has a bachelor’s of fine art at Boston University, performing at the Boston Conservatory.
One of her students, Spc. John Wilcox, from the 307th Brigade Support Bn., 1st BCT, 82nd Abn. Div., said he felt having a creative outlet has helped him become a better Soldier.
“A lot of people don’t really have a creative outlet. They don’t really have freedom to do what they want. Even when we’re kids, even though we were in school and for the most part, they told us what to do and how we were supposed to do it. You would have your own little projects you would be able to do. You had a little control over certain things. But in the military, a lot of that control you just leave at the door,” said Wilcox.
His decision to get back into music theater made him realize he was missing something.
Just being a Soldier can be very stressful, said Caitlin.
“Whenever my husband has been in the airport in uniform, it’s very sweet that people come up to him and say ‘thank you for your service.’ But he almost wants to be a normal person. I think honestly that’s what’s partially great about theater and music, that it is a level playing field. What you bring as an artist, is what you bring. I think it helps with that. Nobody is looking at you on stage seeing your uniform. They’re looking at you telling a story and what you’re doing as a performer,” she said.
“Honestly, one of the things I find most stressful and I don’t think a whole lot of people realize this, is how people naturally are made. We’re all wired to create stuff, to do stuff in a new and different way. But with the military, they have rules for everything and you have to adhere to those rules. And if you don’t adhere to those rules, (you get in trouble,)” said Wilcox.
“I noticed the guys that do have an outlet generally are the guys that are happier and stay out of trouble,” he added.
Innovation through music helps create that outlet, said Caitlin.
“It’s almost a struggle in the beginning because (Soldiers are) so used to having someone say this is exactly what you’re doing and this is exactly what you’re going to think. It takes all the innovation out. It takes out all the different ways of looking at it and ‘why are we doing it this way,’” she said.
Music and theater also helps things in real life click, said Caitlin.
“The decisions that Sweeney Todd has to make or Javert has to make in Les Mis can be applied in real life. This and this happened overseas, now I can understand why maybe they had to make this exact decision,” she said.
With Caitlin’s help, Wilcox hopes to eventually study music theater in college. He has already made plans to audition in upcoming musicals at the Cape Fear Regional Theater and the Gilbert Theater.
Caitlin said she believes in the healing power of music.
“I think music is something everyone in the world should be able to do if they want. To me, the worst thing in the world is to deny someone access to music because it’s something we all connect to. Everybody in the world has a breakup mix for a reason. We all use music to connect, to heal.”
To contact Caitlin for lessons, call 987-7137.