Williamsport, Pa. -- Music has long been an outlet for emotions, but it can also be an outlet for physical and mental challenges. People with disabilities may find music on their own, or someone may guide them to it.
Mike Wrench, owner and operator of Upbeat Outreach, LLC, provides music therapy to people of all ages and all abilities, but specializes in drum therapy and the education of youth with disabilities. Upbeat Outreach has offered services in several local schools, learning centers, and community centers. Upbeat Outreach also offers individual lessons in which students focus upon mood development.
Wrench found a passion for drumming at a young age, and at the same time, a way to process his disabilities. He often found himself shaking his hands non-stop, an indication of his ADHD; or needing his environment to be perfectly aligned, a sign of his OCD.
But with drumming, he could escape: “basically, when I'm playing I'm turning my brain off; like I'm not thinking okay it's got to be like this, got to be like that, or it's not right," said Wrench.
Wrench’s life lessons have become instructions for himself and others. During a Keynote Speaker address at Penn College, to a majority audience of students with disabilities, Wrench told multiple volunteers, in one way or another: “There's no right or wrong way. Let's try something.”
Several students came on stage with very little, if any, drumming experience under their belts. They all tried on the drumset – some timidly, one confidently.
As Wrench gradually eased the student volunteers, he eased the entire audience into drumming, employing different teaching techniques along the way: follow the syllables of words, he said; or follow the count of 1234-1234; or just test out the different drums and cymbals until it feels right.
Wrench described his work as “giving back to other people," which works in two ways: as a support system for people with disabilities; and as a form of therapy that inspires inspires others to find and pursue passions.
By combining personal and professional goals, Wrench landed on a career that combined his passions.
"I know that I wanted to help people. The only way I knew how to do that was through this instrument right here," said Wrench, pointing at the drums that led him to the stage.