Restoring hope through music

Posted in: Society
By Kaye Collier
Mar 13, 2014 - 9:25:07 AM

Rachel FolmarLong before 18-year-old Rachel Folmar entered her last year of high school, she decided what she wanted to do with her life. She would go to college and earn the necessary credentials to become a therapist.
“In 1998, my grandpa was in an accident at work and was severely injured. He needed lots of medical care and therapy,” she explained. “Because of this, I was inspired to go into therapy.”
So. . .last fall, she “job shadowed” an occupational therapist with Duncan Regional Hospital, a young man named Philip.
However, after attending an All-State vocal clinic at SWOSU, she decided exactly where to level her sights.
“That is where I heard about music therapy,” she said. “After researching it, I realized, what better way to try to help people than with my love for music?”
To Rachel, music is not just an intense interest—it borders on obsession. She is enrolled in both vocal music and band at Marlow High School, where she is not only an accomplished vocalist, but also a co-drum major for the Pride of Outlaw Country.
Whether as a soloist or as part of an ensemble, her voice range allows her to sing alto or soprano, whichever is needed for a given selection.
At her church, the Outreach Prayer Center in Midwest City, Rachel is a worship leader for the youth group. And as part of this worship team, she occasionally helps conduct the praise portion of the church’s Sunday services.
Having entered Marlow’s band program as a sixth-grader, she is now in her seventh year, playing the trumpet and the French horn. Furthermore, she has also taken piano lessons and is becoming increasingly proficient on that instrument, as well.
Then there’s one of her favorite pastimes: getting lost in—what else?
“I listen to a lot of music,” she attested.
Rachel’s tastes trend toward Christian music, which is her favorite, and country. But to be more specific, she prefers a genre that some might consider a bit off-the-wall—Christian rap and hip-hop, the kind performed by such artists as Lecrae, Tedashii, Andy Mineo and TobyMac. Heard of them? Me, either.
She has decided to combine her interest in helping others with her love of music by becoming a music therapist.
Rachel noted that whereas many skills draw primarily from either the right side or the left side of the brain, music requires bilateral, or concerted, functioning of both working together.
Music therapy is used, she pointed out, in nursing homes, hospitals and other care facilities to relieve anxiety or stress, to alleviate fear, or to assist in recovery after trauma. It even has therapeutic properties that render it useful in situations like high-risk pregnancies and partially-developed nervous systems in newborns.
She pointed out that former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head by an assailant in 2011, has recovered the ability to speak, and that music was instrumental in that recovery.
Giffords survived the assault but suffered from aphasia, an inability to form speech patterns because of damage to the region of the brain’s left hemisphere that controls speech. By superimposing words on rhythm and melody, which stem from the right hemisphere, her brain was trained to take an alternative, albeit less-traveled, pathway to arrive at the same journey’s end. Sort of like a detour.
How many of us, as children, learned to recite the alphabet or the books of the Bible by singing them? Same principle, albeit on a much more simple level.
Life, love and loss
Glen and Marcia Folmar welcomed the first of their two daughters on May 17, 1995, in Bryan, Texas, and named her Rachel Elizabeth. Almost two years later, the second girl, Sara, was born.
Glen’s job with Halliburton brought them to Marlow when Rachel was in kindergarten, and she has attended the local schools ever since.
Rachel and her father were close.
“He was always fun, and he was always teaching me to do stuff outside like yardwork or working on cars,” she recalled. “Then we would always go get an ice cream. Always!”
Because of that closeness, Glen’s tragic death in December 2009 from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident was especially painful for his 14-year-old daughter.
“I loved my dad a lot, and when he died, it left an empty spot in my life that can never be filled,” she said. “I miss him every day.”
However, there has been a silver lining breaking through the cloud of grief.
“It has brought my family very close,” Rachel observed. “My mom and my sister and I do everything together now.”
“She’s a very hard worker, and she does a lot of things to help me,” Marcia Folmer testified.
Two other people have also helped the family deal with the tangible loss.
“My grandparents, Don and Becky George of Newcastle, have become more than just my grandparents,” Rachel explained.
“My grandma is always there when I need to get away from everything, and I talk to her about everything. She has helped lead me in my walk with God and seems to always have an answer to my questions.”
“My grandpa is my fixer-upper. If my mom or I mess something up, which happens a lot, he is always there to fix it. Last summer,” she elaborated, “I was in the city (Oklahoma City) and ran over a nail. I called him immediately, and he was there to save the day so I could get home.”
Don George is Rachel’s maternal grandfather, and it was his treatment regimen that inspired her to look into therapy as a profession.
Busy young woman
A pretty, hazel-eyed young woman with honey blonde tresses, Rachel is strong scholastically; her 3.5 GPA, perpetual inclusion on the principal’s honor roll, and induction into the National Honor Society all attest to this fact.
Her interest in the arts experienced a growth spurt this school year when she waded into the waters of the visual arts. Under Arlyn Brantley’s tutelage, Rachel is learning mask-making, drawing, pottery and other creative pursuits, but those three are her favorites, she said. And interestingly enough, another subject she is thoroughly enjoying is anatomy.
She is serving as vice-president of both the Foreign Language Club and the Library Club, the latter an organization, she explained, that fosters an interest in reading among kindergartners.
Another extracurricular is the MHS bowling team; her average is around 156. Her community-service activities include volunteering at Duncan Regional Hospital, assisting with Michelle Garrison’s first-grade class, and participating in cleanup efforts in the aftermath of a tornado in Woodward in 2012 with MHS’ Random Acts of Kindness chapter.    
During her time with the high school band program, the band has competed in the district and state contests every year.
Rachel has earned a letter in that subject. She auditioned for drum major last year before a band instructor other than Billy Daniel, Marlow’s director, and currently shares those responsibilities with Madalyn Estes.
Vocally, she has qualified this year and last for the southwest Oklahoma All-Region Honor Choir.
“Rachel is an amazing student, and I am so happy to have had the opportunity to work with her this past year,” noted MHS vocal instructor Brent Logan. “She has proven to be a person who is willing and able to take on any challenge given to her.
“Rachel was accepted to the southwest All-Region Honor Choir and also made it through to the second round of the All-State Honor Choir auditions,” he continued. “She is always willing to help out with the class whenever I need her to. It has been my pleasure to work with her this year. I expect great things out of her.”
In spite of her demanding schedule, Rachel is also responsible for getting a second-grader off to Marlow Elementary every morning. She has completed the Safe Sitter course at DRH and has done a great deal of babysitting during the past three years.
A future of service
After graduating from Marlow High School in May, Rachel will attend Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford. She has applied for a number of scholarships, including a music scholarship from SWOSU itself, to assist with expenses.
In fact, she is so certain of her plans that she has already placed a room deposit with the university.
After completing her education, Rachel will be taking her credentials into a world that breathes new life into those who have been denied earlier skills and others seeking to attain new ones.
And somewhere in the process, she will undoubtedly discover a wealth of fulfillment for herself.