CAMMO: Healing Through Song is a short documentary that uses storytelling to show how the arts can strengthen the well-being of our country’s service members, veterans, and their families. While there are many examples of the arts and the military coming together for entertainment purposes like the USO, the integration of the arts can address the physical and mental well-being and recovery of military personnel. Creative arts therapies are proven to increase the recovery rates of service members with physical, mental, and moral injuries. Arts and military based activities in communities facilitate the difficult transition from military to civilian life for veterans, their families and caregivers, providing socialization, and fostering positive meaningful relationships that bridge the military/civilian divide.
This documentary raises awareness and recognition of the contribution of the arts in addressing these acute challenges for service members and their families. The documentary serves as a storytelling tool that Americans for the Arts’ members and stakeholders can use (alongside compelling data) to illustrate the positive effects of the arts and community-based art programs as they do their work to advocate for the arts in their communities across the country.
Americans for the Arts is a nonprofit, committed to advancing the arts in America. We serve a membership of local arts agencies and arts professionals around the country providing necessary tools, resources, and professional development to advance the arts and arts education in their communities. Responding to a strong need and to inspire the formation of other programs across the country, we work to connect the arts as a resource for healing America’s military, veteran, their families, and caregivers. We have authored white papers, created directories to track and connect programs to families, and convened stakeholders nationally to raise visibility.
To showcase the life changing work between the art and military, we felt a storytelling video could provide a heartfelt and authentic case study for our members to put faces to data points we often report. The story also illustrates for military servicemembers and families the power of the arts as a tool for healing and recovery. Realizing that programs like C.A.M.M.O. may exist in their communities could help connect them to resources they’ve been searching for. Overarchingly, we wanted to create a video that would provide the general population with a level of understanding that the arts have a proven role in health and healing.
Once we identified this need, we consulted with staff to identify local organizations who were doing work in this area. This led us to the Center for American Military Music Opportunities (C.A.M.M.O.). With C.A.M.M.O. as our partner, we further identified key individuals (a veteran, an active duty servicemember, and a military kid) from across perspectives who graciously shared their stories on camera. Over the course of months, we got to know them, interviewed them, followed them to performances and collected supplemental materials.
Our strategy was to create a video that would work hand-in-hand with all of the other tools and resources that we work hard to provide the field. Our members and the important leaders and decisionmakers that we hope to reach need multiple entry points to the arts and healing conversation. Some may need a one-pager of fast facts, one may ask for a comprehensive research study, and another may simply need a 12-minute video to move them to action.
Our resources are available across all our social media channels, on our website, through members-only briefings and military-specific listservs and groups, in regular email communications, and at future screenings at our events. As a nonprofit organization with a small but mighty video team, our aim was not to create the next viral sensation, but to thoughtfully and authentically tell the stories of people engaged and transformed by their experience with arts as a means of healing, leverage that to create tools for our members, bring visibility to the Center for American Military Music Opportunities and help shift the conversation on how the arts can impact the health and well-being of our military, veterans, and their families.
Released in mid-July, our approach is a multi-prong spanning the full calendar year with taking opportunities to screen the film at our cyclical events as well as leveraging C.A.M.M.O. to share the video with their audience. We will package the film with other tools and resources to create a toolkit for our 7,000 members, 1,400 of whom are local arts agencies serving communities across the country in every state in the USA.
Our video highlights and celebrates the unique mission that people featured hold dear to their heart, as they spread the word about the power of music in their lives. Two of the singers from the video are now competing with Voices of Service (the choir highlighted in our video) on America’s Got Talent taking the conversation to a national platform every week.