Text by Gretchen Kuhsel

There are certain collaborations that make sense: Beyonce and Jay-Z, braces and being thirteen, and now, Berklee College of Music and Emerson College. Maya Rafie, Marketing ’16, is making the last one happen with a group called the Panamaniacs.


From left to right : Kira Helper, Sophie Maricq, Esteban Roa Fuentes, Maya Rafie, Stephanie Platzer, Kalli Jermyn + Lauren Murphy (not pictured).

Rafie leads the marketing, communication and photography for a Berklee music therapy program based in Panama City. The goal of the program is to provide music therapy services for local communities and support global awareness of music therapy. Rafie, the only non-Berklee student in the group, doesn’t have a musical background, but says she is inspired to use her passion for marketing communications and photography to help out with the project.

“I like the idea of mixing art forms like music and photography and hopefully laying the groundwork for sustainable Berklee-Emerson collaborations,” says Rafie.

For the rising senior, the most rewarding part of the trip is going to be seeing music therapy in action.

“I want to see [music therapy] hands on because it’s one thing to read about it, but I think it will be amazing to actually see and capture the effects.”

According to Panamaniacs’ page, the main objectives of the trip are to, “provide music therapy workshops and informational sessions to medical professionals and community members, empower the local community to build sustainable music therapy programs, and raise awareness about music therapy through accessible visuals.”

On the American Music Therapy Association’s website, the organization states that, “Music Therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals.” Rafie hopes to use her skills as a freelance photographer to bring attention to these holistic treatments. After the Panamaniacs return to Boston, Rafie will release a documentary film about the mission, which she hopes to share with students at both Emerson and Berklee, as well as submit to film festivals. 

In order to pay for the trip, the group has held fundraisers like bake sales and a benefit concert, but they are still under their $2,000 goal. As the Panamaniacs state on their Facebook page: “If everyone donated just $1, it would make a huge impact.” Collected funds will cover the team’s airfare, room and board, local transportation and instruments to be used exclusively for music therapy services. Any additional funds will be donated to the Danilo Perez Foundation which provides music for social change while creating opportunities for Panamanian citizens.

The Panamaniacs will be in Panama August 15th-23rd. For more information about their mission and how you can help, visit their Facebook and pages.