Retired mental health worker heals through music


Tezell Morris, of Flint, grew up in a household where music and helping others were part of everyday life. His father was a pastor who cared for his community and all eight of his brothers and sisters were constantly singing and playing music.

More than 16 years ago, Morris happily retired from his satisfying job at Genesee County Community Mental Health where he taught music to individuals with mental illness. Doing so, he said, was one of the best jobs he could ever want. Upon retirement however, he knew his days of service to others weren’t over.

What Morris couldn’t predict was that he would enjoy a second long career – for 16 years and still counting – in a role that he says makes him rise happily out of bed every day.

Morris, who majored in music therapy at Lincoln University decades ago, is the music instructor at Rose Hill Center in Holly, a residential rehabilitation program for adults with serious mental illness. At the more than 400-acre facility, he teaches residents to sing, play piano, guitar, drums, trumpet or any musical aspect that they desire. Music, he said, helps heal.

“When a new individual comes to Rose Hill Center, I spend a lot of time getting to know him or her,” said Morris. “Sometimes they know right away that they want to sing or play music. It’s important that we all understand that many of the residents don’t realize they have talents just like anyone else. The residents come down to the music room and check out the instruments and see what moves them. Then, I coach from there.”

Rose Hill Center was founded on the belief that recovery can occur when people receive professional psychiatric care and participate in meaningful daily activity while engaging in their own treatment plan. Morris said the residents learn to cope with stress by playing instruments or singing. In the music program, they discover and hone new skills or improve already-existing talents.

Residents are guided through therapeutic programs such as the well-established music, animal care and horticulture departments, where they learn to manage symptoms and achieve their highest level of independence.

“Some residents want very detailed instructions, but others might just want to sit quietly and play. I had one resident who found it therapeutic and calming to beat on the drums. I saw how it helped him,” said Morris.

According to Morris, residents also perform at events like National Alliance for Mental Illness conventions andRose Hill Center’s annual holiday events. They perform a variety of music, including R&B, rock, jazz and other genres.

“It is wonderful to see their self-esteem improve and for them to recognize their own worth,” said Morris. “It’s something everyone needs in this world.”

For more information about Rose Hill Center, visit or call (248) 634-5530.


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