Magical Moments, Music Therapy

Mood Booster

Another incredible week of making music with and for people has come to a close.

Today we rewrote the lyrics to Heartbreak Hotel, made famous be Elvis Presley. On our first run through an older gentleman in my group for persons with depression and anxiety broke into song and ROCKED IT OUT! He laughed afterward and said that was the first time he had sung in front of others since his school days. He was so thankful for the chance to explore some in-the-moment joy. I congratulated him on accepting my invitation to sing.

Afterward a staff member let me know the gentleman had entered my group quite grumpy and distressed. He came out with a bounce in his step that shaped the rest of his day. This is HUGE for persons battling depression.

How blessed I am to be the ambassador for change. How very blessed I am to bring music to others.

What do you listen to when you need a boost? Comments are welcome!

Media Reviews, Music Therapy

What music does in the brain

I love the overview this CNN article provides. Check out the info on all levels of health and function that music offers via intervention. Oh yeah, it is often pleasurable/fun too.

Check out music therapy the next time a loved one is in need of rehabilitation, habilitation, insight, or mood stabilizing.

Magical Moments, Music Therapy

Drumming and Depression

I recently led a group drumming experience with about 30 adults, most struggling with issues of depression or anxiety.  It was amazing to see the mood shift of the group from when we started to where we ended.  The music directives required the group members to focus their attention on each other, to actively participate in the group, to be involved.  Without everyone, our musical “machine” would clunk rather than flow.  By the end of our time together, the challenges I had presented to the group were accomplished.  We were making music together, many were smiling and encouraging others, and becoming known to each other in a new way.

There are so many times in life that I have been able to pull metaphors of being in an ensemble, ripe with leadership opportunities and supportive relationships, to the success of a group or team.  I am always amazed when I am reminded of this time and time again.  Although we can’t all be soloists or conductors in this life, we have a place, an important part, that which adds to the whole.  Without those extra voices the beauty would be muted.  Even the smallest voice, even the one who may say nothing at all, is a part of the ensemble to both participate, but also to bear witness to our experience, to hear our song.

I love music.  It makes us matter.

Media Reviews, Music Therapy

Music therapy and Alzheimer’s disease

How does music therapy help in developing connections for patients with Alzheimer’s disease? Here’s a nice quick piece in the Huffington Post with video of sessions happening.  Interviewed is Connie Tomaino, an expert in our field, sharing a bit about why music is effective with her patients.

Whenever I witness these kinds of responses to music is sessions, and even on these videos, I tend to take for granted how transforming the music can be for an individual.  I often think, “Of course he is up and dancing!  She’s playing his song!”, and then I remember what a huge deal this is. 

Find the music for your loved ones, and dance, clap, or sing!



Media Reviews, Music Therapy

Music therapy in early childhood classrooms

I wanted to share with you an article published in January on the Huffington Post.  Ronna Kaplan, recent Past President of the American Music Therapy Association, opens a door for us and gives readers a view inside the classroom for young students with different abilities.  In her article, “Music Therapy in Early Childhood Classrooms” she does a nice job of describing what you might see in a classroom session, and why. 

When I read the article, I reflected upon how music can be shaped to be the carrier of information for learners of different sensory needs and skill levels.  Often kids with “special needs” have disparities in levels of functioning.  This means they might struggle intensely with one thing, and be really quite talented at another.  Using music to help kids learn essential academic concepts, as well as therapeutic concepts for communication, psychosocial health, and motor planning are an often non-threatening and fun ways to approach learning and goal achievement.  Through music therapy, music can be the tool to access strengths to illucidate the lesson or task being taught. 

So when kids have challenges in getting something accomplished, wrapping the content in music might just be the thing that will help get the concept understood and integrated.


Media Reviews, Music Therapy

PBS Newshour spotlight on music therapy

Welcome to another piece on one of my favorite subjects – music therapy.  Take a few minutes to check out this great overview “The Healing Power of Music” aired on February 27th on PBS’s Newshour with Jim Lehrer.

The video captures a snapshot of treating persons with brain injuries and medical complexities through music therapy.  This includes a bit about Gabrielle Giffords’ music therapy treatment, a bit about brain science and the neuropathways developed by engaging in active music therapy, and some nice case examples.  Meet a young man with muscular dystrophy whose music therapist is using music to enhance his mood and help him cope with hospitalization, a group of children drumming together in the hospital, a group of stroke survivors, and a view of a music therapist addressing veteran’s health and rehabilitation.  They have also included soothing patients enduring cancer therapies, and how music can aid in alleviating depression in the elderly.  Musicians reflected how participating in music and enjoying being in the moment through dancing or singing can be therapeutic.  When coupled with the skill of a music therapist, the therapeutic relationship and addressing non-musical goals can be transformative.

When I watched the videos and considered the commentary, I, of course, reflected on my own work as a music therapist.  Music recreation, music appreciation — these are all imperatives for all persons, “healthy” or otherwise.  What seems to make my work so different from music education and music appreciation with persons with a variety of needs, is that I look to uncover moments of transformation.  It is not about me, it is not about the music that is coming out of my heart, hands, and voice.  It is about what my client is going to do with it, and how I can support that client in being changed somehow.    In this liminal space, that moment of insight, that moment when the hand reaches out to interact, that moment when the smile is undeniably connected to what I am offering, is when that relationship is solidified and goals are addressed.  I and my fellow music therapists often don’t care what the client’s music sounds like — it is what the music brings to them that makes those moments of transformation possible.

Enjoy the news story.  I look forward to hearing from you and reading your comments.