Music's imprint on your life

by Kristen Van Dyke, LPMT, MT-BC
Licensed Music Therapist and Voice, Piano, Guitar Instructor for Metro Music Makers

Can you remember what you had for dinner two nights ago? How about what your husband or wife said to pick up from the grocery store earlier today? I certainly can’t!

Now, can you remember the first concert you went to? Or every single word to a song that you listened to with your first crush? That song you danced around to in your bedroom, using a hairbrush as a microphone? Or the song that your mother used to sing to you as a child? Most of us can recognize the cinematic theme from “Star Wars” within literally the first 2-3 seconds. Music paired with specific emotions, images, and memories are stored in more complex ways than we can imagine. Because music is with us throughout our entire life, music therapy can be highly successful when implemented with senior populations. Music has a unique power to transcend over time and reach places in our brains and hearts that other things cannot.

Metro Music Makers serves a huge variety of young students, teaching a wide variety instruments, and is very proud to do so. However, you may not be aware that we also serve a very important group of people on the other side of the age spectrum. As a board-certified music therapist, I have the privilege of running a music therapy group for an assisted living population. Music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. 

Music therapy in an assisted living facility, nursing home, or another related facility can provide opportunities for:
-Memory recall and reminiscence
-Positive changes in mood and emotional states
-Awareness of self and environment
-Anxiety and stress reduction
-Social interaction
-Complementing physical rehabilitation through structure of song, which promotes rhythmic and continuous moment or vocal fluency
-Self-expression

There are many examples of musical interventions that can be used with an assisted living community: pairing movement to music, playing instruments, songwriting, music listening  and, of course, singing are just some of many effective activities a music therapist might lead.

It always makes me sad to hear an adult of any age say to me, “Oh, I can’t sing,” or “My choir teacher in the third grade told me I should just mouth the words.” In my opinion, if singing provides you joy, then you sing. With the assisted living population, I see residents who do not have the cognitive abilities to answer a question, but when I start playing “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” they sing every word. Many research studies have proven that singing decreases stress, elevates endorphins and even synchronizes heart beats among a group. Singing can also have more rehabilitative benefits, such as improving breath support, breath control, sound production and patterns of speech.

Source: http://minnesotasnewcountry.com

So I encourage you today to SING! Sing in the car, sing in the shower, sing with your kids, ask your parents about some of their favorite songs growing up, find a community choir! Also, please contact Metro Music Makers for additional information on how we can bring music therapy to your home, school, program or senior facility. We love sharing the power of music!

Additional Resources:
http://www.musictherapy.org (American Music Therapy Association website)
http://www.ascseniorcare.com/music-therapy-seniors/
http://www.aplaceformom.com/senior-care-resources/articles/dementia-therapy-and-music
http://ideas.time.com/2013/08/16/singing-changes-your-brain/
http://blog.brainhq.com/2010/04/22/top-12-brain-based-reasons-why-music-as-therapy-works/

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