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Born to Rock + A Very Merry Moving Day

Friday was a big day for the MMT Team!

Our morning was spent with a remarkably large group of bonafide rockstars – namely, the students of Simpson Elementary School! We were so excited to be there with these amazing kids to celebrate Exceptional Children’s Week. All week long, March 5 – 9, schools around the country celebrated students with exceptionalities and the families and professionals who serve, love, and support them. The theme of the week at Simpson was “Born to Rock!” and we had a chance to join in the fun with some instruments, singing, and dancing!

We were also excited to be sporting our new team “jerseys!”

First up, Bianca showed us how to “Shake It Off,” with several of the students using their brand new shakers. The whole crowd clapped, patted, and shook along, but we had to listen carefully – sometimes the instructions got tricky as they sped up!

Next, Kevin demonstrated how to get the instruments of a rock band going with some “Air Guitar” (and “Air” piano, drum, and violin) while the rest of the team provided a looping musical backdrop – all to create the song, “In the Jungle (The Lion Sleeps Tonight).” We even had some technical difficulties, like a real rock band!

Then Maria taught us how to use ASL to sign “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome” using a familiar tune from Disney’s Moana. Everyone sang and signed along to practice, and Maria even rapped for us, a la Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson (a.k.a. Maui)! So I believe what we’re trying to say to Maria is… thank you. (“You’re Welcome!”)

Camila kept us on our toes with a “freeze” dance set to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” Whenever the music paused, everyone had to give their best pose to match whichever poster was suddenly flipped over. Things got even more interesting (and hilarious) when we had to do two – or even four! – poses at the same time!

All day long, the students were practicing their “Superhero,” “Dab,” “Selfie,” and “Hippie” poses.
To be honest, we were too!

Finally, Laura led us in some echo singing to the Jackson 5’s “A-B-C.” It was a school event, so why not do a little bit of learning while we sing? The students were divided into three groups to try and outdo one another with a hearty “A-B-C,” “1-2-3,” or “DO-RE-MI!”

We had such a blast rocking out with our new friends at Simpson Elementary. They are exceptional, every one of them, and we couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity to celebrate them!

And for us, the excitement didn’t stop there!

After a team lunch at La Parilla, we had work to do, organizing, packing, and…

…wait for it…

…Moving!

In case you haven’t heard, Metro Music Therapy just moved into a new office space in Peachtree Corners, complete with a brand new Studio Room, where we’ll soon be able to offer music lessons to meet the needs of all learners! More details are on the way!

We can’t wait to welcome our students to Studio PTC!


Déjà Vu! Repetition in Music Therapy

*In accordance with HIPAA, and out of respect for our client’s privacy, the name “Kara” will be used as an alias throughout this blog post.
Photo used with permission from “Kara’s” mother.*

Being a Music Therapist requires a good amount of creativity. That includes the creativity inherent in all musical endeavors, certainly. But in therapy, there is an added element of finding creative ways to help our clients meet their non-musical goals through music. Sometimes this means rewriting familiar songs to include verbal prompting of a specific action, or actions, in the lyrics. Sometimes it means thinking outside the box when it comes to how an instrument “should” be played. And sometimes it means learning more efficient ways to play guitar, sing, manage any helpful visual aids, and physically assist the client, all at the same time (Phew!)

The growing, and often misunderstood, nature of a field such as ours tends to elicit a common desire among Music Therapists to find new, innovative, research-based ways to reach our clients. Add to that desire the aforementioned creativity, throw in a dash of high personal standards, and you get me: a Music Therapist who feels intense (almost entirely self-inflicted) pressure to continually bring new interventions and songs to my clients. Every session.
If I don’t, I’m being lazy. If I don’t, the client is missing out. If I don’t, I must not be doing this right. Right?

The problem I’ve discovered with that mindset, though, is its focus. Namely: me.
I need to be more creative. I need to do something new. I need to have fancy visual aids. I, I, I.
What about the client?
Does bringing something new into the session really help the client reach their goals?
Many times, yes! New isn’t bad. Fresh isn’t bad.
But neither is old. Neither is repetition. Especially if the client continues to enjoy it!

I began to learn this during my last semester at the University of Georgia, volunteering at an Elementary School. Those kids absolutely adored the song “Let It Go” from Frozen. If we did not use “Let It Go” during the session on any given week, their teacher would play it on YouTube as I began to pack up. “Let It Go” was going to happen, with or without me. Every time. And you know what? If those kids wanted to hear “Let It Go” until my ears bled, then by golly that’s what we were going to do. We used it with a big parachute, we used it with scarves, we used it with pinwheels, we used it with shakers and drums. We sang it, we listened to it, we marched and danced to it. Because they enjoyed it!
(We also played plenty of other songs, thank goodness.)

But repetition in Music Therapy is about more than just enjoyment. In fact, repetition is a central part of what makes music such a helpful tool for therapy! The structure of music – its established and repeated patterns – gives the brain clear cues. The client can begin to anticipate when to move their arm (for example) to strike a drum on just the right beat. If the rhythmic pattern remains the same, the client’s ability to expect and prepare for a motion or response is reinforced. Neurologically, this means that pathways are being built in the brain that become increasingly easy to travel with rehearsal. And repetition equals rehearsal. Repetition within a single song, yes, but also across several weeks using the same song.

Recently, that part of me that pressures myself into “new, new, new,” was humbled by a client we’ll call “Kara.” Kara has been practicing her cognitive and gross motor skills by playing a drum in four positions – high, low, left, and right. This requires listening to prompts from me, raising her hand above her head, and crossing the mid-line with her arm to reach the drum on the opposite side. We typically use the same song every week – a simple little tune that I sang off the top of my head a few months back. But Kara likes it! Almost without exception, her response to the song includes a smile and a laugh as she swings her mallet excitedly. And a funny thing started happening. As the weeks went on, Kara began to hear fewer and fewer prompts from me to play high, low, left, or right. She began to move her hand in those directions independently as the words were coming out of my mouth. Even more recently, she started switching the mallet to her other hand without assistance, raring to go again from the opposite side. With repetition and rehearsal, those pathways in her brain have become fully paved roads. Now practicing raising her arms and crossing to the other side is as easy as singing a song. Just the other week, we sang the song again. But this time I handed her a thinner mallet for a different instrument – a small marimba. Can you guess what happened?

The instrument was new and different, but the accompanying motor skills had been rehearsed and tied to a familiar tune. Kara knew exactly what to do! And just like always, a big smile and contagious laughter accompanied her playing.

Creativity is an important part of Music Therapy.
We want to be bringing fresh interventions and songs to our clients for their benefit!
But we can’t lose sight of the importance of repetition either.
Structure, routine, patterns, rehearsal – all of these helped us become musicians in the first place!
Now we can leverage those musical and neurological elements to help our clients achieve their goals.

– Written by Kevin Middlebrooks, LPMT, MT-BC

2018-02-13T15:09:43+00:00February 13th, 2018|Blog, For the Music Therapist, Music Therapy|

Remember Me: Music Therapy in Disney-Pixar’s “Coco”

I’ve been a huge fan of Pixar’s films for as long as I can remember. To put that in perspective, I was one of the kids going off to college just a few years after Andy did when Toy Story 3 was released. All that to say, I was more than a little excited to see Coco on the big screen back in November. While I was fully expecting to love the movie, I did not anticipate how perfectly the film would demonstrate the power of music to stimulate long-term memory. I did not expect a funny, yet touching, animated scene to portray the ability of music to reduce pain and promote relaxation at the end of life. I was not expecting a Music Therapy Movie, but boy was I thrilled to see one!

…Okay, so maybe calling Coco a “Music Therapy Movie” is a bit of an over-statement. After all, none of the characters in the movie are Board-Certified Music Therapists. And beyond just the musical elements on display, there’s a whole lot to love about Miguel’s adventure through the Land of the Dead. But as a Music Therapist, seeing two of the most powerful moments in the film so closely tied to my occupation (and so beautifully depicted) gets me excited. The healing and connecting power of music in these moments is undeniable, and there are some very important specifics about the ways that music is used that really get to the heart of Music Therapy. Let’s take a look at these two scenes.
What exactly is happening, and what makes it (close to) Music Therapy?

***SPOILER ALERT:
Remaining content contains plot points from Disney-Pixar’s Coco***

SCENE 1: “Everyone Knows Juanita”
Miguel and Héctor arrive in a town where, according to Héctor, everyone has been more or less forgotten. There is no one left in the Land of the Living to remember them. In “Land of the Dead” terms, these people are nearing the end of their afterlives. When their living descendants no longer remember who they are, they will experience what Héctor calls the “second death.” No one knows what happens to these people, but their skeletal bodies fade away, and are not seen again. In “health profession” terms, Miguel and Héctor are entering hospice and palliative territory – end-of-life care. Enter Chicharrón.

Chicharrón is a grizzled old man lying in a pile of collected treasures – one of which is the guitar that Héctor has come to borrow. Chicharrón, though initially opposed to lending Héctor anything, experiences what appears to be an intense surge of pain as he glows orange: a mark of the impending “second death.” Chicharrón, defeated, says that he could no longer play the guitar anymore if he wanted to. After all, he is nearing his end. Chicharrón agrees to give Héctor the guitar on one condition: that Héctor plays him a song.
And then he says something important: “You know my favorite.”

What we see is an established relationship between Héctor and Chicharrón. Héctor is not just some kind stranger who has come to play soothing music. He knows Chicharrón. And Chicharrón knows, and feels safe (albeit acting a little gruff) with, Héctor. Rapport has already been established between the “therapist” (Héctor) and the “client” (Chicharrón). In fact, Chicharrón does not even have to name his favorite song. Héctor already knows. He begins to play a goofy song titled “Everyone Knows Juanita.” The lyrics of the song describe what might sound like unattractive features of a woman named Juanita, before “flipping the script”, as it were, with the final line:
“And if I weren’t so ugly, she’d possibly give me a chance.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8q-pzrEIPc

Hardly a song one would expect in a Music Therapy session with a hospice patient who is actively dying. Right?
…Actually, this song is an important detail that makes this scene feel all the more like a good Music Therapy session!

A study by Laura A. Mitchell, BA (Hons.), MSc, PhD, and Raymond A.R. MacDonald, BSc, PhD –  published in the Journal of Music Therapy in December 2006 – examined the effects of “specially designed relaxation music”, as compared with “[clients’] own chosen music”, on pain perception, including tolerance time and pain intensity. And what they found seems to match what Héctor and Chicharrón knew intuitively: “While listening to their own preferred music, male and female participants tolerated the painful stimulus significantly longer than during both the relaxation music and control conditions” (Mitchell & MacDonald, 2006). And though only female participants reported significantly lower pain intensity during the “preferred music” condition, all participants reported feeling significantly more control in the “preferred music” condition. In other words, a song like “Everyone Knows Juanita”, goofy and “unusual” as it may be, is likely the best song to help Chicharrón relax and tolerate/reduce pain in this moment – because it’s his favorite!
Sure enough, Chicharrón sighs contentedly and lays back in his bed following the song – a stark contrast to the clenching pain he exhibits immediately prior. And with a “thank you”, he gently fades away.

SCENE 2: “Remember Me”
Alright, here’s the big one. The scene that will make you cry. The song “Remember Me” (Oscar Nominee for “Best Original Song”, by the way!) is present throughout the movie, but its most powerful, tender, and intimate moment appears near the end. Back home in the Land of the Living, Miguel softly sings with his great-grandmother, Mama Coco. The first thing to note in this scene is, again, Miguel’s song choice.

“Remember Me” was not merely a sweet song chosen at random.
Despite her significant cognitive decline and apparent unresponsiveness, Miguel has learned that Coco’s father (Miguel’s great-great-grandfather) wrote the song for her, and sang it with her when she was little. Thus, Miguel knew that the song was tied to an important (and emotional) memory for Mama Coco, and played it with a clear intention of sparking that memory.

And it does so in a beautiful way. First, we see her motor neurons begin to activate as she starts to tap her finger to the beat. Before long, Mama Coco, who has not spoken in quite some time, actually begins to sing with Miguel. She smiles and finally turns to look at Miguel as she sings with him. A woman who, not long prior, did not appear to recognize her own daughter, is recalling every word of a favorite childhood song. As Music Therapists, this is something we get to see a lot. Musical memory is some of the longest retained, as music activates so many parts of the brain: motor, speech and language, auditory, long-term memory, emotions, etc. By the end of the song, Coco does, in fact, recognize her daughter, and even begins to share stories about her parents. And so the Rivera family, who have chosen to hate music for generations, suddenly see it come through for them in a big way. Let’s pause here to check out this clip from “The Doctors” about music and the brain:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5QVCxg5A3o

Another important detail to examine in this touching scene is the fact that Miguel played the song live, as opposed to simply playing a recording of “Remember Me.” And using her father’s old guitar, no less! In the context of the movie, the only known recording of “Remember Me” is sung by the famous musician Ernesto de la Cruz at an upbeat tempo, complete with a full band, choir, and virtuosic guitar solo. An impressive song, but not the one Coco knows and loves. After her father left the family, and her mother vowed never to let music into their lives again, how could she have heard de la Cruz’s rendition of the song? Certainly not on the radio. No, Coco’s “Remember Me” is a quiet and tender lullaby, sung from a father to his daughter. And it’s this song, with its sweet and simple accompaniment, that Miguel plays for her. Miguel, having heard both versions, chooses to play in the style with which Coco is most familiar:
The style of her papa.

So there it is! No, technically nothing in Disney-Pixar’s Coco can be called Music Therapy, because “Music Therapy” implies the presence of a Board-Certified Music Therapist. I know.
But! The power of a therapeutic relationship, song preference, and live music to promote relaxation, reduce pain, and stimulate long-term memory is evident throughout the film.
And who knows?
Maybe Coco 2 will introduce audiences to a newly certified Miguel Rivera, MT-BC!

– Written by Kevin Middlebrooks, LPMT, MT-BC

Laura A. Mitchell, Raymond A. R. MacDonald; An Experimental Investigation of the Effects of Preferred and Relaxing Music Listening on Pain Perception, Journal of Music Therapy, Volume 43, Issue 4, 1 December 2006, Pages 295–316, https://doi.org/10.1093/jmt/43.4.295

2018-02-06T05:43:53+00:00February 6th, 2018|Blog, Hospice Music Therapy, MT Advocacy, Music Therapy|

Adapted Lessons vs. Music Therapy: What’s the Difference?

As a Music Therapist, I (along with many others, I’m sure) often hear the following question: “So, what do you do? Do you teach music to your clients?” And while Music Therapy most often looks different than what would be called a “music lesson”, there are certainly situations in which the teaching of a new instrument within a therapeutic relationship can be immensely beneficial. On the other hand, when I tell people that I do also teach “adapted piano lessons”, I receive another logical question: “What does that mean?” And once again, you may find therapeutic elements within an Adapted Lesson, especially when taught by a Board-Certified Music Therapist. Where, then, is the line? How do you decide whether what’s taking place is a lesson or a therapy session? The confusion is understandable. Hence, this blog post! My hope is to offer a quick and simple explanation of the differences between Adapted Lessons and Music Therapy. Ready?

The easiest way to differentiate between Adapted Lessons and Music Therapy (in my mind) is to take a look at your primary goal, and what I like to call “bonus prizes” – secondary effects, also beneficial, that may result from (and aid the process of) working toward said primary goal.

In Adapted Lessons, the Primary Goal is musical.
For example: “I want to learn how to play the piano.”
The “bonus prizes” are non-musical, and may include: improved cognitive functioning, improved fine motor skills, increased self-esteem, increased focus and sustained attention, etc.

In Music Therapy, the Primary Goal(s) is (are) non-musical.
For example: “I want to improve fine motor skills [perhaps for a client with Parkinson’s Disease], thereby enhancing my overall quality of life.”
The “bonus prizes” are musical, and may include: learning to play piano or guitar in the pursuit of practicing fine motor skills, learning to read music, etc.

One more thing to mention: Why the word “adapted”? An adapted piano lesson, as we’ve just discussed, has the same primary goal as any other piano lesson: to teach the student how to play the piano! The word “adapted” simply indicates that the curriculum – the repertoire, the teaching methods, the style of written music, etc. – has been “adapted” to suit the needs of the student. Maybe the student has autism, quickly becomes overstimulated, and could really use a dance break every 5 minutes. Maybe the student has a physical disability that requires repertoire to suit his or her capabilities (no octaves, for example). Whatever the case, the teacher incorporates adaptations to help each individual learn. Does that sound like what any piano teacher would do with a wide variety of students? It should! Teachers do this all the time with their typically developing students! Music Therapists are often preferred for Adapted Lessons, though, simply due to training and experience with a range of disabilities and needs, as well as an understanding of how music affects the brain and the body. Think of it like the difference between a Third Grade teacher who recognizes and responds to the learning styles of each student, and a Special Education teacher who has a specialty in particular styles of learning regarding intellectual and developmental disabilities.

So… Adapted Lessons vs. Music Therapy.
Hopefully the difference is starting to become clear in your mind, but let’s go through a few examples, just to practice!

1) Johnny is a bright young boy with down syndrome who loves music. He has expressed interest in the guitar, and regularly asks his mom if he can learn. Johnny’s mom has reached out to a Music Therapist.
Which are we looking at here? Music Therapy or Adapted Lessons?
… if you said Adapted Lessons, that’s right! Johnny’s primary goal is to learn the guitar. The curriculum may need to be adapted due to the physical and cognitive characteristics of down syndrome, as well as Johnny’s individual preferences and learning style.

2) Claire is a bright young girl with autism who loves music. Her mom has noticed that, although Claire rarely speaks using more than one- or two-word phrases, she will sing along to an entire song on the radio. Claire’s mom has reached out to a Music Therapist.
Which are we looking at here? Music Therapy or Adapted Lessons?
… if you said Music Therapy, that’s right! Claire’s primary goal is to increase communication. Lots of singing will be done in her music therapy sessions, but these are not “voice lessons” – singing will be used as a vehicle to promote communication outside of music. Whether or not Claire sings with correct pitch is irrelevant!

Make sense? I hope so! If you ever get confused between Music Therapy and Adapted Lessons, just look for that Primary Goal!

This has been a message from your friendly neighborhood Music Therapist.

“Waiting for the Call” – Chuck’s Story

*In accordance with HIPAA, and out of respect for our client’s privacy, the name “Chuck” will be used as an alias throughout this blog post.
Photo and Video are used with permission from “Chuck” and his daughter.*

The word “hospice” often carries with it a heavy weight, evoking thoughts of death and the unknown. And while it is true that hospice care is provided in the final stages of life, hospice is a philosophy that strives to provide comfort, peace, and improved quality of life. In this context, Music Therapy can offer a safe, non-threatening medium for coping and self-expression, can alleviate pain, can provide valuable (and fun!) social opportunities, and can elicit cherished memories of the past, even while creating fond new memories. At Metro Music Therapy, we are honored to partner with Wellspring International for the Songs of Hope project, providing Hospice Music Therapy services (among other services) to our clients in the Atlanta area.

And after hearing a song like Chuck’s, I realize the name “Songs of Hope” couldn’t be more fitting!

As a Music Therapist, it’s always a joy getting to work with a client who shares a passion for music. When I first met Chuck and saw his impressive array of instruments – including guitar, mandolin, and bass guitar – I knew we were in for a fun time! Chuck has lived an especially musical life, traveling the country with a bluegrass gospel band. As we began talking, Chuck told me with excitement about the many large “Gospel Singings” that he’s helped to lead in his travels. In one session, Chuck stated, “It would be my pride and joy to lead one more big singing!” So that’s exactly what we did!

Over several weeks, we put together a set-list of some of Chuck’s favorite gospel tunes and hymns, creating songbooks for guests to sing along with, and practicing with one of Chuck’s friends (another talented musician who joined our group to play piano at the big event). In the course of all this, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing firsthand the faith, joy, and optimism that Chuck brings to everyone around him, and the peace to which he has already come regarding his current stage of life. For example, each time we sing “I’ll Fly Away”, Chuck insists that we change the lyrics of the final verse to “Just a few more happy [rather than “weary”] days, and then I’ll fly away.” More humbling still is Chuck’s goal for the event: “I want to share the message of these songs with as many people as want to come. That’s the best part.”

The final song on our set-list is my favorite, and one of Chuck’s very own composition – a song that he introduced to me on the first day we met! And goodness, is it catchy!
Take a listen below, and I guarantee you’ll be humming along.

 

“Waiting For the Call” became the anthem of our “Gospel Jubilee” event in the atrium of Chuck’s residential facility. It was such a powerful – and flat-out fun – moment, seeing Chuck stand before other residents, staff, friends, and family to lead us all in this uplifting tune! To hear Chuck sing with a smile on his face, “By faith I’m looking upward, just waiting for the call,” is a testament to his deep faith, and his peaceful expectation of what’s to come. It puts into words the joy that he carries with him, and that he gladly shares with others.
It is, without a doubt, a Song of Hope.

2017-11-17T17:09:44+00:00November 17th, 2017|Blog, Hospice Music Therapy, Music Therapy|

Happy Anniversary, Metro Music Therapy!

It was a lovely October night as our team enjoyed delicious Italian food, indulged in musically decorated cookies, and divvied up a large cake in the shape of the number 10. Why, you may be wondering, did we become temporary gluttons? To celebrate 10 years of Metro Music Therapy, of course! Most of us have only had the privilege of working or interning with MMT for a few months out of those 10 years, and even we were getting teary-eyed seeing all of our colleagues and community partners together, hearing stories of how Metro Music Therapy has impacted the Atlanta area in profound ways. Speakers from organizations including The Alchemy Sky Foundation, Neuro Community Care, Wellspring International, Northside Hospital, Helping Mamas, and Life’s End Logistics each shared their unique and moving experiences of partnering with Metro Music Therapy, and more specifically, with our fearless leader: owner and director, Mallory Even. If that night was special for us, it’s safe to say that we can’t imagine how meaningful it must have been for the woman who started it all. So we’ll let her do the talking!

Mallory,

How did it feel seeing family, friends, partners, colleagues, employees and interns all together in one room? What was it like to know they were all there to celebrate something you started?
    The phrase ‘an embarrassment of riches’ comes to mind. It was a humbling, joyful experience to see people that have supported me and Metro Music Therapy’s mission from the very beginning, be in the same room to celebrate 10 years of heartfelt, raw work. I keep picturing all of the beautiful faces that filled the room that night, and can feel nothing but gratitude for having each of them as a part of my story and my song.

When you first began Metro Music Therapy, what did you imagine it might look like in 10 years? Looking back, how has it been different than you expected?
To be honest, back then I didn’t know that Metro Music Therapy had a future that would last 10 years! We started in such a humble way, with only me traveling to people’s homes providing music therapy services and music lessons, and I wasn’t looking forward – I was just living in the moment. Looking back on that now, I wish I would have had better insight as to where this journey was going to take me, but I think there’s something beautiful in the not knowing. I often tell people I did not grow this company, but this company grew me. I was along for the ride, and what a beautiful ride it has been so far!

What is one of your favorite (proudest, funniest, most rewarding) memories from the past 10 years?
“Wow, this is very difficult to narrow down! I’ve been grateful for each and every day that I’ve had with Metro music therapy, but I think one of the ones that stands out the most is the day that we signed a contract to be in partnership with Wellspring International. For a big part of my life, I’ve been a supporter and follower of RZIM and the ministries within and supported by their organization. To be able to be a part of their mission by bringing music therapy services to those who would not ordinarily be able to participate in such services, has impacted me in such a deep and meaningful way. Creating the Songs of Hope program, which is fully funded by Wellspring, has caused me to pause several times in order to just be able to wrap my head around where MMT has come over the past 10 years. I feel lucky and blessed that this is my job!”

If you could give one piece of advice to music therapists beginning their own private practices, or small business owners who are wondering how to make it 10 years –  what would it be?
Have vision for the future, but remember to take each day as it comes. Celebrate the highs, grieve the lows and learn from them. Surround yourself with amazingly loving and supportive people. And most importantly, never forget why you chose this field in the first place.

Mallory, we are all so proud of you, and humbled to be a part of your journey! It is an honor to be named among the ranks of such a special company, bringing joy and healing through music.
To you, and to everyone who has been a part of Metro Music Therapy – employees, clients, families, friends, partners, encouragers: thank you for 10 amazing years, and here’s to many more!


Written by Kevin Middlebrooks, LPMT, MT-BC

Thank you, Dr. Sacks

Written by Kally Ramminger, LPMT, MT-BC

I’ve watched the music therapy community mourn the death of Dr. Oliver Sacks over the past week. His legacy will live on forever, as he has helped so many people throughout the years understand the power that music has on one’s brain. Equally important, he also taught us the importance of preserving the humanity of every human being, regardless of their situation or diagnosis.

I’ve pulled together some of the most poignant words from Dr. Sacks (in my opinion), that have helped guide my understanding and role as a music therapist. Thank you, Dr. Oliver Sacks for your incredibly valuable contribution to this world.

You remind us that music is vital, essential to life.

Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears – it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. But for many of my neurological patients, music is even more – it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them, music is not a luxury, but a necessity.”

You remind us to look beyond the diagnosis of an individual.

In examining disease, we gain wisdom about anatomy and physiology and biology. In examining the person with disease, we gain wisdom about life.”

You remind us that our brain is fascinating organ and a never-ending exploration of knowledge.

It really is a very odd business that all of us, to varying degrees, have music in our heads.”

You remind us the power of death and the privilege we have as music therapists to be a part of the dying process.

When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.”

You remind us that no two people, diagnoses, or experiences are ever the same.

Individuality is deeply imbued in us from the very start, at the neuronal level. Even at a motor level, researchers have shown, an infant does not follow a set pattern of learning to walk or how to reach for something. Each baby experiments with different ways of reaching for objects and over the course of several months discovers or selects his own motor solutions. When we try to envisage the neural basis of such individual learning, we might imagine a “population” of movements (and their neural correlates) being strengthened or pruned away by experience.

Similar considerations arise with regard to recover and rehabilitation after strokes and other injuries. There are no rules; there is no prescribed path of recovery; every patient must discover or create his own motor and perceptual patterns, his own solutions to the challenges that face him; and it is the function of a sensitive therapist to help him in this.

And in its broadest sense, neural Darwinism implies that we are destined, whether we wish it or not, to a life of particularity and self-development, to make our own individual paths through life.”

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{All of the above quotes were direct words from Dr. Oliver Sacks.}

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