Flora Lee loving music therapy!

Music is a beautiful mode of human expression, and we all benefit when the eloquence of music, and sharing the connection with song, instruments, lyrics, and storytelling, combine to bring pleasure and joy into our lives. At Living Well, we believe access to music, concerts and music therapy are essential parts of life. Which is why for decades we have supported love of music and consider music therapy a critically beneficial part of our programming.

What is Music Therapy? According to the MacPhail Center for Music, one of Living Well’s music instruction and class partners, music therapy is the clinical (evidence-based) use of the power of music to accomplish individualized, non-musical goals. Music therapists address clients physical, emotional, cognitive, and/or social needs. Then after assessing the strengths and needs of each client, health professionals provide treatment that may include creating, singing, playing an instrument, and moving to and/or listening to music.

Flora Lee with Elvis at Family Fun Day last June.

Musical ability is not required and functional goal areas addressed in music therapy can include cognition and reasoning; attention building skills; gross and fine motor skills; pain and behavior management; sensory processing, planning and acuity; socialization; emotional, coping and leisure skills; and speech and language skills.

As you can see, it is so much more than simply enjoying music. Sometimes it is..

-listening to a melody that pleases you

-being taken to another place when the memory of a certain time comes wafting back when we hear certain music

-learning a new skill

Jim at the Elton John Concert!

Chris Peterson, Program Manager, says music programming is part of Living Well’s commitment to better living, and wanting all who live and work here to truly LIVE WELL. Music therapy, culture and garden sharing, animal therapies and various mind and body practices, are wildly popular with staff and people served. These programs bring something special to the lives of those in Living Well homes, something enjoyable by all. For these reasons Living Well encourages music opportunities as part of the house budgets and over all wellness programming.

From what Chris has seen in homes, music therapy enriches the lives of people served in many ways, including:

Anticipation. Chris points out, the anticipation is amazing. When it is on the calendar, the people served are excited. It is a high priority in scheduling! Just knowing music therapists are coming boosts spirits and provides excitement for the whole week!

Elvis always brings the positive vibes to Family Fun Day.

Mood Enhancement: Creating good moods for all in the home is part of the magic of music therapy. Sessions are crafted by musicians and tailored to each person or group with their favorite types of music. Some people like old fashioned Sunday school hymns, others are taken back to childhood with elementary school songs, while others love 60s, 80s or current tunes. Dedicated instructors play all kinds of music crafted for the group, which personalizes the experience in a beautiful way. All of this raises the moods of the home, and Chris says, “Very few people will sit through a session and not have smile on their face.”

Denise dancing to Good For Gary at the 2022 Gala.

Movement: The physical participation and design of classes can vary, but sometimes it is about getting people to move their bodies. This is a lovely addition to physical therapy plans. It can be tactile with garments or using the instruments and props to move their bodies to music and to dance in unique ways. Chris shared a story about someone served who had limited mobility in one arm, and the simple act of putting the instrument in a particular place on the other side of the wheelchair, invited them to reach in a new way to stretch muscles that were not often moved. In this way, people served are getting exercise without concentrating on exercise, rather on fun! Chris says, “It is amazing to see, even someone belted in a wheelchair, the amount of movement they can do when excited and moving with the music.” He says the body moves in ways you might not expect, and that the enthusiasm is obvious to all in attendance.

Teewon and Flora Lee.

Now that Covid restrictions have lessened, music instructors are at many of the Living Well homes once or twice a month visiting for one-on-one sessions, or group classes for entire houses. Sessions are usually 45 minutes to an hour, and often include playing and listening to instruments. Over at 3801 Flora Lee loves to sing and dance. Program Manager, Teewon Dolpei says, “During her quiet time, she usually listens to music. She is a huge fan of Elvis and loves his music.” He says music therapy keeps Flora Lee in a happy mood and positively engaged. Adding, “It makes her reflect on her happy youth and adult days when she had lots of fun with friends and family.”

Tessa and Jasmine with a maraca.

Bess Bryan, Program Manager at Brunswick, says at her house many of the staff are lovers of song and dance and can be heard humming and singing throughout the day. Bess said the other day she came in through the garage and found Jasmine vacuuming and singing to music, with Tessa following close behind shaking a maraca. Together they made a chore FUN, and all because of music. Bess says, “Music is a great uniter, people might not have the same interests, but music brings them together.” She adds, the nice part about therapy classes is that most music therapists will ask what people like then customize the lesson. At Brunswick, Tessa likes Billy Joe and Marcus likes 90s tunes, so the instructor will add them to the lessons and bring the music they like, making it highly individualized.

Retired Viking Esera Tuaolo singing at the 2022 Transforming Lives gala.

In the end, Chris says it best, “Classes are a good reminder that talent lies within all of us.” While people may assume those living with disabilities are not musical or do not possess the talent required to play, once presented with instruments and the opportunity to play—often times they will SHINE.

As you can see, music is a beautiful connector, which is why Living Well remains steadfast in our commitment to providing opportunities to have classes and see concerts. Why we hire Elvis to sing at Family Fun Day. And why at this year’s gala we had a band known for getting people up and dancing.

Music truly is for everybody, so let’s celebrate the artistry that brings so many of us joy!