Music Therapy Making a Difference in Local Lives

As "It's a Beautiful Morning" plays, about a dozen Masters Health Care Center residents stretch and smile.

Music therapy sessions provided by Tennessee Tech University students make many days beautiful at Masters in Algood. During Music Therapy Awareness Week, Feb. 19-24, the community can learn more about the benefits of music therapy and how programs like the one at Masters is not about entertainment, but about wellness.

"Of all the activities we have, music therapy is the most important," said Patsy Brown, Masters' therapeutic recreation director. "It's interactive and builds self-esteem in our residents, plus they really look forward to seeing the young people from Tech."

Roy Kennedy, a TTU assistant professor of music therapy, says other therapy benefits include improved long- and short-term memory, motor skills, cognitive skills, relaxation and group leisure skills.

"We use music to produce non-music goals," said Kennedy. "Certainly singing, clapping and listening to music is enjoyable, but our goals are to produce physical, mental and emotional improvements in our participants."

The three music therapy students working with Masters' residents this semester -- Sybil Smith, Sara Garland and John Gardner -- have been trained in several techniques to make their sessions beneficial and enjoyable. Theme discussions and reminiscing activities allow participants to talk about their likes and memories.

In a recent session, Smith asked group members what they liked most about winter. Their answers were incorporated into a song, and each resident had a part in the sing-along. Residents also played bells and percussion instruments along with other songs about winter that Smith played on the guitar and sang.

"Playing instruments, clapping hands and tapping feet are all forms of movement and motor therapy," said Kennedy. "Physical therapy can be boring, but music brings excitement and motivation."

"We see remarkable responses to the music," said Brown. "Old hymns and spiritual songs particularly spark pleasant feelings, and residents can sometimes sing every word from memory. And the therapy has brought a group of people together who have different interests and talents, but have found a common enjoyment in music."

Kennedy says the public can learn more about music therapy this week from the scheduled events in the community:

Singer/Songwriter Night at Gabbiano's Gourmet Pizza -- Thursday, Feb. 22, 7-9 p.m. Everyone is invited to sing a song or enjoy the performances.

Drum Circle -- Friday, Feb. 23, 12:15-1 p.m., Senior Citizens Center, 186 S. Walnut Ave. This event will be conducted by TTU music therapy students and is open to the public.

Music Therapy Career Day -- Saturday, Feb. 24, 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Bryan Fine Arts Building, Rooms 374 and 376. This information day for high school students will include admission information, a career facts session, a question and answer session with current TTU students and an activities demonstration. High school students and parents receive a free lunch.

For more information about the events or music therapy, call Kennedy at 372-6301.