Tuning In to Music Therapy TTU's Annual Awareness Week Feb. 18-23

An elderly man, a survivor of several strokes, sat in the music therapy session just as he had many other days, unable to speak or participate.

Then during a song session about seasons, it was his turn to answer "What's your favorite color?"

"Orange," he said.

Tennessee Tech University music therapy major John Gardner says that "therapy moment" defined what he was looking for in a music career.

"The therapists always asked the man questions and treated him like the other participants," said Gardner, a junior from Huntington, Ind. "Something about the music reached him, and he continued to improve after that breakthrough."

Before college, Gardner had never considered music therapy as a major, even though Tennessee Tech is the only university in the state offering a degree in the field. During the university's "Music Therapy Awareness Week," he's looking forward to more people learning about the successes he's seen.

In his limited time as a music therapy major gaining practical experience, Gardner has seen a wide variety of people helped -- children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly who have mental health needs, developmental and learning disabilities, aging-related conditions, substance abuse problems, brain injuries, physical disabilities, and acute and chronic pain.

"In some hospitals, nearly everyone admitted is offered a chance to experience music therapy," he said. "It's an optional service that has proven very effective in pediatric wards and intensive care units. It can relieve post-operative stress or calm a child down who is afraid of needles.

"I spent a lot of time in the hospital as a kid with broken bones, and I can relate to the stress of being in the emergency room," he said. "Being in a hospital, applying what music therapy can do for so many types of people really appeals to me."

Music therapists often use pianos and guitars for sing-a-longs, but percussion instruments offer patients a chance to exercise their concentration and their bodies. An annual highlight is the Drum Circle offered at the Cookeville Senior Citizen Center during the week.

Governor Don Sundquist launched this year's TTU Music Therapy Awareness Week, Feb. 18-23, by proclaiming it an annual event adopted by the Tennessee Association for Music Therapy and recognizing that the event orginated on Tennessee Tech's campus. The public is invited to learn more about music therapy by joining scheduled events:

  • Monday, Feb. 18, 7-9 p.m. Singer/Songwriter Night Poet's on the Square in Cookeville
  • Tuesday, Feb. 19, 11 a.m. Guitar Circle TTU's Roaden University Center
  • Wed, Feb. 20, noon Drum Circle Cookeville Senior Citizen Center

For more information about music therapy, call TTU's music department at 372-3065 or visit www.musictherapy.org or http://plato.ess.tntech.edu/music/therapy/.

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