“Music is part of being human.”
Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain
We all have our favourite music. Melodies that lift us up when we are down or move us to tears. Whether it is jazz or opera, music possesses therapeutic properties that can improve an individual’s well-being. According to the Canadian Association for Music Therapy, “Music therapy is the skillful use of music and musical elements by an accredited music therapist to promote, maintain, and restore mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Music has nonverbal, creative, structural, and emotional qualities. These are used in the therapeutic relationship to facilitate contact, interaction, self-awareness, learning, self-expression, communication, and personal development.”
The Music Heals Foundation of Canada is helping to raise awareness of the healing powers of music by supporting a wide range of music therapy services. As a non-profit organization they fund, “increased access to music therapy for patients in children’s hospitals, senior’s centres, palliative care, AIDS & HIV programs, at-risk youth, rehabilitation, and bereavement support”.
One of their current projects is the iPod Pharmacy program. The project helps to bring music to a more personal level by supplying iPods to music therapists to use with their clients. The therapist receives an ‘iPod pharmacy package’ that includes a used, donated iPod (or MP3 player) that has been cleaned up, new headphones and an iTunes gift card. The program is currently running in Vancouver and hopes to expand across Canada.
Another project supported by Music Heals Canada is the Caring Concerts program. The program facilitates concert performances by volunteer musicians in hospitals to large groups or individuals. This initiative is not music therapy but intended, “to provide
a small dose of entertainment during their hospital stay”.
There has been increasing evidence on the beneficial effects of music on individuals with dementia. A clip from the 2012 documentary Alive Inside: The Story of Music and Memory about the American Music and Memory Foundation is a wonderful example of how powerful music can be for older adults with dementia. The Alzheimer Society of Toronto was so inspired by the documentary they started their own Music and Memory: iPod Project.