music therapy

In my experience, care homes can be joyous, vibrant places. And re-injecting spontaneity back into the home can rapidly have a positive effect on the wellbeing of both individuals and the whole community.
As ridiculous as this sounds, we started dancing around the lounge and kitchen, to the loud music and our uninhibited cavorting instantly lightened our mood. Moving to music is not only fun but highly beneficial, freeing up those stiff rigid joints and an excellent cardiovascular workout.
My friend from Brazil tells me that much as he loves our traditional seasonal music, he feels it's always sad too. I think he has a point. Even in more recent Christmas songs there's a pang, isn't there? Note how it's always Cold Outside, the weather outside is frightful, and yet...if you really love me so... well then... the boys of the NYPD choir will still sing Galway Bay.
Medicine? Sure. Nursing? Yep. Rehab? Gotcha. But how exactly is music going to redeem this one? As a music therapist who has worked in exactly this situation for a long time, I can admit that not only have families asked me this, I've asked myself the question too.
Before it was released, I heard a cover of Gaga's new single. Let's pause for thought a moment and think about that. It was a heavy metal version, denounced by the twitterati as a blasphemous offence to metal - not to the performer who'd had her song nicked.
It's one of the exciting parts of being a music therapist that you can dive into playing music with someone and discover (often along with them) that they can be vastly different when playing music compared with how they are in their regular life.
"Look my darling, I'm 90 years old. These musicians come here, and they play old things, always old. I don't want to look back anymore. We're alive NOW. So play me something totally new. Play some pop. Like Adele, but not so miserable."
When we lose our memory through old age or dementia, we are no longer able to access the stories of our life, the experiences that shaped us. At this point, the music that helped to define us once again becomes one of the most important things - indeed perhaps, the most important thing we have.
We all use music to help us get through life, and to enhance its good bits. What music therapists are good at is bringing that power of music to people who - for many reasons - can't claim it for themselves. Nordoff Robbins might deserve celebrating too, for growing this use of music, protecting it, and perhaps for reminding us what music is really there for.
Silence, perhaps counter-intuitively, is one of the most powerful tools in a music therapist's armory. Because through the journey from silence into music and back again, comes meaning. And often our job as music therapists is to help clients find a balance between the two; for example with clients on the autistic spectrum.