Lis­ten­ing or play­ing, mu­sic is good for you

Mu­sic, whether played or lis­tened to, has many uses for wellness, en­joy­ment

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - DAILY LOCAL NEWS - mpat­ter­son@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @MichileaP on Twit­ter For more healthy liv­ing sto­ries, visit the Fit for Life web­site at pottsmer­c­fit4life.com.

The sound of mu­sic is more than a movie with ac­tress Julie Andrews. It’s the mu­si­cal notes cre­ated through singing or in­stru­ments. It’s also a form of ther­apy that can be of ben­e­fit in a va­ri­ety of ways from help­ing peo­ple re­lax to de­creas­ing phys­i­cal pain.

Mu­si­cal ther­apy is us­ing the sounds cre­ated through vo­cals or in­stru­ments to cause pos­i­tive changes in in­di­vid­u­als, said Jerry O’Leary, the di­rec­tor of mu­sic ther­apy at Mu­sicWorks in Haver­town.

Jerry and his wife Lori O’Leary founded the mu­sic cen­ter in 2002 and help clients of all ages strug­gling with dif­fer­ent chal­lenges.

“We are the first mu­sic ther­apy ser­vice provider in the coun­try to be cre­den­tialed by Mag­el­lan Be­hav­ioral Health. That gives us the op­por­tu­nity to pro­vide ser­vices for chil­dren and ado­les­cents up to the age of 21 that have med­i­cal as­sis­tance for their chal­lenges,” said Lori, Mu­sicWorks ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

The mu­sic cen­ter is a net­work provider for sev­eral com­mu­ni­ties in Berks and Mont­gomery coun­ties. Jerry, a board cer­ti­fied mu­sic ther­a­pist, said mu­sic can be used to over­come psy­cho­log­i­cal, de­vel­op­men­tal and phys­i­cal ob­sta­cles. He said mu­sic can also help peo­ple in gen­eral to find di­rec­tion in their lives or deal with ev­ery­day stres­sors.

“Mu­sic has an in­herit qual­ity that just by­passes many other po­ten­tial ther­a­pies and every­body can re­late to it in one way or an­other,” he said. “You can write it. You can sing it. You can make it. You can lis­ten to it. There are all kinds of ways to en­joy mu­sic and to use mu­sic to im­prove your life.”

Some of the mu­sic ther­apy ses­sions at the cen­ter are done in small groups. Par­tic­i­pants of Mu­sicWorks range in ages from 1 to 87. The ses­sions in­volve singing and us­ing hands-on in­stru­ments like drums, mara­cas, the pi­ano, gui­tar and more.

The cen­ter also uses adap­tive in­stru­ments for in­di­vid­u­als that have phys­i­cal dif­fi­cul­ties with hold­ing or grab­bing a tra­di­tional in­stru­ment. In such cases, the clients can use a mu­si­cal prod­uct by Ap­ple called a Skoog. The cubed ob­ject has mu­sic pro­grammed into it which can be played sim­ply by touch­ing it.

“A lot of peo­ple we deal with have the at­ti­tude ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do that.’ We’re here to tell them you can do this, you can do that. Hope­fully that can-do at­ti­tude will trans­fer to other walks of their lives,” Jerry said.

Lori said more than 70 per­cent of the chil­dren they work with are autis­tic and mu­sic aids in their learn­ing process and how they com­mu­ni­cate with oth­ers. Chil­dren de­velop so­cial­iza­tion skills, mo­tor skills and learn to fo­cus, she said.

Jerry said all types of ben­e­fi­cial uses are be­ing dis­cov­ered for mu­sic ther­apy through re­search in­clud­ing its im­pact on the brain. He said mu­sic in­volves the en­tire brain which con­trols the rest of the body in­clud­ing feel­ings of re­lax­ation or stress.

“When some­body is play­ing a song or singing a song, their neu­rons in their brain are light­ing up like a Christ­mas tree espe­cially if they’re play­ing an in­stru­ment,” Jerry said.

Mu­sicWorks also has adult and se­nior clients that use mu­sic to help with chal­lenges such as de­pres­sion, Alzheimer’s dis­ease, men­tal health is­sues, neu­ro­log­i­cal im­pair­ments, pain man­age­ment and more.

A trial ex­per­i­ment pub­lished in a 2010 edi­tion of the International Jour­nal of Nurs­ing Stud­ies found that peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enced less pain when lis­ten­ing to soft mu­sic that they liked. Fooyin Univer­sity in Tai­wan did a ran­dom­ized con­trolled trial of 126 hos­pi­tal­ized can­cer pa­tients that had pain. The re­port con­cluded that mu­sic pro­vided more re­lief to pa­tients than with just drugs.

Phyl­lis Mitchell is a pri­vate mu­sic teacher that has been giv­ing lessons for more than 30 years. A few years ago, she had a woman come to her re­quest­ing pi­ano lessons. The woman had at­tempted to learn to play be­fore but hadn’t suc­ceeded. Mitchell later found out that the woman was dy­ing of can­cer but Mitchell didn’t fo­cus on the di­ag­no­sis but only on the mu­sic. She said the woman im­proved her skills and started play­ing so­los at church.

“It was a bless­ing for her,” Mitchell said.

After the woman passed, her hus­band came to Mitchell and said play­ing the pi­ano helped ease her pain.

“It (mu­sic) just makes all the dif­fer­ence,” she said. “When mu­sic can do that, it does ev­ery­thing.”

In ad­di­tion to her pri­vate lessons, Mitchell also teaches for a free chil­dren’s mu­sic pro­gram in Pottstown. The free pro­gram is of­fered ev­ery Tues­day from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Christ Epis­co­pal Church. Dur­ing the one-hour ac­tiv­ity, the kids sing, learn about rhythm and play dif­fer­ent in­stru­ments. Mitchell said the kids are us­ing fun, hands-on in­stru­ments like the recorder and color-coded per­cus­sion tubes called boomwhack­ers.

Mitchell has worked with stu­dents that have emo­tional is­sues and chil­dren with spe­cial needs. She said mu­sic is some­thing that can be en­joyed by ev­ery­one and all ages.

“I think mu­sic can be an an­swer to re­ally ev­ery walk of life,” she said.

Edie Shean-Ham­mond, di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion at Christ Epis­co­pal Church, said the mu­sic class helps give the chil­dren a sense of pride and ac­com­plish­ment. She said the kids are more fo­cused and the sounds be­ing played have a calm­ing ef­fect on them.

“It cre­ates a fil­ter,” she said adding that it helps the chil­dren to sort out emo­tions go­ing on in­side of them.

Can­dace Woess­ner, a mem­ber of Christ Epis­co­pal Church and a vol­un­teer of the chil­dren’s mu­sic pro­gram, said she took mu­sic lessons as a child and that it brings peo­ple joy.

“I know that it re­ally helps to learn mu­sic and play mu­sic. Mu­sic is a happy place,” she said.

For more in­for­ma­tion about the free chil­dren’s mu­sic pro­gram in Pottstown, email SheanHam­mond at es­hean­ham­mond@ gmail.com or visit the church in per­son at 316 High St. The en­trance to the mu­sic pro­gram is lo­cated in the back of the church near the park­ing lot.

For more in­for­ma­tion about Mu­sicWorks in Haver­town, call 610-449-9669 or visit the web­site at mu­sic­workswon­ders.org.

There are ad­di­tional mu­sic and mu­sic ther­apy pro­grams in the re­gion. For ex­am­ple:

The Com­mu­nity Mu­sic School has of­fices in Allentown and Read­ing. The school is a non­profit mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion or­ga­ni­za­tion. The Com­mu­nity Mu­sic School teaches hun­dreds of stu­dents with pri­vate and group lessons. The school is also in­volved in out­reach pro­grams through­out the area for pub­lic, char­ter and in­de­pen­dent schools. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit the web­site at www.cm­sread­ing.org/home.aspx.

• Makin’ Mu­sic Rockin’ Rhythms is a mu­sic and move­ment en­rich­ment pro­gram lo­cated in West Ch­ester. The pro­gram of­fers mu­sic classes for fam­i­lies. A teacher leads the class as fam­i­lies cre­ate a cir­cle and make mu­sic. The class in­cludes singing, play­ing in­stru­ments and us­ing props to keep chil­dren en­gaged. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit the web­site at www.mak­in­mu­s­ic­ch­ester­county.com.

• Tempo of­fers mu­sic ther­apy ser­vices and has lo­ca­tions in West Ch­ester, King of Prus­sia, Me­dia and New Jersey. Board cer­ti­fied mu­sic ther­a­pists lead the mu­sic pro­grams. Tempo of­fers in­di­vid­ual and group ther­apy mu­sic ses­sions as well as in­di­vid­ual in­struc­tions. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit the web­site at www.tem­pother­apy.com/in­dex.html.

“You can write it. You can sing it. You can make it. You can lis­ten to it. There are all kinds of ways to en­joy mu­sic and to use mu­sic to im­prove your life.” — Jerry O’Leary, di­rec­tor of mu­sic ther­apy at Mu­sicWorks “I think mu­sic can be an an­swer to re­ally ev­ery walk of life.” — Phyl­lis Mitchell, mu­sic teacher

MICHILEA PATTERSON — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Mu­sic teacher Phyl­lis Mitchell shows chil­dren how to play a note on the recorder dur­ing a free mu­sic pro­gram.

MICHILEA PATTERSON — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Chil­dren learn how to hold and play the recorder dur­ing a free mu­sic pro­gram at Christ Epis­co­pal Church in Pottstown on Tues­day.

MICHILEA PATTERSON — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Mu­sic teacher Phyl­lis Mitchell demon­strates how to play the recorder dur­ing a free chil­dren’s mu­sic pro­gram at Christ Epis­co­pal Church in Pottstown on Tues­day.

MICHILEA PATTERSON — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Can­dace Woess­ner, stand­ing, helps a child learn­ing to play the recorder dur­ing a free mu­sic pro­gram in Pottstown on Tues­day.

MICHILEA PATTERSON — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

About 10 chil­dren sit down to learn how to play the recorder dur­ing a free mu­sic pro­gram at the Christ Epis­co­pal Church.

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