Former musician gets wish to attend symphony
The Orion Personal Care Home often invites music therapists to help treat residents.
Ms. Bankston said that music often visibly touches even the non-verbal residents. Sometimes they smile, some twitch their hands and some tap a foot to the music.
“Music therapy can help with cognitive goals as well as social or physical goals,” said Jessica Mull, a music therapy board-certified therapist.
Ms. Mull contracts with Orion as well as other senior care facilities in the area. She is also an adjunct professor at Duquesne University.
Ms. Mull has held onehour sessions twice a month for groups of about 12 residents at Orion since 2007. She works toward a variety of general wellness goals and incorporates different exercises and experiences into her sessions.
“Physical therapy and music therapy share goals, but instead of weights and exercises we might use choir bells so the resident can improve hand strength and coordination, socialize in a group learning environment and work on memory in learning when to play,” Ms. Mull said. “We have a natural connection to music, and we can use that connection to accomplish clinical goals.”
When Ms. Bankston asked Ms. Cramer about her favorite composers, she said she enjoyed “Beethoven of course, and Handel, Barsanti and Gershwin.”
The PSO gala, as luck would have it, featured world-famous pianist Lang Lang performing Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”
Ms. Bankston also reached out to the Johnstown Symphony to see if it kept any photos of Ms. Cramer playing in the orchestra. The orchestra sent several. Coincidentally, Ms. Cramer also received a letter from Ethel Naylor — a fellow former Johnstown Symphony musician — the same day she learned she’d be attending the PSO gala.
Ms. Mull said that though music therapy as a vocation has been around since World War I, the music therapy industry has been growing rapidly in recent years, due in part to positive national media coverage. Cases like those of Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who credits music therapy in helping to recover from a gun wound to the brain, have been particularly eye-opening.
“I try to help residents maintain their highest quality of life possible through experiences with music,” she said.
“I think it [was] a beautiful opportunity for her to be able to reconnect to that part of her life and to the music that she cherishes.”