This is going to be an easy column to write. One of our scholarship recipients, Barry Denham, provided me with feedback about his experiences, and I’d like to share his thoughts with you.

He answers the question as to why a musician would go into the specialty of therapeutic music. Most musicians play for alert audiences who are seeking entertainment.

Most musicians provide this entertainment, and thrive on the positive feedback from the audience. The gig musician strives for applause, for standing ovations, for enthusiastic nods of approval, for requests for encores.

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The therapeutic musician, on the other hand, rarely plays for entertainment. We want to produce the relaxation response, with no applause.

So why would a musician provide this music when he can count on not getting positively reinforced by applause? There must be some other feedback that is rewarding.

The reward lies in seeing the relief we bring to patients in need. Anyone involved in volunteer services, helping people, understands this personal reward.

But beyond that, there are other benefits.

Barry explains:

“When I started this course I had no idea how much of the principles and concepts of this program I could apply to my own life situations. I learned how music can help alleviate stress and anxiety, like the kind caused by the current issues we all face.

“I have even applied the principles to helping a pet that suffers from epilepsy and separation anxiety.”

Barry further described some of the experiences he has gone through in his training program:

“Therapeutic music is a relatively new field, and more benefits from bedside music surface virtually every day. As a performing musician, my effectiveness has been enhanced by the things I have learned about music through this program and how it can apply to those with memory issues, and other debilitating illnesses.

“Last year, before COVID-19 took center stage, I had the privilege of accompanying Adele as she played her dulcimer at the bedside of an intensive care hospital patient. She quickly honed in on the music this particular patient needed to bring his vital signs (respiration, pulse, blood pressure) under control.

“I watched the patient transition from irritability and discomfort, to a calmness that eventually allowed him to rest easy and then fall asleep.”

Our nonprofit, Music in Medicine, has been fortunate to have some generous donors, including Alzheimer’s Foundation of American and Florida Cancer Specialists, such that we are able to offer full scholarships for training. Barry received one of our scholarships. He encourages others to apply:

“I highly recommend this program to any serious musician who wants to give back to those who are bedridden with illnesses and trauma, and to those transitioning from this life.

“Not only has her foundation provided financial backing, but Adele has been there with me every step of my journey toward certification. She and my mentor (assigned by the program) have provided tremendous support and the tools I need to reach my certification.

“This program won’t give you magical powers to cure, but the healing the music induces is nothing short of amazing. I am looking forward to becoming certified and getting to work.

“If you’re looking to get into a ground breaking program that will make a difference in the lives of so many, this is the program for you!”

Music in Medicine provides scholarships for local musicians to become certified music practitioners.

Training is through the Music for Healing and Transition Program (MHTP), and takes roughly a year to complete.

Currently, training is offered completely online as COVID has limited classroom sessions.

Instruments that are appropriate for therapeutic music include guitar, harp, flute, recorder, dulcimers, small keyboards, cello, bass, viola, and more. Brass and percussion are not so good.

Adele Jacobson heads the nonprofit organization Music in Medicine. For more information about the group and its mission, email musicbedside@gmail.com.

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