By Ray Leone, MMT, MT-BC
Ray is a Board-Certified music therapist who directs A Place To Be’s medical music therapy program through a partnership with Inova Health Systems.
Songs accompany us through life and provide meanings which we all can identify with.
Songs provide opportunities for self-expression
Song lyrics can project our own feelings, especially for those who have difficulty with emotional expression
Songs can bring awareness or insight into our own feelings and thoughts
Songs can enhance feelings of hope, joy and satisfaction
Songs can provide a means for telling the stories of our lives
Recently I had the pleasure of visiting with a very sweet elderly woman. She was in the hospital for various issues and the music therapy referral was for engagement and stimulation as she was somewhat agitated and disoriented. When I entered her room, she was lying in bed just staring off in the distance. I said “hello” and her eyes opened wide and she said, what sounded like, “Bruce?" I told her my name and that I was there to provide some music for her. As I took out the guitar and sat down, she continued looking off but when I started to strum she looked towards me. Her face was still looking somewhat distressed and confused. I just strummed a bit to orient her to the music, then decided to play "When You Wish Upon a Star”. As the song progressed, her face started to soften and by the end, she was quietly singing. I repeated the song and she seemed to know all the words. When I finished she smiled and then told me a story.
She told me that she was singing that very song when she met her husband. This was just after the war and she was at an event for some of the returning soldiers. She was sitting on a fence, alone, and just singing this song; her favorite. There were people and soldiers walking by but no one paid any attention to her except for this one young soldier, who stopped and listened to her sing. She said that she can still see his boyish face, just standing there, looking into her eyes as she sang. They then went for a walk together and…that young, handsome soldier eventually became her husband. And that song was, and will always be, their “song”. She told me that he is no longer with us but hearing that song made her think of him. We continued to chat, about singing, about music and about her grandson who plays the guitar. She was smiling and seemed to enjoy talking about her family and we sang more songs together. She knew the words to every song I presented! This was a completely different person before just one song. A song is all it took, to take her back and to bring her back to the present. She was extremely charming and I saw glimpses of the young girl sitting on the fence many years ago.
“When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you
If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do”
The healing power of music…
(*the stories presented in this blog are based on accounts and experiences and are not actual accounts and experiences)