Sometimes…all we need is music

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.

Working as a music therapist in a hospital setting, it continues to amaze me what power music has.  I am fortunate to get to work with many populations at the

hospital and I get to play and share a wide variety of music with the people I work with.  One day this past week I played a Green Day song, a Nat King Cole Song, a Patsy Cline song, a Joni Mitchell song and a few selections from the Broadway musical Oklahoma!  And, I also got to do a little jazz improvisation.  All in one day.  Everyone has their preferred genre or styles of music and I’m lucky because I get all of it!

Two moments stand out for me from my recent work, both with older adults whom I was asked to visit with to help with confusion and agitation. I met a very lovely woman whom I worked with a few times.  She was weepy and sad, talking to herself when we first met, however, once I started singing some old songs, songs she remembered from her youth, her world appeared to turn around.  As the days progressed, she smiled when I entered her room and even sang along with me as we went through tunes from the Great American Songbook.  She even told me a story about why one of the songs, in particular, was special to her and giggled like a school girl as she relived the moment.  Many of her family members were with her and it was a nice moment that they all got to share together.  I imagine that they don’t have many moments like this but…we had music to bring it all together.

I also recently met an older gentleman who had been a musician; who worked with various jazz type groups “back in the day”.  He was mumbling incoherently when we met and appeared very agitated.  However, when I started playing some “jazzy” chords with a be-bop rhythm on the guitar, he couldn’t help himself.  His feet started moving and he started tapping on the side of the bed with his fingers.  I stopped and gave him a hand-held drum, which he enthusiastically took and provided the beat, and together we were jamming.  Really jamming!  Then, when I played ‘Earth Angel’ he took the high falsetto vocal part; not something I could do…and nailed it.  A few moments prior he had no idea where he was.  But once we added music, he was singing and smiling and…jamming.

What else besides music, or a song, can do this? We’ve all been there, we hear a song and it brings us back; and yet, by bringing us back it also somehow puts us in the present so we can relive, or re-tell, that special moment or feeling that is such a part of us; engrained in our being.  What else in our lives can do this?  What else besides music?  I am fortunate to see it everyday.  Sometimes…all we need is music.

“Earth angel, earth angel

Will you be mine?

My darling dear

Love you all the time

I’m just a fool

A fool in love with you”

(*the stories presented in this blog are based on accounts and experiences and are not actual accounts and experiences)