“Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens.”
― Maria von Trapp
It is amazing to watch the most reserved residents react to music shared in our music therapy groups at Kensington Park. Several of the residents in our Connections, Men’s, and Women’s Groups have said “I don’t sing” or “I’m not musically inclined.” When these individuals hear a familiar song, however, it is as if they can’t help but sing along and tap their feet.
Another reaction to the music that we, as music therapists, use to measure the effect of music therapy on our clients, include observing their mood level pre and post session. Some residents come to our groups experiencing anxiety. Others join the group displaying drowsiness. Still others, simply in a sour mood. When a music therapist starts to sing one of a resident’s favorite songs, physical changes take place such as their faces brightening, posture opening, and voices joining in song. The study, “Music and the heart,” further explores those changes which occur beyond the surface. “Music can powerfully evoke and modulate emotions and moods,” write Koelsch and Jancke (2015), “along with changes in heart activity, blood pressure, and breathing.”
As the holiday of romance, Valentine’s Day, approaches, we may further consider how a love song can make our hearts race. Added to the element of the music, are lyrics which may inspire memories and feelings shared with a loved one. As our music therapy groups select preferred love songs for our upcoming happy hour performances, they are inspired to share tender stories of their partners. “We were married for 57 wonderful years,” one resident shared, “The best years of my life.” After singing the song “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,” another resident asked, “What’s that from Blue Hawaii? That’s where my dear wife and I had our honeymoon.”
It is privilege and a pleasure to explore the effects of the music on the heart – both physiologically and emotionally – with our residents. Our training in music therapy provides us as music therapists with skills to aid in processing these deep and meaningful experiences. We hope to continue facilitating these meaningful moments with our weekly music therapy groups and individual sessions.