The Power of Music Presents Itself
“Can you feel the drummmm…..feel it in your body…..can you feel the drummmm……feel the rum bum bum bummmm”
This is what I sang today as I had the opportunity to witness the power of music. I went to do my monthly music therapy session today at one of my nursing home contracts and was implementing my wind-down intervention that I do to relax the residents before it’s time to say good-bye. I have a really great drum that is fairly large and when I play it with the back facing the resident, it emits excellent vibrations, calming the muscles in the body. You don’t even have to be touching the drum and you can feel the air particles moving between you and the drum. I call it the “drum massage”.
One of the residents at the home has a pretty advanced level of Alzheimer’s. She is still verbal and happy and claps along and sometimes sings with the music, but whatever she talks about with staff and peers is mostly random. I adore this lady, she is so sweet and she makes me laugh…
Today I was doing the drumming intervention with her and it was amazing the effect it had on her. I set the drum on her lap with the back opened to her and she touched it with her hands. I lowered my eyes to her level so that I was looking straight into her eyes and she maintained eye contact with me for the longest time with such an intense look. I couldn’t tell if she was sad or just feeling the music in the moment. It appeared to me that she was somehow being moved so I put one hand on her shoulder to offer some comfort as I finished with her turn. I then moved on so that others could have a turn and then she began to cry. Hard. I don’t know if she was crying because she was saddened by something that surfaced through the music experience or if it was just one of those moments that she was moved by the music. Upon completion of the intervention I lightened the mood in the room by singing “you are my sunshine” which, of course, made her smile again.
This occasion is so cool on so many levels. First of all, there is an actual biological reason why she cried. Do you ever get that feeling from a song that it almost makes you feel choked up, and you don’t know why? Its called the “thalamic reflex”. Music is the only mode of communication that has the ability to bypass the gray matter of the brain (cerebral cortex) and goes directly to the thalamus, which is the part of the brain responsible for emotions. Second, I (or the music, I should say) was able to break through some sort of barrier to touch this person in a way that not a lot of things can. It brought her into the present so that she could connect with me through the music while looking into my eyes. The music moved her, and she moved me.
Situations like this really don’t happen that often. In fact there are days where I get head-butt by children in the face or I have instruments thrown at me. It can definitely be challenging but it is moments like these that make those other moments disappear. I feel so blessed and fortunate to be able to experience such a special moment in time with someone that, not only do I provide services for, I really care for.