Today we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. for his work and his renowned speech about the courage to keep working peacefully toward equality. January is the month for music therapy advocacy and over 5,000 board-certified music therapist are blogging, tweeting, posting, and sharing “what is music therapy?”
According to the American Music Therapy Association, “Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based used of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.” In other words, a music therapist utilizes music to achieve goals in areas of social, cognitive, physical, emotional, developmental, and overall well-being. Music therapist are trained on how to utilized music to reach the goal.
Music is very powerful. We need music and are wired to respond to music. It is fun, relaxing, motivating. Music is all around and impacts our brains and bodies; it is in how we walk, talk, and in our heart beat. From when we are born, we respond and process music: listening to the mother’s voice, ticking of mobiles, and musical sounds of shaker toys. Across the world and through time, parents have used lullabies and rhythmic rocking to soothe and calm babies who are crying.
Most parents say their young child sings and dance and it is natural to do so. It is their way to express themselves, learn about the world around them, and to have fun. Music holds our attention in structure while giving us freedom to explore and develop self-confidence and self-esteem.
Many people find they need music to motivate them in exercise. Our bodies entrain to rhythm, such as running to the beat of the song. Our bodies naturally match (entrain) to the rhythmic beat, such as tapping our toes or moving our bodies when we are listening to a musical performance. The motor neurons cannot help to stimulate movement and we do not have to think about moving our body to the music, it is automatic. It helps stroke victims learn to walk again.
Music evokes physiological responses and can be an emotional outlet. We find songs with words or feelings that match our mood to make us feel better or to extend our positive ones. Music choices sets the tone of celebrations, gatherings, and of the atmosphere. The music may bring about life memories, tears, shivers, or changes in heart-rate. It is helpful to use the physiological and emotional response to music to help someone relax, out of depression, or to stimulate life memories.
Music and speech share neural circuits, thus listening or singing lyrics is using the same circuits as listening and expressing speech. Therefore, music enhances learning, especially in working to help a child learn to communicate. The structure of music makes it an easy tool to teach information to make learning fun and easy to recall. We learned the alphabet through song and many fun songs to learn about the world around us.
Our brains like music because it is predictable, structured, and organized. Which is why we like to listen to songs over and over again and are attracted to certain songs and genres. In music therapy, clinicians work with client preferred music choices to achieve the most response in stimulation and motivation.
Music bonds people together. At an early age, students have group music experience, like orchestras, choirs, and music classes. In these social experience, they learn to be part of a group, blending and working together. They develop social skills, relationships, and imitate peer role models. Parents and grandparents share their culture to their children through song, dance, and art. Children can identify their culture in music.
Music’s powers lie in connecting and stimulating neurons across the brain. There is no one brain spot designated for music. You can self-medicate by listening to music that you like.