Category Archives: Music Therapy

Amy Winehouse (1983 – 2011) and the Merits of Artistic Expression

I recall watching Amy Winehouse perform during the GRAMMY awards in 2008, and I watched her get showered with awards and accolades shortly thereafter (5 GRAMMYS that evening). There were 2 things that were plainly obvious to those inside and outside of the recording industry that night: 1) This is an immensely talented performer with enormous upside potential 2) Winehouse was on a dangerous path and perhaps the tip of a downward spiral, given her problems with addiction and the underlying emotional issues that all too often derail the careers of emerging artists. I couldn’t help think that there was something terribly afoul and enabling with the idea of heaping praise on a woman in such peril after she declared in song, “They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, no, no, no.”

We speak of the power and merits of artistic expression in this forum a great deal, but the story of Amy Winehouse is a cautionary tale. Exposing children to music and the arts provides a valuable outlet for their emotions, and is a tool in teaching them to live productive and healthy lives – but it’s just a start. It’s important to realize and acknowledge its limitations as well. I’m no expert, but I think it’s safe to say that Winehouse’s underlying issues could not be resolved by a piano, guitar, or microphone.

I’ve spoken to music therapy experts, and they’ve echoed these sentiments as well. We must be realistic and practical in espousing the power and benefits of music and music education. Those who oversell its potential provide ammunition for the skeptics and sabotage the scientific advances made by the true practitioners of music and sound therapy, arts integration, and arts education in general.

Lost in Music of the 80’s: The Buggles, Madness, and Mood

I have a certain affinity for the music of the early 80’s and the dawn of the music video era. The new wave era on balance will not be remembered for the virtuosity of the musicians nor the sophistication of the music, though it’s noteworthy to mention that The Police, Elvis Costello, Blondie, The Pretenders, and The Tubes were born of that time. Yet there was an energy and excitement that captivated the music world back then.

The disco age was dead. Punk rock had shaken the music world out of its doldrums, but had faded as brilliantly as it had emerged. More importantly, music has the ability to connect us to other times in our lives.

I’ve also had the privilege of speaking to music therapists regarding the connection between music and mood. In the simplest sense, even a non-trained musical ear knows that certain (major) chords or sounds seem “happy,” while others (minor chords) evoke sadness or are more appropriate for horror movies. Of course, their science goes well beyond those basic theories, allowing breakthroughs with patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, Down Syndrome, and Autism.

That brings me to yesterday.

I was having a bad day – No particular tragedies, just a series of life’s little aggravations. Then, while strolling through the grocery store, a tune played from the speakers above. The recognizable intro to “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles. It was the 1st video ever played on MTV back in the day, and the video production levels were so primitive that there was an innocence that permeated the music videos of that era. The song “Our House” by Madness followed. From what moment forward, my day and my attitude changed for the better.

What music changes your mood?

The King’s Speech…or the King’s Song?

I saw the movie The King’s Speech this evening starring Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. The film chronicles the plight of the United Kingdon’s King George VI who fought to overcome his stammering problem with the help of speech therapist Lionel Logue who would eventually become his friend, as he delivered some of the most important speeches that a leader could give during World War II. During their therapy sessions, Logue often encouraged the King to sing the words he was trying to speak, so that he would create a more flowing delivery.

There’s an innate comfort that humans find in music that helps them relax and clear their minds. Logue made it clear that the King’s stammering problems had roots in his emotional issues of the past, though the King was reluctant to address them. Music helped him put aside those distractions and move forward.

In a related note on the topic of movie ratings and parenthood…
When I first saw the trailer for the movie, I thought it might be a great movie for my son to see. He’s at the age (13) where he’s getting a bit apprehensive about giving presentations in class and addressing groups. To my surprise, I learned that the movie was rated R. After researching the cause for the rating, I learned that it came solely from profanity – Logue tried to demonstrate that when you speak passionately you forget about the stammering and focus on communicating your emotions. There have been discussions regarding the release of an edited version that would change the rating.

The topic of the movie ratings system and how movies are evaluated is a broad one, but I would simply say that if you believe that your child will benefit from the message and can handle a couple of outbursts of foul language, I wouldn’t be too concerned with what was otherwise a very acceptable film for all ages.

We had a similar experience with another film a few years ago called Freedom Writers (PG-13). In the movie Hilary Swank portrays a young school teachers who touches the lives of inner city kids by exposing them to The Diary of Anne Frank and the power of using the written word to share your ideas to inspire others. We felt as though the message was a great one and we also felt as though it is important for our son to understand that there are children and families who deal with circumstances that can be more challenging and frightening than he and his friends might experience.

We simply told him prior to the movie that there were words used in the film to make it more realistic that were not appropriate for him to use. He said, “I know, Dad,” and that was that. Another movie I’d recommend.

Benefits of Music Education: Getting “Buy-in”

I once interviewed the Development Director for a symphony organization, and he said that when he speaks to representatives from major donor organizations, most were involved in music programs as a child – and that’s the danger of cutting school music programs – the number of individuals who “buy in” to the power and benefits of music education is likely to diminish.

I recently listened to an interview with Dr. Richard Fratianne and a burn patient regarding the benefits of music therapy as a healing aid. Interesting that Dr. Fratianne indicated that music was an integral part of his upbringing.

Visit my Music Advocacy web page for great resources
Here are a few additional stories regarding music and healing

Melody Gardot Interview Part 1 (Verve Recording Artist Discusses Music Therapy)

At the age of 19, Melody Gardot was struck by an SUV while riding a bicycle in a nearly fatal accident. In this interview, Melody discusses her amazing story of how music therapy faciliated her recovery, and ultimately led to a career as a world-renowned recording artist on the Verve recording label.

The interview is conducted by Craig M. Cortello, The “Business Musician” for a series of podcasts entitled Potential of Music that illuminated the benefits of music and music education.

Musical Interludes: Clearing the Mind and Re-charging Your Batteries

When I was in college, I always kept a guitar or electric piano close by. When I needed a break from studying (or “cramming” in most cases), I found that the release of music for 15-20 minutes really helped re-charge my batteries, so to speak.

I attended the November meeting of the National Speakers Association New Orleans chapter yesterday, with featured speaker Scott Ginsberg, an amazing guy and a fellow guitar player. Scott is a prolific writer and professional speaker. He echoed those same semtiments regarding music. Scott picks up the guitar and plays when he needs a break from the computer.

We got into a discussion regarding why playing guitar (or any instrument) is such a great release. Here are some of the throughts that followed:

“Playing music allows me to:
– clear my mind”
– not have to think, or”
– think in a way that removes barriers and comes from a selfless place”
– express the best part of myself”
– be who I am”
– relax in a way that I can’t otherwise”
– lose myself”

Why do you play?

Woman battling cancer finds strength in her music

Music & Healing – a topic we’ve covered here before. This from the Fayetteville Observer in NC:
Article Link

Here are some related posts from our archives:
Uplifting Music Therapy Story: Verve Recording Artist Melody Gardot

Music Therapy & Cancer Treatment

Music Therapy & Autism: Arts for Healing’s Karen Nisenson

Arts for Healing Celebrates 10 Years!

One of the 32 people profiled in my book Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music was Karen Nisenson, founder of Arts for Healing, a creative arts therapy center that treats people with developmental disabilities ranging from down syndrome, autism, and Alzheimer’s through the application of music and arts therapy.

The non-profit recently celebrated their 10th anniversary. Karen raised 5 children as a single mother and somehow still managed to start this wonderful organization in New Canaan, CT. Congratulations to Karen and her staff for their success!

Uplifting Music Therapy Story: Verve Recording Artist Melody Gardot

Continuing with yesterday’s theme of the ever-expanding applications of music therapy, meet Ms. Melody Gardot. Melody suffered a near-fatal accident when struck by an SUV while riding a bike at the age of nineteen. She turned to music therapy as an alternative to the numerous pain medications that doctors prescribed.

She has now signed with the Verve record label and is touring the world promoting her 2nd full-length album, My One and Only Thrill.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Gardot in 2008 and wrote a feature for Here’s the link to the article entitled, “Parallels of Recovery: Melody Gardot Finds Inspiration in the Spirit of New Orleans”

To sample Melody’s music and learn more about tour dates and info, visit the Melody Gardot website.

Listen to an audio excerpt of my interview with Melody:

Music Therapy & Cancer Treatment

Slowly but surely, public awareness of the effectiveness of music therapy as a means of assisting those with developmental disabilities such as autism, down syndrome, and Alzheimers is growing. In this video below, we learn that music therapy is also an effective treatment for cancer patients in dealing with anxiety, pain perception, and emotional expression. Noteworthy from the video from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center is that patient immune systems funcion better in comparison to contral study groups not receiving music therapy treatment.

To learn more about the exciting and expanding field of music therapy, visit the website of the American Music Therapy Association.