This week has been a very interesting one for my theme of music and healing.
MUSIC AND SLEEP APNEA
Veterans Performing at the 2013 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival
Almost every day I have come across new evidence of the transforming power of music. One of the most fascinating examples came from Vermont’s publication Seven Days. It is titled “How Didgeridoo Playing Can Lead to Better Sleep.”
What is a didgeridoo you ask? The didgeridoo is an extraordinarily simple indigenous Australian wind instrument. Originally they were made from termite-hollowed eucalyptus branches; now they are fashioned from many woods. The article describes the sound as “a low, droning bellow that is…wild and haunting.”
In 2005 the British Medical Journal published a study showing that people who played the didgeridoo for twenty minutes a day, five days a week. showed improvement in their sleep apnea. Pitz Quattrone, a musician and music teacher in East Montpelier offers classes in the didgeridoo for people with sleep apnea and has seen improvements in those he with whom he works. If you live in the Vermont area and want to find out more about this, you may contact Pitz at http://www.pitzquattrone.com
MUSIC AND APHASIA
This same Vermont publication led me to the story of Vermont’s first aphasia choir. As the article notes, “Aphasia is a neurological disorder, typically brought on by either a stroke or a traumatic brain injury, that impairs the ability to speak, read and write.” This is a very frustrating problem both for those who have been affected and for their families. Julie Stillman, a former writer and editor, had a severe stroke that left her with very little hope for recovery.
Julie is one of a group of people in the community who suffered a stroke in the left hemisphere, with its domination over language and other functions. (Although recent research indicates that left/right hemisphere relationship is more complicated than thought earlier. RMJK) Karen McFeeters Leary, the force behind the choir, is a speech-language pathologist who is also a singer and song-writer. She remembered a story from her graduate work of a man who had a severe blow to the head and could not speak, but could sing. (Note: I have found many stories about children with autism who are unable to speak but who sing beautifully. RMJK) Karen found only two other aphasia choirs in the US, in Texas and Oklahoma and both supported by local hospitals.
The eleven members of the choir who are stroke survivors are accompanied by a spouse, relative, or friend who also sings with them. Their first public performance was held recently, with the singers presenting arrangements of familiar folk songs. It was an extraordinary occasion and marks, we hope, only a beginning in the use of singing as therapeutic in working with stroke victims. I strongly suggest you read the full story in http://www.sevendaysvt.com
In earlier posts I have told some of the story of Iris Grace, the four-year old girl with autism in the UK. Some of her greatest progress has been made through music. I end today’s post with her beautiful painting, “Dancing to the Oboes,” created after one of the music sessions for children she attended.
Dancing to the Oboes
Iris Grace, 4 years old.