MUSIC’S HEALING POWERS: Physical, Emotional, Mental, Spiritual
The Magic of Music Movement, is a Facebook platform that was introduced by Ultimate Music Theory, Founder, CEO, and Host, Glory St. Germain. In it, she presented the Global Healing Power of Music Summit a few months ago over a four-day period. The summit featured music educators in countries from different Continents. Although I was not a part of this particular summit, I took the opportunity to invest in the Passport in order to view and listen to those selected music educators who engaged in conversations on several key elements related to the summit’s topic.
When each individual profiled their own personal experiences, and their “whys” for creating and developing their own “unique” brand of a program to service themselves and students,
it gave them a voice to highlight their expansive knowledge in how music as a disciplined activity - educationally and recreationally - provided an ideal supportive outlet for healing. As the emphasis was on the healing powers of music, each educator explored and declared the great influence that music - in whatever shape or form on some level - has had on the physical/mental/emotional/spiritual well being of a person living through or coping with a crisis/trauma. Therefore, it informed the viewers of how music opened up the world of the human psyche in response to that need to become realigned with an energy that is rehabilitative, positive, and steadfast.
In these unprecedented times where the world is still “battling” the Covid-19 pandemic and the upsurge of the variants, it has become more apparent how this has created concerns on the critical issue of its effects on the mental and emotional health in students (from as young as nursery school to university level), parents working from home, caregivers, and frontline workers. It is intriguing how an invisible creature, unleashed a year ago, has had such a forceful impact on global society. In the valiant attempt to curtail the rise of infections and reduce the fatality statistics, the pendulum swings of imposed lockdowns and curfews further the chaos. On the other side to taking on such drastic measures, the world has seen an escalation in the wave of riots that subsequently led to unlawful and criminal activities. A study in anthropology often raises discussions on why the human species has that innate need for exercising equality and freedom of rights to live life on one’s own terms/preference; not to be held hostage/bondage to a system of restrictions and discrimination; hence, there is always that opportunity to rebel with a cause in order to serve one and other’s interest when those states are prolonged, and intolerance rises to the surface. Therefore, the perception of exercising democracy by intent and design becomes the liberating factor.
Through all of the above, music as an expressive outlet continued to be the one constant in a person’s life that strives to maintain unity and harmony inwardly and outwardly. The Entertainment Industry is one that unrolls a colorful carpet that is unrestricted in its length and width. On the positive side of the pandemic, musicians from all walks of life - for economic survival and to maintain social engagement - were motivated to become more inventive and creative in how they were to deliver their products and services to the masses. One saw that within the Global HPM summit, it opened up a double door entrance invitation into a world order represented by educators, performers/entertainers, researchers, advocates who continued to socially and economically thrive through all of the chaos.
On March 13, 2020, when the world appeared to “spin out of control on its axis” in the sense of becoming more destabilized in its communication amongst nations attending to their citizen's needs, this thrust many more music educators and entertainers to learn to adapt and accept living in another kind of new world reality. As such, it allowed them to stay connected (locally, nationally, and internationally) to their students and parents, their colleagues, an audience. Over the months, individuals became more comfortable virtually “Zooming” in and out of meetings/performing / rehearsing/teaching online. Any selected virtual platform served that ‘modus operand in a nonthreatening distance in the comfort and safety of one’s own bubble on the home front. The online world had also given more access to vast musical resources to keep students engaged and feeling less isolated during lockdowns and safe distancing. Testimonials from students and parents declared how weekly interactive music lessons have “saved their lives” from the mental, emotional stresses that they were experiencing on a daily basis that were also eroding at their ‘spiritual’ sense of self-awareness and well-being!
As I listened to educators sharing their stories in The Global Healing Powers Of Music Summit they reminded me of my own experience decades ago with an adult student. I had the pleasure of teaching Irene for six years. In her retirement, Irene decided to pursue piano lessons because she never had the opportunity as a young child. Because of her love for music, Irene could never quite understand how some children (and their parents) who had the opportunity, gave up on making the effort to keep up with piano lessons and practice in the long term. In our sixth year - mid-term - Irene was diagnosed with cancer. Needless to say, she pursued chemo. treatment that interrupted her commitment to weekly lessons for a while. However, once Irene was in remission she resumed lessons with me. Unfortunately, a relapse occurred and cancer came back where it metastasize to her liver and bones. But, that did not deter Irene from her determination to keep up with weekly lessons. Although I gave Irene permission to discontinue, she insisted otherwise. Each week I could see a weakening of her muscles and cognitive abilities to keep up with reading and playing. At one point in her declining health, Irene literally crawled up the five steps, hanging on to the railing spindles to get to my LR studio. With my help, when she allowed (Irene was a fiercely independent woman), I assisted her to the piano and proceeded to facilitate her in her very very slow pace of learning. Fortunately, I am one who is blessed with patience and empathy and was grateful for the opportunity to have facilitated Irene during that period in her life that turned her into an adult student with special needs. Irene finally had to discontinue lessons with me when she was admitted into palliative care. At Irene’s funeral service, I had a wonderful conversation with the music therapist who worked at Carpenter Hospice where Irene stayed for about a month. She said that Irene, upon arrival and settling in, requested to have a small digital piano keyboard on a table by her bed. Irene managed to pick out and play short tunes on the keys up until the day she died. What I am certain of is that even though the act of playing or listening to music on a CD did not bring back the desired physical healing for Irene, those outlets served her well during the time of palliative care. Her soul’s spirit was lifted, and when the time came it made death and the transition to an ‘after life’ a very peaceful one for her. By my estimation that was another level of healing for Irene.
On Day 4, Session 4, Glory St. Germain interviewed her former piano student Connor who started with her at age 4. As a prodigious pianist at 15, he suffered a near-fatal brain injury that initially paralyzed his right side. Connor’s long rehabilitating journey through the healing process to bring him back to playing the piano again (with both hands) is an inspiring one. Connor has since graduated from university in Jazz studies and is a gigging musician and recording artist. Since his recovery, Conor has been going to schools in Manitoba where he shares his story, “Music Healed Me”. What impacted me though was his other narrative on how he felt when his best friend from high school recently died in March 2021. Music for Connor became the salve that helped him to grieve this loss in a positive and healthy manner. This personal experience led him to compose the song “Gone Too Soon”. In turn, Connor’s story inspired me to write the following poem as a testament to the healing powers of music on the mental and emotional angst that one experiences when someone special dies. When I shared my poem with my fellow poets/classmates in my Poetry Circle, they too were touched by it.