Music is perhaps one of the oldest forms of expression humanity has. It can bridge cultures, comfort and heal the sick, and symbolize unspoken truths. The Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra (RSO) is very familiar with these almost magical and healing properties of music and is expanding the benefits beyond the concert hall.
“A year ago, we approached Nuvance Health to get music into the hospitals in various ways,” says Laure Kenagy, RSO Executive Director. “One way that has come to fruition—partly because of covid—was to professionally record the concerts making it accessible from the patients television. This gives them the unique opportunity to listen to a local orchestra from their own town.”
Patients or visitors to Danbury Hospital may hear the sound of classical instruments resonating through the hallways and lobbies. Following the sound would lead them to a live performance that Kenagy hopes can happen on a monthly basis very soon at other hospitals as well. In addition to this, tickets to RSO performances are provided for staff and the invitation is extended for first-line responders in the pandemic.
“Nuvance Health is thrilled to collaborate with the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra (RSO) and bring music therapy to our patients, staff and visitors in a meaningful way,” says Amy Lionheart, Network Manager of Volunteer Services, Nuvance Health. “Volunteers who play live music at our hospitals have a calming and uplifting presence. Patients can watch RSO performances on our closed-circuit television system, which helps them in their healing journey because it can have a therapeutic effect by alleviating anxiety
Power of Music
While this is a new partnership and the start of an exciting endeavor, it’s built on an old but firm foundation; music heals.
According to a scientific study, Music as Medicine: A Review and Historical Perspective by Talin Babikian, Lonnie Zeltzer, and Raffi Tachdjian of the University of California in Los Angeles, it is evident that there is a scientific basis for studying music and its ability to contribute to the healing of the whole individual. The study references that newborns have the ability to discriminate and show interests in songs, implying an innate ability that is hardwired into our brains, and children who are exposed to music in their early development are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
Due to functional magnetic resonance imaging, electron tomography and electroencephalography, scientists have been able to study music in the same rigor given to other clinical practices. From these studies, we see that the regions of the brain that are responsible for euphoria are very similar to the regions of the brain that perceive and process musical experiences. Neuroscience research has focused on the auditory cortex and the somatosensory cortex. Other studies found that listening to music activates more regions than any other known cerebral activity.
“Staff who have given their all throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and patients benefit from music therapy,” says Lionheart. “We aim to encourage more people to participate in music therapy sessions because it is not only fun, but provides a positive stress-free environment for those within an earshot of it.”
Among the many benefits of music, is the unique ability to restore connections within the brain, making it an indispensable tool in restoring memory. It’s no surprise, then, that RSO has partnered successfully with the Meadow Ridge Retirement Community for years. In addition to the partnership with Nuvance Health, they are bringing this experience to another new medical community in Ridgefield.
Restoring What is Lost
“We are starting a new partnership with Ridgefield Station, formerly Atria, who houses 70 total residents,” says Kenagy. “The first floor has 22 patients for memory care who have Alzheimers and dementia and we are currently planning how to develop a performance for them. Music has a strange way with memory. These are people who grew up with classical music, but even if someone wasn’t exposed to this music often, we’ve found that people gravitate towards instrumental music as they age.”
Composers commonly used in clinical treatment include Beethoven, Wagner, Mendelssohn and many others. While these partnerships are benefitting the local medical communities, research shows that music can really benefit anyone who is willing to listen to welcome music into their lives. Embracing these works may take us a bit out of our comfort zone; but it’s important, whether or not we’re suffering from any kind of affliction to branch out and continue our musical education however possible. After all, you never know where you might find your next favorite way to relax or a deep well of inspiration, and RSO is a great place to start; by supporting local music and medical communities as you explore. •