Music is very important to me and it seems fitting that it should be the topic of my first blog.
I learned piano as a child; classical pieces that still make my heart feel light, but I’ve always wanted to play jazz and learn the secrets of improvisation. How does Oscar Peterson DO that twiddly stuff? Years passed, and opportunities to act on my dream always seemed to take second place to other, more important things like moving to Canada and starting my physiotherapy business. I kept hold of the dream though, and eventually realized that if I didn’t act soon I would never learn Oscar’s secret.
I started lessons, making slow headway. My classically trained rigidity started to loosen up into something approaching a jazz sound. With a lot of practice and seemingly endless repetition, I could produce a hesitant syncopation. I wanted more. I was frustrated with my limitations, my wooden fingers, my brain’s fatigue. I wanted my brain to connect the musical and motor dots to create an effortless fluidity. My teacher referred me to another. I am grateful to him for his patience and commitment, and for his honesty in recognizing that he had taught me what he could.
My second (current) teacher meets me in the musical place I’ve struggled to reach, and moves me forward from there. When we started lessons were regular, with lots of homework, lots of hard work, and then less frequent as I began to join my own dots. My syncopation is bolder. I’m jamming with friends. I’m not so shy of people hearing my sound. I’m proud and happy with my progress so far, and I can look down the road and see where I’m heading.
The whole process of learning jazz piano has informed my physiotherapy practice, giving me a deeper and more personal understanding of just how terribly difficult it is for an adult to start all over again, learning to move or pick things up when brain injury has damaged that part of their motor function.
I often use music to help my clients. Whether it is putting on a client’s favourite calming piece in the background as they perform gentle exercise; using different rhythms to help someone with Parkinson’s disease work on gait; or even singing (badly) with an Alzheimer’s client as s/he exercises. One client loves to exercise her arms by conducting to music.
I find that music opens the door for people in so many ways.
Just a brief look at recent research shows me that there are many people who are interested in the benefits of music as an aid to physical rehabilitation. This is very exciting, and I hope the research continues so that one day we might see music as a trusted tool in many physiotherapy practices.
For now, I work on my goals at the piano, and celebrate my client’s progress in theirs.
Here are a few of the articles I found interesting:
• Exercise training and music therapy in elderly with depressive syndrome: a pilot study
Verrusio et al. Complememt Ther Med 2014 Aug;22(4):614-20. http://bit.ly/1Oa4GuS
• Rehabilitation, exercise therapy and music in patients with Parkinson’s disease: a met-analysis of the effect of music-based movement therapy on walking ability, balance and quality of life.
De Dreu MJ et al. Parkinsonism Relat Disord. 2012 Jan;18 Suppl 1:S114-9 http://1.usa.gov/1dYp0SQ
• A comparison of Irish set dancing and exercises for people with Parkinson’s disease: a phase II feasibility study. Volpe D. BMC Geriaatr. 2013 Jun 4;13:54. http://1.usa.gov/1LeRVQ3
• Neurobiological foundations of neurologic music therapy: rhythmic entrainment and the motor system.
Thaut MH et al. Front Psychol. 2015 Feb 18;5:1185. http://bit.ly/1eZJ0W9
• Auditory rhythmic cueing in movement rehabilitation: findings and possible mechanisms.
Schaefer RS. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2014 Dec 19;369(1658):20130402. http://bit.ly/1IY01wc
• Composite Effects of Group drumming music therapy on modulation of endocrine-immune parameters in normal subjects. Barry B. Bittman, MD et al. Alternative Therapies Jan 2001,Vol 7. No 1. http://bit.ly/1dYpDvS