Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Healing Power of Music

Bonnie Le Lyons-Cohen

My almost-90-year-old mother had a beautiful, confident singing voice as a younger woman and a commanding presence in front of a congregation. She often sang solos in worship and her singing and piano playing were amongst her gifts from and to God. She doesn't sing much anymore. She no longer gets to church, where she could join in singing hymns. Her singing may also be affected by her Parkinson's Disease, which affects motor control, facial affect, and memory as it progresses.

I was interested to see that there is a choir in Toronto for those with Parkinson's and it is making a difference for the 28 participants. They feel that their confidence has been boosted by the experience, not to mention making a joyful noise. It may also affect how others perceive them:

"Within a hundred milliseconds of seeing someone else smile or frown, we are smiling or frowning," said Frank Russo, a psychology professor at Ryerson University in Toronto. "We're mirroring what the other person is doing. And that's one of the things that is absent in Parkinson's. It's the absence of mirroring that is leading to some of the deficit in understanding other people's emotions."
Having a static face can leave people with Parkinson's seem cold and aloof as they also show deficits in understanding other people's emotions. The patient can then become emotionally disconnected from others.Studying the 28 members of the Parkinson's choir has bolstered Russo's thinking that singing, facial expressions and social communications are interconnected.

There are choristers, music ministers, and other church musicians who read this blog. You already know the benefits of making music as praise. It's good to hear of yet another benefit of music.



Judy said...

One of the Rotary Music Festival adjudicators last spring has as his motto, on all communications, " A life without music is a mistake." I agree... I cannot imagine music not being part of my existence. It is beautiful gift to humanity and our world.

roger said...

We have friends who don't listen to music. Ever. We don't know how they do it - music is such an important part of our lives. I have all but given up on becoming skilled on the violin, but there is nothing more relaxing(to me) than listening to Itzhak Perlman or Pinchas Zukerman.

I love the idea of the choir for people with Parkinson's.