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Tune Your Life with Music

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Music with Surgery: Does it really make a difference?

September 3rd, 2012 · Dangers of anesthesia, Music and Surgery, Music Healing, Rhythmic Entrainment

I understand healthy skepticism.  It’s a good thing.  No one wants to be a” sucker” and the medical/field is no exception to fads and scams.  When people used to mention the use of music during dental visits or childbirth or surgery, I was skeptical.  As a professional musician, I thought that it might be confusing to me.  I like to listen to music when I can focus entirely on the music, but when I actually began working in the world of music as medicine, in 1990, I learned things that forced me to rethink my previous skepticism.

Of course, now I’m totally a believer.  After helping people choose their own ideal music for surgery or childbirth or chemo for over two decades, I had the idea to create wireless, pre-programmed headphones for surgery.  These have been on the market for a little over 3 years now and I’ve sold them around the world.  The type of music one can listen to can include classical, jazz, New Age, hymns, or any genre that you like.  The important thing is that the music be very steady, purely instrumental (i.e. no lyrics) and have a simple texture (i.e. just one or two instruments playing together.)

Why headphones, rather than ambient music?  Well, despite being under general anesthesia, patients do wake up from anesthesia stating that they definitely heard conversation in the operating room that they wish they hadn’t heard.  Or they report that the doctor was listening to music that they (the patient) did not like at all or even found offensive.  A nurse once told me that the surgeon she worked with listened to “Another One Bites the Dust!”  I think that is defenseless.

Many of my customers are music lovers, but many know nothing about music.  What is the common denominator? Fear!  People are really scared about surgery, about going under general anesthesia, about whether or not they will wake up and see their families and loved ones again.

Using music before, during and after surgery doesn’t guarantee that you won’t have problems, but it definitely does lessen the likelihood of problems, because it decreases the amount of medications you’ll require.  When you begin listening to calm, soothing music for about 30 minutes before your procedure, take it into surgery with your wireless headphones, and on into the recovery room, study after study shows that you will require less anxiety meds, less anesthesia, and less pain medication.  This is not just a theoretical possibility.  It has been proven repeatedly.

Doctors, musicologists, scientists and researchers all agree that rhythmic entrainment enables the body and mind to syncronize with the tempo and the character of the music.  If you’re having surgery in the near future, get your music and headphones ready now!  If you don’t have the time or inclination to do this, order some ready-to-go HERE!

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Blue Moon: the song was right!

August 31st, 2012 · Announcements, music and the heart, Pop Songs

Blue Moon Lyrics:

Blue Moon, you saw me standing alone Without a dream in my heart Without a love of my own

Blue Moon, you knew just what I was there for You heard me saying a prayer for Someone I really could care for

And then there suddenly appeared before me The only one my arms will ever hold I heard somebody whisper, ‘Please adore me’ And when I looked, the moon had turned to gold

Blue Moon, now I’m no longer alone Without a dream in my heart Without a love of my own

I’ve been looking forward to the famous “blue moon” all summer and tonight it finally appeared, right above my home in Louisville, KY!

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WWII Vet tells story of how his trumpet saved lives from German sniper

August 23rd, 2012 · Music and Emotion, Music and the Golden Years, Music in World War II

Want to hear another powerful story about how music has literally saved lives? Listen to this 90 year old man as he tells how he played a German love song on his trumpet one cold night after he had been told specificall not to because there was still a German sniper in the woods. This man said to himself, “I’ll bet that fellow is as lonely, tired and homesick as I am and he’d enjoy hearing a beautiful love song.” He tells it best:

The power of music and all of the memories that it recalls, cannot be underestimated. Next time you’re lonely, in pain, anxious, depressed or uncomfortable in any way, remember that music can make a powerful difference with all of these conditions!

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Can Movie Music Be Healing?

July 18th, 2012 · Genres of healing music, Movie Music, Music and the Mind-Body

This is something that I’ve always wondered.  Growing up in the 50′s and 60′s, I heard lots of wonderful movie music.  Some of my favorites were “Theme from a Summer Place” “Moon River” from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”  lots of cowboy movie music and of course all the Disney movies that came out during my childhood like “Alice in Wonderland,” “Pinnochio” “Cinderella” “Sleeping Beauty” and “Mary Poppins.”

I adored everything on the Mickey Mouse Club and later “American Bandstand.”  All of the above music provided the soundtrack to my childhood and listening to any of it transports me there immediately.  It doesn’t necessarily make me wish that I were back there, because I happen to love 2012 too and today’s music, my children, grandchildren, students and friends.  But listening to the movie and TV music of my childhood, transports me to a different world faster that any sci-fi time machine ever good.

If I’m feeling worried, sad, overworked or anything negative, I can listen to this music online or just listen to it in my head, and poof!  I feel much better and I feel better within 5-10 minutes!  Now what else to you know that can do that legally, safely, and for free??  Music is the best medicine and it’s really whatever music affects you in a positive way!  Next time you want to change your mood and do it quickly, think of some favorite movies, to to YouTube and listen to songs from that movie.  It’s an amazing time to b alive!

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Which type of music is most healing? (Part I)

July 15th, 2012 · Genres of healing music, Music Healing

  This is a question that I get almost every time I go out to speak to a group of people, or a company, university, or hospital.  To answer that, you must understand the difference between the “genre” of music and the “components” of music.  You also need to determine if you’re using music literally to “heal” a situation or simply to improve your mood.  Are you physically sick or are you simply needing to calm down, energize yourself, or forget a painful break-up or perhaps an unpleasant interaction with a friend, family member or stranger.

I believe that most of us rely heavily on our intuition to choose the music that will help us the most.  For example, you would NOT choose to play loud, lively music, with lots of percussion, for someone who was in a lot of pain, or giving birth, or having surgery.  So you must consider the condition of the patient as well as their mood and their receptivity to hearing music at any given moment.

The components of music include such ingredients as melody, harmony, rhythm, tempo, dynamics, timbre, ostinato and texture.  Generally speaking, the sicker the person, the softer, lighter texture the music should be.  For someone who is really ill, a slow and steady pulse is beneficial.  Something familiar is often quite welcome and effective.  Often a solo instrument like piano, harp or flute has a positive effect.  Always get the permission of the patient or the patient’s family before playing music.

Theoretically, any music can be considered healing or therapeutic.  It is helpful to know the musical taste of the person.  If that person is you, what kind of music do you reach for if you’re feeling sad, angry, tired, happy, excited, grateful?  I often suggest that people look at their CD collection or their Ipod playlists and organize them according to the moods they create or the moods they enchance.  It really doesn’t take that long, usually, and helps you to choose the perfect music next time you’re in a mood you either want to change or enhance.

If the patient is a friend or family member, it’s good to ask them to bring some of their favorite CDs in or give you access to their library.  Rarely does someone who is ill or feeling very depressed want to experiment with a new genre of music.  Familiar music to the suffering person is usually what works best.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about different genres of music and different medical situations that can benefit from healing music or music medicine.  Let me know your questions as they occur.

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What the Ancients knew about music and mathematics

November 4th, 2011 · Ancient beliefs about music

This fascinating information can be found at http://public.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/greek.music.html.  The following is an excerpt:

Archaeological evidence and written accounts, both historical and literary, show that music was vital to ancient Greek culture. Choruses in the Greek plays were sung, and music was central to religious and state ceremonies and to social rituals such as weddings, funerals, banquets, etc. The Homeric epics were probably “sung to formulaic melodies” (Bonds 4). But memorization was key to performance, not written notation, so only about 45 pieces of music, mostly fragments, survive from the time in bits of papyri and marble, and in documents copied in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

More material survives regarding music theory than actual music. Pythagoras supposedly discovered the connection between music and mathematics — that the intervals of octave, fifth, and fourth are “perfect consonances” because they can be expressed (and replicated) by the ratios 2:1, 3:2, and 4:3, respectively. Later Pythagoreans credited him also with the notion of the “music of the spheres” — the idea that the rotation of the planetary spheres creates an inaudible harmony. Music was part of the quadriviumin the liberal arts, primarily because, along with arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy, music’s mathematical nature could be emphasized. “Practicing musicians, although widely admired for their performances, were not considered among the intellectual elite: they could entertain, but they could not edify their audiences” (Bond 12).

The belief that music could govern the human soul and had power over behavior is illustrated in the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, in the story of Odysseus and the Sirens, and elsewhere. This “doctine of ethos” — the “belief that music has the power to elevate or debase the soul” (Bond 10) — led Aristotle to note the moods created by various modes and Plato to recommend restrictions to certain modes of music on the part of youths. Music in the Dorian mode bolstered courage and in the Phrygian mode fostered thoughtfulness (an early form of Mozart for infants). Plato even warned about the politically subversive potential of music (and he was right — look what happened with the jitterbug).


Works Consulted

Bonds, Mark Evan. A History of Music in Western Culture. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003.

Musique de la Grèce Antique. Atrium Musicae de Madrid. CD. Arles: Harmonia Mundi, 1979. HMA 190101015.

Palisca, Claude V., ed. Norton Anthology of Western Music, Volume I: Ancient to Baroque. 4th ed. NY: W.W. Norton and Co., Inc., 2001.

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Another story of music’s power with Alzheimer’s patients

June 5th, 2011 · Music in the News!, Music Medicine, Music Research, Music with Alzheimer's patients

by Steve Toll and Linda Bareham

What better “medicine” than a “treatment” that has only positive side effects and “therapy” that is actually enjoyable? That is the “miracle of music” when applied with intention. Music is shown to have the ability to help organize the brain; especially vital to those who are afflicted with Alzheimer’s.

Usually after twenty minutes of music, there are observable effects, such as singing, foot tapping, and clapping. Studies have shown that the results of a musical therapy session last for several hours afterward. Positive results include elevated mood, increased socialization and appetite and reduction in agitation. These benefits are attributed to the stimulation the brain receives during a music therapy session, a sort of “cognitive workout” inspiring us to coin the phrase, “What exercise is to the body, music is to the brain.” The power of music often inspires physical movement and can be used in combination to encourage gentle exercise.

As speech, writing and traditional forms of communication are compromised, music provides an alternative means of maintaining a connection, thereby helping to normalize interaction between caregiver and patient. Music used therapeutically creates an environment where the patient can be nurtured and cared for in a way that is safe, gentle and appropriate. Music is central to maintaining human bonds when those with dementia have lost the ability to initiate communication or to respond verbally.

The powers of music when focused and used therapeutically are many. Critical to maintaining quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s is management of emotions and preserving the connection with others. Music is conducive to keeping those connections strong as long as possible while helping the participant to focus, increase awareness and orient to the environment. A number of research studies have looked at music therapy as an important adjunct to medical treatment and findings suggest a possible link between the use of music and slowing the progression of dementia.

From the rhythms of the heartbeat experienced in the womb to the stirring sounds of a marching band, rhythmic patterns and music surround us. Language itself has a musical quality to it and from the beginning of mankind, as expressed through chanting and drumming, resembled music more closely than speech. Music is primal to life and expressed by each of us every day whether through dancing to a favorite tune, keeping rhythm with a pencil or remembering a special time when hearing a forgotten melody. It is central to our lives and is embedded in our culture, defining how we acknowledge milestones, rites of passage and celebrations as well as providing comfort, transformation and inspiration. Music links us to our world and provides a pathway back to our past.

You don’t need to have any special musical training to institute a therapeutic music program. You will need to select appropriate music, however. This music consists of familiar tunes from the 30s, 40s and 50s with more contemporary music included, depending on the preference or age of the participant. Before you invest in any CDs, check in your own home for possible sources of music. Your local library is a good source. Consider individual preferences and select music that is singable and upbeat.

Steve Toll, a professional musician and trainer, and his wife Linda Bareham, a writer and researcher in the area of alternative therapies for seniors with dementia, formed the company Prescription-Music. Mr. Toll is on the Speaker’s Board for the National Alzheimer’s Association and trains professional and family caregivers in the development of music therapy programs where his intent is to spread the word of the healing power of music for those afflicted with Alzheimer’s.

Click here to purchase music for Alzheimer’s

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Which is the most powerful emotional instrument?

August 25th, 2014 · Ave Maria, Maria Callas, Music and Emotion, music and spirituality, The Human Voice

That may seem like an impossible question to answer, and yet people do ask this question.  I believe that the human voice is probably the most powerful instrument because of the infinite gradations of emotion that can be expressed with the voice.  When you add the element of acting and facial expression and bodily gestures, true emotional power is definitely possible!

Recently is was on vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  While there I read a wonderful biography of the opera star, Maria Callas.  I highly recommend that you read this book which is by Arianna Huffington.  Callas was a Greek opera star who had a difficult childhood (like so many of us!) but was able to use her painful experiences to bring dozens of opera’s heroines to life with an unbelievable emotional power.

Of course there are many instruments such as violin and cello that can also express powerful emotion, but overall, I believe there is nothing more powerful than the human voice!  Enjoy this fantastic and beautiful rendition of “Ave Maria,” sung by Maria Callas:

  If this doesn’t put you in a mood of reverance and humility, I don’t know what will!

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Pregnancy, Labor and Delivery: How music can help

July 18th, 2014 · Lullabies, Music with Newborns and Preemies, Music with Pregnancy and Childbirth

Yesterday, I had a charming young woman in my office.  She was scared.  She is about 8 1/2 months pregnant and labor is just around the corner.  Like any first-time mother she has no idea what labor and delivery will be like, but she has been told many scary tales by friends and women relatives.  She said that she had just a little over a week until her due date and was willing to try anything that had a reasonable chance of help her get through labor and delivery faster and safer; she wanted it to be as natural as possible.Pregnancy.Fear

Luckily, she also heard about the powerful benefits of music for pregnant women, as well as for unborn and newborn babies.  And what is more natural than music?  This lady was able to find me on the internet and she contacted me and wanted to try our “Lullaphones.”  The Lullaphones are our Serenity Headphones that have been programmed with classic lullabies.  I explained to her that she should spend 30-60 minutes each day resting comfortably on couch, bed or comfy chair, and listen to the music on headphones with eyes closed and visualizing her healthy baby in her arms.  I suggested that after she begins to feel very familiar with these lullabies, she should begin to hum along and assured her that when she hummed or sang the lullabies, the unborn baby would be able to her her mother’s voice.  This was very exciting to her.  (The Lullaphones come with a download of all the lyrics to the 23 lullabies.)

When she left my office a few minutes later, she was smiling and said she felt greatly relieved!  Now we’re just waiting for Mother Nature to decide it’s time for that little baby to be birthed; to the sound of beautiful, classic lullabies.  Research shows that when Mama sings to the unborn baby, baby not only hears her Mommy singing, but calms down and quietens faster after birth when same lullabies are sung or played through speakers for baby.  This is the perfect gift for yourself  or a pregnant friend!

To order the lullaphones, just go to www.surgicalheadphones.com and specify “Lullaphones.”  Phones come with a USB cord and wall charger so that you can add your favorite, or your child’s favorite music to the lullabies that come pre-programmed!


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July 7th, 2014 · Music Healing

I hope you heard TheBoston Pops were recorded early this year due to the expected bad weather. We also watched the Washington Kennedy
Center show.

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Music and Marketing: Can it influence what you buy?

June 30th, 2014 · music and buying patterns

Usually, I try to bring you the latest information about music and healing, but this month I just happened to run across an article that appeared in the APA newletter and I thought it was interesting enough to share with my readers.

I think we all know about “Muzak” in the supermarket and popular gathering places, such as the Mall, but can music truly make you more likely to buy what a store want to sell you? For example, I’ve noticed that on “Senior Citizen’s Day” at Kroger, they are always playing oldies from the 60′s on the intercom and it does put me in a good mood and I’m more apt to purchase the impulse items when I’m feeling optimistic and upbeat.

Here is what Prof Dingfelter had to say:

People who tend to make unplanned purchases spend even more freely when shopping in the presence of background music, while contemplative shoppers buy slightly less than usual when music is playing. However, when a pleasant citrus smell pervades a store, non-impulsive buyers spend more, while impulsive shoppers spend less, reported Maureen Morrin, PhD, at APA’s 2005 Annual Convention. All types of shoppers purchase less than usual when in the presence of both scent and music, perhaps due to sensory overload, Morrin’s as-yet-unpublished research indicates.
“This could be a caveat for managers–don’t throw everything you have at your customers,” says Morrin, a psychology professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
Morrin and her collaborators enhanced the atmosphere of a suburban shopping mall in Canada over the course of a month. On different days, they played slow-tempo popular music, filled the mall with a citrus scent, played the music and emitted the scent, or left the mall’s atmosphere un-enhanced. On each day, the researchers surveyed shoppers and asked if they had made unplanned purchases that day and how much they had spent. The shoppers–774 in all–also noted how much they enjoyed their shopping experience that day and whether items were easy to find in the mall.
While the pleasant scent and music did not have any effect on the shoppers’ reported moods, they did affect how much the shoppers spent. Shoppers who had made an unplanned purchase spent, on average, $32.89 more when music was playing than those in the control condition. When a scent was present, they spent about $8.66 less. Contemplative buyers spent about $1.00 less than usual when music played, but in the presence of the citrus smell, they spent $5.71 more than usual.
Additionally, the contemplative shoppers in the presence of the citrus smell were more likely to note that they had an easy time finding what they were looking for in the mall.
Past research by Morrin showed that pleasant scents can enhance cognition and cause people to better remember the details of products. The citrus scent may have helped the contemplative shoppers navigate the mall more efficiently, thus increasing their spending, she suggested. Music, on the other hand, generally improves mood rather than cognition, and impulsive shoppers rely on mood to make purchasing decisions, said Morrin. Perhaps the music subconsciously improved impulsive shoppers’ moods, which led them to spend more, she said.
Marketers may want to assess what type of shoppers they have, and deploy music or scent accordingly, Morrin noted.
“If you are selling high-risk items like cars you may want to use scent rather than music,” she said.

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The Rhythm of Health: You can dance to it!

March 16th, 2014 · Music Healing

Have you ever heard a song or piece of music that just made you want to get up and dance?  This is the power of rhythm and the more regular and predictable it is, the more effective for hooking you in!  Just think of something like a Sousa March or a rock song like “We are the Champions”  and “We will Rock You.”   It’s really hard not to be hooked in to the strong rhythm or not to respond at all to this.

When your body is healthy and functioning well, the heart rate is strong and rhythmic and so is your breathing.  Chances are that the hormones, and neurotransmitters in your brain are also firing rhythmically.  We live in a rhythmic universe, the sun rises and sets predictably.  The tides come in and go out in a rhythmic and predictable fashion.  We know when each eclipse will happen and how long it will last.  We know so much about our world and we know more than ever before about our bodies.

When the rhythms of the environment go awry, we have  earthquakes, tornados, floods, tsunamis and all kinds of chaos.  When rhythms go awry in the body, people have heart attacks, panic attacks, tumors forming and health problems of all kinds.  Now I am NOT suggesting that rhythm alone can cure of prevent any of these negative events.

What I am suggesting is that rhythm and rhythmic motion contributes to a state of health and typically makes people feel better.  Part of this is the element of predictability, which allows people to relax and heal or enjoy their life.  When rhythm is a daily part of your life, chances are you’ll just feel better.  Is there a drum circle in your area?  More and more beach cities have one at sunset on the weekends, but I’m sure there are towns of all kinds that invite people to drum together.  There’s also the choir, the community orchestra or band, or even rhythmic walking while listening to your iPod or our Healthy Headphones!

Keep the rhythms pulsing in your life and notice the difference in your energy level and your happiness quotient!


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Why music is powerful medicine?

March 14th, 2014 · Music and the Mind-Body, Music Healing, Music Medicine

Today, we have a guest post by an author who is a Canadian health expert, and especially in the field of music therapy.   Please feel free to contact me or him if you have more questions.

Music as medicine

For centuries people have used music to soothe others; this is why mothers sing to their babies.  It has also been used to lift the spirits of those feeling depressed, and to bring confidence to soldiers going into battle.  Yet it is only recently that music has been recognized as a serious tool with which to tackle health problems.  Now, as music therapy takes off in earnest, people are taking a fresh look at all the ways music can help us to feel better.

The physical effects of music

Music affects the body in several direct, verifiable ways.  They include the following:

  • Steadying the heart rate by matching it to the beat.
  • Steadying the breathing.
  • Slowing the production of the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol.
  • Relaxing muscles.
  • Boosting healthy immune responses.

By influencing the body in these ways, music can lower stress levels and reduce the risk of several major health problems occurring, including heart disease and stroke.  What’s more, it can make people feel happier and more relaxed in the process.

The use of music in these areas is growing increasingly common because where a health problem is not so severe that an immediate medical intervention is needed, it can provide a less damaging means of addressing that problem.  Unlike many medications music has no negative side effects.

Music as a distraction

Music is now used in a number of medical contexts to distract people from stress and pain, making it easier for them to cope with difficult situations.  For instance, dentists may use it to help their patients feel calm, and it is piped into MRI machines – at the patient’s request – to drown out unpleasant noises and help them relax while they have to keep still.  It can also be used to make hospital environments less stressful for children.

Music and disability

Some people with mental health problems and learning disorders find music helpful not just because it reduces stress but also because it helps them to order their thoughts.  This is thought to be because of its impact on key neurons in the brainstem.  Essentially, it creates order through rhythm.  Music is now routinely used in social care and learning support for people in these groups.

A related approach to this is the use of music to help reorient people with dementia and to help stroke survivors recover their motor skills.

Music therapy

Music therapy is currently one of the fastest growing allied health professions and is the focus of a great deal of research, including work looking at the direct biological effects of certain sound frequencies.  Scientists also measure the different behaviors of the brain with and without musical stimulation in order to better understand how music can be used to change thought patterns.  In some instances it can help patients to break out of cyclical patterns of depressive thought, and patients can learn to use it themselves to recover from panic attacks.

Further information about music therapy can be found on this health advice site.



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Music with Knee Surgery: Video Testimonial

February 12th, 2014 · joint replacement surgery, Music and Anxiety, Music and Pain, Music and Surgery

One of our recent customers purchased the Surgical Serenity Headphones for her upcoming knee surgery. We talked on several occasions about her severe anxiety over this surgery and how concerned she was that she was going to have more pain that she could bear.

This 54 year-old woman is a veteran of numerous surgeries in the past, but she said she had much more anxiety this time and was seriously afraid that she was in for a lot of pain. She had heard about Surgical Serenity Headphones and decided that maybe they could help her to get through the procedure with less anxiety and pain.

Listen to here story here:

If YOU or someone you love is scheduled for surgery of any kind, please contact us here and get yourself some of these wonderful, pre-programmed headphones.

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Super Bowl and Opera: What’s the Connection?

February 5th, 2014 · Announcements, Classical Music

For those of you who watched the Super Bowl this past Sunday evening, you probably know the answer to that.  For anyone who’s been living on another planet, here’s how it goes:  athletic events are always preceded by someone singing the National Anthem, also sometimes know as “Oh Say Can you See?”

Previous Super Bowls have seen/heard quite a variety of artists, singing this beautiful, but difficult to sing, song.  We have heard Faith Hill (2000), The Backstreet Boys (2001), Beyoncé (2004), Diana Ross (1982), and Barry Manilow (1984) and so many more.  This year, for the first time ever, the powers that be decided to choose an opera singer!  And this was none other than the famous soprano, Renee Fleming.

Also the Super Bowl was one of the less-exciting games ever played, with the Seattle Seahawks beating the Denver Broncos soundly (and unexpectedly!).  But Renee Fleming’s performance of our National Anthem was spectacular!  I think it could well be the most beautiful and moving performance of this song that I’ve ever heard.  Listen as Renee Fleming performs this difficult song and in a way that powerfully conveys the meaning of these words. You’ll also enjoy watching the faces of the athletes as she sings. They are also obviously moved by her performance!


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