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Tune Your Life with Music

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Physicians and Musicians: What’s the connection?

April 29th, 2015 · Healing Music, Music in Antiquity, Physicians and Musicians

Longwood SymphonyIn ancient Rome and Athens, many of the physicians were not only physicians, they were also musicians!  They knew the healing powers of music, sound, rhythm, and harmony and they often were quite skilled musicians themselves. Yes, physicians and musicians seem to have a lot in common!   You’ve all heard of the Greek God, Apollo?  He was the God of both music and medicine and was recognized for that for centuries.  In ancient times, music was often prescribed and administered by the physician whether it was playing a lyre, a flute, a panpipe, or perhaps singing to the patient in a specific mode.

Today, we are coming full circle and physicians are again recognizing the power of music as medicine and as a therapy.  The orchestra above is the famous Longwood Symphony, located in Boston, MA.  It is comprised entirely of physicians and other medical personnel.   Each concert focuses on a specific disease or disability, such as leukemia, diabetes, breast cancert and so forth.  The fields of nursing, music therapy, music medicine, as well as many specialties in medicine, have now conducted and published dozens of scientific studies, documenting the many and varied benefits of music in the field of medicine.

In addition, physicians are either already skilled in playing instruments, or are learning to play instruments for their own relaxation or self-nurturing.  There are orchestras springing up around the country that are comprised entirely of physicians.  I’m most familiar with one in Boston is the Longwood Symphony.  This wonderful ensemble performs several times a year and there is always a charitable cause that benefits from their concerts!  What a great idea!

Another interesting story comes from New York:

“When New York City physician, teacher, writer and editor Danielle Ofri took up the cello in 2006, it was to encourage her daughter to practice the violin: The girl’s teacher had told her that seeing a parent practice was the best way to make a child want to do the same.

Ofri, an associate professor of medicine at New York University, thought that practising would be a chore, she observed in a 2009 article in The Lancet — a responsibility, in the way that looking after patients, teaching, writing and editing are chores for her. (Her word.) But it turned out to be something she truly wanted to do.

She looked forward, “almost to the exclusion of all else,” each evening to practising the Bach suite she was working on — no matter how tired she was.

The fatigue dissipates for Montreal family physician Johanne Thibaudeau, too, when she picks up her violin: playing is a form of meditation for her. “When I start to practise, I can be very tired — and, after half an hour, I’m not tired anymore,” she said. “I can go for an hour and a half.

And with music in my life, I have the feeling of being a better person — perhaps because I have done something to nourish a part of myself. I am very relaxed. — Johanne Thibaudeau

Thibaudeau has observed that many doctors are serious amateur musicians and she wonders: Is it that music speaks to them? Or are they simply highly motivated people who have an easy time learning new material?”

I’ve known for years that physicians are often talented musicians, and they are definitely wonderful supporters of the arts both by their presence and their financial support.  Let’s hope that this partnership and connection lasts as long as civilization lasts!

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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?

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

Music as Medicine

Chantdoc

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.

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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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The Power of Movie Music: Golden Globes 2016

January 10th, 2016 · Movie Music, music and emotional release, Music Healing

As I sit here watching the Golden Globes and seeing all the awards being presented for movies and TV shows that I’ve mostly seen, I’m struck again by the power of movie music.  The power of movie music is geared to its ability to enhance the plot and the audience experience, but some composers are better at that, for my needs.

Yes, music is so very personal and individual, but for me, music from Westerns has always struck a very soft and tender place in my heart.  I have no idea why that is, but there always seems to be a sad, yearning quality to it, that just goes straight to that tender spot and often makes me just want to sob!!

Last week, I went to see the new Quentin Tarantino film, “The Hateful Eight.”  While it had a fine score, commissioned from Ennio Morrecone, the music that really got me, was at the very end as the credits were rolling.  I had never heard it before, and was somewhat surprised to see that it was a song by the country singer Roy Orbison.  Take a listen and see what you think? It was just the perfect song to end this movie.

Just to give you a heads-up, this is a very violent film with lots of (fake) blood and stabbing and shooting.  I don’t really understand why Tarantino loves blood and violence so much, but it is a great yarn and I’d recommend the movie.  Just be preprared!

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Patient or Surgeon: Who Needs the Music?

January 8th, 2016 · Music and Anxiety, Music and Surgery, Music Healing, Music in the Hospital

Who really needs the music in surgery:  patient or surgeon?  There is so much in the news today about music in the OR, and sometimes the focus is on the surgeon and staff, and sometime the news is about music for the patient.  Our music is entirely for the patient.  As a clinical musicologist, I have spent almost 60 years studying music and all the aspects that bring joy, healing, and hope to humans.

In the early ’90s, I was learning about the powerful phenomenon of rhythmic entrainment and realizing that entrainment happens, whether the patient is awake and conscious, or not!  I was already aware that having favorite, comforting music before surgery could be very calming and reassuring to the patient. But if the surgeon is playing fast, upbeat music, even after patient is “asleep,”  their body is responding to that music because

I was invited to the Cleveland Clinic Florida to give a presentation on Music with Surgery.

I was invited to the Cleveland Clinic Florida to give a presentation on Music with Surgery.

of entrainment, and not staying as relaxed as they would if they had their own separate, calming music, coming through headphones.

So, the bottom line is the both patient and surgeon need their own unique music, and the way to do this is with the patient having lightweight, cordless headphones with music already programmed onto headphones, and the surgeon having his preferred, upbeat music, coming through speakers or portable boombox in the OR.

If YOU or a loved one have surgery in your future, please save yourself a lot of frustration, more medication than necessary, and a longer recovery time, by purchasing the Surgical Serenity Solution, now!  They can even be overnighted to any place in the continental United States!  Check out our website at www.SurgicalSerenitySolutions.com and read some of the testimonials, and some of the research that has been done.  You’ll want to order them immediately!

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The Incredible Power of Christmas Music

December 25th, 2015 · Music and Emotion, Music and the Mind-Body

12294848_10153242468308133_6609112622653063297_nWhat do you get when you combine one the oldest, most-anticipated holiday celebrations of not just childhood, but throughout the life-span, and music??  Of course you get the most magical, powerful, and emotional music that has ever been written!

Now if you’ve been following my blog for any time at all, you know that the music that we love most, and that has the most healing effects for us, has some sort of powerful , emotional association.  Perhaps

  • the Christmas you got your first bike
  • the Christmas that your Mom gave you a baby brother or sister
  • the Christmas that the whole family went skiing or to Disney
  • OR, perhaps it’s a sad association
  • the Christmas your Grandpa died
  • the Christmas you didn’t get the present you really, really wanted
  • the Christmas a tornado, blizzard or flood struck

The idea is, though, that depending on your age, there was undoubtedly some holiday music that was popular that year that you still hear and get flooded with those memories.   So, if you want to benefits from the calming, soothing, energizing, invigorating, reassuring, or inspirational power of music, you want to go back to your childhood and start finding those songs that did that for you!

Today, with the power of You Tube, you actually search for something like “top Christmas songs of 1956.”  In my case, I was 8 years old, in the third grade, and hoping for a bicycle and a bride doll.  I also wanted many books, and maybe a few dresses or play clothes.  I had just started taking piano and probably would have loved some records of piano music or perhaps a  record player or radio of my own.  Of course, I remember “Up on the Rooftop,” “Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and the songs I heard at church like “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”  When I search for top Christmas songs of 1956, I also see “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” and “Mary’s Boy Child” with Harry Belafonte.

Just hearing those titles bring back visions of the house we lived in, my brother and sisters at that age, and what I liked to read and play with.  It’s almost like time travel, just to think of those songs!  How does that work ?  It’s all about the combination of brain chemicals, our amazing memories, and good song-writing.

If you’re feeling blue this Christmas and lonely or depressed, scared, or filled with grief, homesickness, or any sad feelings at all, I highly recommend going to YouTube and search for the top Christmas songs of the years when you were approximately 3-9, the years when you were still innocent and believed in Santa, flying reindeer, and magic of all kinds.  Ill just bet it will cheer you up for a little while, this Christmas Day!

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Healing Music and Anxiety

November 24th, 2015 · Music and Anxiety, Music Healing

Anxiety is a pervasive problem in everyday life today.   Music of all kinds can have the healing effect that is so desperately needed and it is so easy to use!  This is not exactly news!  Healing music is actually music that makes you feel better and that has a healing effect on YOU and your body and your life.  People get confused about healing and exactly what the term means.  Healing is not CURING!  Healing is the amelioration or improvement of symptoms.

Now what is the definition of “anxiety?”  Webster’s Dictionary says that anxiety is “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.”

Now how might music be able to help with that sort of feeling?  How might music make a difference when you’re experiencing a sense of “impending doom?”  This is a very individual choice and there are several questions to ask yourself:

  • How has music helped to calm me in the recent past and what music was it?
    • Many people like movie themes from favorite movies with happy endings!
  • If I stop fidgeting and pacing and begin taking deep, rhythmic breaths, what music comes into my mind?
    • For me, Dvorak’s ‘Going Home’ from the New World Symphony comes to mind!
  • What are some of the pieces from my childhood that I sang at home or at school or at church, that I find comforting
    • Many people have told me that “Silent Night,” “Jesus Loves Me,” and even “Hush Little Baby,” have calmed them down when they are worrying about something over which they have no control.”

The ideal thing is to make a list of favorite calming music, when you’re NOT feeling anxious or worrying.  Then your brain is relaxed and freer to search around and come up with a dozen or so calming pieces.

Notice that these pieces or songs will likely have a slow to moderate tempo, be not very loud, have just one instrument or perhaps voice and one instrument, and likely have quite a bit of repetition.  Choosing to music to help calm emotions is both an art and a science, but when you’ve made yourself a great list, it will be absolutely invaluable to get you through tough times when you’d rather not take a pill or medication!

I really hope you’ll try this!

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Music stirs emotion: but how?

October 19th, 2015 · Emotional Pull of Music, Music and Emotion

Does music make you feel emotional?  Of course it does!  But why does this happen and how can music stir up so many different emotions?  This is a question that we all ask ourselves from time to time.  We can innocently turn on the car radio, simply looking for distraction on our drive to or from work, and suddenly, there we are sobbing or tearing up, perhaps even laughing or smiling.

I had this experience, yet again, just a few weeks ago, driving home from watching a movie in the theater.  I had gone to see a decidedly un-sentimental movie and was rushing home to get back to work.  I absentmindedly turned up my car radio to hear some news.  I unexpectedly hit upon “The Prairie Home Companion,” which was almost over.  I really wasn’t paying a lot of attention to his words, when a piece of music started playing that instantly engaged me!  It was a simple piano piece to start with.  But something about the twists and turns of the melody and harmonies starting pulling powerfully at my emotions.  It released strong feelings of sadness and sorrow and deep regret.  I was so surprised because this was not a piece by a Master like Beethoven, Brahms or Chopin?  It was a very simple folk-like piece that drew on two things that I know that I respond to:  hymn-like chord progressions and modal melodies and harmonies.  There was an unmistakable wistfulness to it that made me just want to seriously boo-hoo, but also an immediate, accompanying feeling that I had to find out what this piece was and try to get either a recoding, or even better, the sheet music to it!!!

Later that night I went to the website for Prairie Home Companion and found a link to email the host.  I wrote to him, asking, imploring him to tell me what it was and where I might get a copy?  Honestly I didn’t much think I would hear back from him, but the following Tuesday, to my delight and amazement, there was an email from phc.com.  The lady said very nicely that they don’t sell recordings or sheet music, but directed me to the link on YouTube where I could find this!

Below is this treasured little waltz, “A Waltz for Caroline,” by the show’s pianist, Rich Dworsky.  Needless to say, I’ve become a huge fan of Rich Dworsky and am working my way through his other compositions on YouTube.  I’d love to know how YOU like and if it affects you as powerfully as it did me!!

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Healing Music with Depression and Anxiety

October 15th, 2015 · Healing Music, Music and Anxiety, Music and Emotion

Do you give yourself the recommended daily allowance of the music you love??  Most people listen to music on their car radios, their iPods, and their iPhones, but is it the music you really love the most?  Scientists, musicologists, music therapists, and performing musicians know that music is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to raise energy levels and increase all of those feel-good hormones that can change our moods in minutes!!  It is also very valuable with healing with depression and anxiety

Intention is everything!!  If you know the type of music that lifts your spirits and honestly makes you feel hopeful when you otherwise feel hopeless and glum, why not consciously choose to have that specific music at your fingertips 24/7?  That’s the beauty of our iPhones and iPods.  We can create 100’s of playlists of our favorite songs, pieces, show tunes, or Chopin etudes!!

Music has absolutely no negative side effects!  Although I feel that I may have had mild addictions to certain pieces of music, they usually resolve themselves after a couple of weeks.  There are certain songs/pieces that, if they come on the radio as I pull into my driveway, I simply cannot turn the car off until the entire piece is over!  Have you experienced that?  Music is as powerful as any drug, without the negative side-effects.  Before taking drugs for anxiety or depression, trying creating a new playlist of your favorite upbeat, energizing music.  There’s nothing wrong with taking anti-anxiety or depression medications, but the less, the better!

Here is one of my favorite upbeat songs:

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Healing Music comes in many forms

September 30th, 2015 · Healing Music, Music Healing, Music in the Hospital, Music Medicine, Surgery with Music

Alice and Heidi

Dr. Cash and colleague conduct a drumming and chanting workshop at the University of Louisville Alumni Center

Have you experienced the healing power of music?  Since the beginning of time, humans have been powerfully drawn to rhythm, to harmony and to melody.  The original “music” consisted of the sounds of nature:  waves lapping the shore, the wind through the pines and palms, the babbling brook and the gentle rain.

Today, every country has their own unique styles of music and some of it is likely to be healing for those people who grew up hearing it.  In order for music to be truly healing for someone, it must be soothing and comforting, and that usually means that it has some familiarity to it.

Music from far-away places on the globe can sometimes be very foreign to our ears.  For example, much much in India is written for instruments and voices that can produce quarter tones.  Our ears are not used to that sound and to me, it sounds kind of like “whining.”  For those that grew up with that tuning system, however, it is very beautiful and very emotional.

When I am putting together playlists for my Surgical Serenity Solutions, I try to choose music that is soothing and calming, but that also represents other cultures around the world, and other styles of music.  Our original playlist is classical piano music, but the pieces that I chose are mostly unfamiliar, because when one is going into surgery, one does not want to hear something that might possibly be connected to an unpleasant memory.

When I am asked to meet with a patient who is in pain or suffering emotionally, I need to know in advance, if possible, what kind of music they are drawn to and what kind of music they have enjoyed throughout their lives.  The music that I prefer is irrelevant, unless they just happen to like the same kinds of music that I do.  Many people tell me “No rap music, ” or “No country music,” or “No opera!”  I always think it’s interesting when people tell me first, which music they do NOT want to hear!  I think that’s because music is so powerful and so personal, we just don’t want to take a chance at having our ears bombarded with something we know we don’t like!!

What kind of music would YOU want to hear played in your hospital room, if you were feeling ill, in pain or emotionally distraught?  I”m hoping to make some new CDs soon and would love to make something that YOU like!

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NPR story on Music with Surgery documents the benefits!

August 13th, 2015 · Dangers of anesthesia, joint replacement surgery, Music and Dental Surgery, Music and Eye Surgery, Music and Surgery, out-patient surgery with music, Surgery with Music

Surgery with music is a topic that I’ve spent that last 25 years writing and speaking about.  It is such an easy yet powerful intervention for the patient who is filled with anxiety and dread

Now this wonderful meta-analysis has been published in the “Lancet,” a prestigious and highly respected British medical journal.  I would love for people to share this study on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or any other social media that you might use!  Thanks so much.  Our goal is to have the Surgical Serenity Solution in every operating room in the US by 2018, and every OR in the world by 2020!!  Help us achieve that goal!!  Thanks so much!

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