Monthly Archives: November 2010

Story in the Buffalo News!

Music helps those with motor disorders

By Wendy Paris


Published:November 30, 2010,

A retired dentist and former big-band leader, John (name changed to protect identity), was grappling with the limited mobility, poor balance and painfully slow gait of Parkinson’s disease. One of his greatest challenges was walking from his bedroom to his TV room. He’d freeze when the floor changed from wood to carpet. It could take him 15 minutes to traverse his own home.

Music therapist Kimberly Sena Moore visited John regularly as a home health aide during her undergraduate years at the University of Iowa. John mentioned that he liked the band music of John Philip Sousa. Moore started singing the introduction of “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Suddenly, the octogenarian with advanced Parkinson’s was marching to the beat.

“When the introduction was over, he just marched down the hall to the bedroom,” says Moore. “It was amazing.”

After that visit, whenever John needed to walk, Moore would sing. The crippling hold of the neurodegenerative disease would suddenly loosen, and John could suddenly walk—or march—again.

Moore and her patient had accidentally discovered the rich connection between the auditory and motor systems. A 2009 literature review found more than two dozen studies showing that the use of music and rhythm in physical therapy significantly improves gait and upper body mobility in Parkinson’s patients, as well as those who’ve suffered a stroke or traumatic brain injury.

In one study, 15 Parkinson’s patients walked to a beat for 30 minutes a day. After three weeks, their speed improved 25 percent, compared with 7 percent in a control group.

In a German study published last year in Music Perception, 32 stroke patients with moderately impaired motor function received 15 sessions of music-supported training — producing tones, scales or melodies on an instrument. The patients showed significant improvement in gross and fine motor skills, far greater than either of two control groups.

“Rhythm processed by the auditory system projects into the motor structures of the brain, creating entrainment,” explains Aniruddh Patel, an evolutionary biologist at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, Calif. “When people hear a musical beat, you see brain activation not normally thought to be involved in movement.”

While auditory/motor entrainment is undisputed, researchers still don’t know why these parts of the brain connect. Patel’s theory, based on a study he conducted of a bird named Snowball he saw dancing on YouTube, is that entrainment happens only in species that are vocal learners. He says, “You can never train a dog, no matter how smart it is, to move to a beat.”

To test his theory, Patel is trying to teach a horse to dance. Meanwhile, music therapists continue to develop music-and rhythm-based therapies to help people like John get moving again.



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Ken Medema

At Dr. Brian Hunter’s annual conference get together, Ken Medema improvised a song with the alumni, faculty and students.  Although its not perfect, we had a blast with him- so thanks Ken! Enjoy!

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Use of QR Codes for the Networking Music Therapist!

I’m heading into the final day of the American Music Therapy Association National Conference in Cleveland, OH.. and what a time i’ve had! Aside from the sessions, the most rewarding thing i’ve done is… NETWORKING! I’ve been a machine! Between random handshakes, tweet-ups, shmoozing and smiling… i’ve also tried to utilize different social media devices besides the ever-so-popular business card (although I still had some for back-up!) I proudly displayed several strange looking boxes on my name tag, which I lovingly refer to as “QR Codes.”

What is a QR Code?

A matrix barcode (2-D code), readable by QR scanners, mobile phones with a camera, and smartphones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data. 

Common in Japan, where it was created in 1994, the QR code is one of the most popular types of two-dimensional barcodes. QR is the abbreviation for Quick Response, as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed.  It’s know as a “mobile tagging.”


It is such a great additional tool to add to your “self.”  Not only are they used at museums, on websites and in magazines to quickly link people to information, they can quickly link people to YOU!  On my conference name tag I proudly displayed a QR code for my blog, Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. Not only is it simple for people with smartphones to quickly scan my QR code to learn more about me, but it saves in their recent scans.  This means that after they walk away, your going with them in their pocket.  Not only that, they won’t lose their phone like they would a piece of paper or a business card.

Plus- as a plug- it’s more eco-friendly!

So next time your at a networking even, keep an eye open for QR codes, and connect withpeople more quickly- and don’t forget to display your own!




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Music Helps Vets with PTSD

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Good Family Bonding Songs? =Great for ALL Settings!

PDF of lyrics and chords found @
Feel free to leave a video response or a comment!

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I Sense a Discussion: Lyric and Musical Analysis in Music Therapy

I am currently working in a hospital setting for my practicum placement.  My supervisor works mostly with pediatrics in the oncology unit, as well as in the adolescent unit, including eating disorder patients.  I came across this song and thought it was just great! It has a fantastic message and a catchy tune.

Sometimes lyric discussions as well as an analysis of the music in the song can be a very therapeutic tool for adolescents, especially those undergoing a traumatic time in their life.

I feel like this song addresses….

  • Body image issues
  • Confidence in ones self
  • Not always feeling our best
  • Feeling “invisible”
  • Feeling self conscious
  • Wanting to “just give up”
  • Optimism
  • Paving your own life

and many more things….

Children and adolescents in hospital settings are often feeling like they are no long “in control” of their own bodies and actions and have lost much of their independence.  This can be especially hard for adolescents to cope with.  Discussions about songs can often validate the way they are feeling, as well as provide a structured means of discussing their thoughts.

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?

Do you ever feel already buried deep?
Six feet under screams but no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there’s still a chance for you
‘Cause there’s a spark in you?

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

‘Cause baby, you’re a firework
Come on, show ’em what you’re worth
Make ’em go, oh
As you shoot across the sky

Baby, you’re a firework
Come on, let your colors burst
Make ’em go, oh
You’re gonna leave ’em falling down

You don’t have to feel like a waste of space
You’re original, cannot be replaced
If you only knew what the future holds
After a hurricane comes a rainbow

Maybe you’re reason why all the doors are closed
So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road
Like a lightning bolt, your heart will blow
And when it’s time, you’ll know

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

‘Cause baby you’re a firework
Come on, show ’em what you’re worth
Make ’em go, oh
As you shoot across the sky

I always appreciate comments!

Thank you!


PS. Sorry the video isn’t terribly eloquent. I just learned the song!

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Conference: It’s where it’s AT!

As most professionals and many students know, National Conference is just around the corner! For myself and many fellow students, this is a time we REALLY look forward to (and not just because we get out of our classes!). It acts as a much needed boost to our day to day student lives, gives us opportunities and experiences we wouldn’t normally get if we didn’t attend and you get the chance to be surrounded by people who know, live and understand exactly what it is we do! As active members of our school’s chapter, we always encourage freshman and new students to attend both National and Regional conferences, regardless of their current skill level. Lucky for us this year, National Conference is just a mere 5 hour drive to Cleveland, OH as opposed to the cross country journey to San Diego, CA a few of us made last year. Nazareth College is happy to say that we are bringing a Nazareth record breaking amount of students to National’s this year!

Why should I attend conference?

  • Many professor’s will say it’s closely comparable to about a semester’s worth of course work as far as information presented.  Expand your brain power!
  • When you start applying for internships, you look like a dedicated individual who is willing to go above and beyond to learn new things.
  • You will get a TON of idea’s for activities, sessions and preparations for your practicum and professional life.
  • NETWORKING! NETWORKING! NETWORKING!! You will have all of the greatest in the field in the same building as you. Introduce yourself, go to meet and greets and fairs and attend their presentations!
  • Discounted instruments, research and song books and retail! 
  • Bonding time with your school, schools in your region and schools not in your region.
  • Connect with old colleagues and friends.
  • Gain valuable advice and point-of-views from working professionals.
  • Get different perspectives going on in the field including: populations, strategies, methods and progressive techniques!
  • Drum circles, Jam sessions, live karaoke and dancing- We are MUSIC therapists after all.

So… If you haven’t already- register for conference! It runs from November 17-21.  Information can be found at

Make sure to follow updates from myself and professional music therapists at hashtag #AMTA10! I will certainly be updating both on Twitter and Facebook! 😀

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