“Music is a therapy. It is a communication far more powerful than words, far more immediate, far more efficient.” – Yehudi Menuhin, violinist and conductor
Peter Exner of Calgary, musician and music care provider, knows the importance of music to excite, to heal, and to bring people together. He performs regularly at United Active Living’s Garrison Green and Fish Creek communities.
“We have known anecdotally for many years that music is good for the soul but research into the effects of music is starting to catch up,” said Peter. “Studies are showing that music literally lights up the entire brain! It accesses memories, it can be used in pain management, in recovery after injuries, and many other areas.”
Knowing how music affects people guides him when selecting what music to play and what stories to tell to residents.
Peter is working towards his Music Care Certificate through www.room217.ca. As noted on their website, research has shown that music can affect blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, pupil dilation, discomfort and tolerance to pain. It can influence mood, stress levels, and emotional responses.
Research Supports the Value of Music
Psychologist Dr. Daniel Levitin of McGill University in Montreal, quoted in an American Psychological Association Science Watch column, notes that, “We’ve found compelling evidence that musical interventions can play a healthcare role in settings ranging from operating rooms to family clinics.” The researchers found that listening to and playing music increases the body’s production of the antibody immunoglobulin A and natural killer cells — the cells that attack invading viruses and boost the immune system’s effectiveness. Music also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol. “This is one reason why music is associated with relaxation,” Levitin said.
Peter notes that music isn’t just for those who are ill or who have memory care issues. It has preventive qualities that impact our health.
“The themes and tunes that play in the backgrounds of our lives can have a significant impact on our health and well-being,” he said. Since music can have such a profound effect on us, he challenges us to think about our own choices in music. “What music do you listen to? When do you listen to music? What do you do when music is playing in a common space that you can’t change?
“The biggest takeaway for me has been to always select music responsibly and to ensure that my audience has the proper support as we move through musical journeys on Wednesday afternoons.”
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