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Singercise – Parkinson’s Therapeutic Singing program

*Mondays at 11:30am at the Miller Center/YMCA in Lewisburg*

*Mondays at 1pm over Zoom*

For the third consecutive year, Singercise has been awarded a community grant from the Parkinson’s Foundation to offer a program for people with Parkinson’s disease and their care partners to work out all those little muscles involved in singing and speaking while providing a source of social support in a fun and engaging setting at the Lewisburg YMCA at the Miller Center The program, offered completely free of charge to all participants is provided both virtually and in-person.

WHY SINGING?

Music is medicine for people with Parkinson’s disease. The rhythm and melody of song provide a musical scaffold for speech while regulating the velocity of verbalizations and promoting mindfulness and intentionality.

Singing songs you enjoy increases the availability of dopamine, a key neurotransmitter involved in mood, learning & reward systems, the initiation of movement, motivation, and sleep cycles. The act of singing recruits additional neural networks not involved in speaking alone, so people who are not able to speak clearly may find they are able to produce louder, more understandable phrases while singing.

During our warmups, Singercise participants practice evidence-based techniques to increase speech intelligibility and strengthen or “work out” the muscles involved in speaking, singing, and breathing. All participants have a voice in choosing repertoire, and songs are chosen based on ease of learning, skills required in performing them, how easy they are to learn and remember, and preferences of the group; you have more to gain from a song you enjoy singing, than from a song that feels like “work.”

DOES IT WORK?

Singercise is designed and facilitated by a board-certified music therapist and is based on numerous peer-reviewed studies and feedback from facilitators of Parkinson’s choirs and therapeutic singing programs across the country, and around the world. Participants complete pre- and post-test measures every 12 weeks to measure efficacy, and the program is continually adjusted to meet the needs and objectives of the group.

While Parkinson’s is a degenerative condition, there is hope for maintaining and even improving mood, quality of life, and your ability to speak more clearly.

A virtual meeting of the group

Interested parties may register by calling 570-316-1899 or e-mailing info@bloomsburgmusictherapy.org.

What People Are Saying About Singercise:

  • “I would recommend the program to anyone who has Parkinson’s, as I have found it to be enjoyable and it has proved to help improve my speech and my outlook on life in general.”
  • Especially during the pandemic, programs like on line SIngercise brings fun interaction to me. The focus on breathing and enunciation are keeping my communication skills in practice.
  • “Singercise has contributed to my ability to speak in a fun and informative format. I appreciate that it is on Zoom.”
  • “A friend recently commented on how much better I was speaking and sounding.”
  • The biggest improvement is with the volume and projection of my voice.”
  • “My husband and I find the program to be enjoyable, and both of us have seen some positive results.”
  • “I enjoyed the camaraderie of the group, especially Alysha. She is dynamic and makes a good leader.”

For more information on the benefits of singing for individuals with Parkinson’s, check out my previous blog post here.

Free Trial Session – This Magic Moment in Music

A virtual group program for people with dementia and their care partners

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

Find a new connection through rhythm and creativity

When someone you love has Alzheimer’s or dementia, it can feel hard to connect like you used to. You want to support them, but you feel drained and distraught as you cope with changes and loss.

Music has the extraordinary power to bring out the very best in people; to bring us into the present moment with joy, intent, and inspiration; to bring us together even when we feel worlds apart; and to bring wellness into the forefront through the modulation of physical and emotional health. Music is interwoven throughout the timelines of our lives, eliciting long-forgotten feelings, memories, sensations, experiences, relationships, and so much more. It calls forth our deepest, most authentic selves from the depths of despair and decline, and bridges the greatest of divides. Music is one of the final threads of connection when a cherished loved one is slipping away, a stubborn holdout amid a sea of loss and change, a lifeline and anchor to provide a sense of safety, dignity, and an authentic shared experience in an otherwise isolating and lonely place.

Join me on Wednesday, January 12th at 11am to see if this new offering is right for you and your loved one. We’ll have an hour and a half of fun and relaxation, creativity and exploration, self-expression and socialization. If you’d like more information, click here to read the full program description.

To register, please fill out this form

For questions, please contact me at: info@bloomsburgmusictherapy.org

This Magic Moment in Music

A New Program for People with Dementia and their Care Partners

Music has the extraordinary power to bring out the very best in people; to bring us into the present moment with joy, intent, and inspiration; to bring us together even when we feel worlds apart; and to bring wellness into the forefront through the modulation of physical and emotional health. Music is interwoven throughout the timelines of our lives, eliciting long-forgotten feelings, memories, sensations, experiences, relationships, and so much more. It calls forth our deepest, most authentic selves from the depths of despair and decline, and bridges the greatest of divides. Music is one of the final threads of connection when a cherished loved one is slipping away, a stubborn holdout amid a sea of loss and change, a lifeline and anchor to provide a sense of safety, dignity, and an authentic shared experience in an otherwise isolating and lonely place.

The person with dementia is not the only one who suffers; those who love them face tremendous loss, stress, loneliness, and new challenges as the condition progresses. Resources for support can be elusive or even impossible to find.

In addition to individual music therapy sessions offered in-home, in-clinic, at continuing care communities, and virtually, Bloomsburg Music Therapy LLC is launching a new community-based, dyad-focused virtual group program to provide support for people with dementia and their caregivers using an empirically-informed music therapy protocol.  Participant needs and preferences will inform the content of each session, which will include stimulation of memory, cognitive exercises, mood regulation, anxiety & stress reduction, focused opportunities for bonding between the individual with dementia and their care partner, music-facilitated mindful and rhythmic engagement with the body, and self-expression through movement and song.

The program will run for 12 weeks, and include the initial aims of:

  • Reduction of behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia, such as depression, agitation, apathy, aggression, etc.
  • Increased feelings of connection between the person with dementia and their care partner, and between dyads and the group as a whole
  • Maintenance and improvement of cognition 
  • Reduction of caregiver burnout and stress
  • Stimulation of reminiscence and positive emotion
  • Transferable skills, techniques, and exercises to be used outside of sessions 

Virtual programming is often more effective for people with mild-moderate dementia, but all are welcome given the focus on building feelings of connection between the care partner and person with dementia. 

The program can begin once a minimum enrollment threshold has been reached. The cost is $250 per dyad for the entire 12-week session and will include a small package of instruments each pair will have on loan for the duration of the program. 

For questions or to register, please contact Alysha Suley at 570-316-1899 or e-mail info@bloomsburgmusictherapy.org.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

Music as a Tool in Daily Life

One of the first questions I ask new clients is, “how do you use music?”

Usually, people respond by saying they listen to music in the car, or perhaps they might use music during exercise or while cleaning. Many people use music as a sort of back drop or backing track, if you will, as they go about daily life. Some people use music consciously to change mood states, to increase motivation or to feel more relaxed.

Most people don’t think of music as a tool.

What could be easier in your daily life? Could you benefit from better sleep? Do you need a little extra “oomph” to get in the zone for a good run? Are you uncomfortable with or unable to express yourself verbally? Perhaps you or a loved one struggles with anxiety, and the term “relaxation exercise” or “meditation” sends you into a full-blown panic attack.

Sometimes, I see people choosing good music, with great intentions . . . but it’s not the right music. For example, a good running playlist should feature songs at the right tempo. Music for sleep should remain at a consistent volume, with little variation in tempo, unlike much symphonic music which features dynamic contrasts in tempo and loudness. Variations in music stimulate the mind and grab attention. Music can be used to regulate and modulate physical and emotional states.

Music affects people at a physiological level, reaches into the emotional part of the brain, and stimulates memories. The body naturally entrains with the rhythm in music (try listening to a piece of music while walking and NOT walking at that tempo!), and this includes your heart and respiration rates. As you breathe more deeply and your body relaxes, oxygen saturation increases and cortisol (a stress hormone) decreases. Listening to music can decrease the perception of pain. While exercising, perceived exertion decreases while listening to music. But the music must be up to the task and it must be central to the experience, and the listener engaged and present with the music.

Instead of using music as the background to your daily activities, try centering the music within the experience; focusing mindfully on the music gets the best results. Many people will benefit from multi-sensory engagement with the music, such as noticing where you feel the music in your body, or tapping along rhythmically.

Do you have a loved one who is unable to communicate their musical preferences? Sometimes, families may unknowingly choose music that is distressing or non-preferred for a loved one who is unable to express their discomfort, or unaware of the impact the music is having on their mood or mental state. It can be more difficult for trained musicians to use music to relax; musicians might be more critical of their self-expression, or their expectations might get in the way of their usage of music for a specific purpose. Music therapists are trained to assess musical preference and engage people of all ages and abilities in therapeutic musical experiences.

Almost without exception, all people are inherently musical. Music has been a part of the human experience, in every known culture, since the beginning, and is a part of the human experience beginning at 16 weeks gestation and often not ending until death. With few exceptions (namely amusia, the very rare inability to recognize or reproduce musical tones), nearly everyone can benefit from the intentional inclusion of music in daily life.

The Magic Within the Music: What I Love About Being a Music Therapist

As if by magic, I have the privilege of getting to see the best in people in music therapy. I see the joy, the creativity, the humor, the passion, and the quirks that make people who they are. But it isn’t magic- it’s MUSIC. The glorious connection that occurs within the music, whether it’s spiritual, interpersonal, intrapersonal, or any combination thereof, is palpable, purposeful, powerful, potent. It is the essence of the human potential – to express one’s true self, and to experience the range of human emotion and human expression; to feel alive.

Although people come to music therapy to feel or function better due to a struggle in life such as dementia, brain injury, depression, or anxiety, these difficulties do not define the individual. I do not look at people and see only their problems; in music, I get to see their strengths, their potential, and all of the beautiful things that make us human. Even at the end of life or at the rock bottom of suffering – the intangible essence of music is there to reach deep within.

Within music therapy, indescribable moments of connectedness occur between the music therapist, the client, and the music. The music and the relationship developed within the music facilitate the growth, transformation, and rebuilding the client seeks and needs. These moments of attunement are a peak experience for me as a music therapist – they feed my soul, and help me to get through the more difficult aspects of my work (after all, I am often seeing people during some of their greatest struggles).

The magic of these moments of connectedness is eclipsed only by the results of the work (see the rest of this blog for the science behind the magic of music therapy). I am humbled to serve as a music therapist; I am in awe of the potency of music and the power of the human spirit.