Music Works Therapeutic ‘Magic’ at NEPC

Wendy sings to Cody
Music has a powerful impact on young people who have severe neurological and physical impairments.

“When we present the residents with different sounds, beats, rhythms, instruments and tempos it elicits joyful emotions, as evidenced by the smiles, clapping, moving and rocking,” says Laura Kirk, Director of Therapeutic Recreation at New England Pediatric Care.

That’s why she frequently schedules musicians to entertain and interact with residents at the skilled nursing facility for children in Billerica, MA.

Wendy Frank, a former music teacher, works with small groups at NEPC twice a month.
“What I do is try to find things that make each individual person as joyful as possible. I play guitar and sing.   Some kids do vocalize, so I try to get a feel for how they can express themselves, then I repeat sounds back to them,” she said.

She also employs tactile instruments such as a tambourine, and Tibetan singing bowls so the kids can feel music vibrate through their bodies.

“It can be slow to get to know how to reach these kids, but I love making them happy,” said Wendy.

“The staff is very involved when I visit.  They say some kids never smile except with music, and that a song can elicit a comfort and relaxation response from a highly sensitive resident.”

David plays for Izamar
David Burns entertains residents monthly using a EWI synthesizer, which mimics many of the instruments he plays: saxophone, trumpet, trombone, guitar and banjo.

“I try to connect to the kids through sound and energy,” he says.  “Musicians are attuned to their audience.  Here I don’t get much feedback, so I try to create an upbeat mood and atmosphere.”

Laura Kirk summed it up: “There is really something so magical about music . . . it really touches and reinforces the joy within us.”

For more information about this story, contact Laura Kirk at lkirk@nepc.org, Wendy at wsfrank@verizon.net or Dave at dave@musicbydave.com.

You might also be interested in a new book, The Power of Music, by Elena Manne, which focuses on the science of how music changes the brain.