The Power of Music
Once every two weeks, I go to the local nursery home to play for the Alzheimer Group's Sing-Along Hour. When I enter the room, three of the 21 residents might actually look at me—the rest are in a misty world. But when I begin to play "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" or "Let the Rest of the World Go By," those tunes become my one and only connection with them, and most of them begin to sing.
What is it about music that makes such a deep impression? Is it the melody? The lyrics? The emotion? A combination of things?
On one occasion we did an experiment with the Alzheimer's exercise class. Everyone was asked to imitate the instructor as she raised her hands high. No one responded. She repeated the maneuver a number of times, as animated as possible speaking first in a soothing tone of voice, then in a lively voice. No response again. Then we passed around rhythm instruments. Tamborines, bells, sticks, etc., were put into the hands of the residents. Then with the accordian, I would simply play a waltz beat with the bass keys—oom pa pah—and immediately 75% would respond. Faces would begin to lighten up, and rhythm instruments would begin to shake. As I'd begin the melody, "Casey would waltz with a strawberry blonde," and the instructor would ask everyone to imitate her and raise their hands in the air and shake the instruments, again approximately 75% would respond, doing what they were asked to do.
Music is such an effective catalyst.
At the other end of the stick, I've gone into many classrooms noisy with active, challenging kids, asked everyone to come and sit down on the mat for a few songs, and had little response because no one was paying attention or could hear what I was saying. But if I begin playing a song on the guitar, and singing the instructions,to come and sit down on the mat, I have everyone's cooperation.
And some schools no longer have a music program!
I'm sure you've recognized this effect on seniors when you sing in the homes.
Can you explain it?