As Executive Director of Strings of Mercy, I spend a lot of time promoting the clinical benefits of Live Therapeutic Music (LTM) to healthcare professionals and trying to dispel their assumptions that Music Practitioners are merely entertainers trying to brighten someone’s day with music. Because I can stay too focused on the Science of Sound and how music affects the body, I find that I am still surprised, even amazed, when I witness the power of LTM and its ability to provide emotional and spiritual healing for patients.
Millie was minimally responsive when I entered her room recently at a local hospital. As I introduced myself to the patient and her daughter, I sensed that the daughter was somewhat unsure about why I was in their room. After a brief explanation, Millie’s daughter gave her consent for me to play for her mother.
After assessing Millie’s condition, I began to play soft, loosely metered arrangements of music that Millie might have listened to as a young adult. Millie did not initially respond and I had begun to assume that she was not even capable of responding in a meaningful way. But after 10 minutes of listening, her eyes became more focused and I noticed a little more color in her face. Then she softly asked if I knew any hymns and if so, could I play them for her.
I transitioned to an arrangement of ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’ and a medley of a few others. As I continued, Millie began to mouth the words to ‘How Great Thou Art’. More alert and seemingly oriented, she responded in a most unexpected way – she raised her hands above her head, closed her eyes and began to worship, her voice now finding the strength to sing out loud. Compared to when I entered her room, she appeared radiant, almost angelic!
After a few minutes, I ended our session, as I did not want her doing too much. Millie shared that it had been weeks since she had been able to attend church and that she missed being able to worship with her family and friends. As I listened, she told me that my visit had been the best part of her stay in the hospital and that the music I shared would stay with her for a very long time.
In hindsight, I don’t think Millie had the slightest interest in the principles of Sympathetic Resonance or Entrainment. For on that day, worship and music were the medicine that ministered deeply to her soul.