March is Music Therapy Month

Before my grandfather passed away last April at the age of 102, he’d been slipping into dementia for a number of years.  Enzyme imbalances and an endless series of tiny strokes sent him on a roller coaster ride of hallucinations and memory loss.  I think he knew that he was slipping away, causing him to the agitated and depressed during his occasional lucid moments.

Fortunately, he had some excellent caregivers.  One of the things they discovered was that music–his favourite old-time Ukrainian songs–made him very happy.  While words and gestures didn’t always get through, the music always did.  Sometimes, the music would even bring him out of whatever neurological fog that enveloped him. While he might not remember the faces of the relatives in front of him, he remembered the music.  And the music unlocked memories of happier times.

That radio on his bedside table tuned to a particular Ukrainian-friendly country station was a godsend.  It’s also why I’m such a big believer in music therapy.

Which brings me to a couple of things.  Caregivers are increasingly using iPods on Alzheimer’s patients.  Because of the way the brain is wired–personal memories are stored in a different place than musical ones–researchers are discovering more ways to use music to help the cognitively impaired.

Second, music therapy has plenty of other uses.  This email came in today from Eric.

I have a condition called tardive dystona. It’s like Parkinson’s disease but it doesn’t kill those affected directly. It’s a movement disorder and as such, I shake. More specifically, my head/neck shake.Before my current medicine, music was the only relief I got, aside from laying down on my back) from the unceasing spams.

Now, my current medicine manages the tardive dystonia quite well but that doesn’t lessen the impact of music on my life, here’s a clip of the medicine working.

And check out this link to a podcast of some not-so-passive music therapy–mixing used as a hobby rather than playing an instrument.

Life is weird.

Take care,


Intriguing, no?  Now check out this story from the Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund:

When Laura turned four her parents witnessed her use her hands independently and unsupported for the first time – to strum the music therapist’s guitar. Now in private music therapy sessions, Laura  continues to use her hands consistently. Other professionals insisted that Laura would have to “use her head” to push a switch or “eye gaze” to make choices. Today she uses her hands for both tasks.  Her parents credit the music therapist’s highly motivational session planning. A music therapist was deployed at the request of the town, and flood-torn zone of High River, Alberta. After the first session one adult with tears in her eyes said, ‘The music was able to do something we didn’t know we needed. We have not been able to cry since the flood. We have been in survival mode. We need to express our anger, we need to renew our hope, we need to heal. Music Therapy is giving us a fresh path to do just that.’

March is National Music Therapy Month and there’s a special event coming up on March 30.  Here’s what’s going on:

The March for Music Therapy will be a grassroots, family and community focused national event that will take place in 14 communities across Canada (Vancouver, BC, Calgary, AB, Edmonton, AB, Saskatoon, SK, Thompson, MB, Winnipeg, MB, Windsor, ON, Exeter, ON, Guelph, ON, Mississauga, ON, Toronto, ON, Montreal, QC, Halifax, NS). On Sunday, March 30th, groups across Canada will be marching up to 5 km to raise awareness and funds for Music Therapy. All marches will end at a venue, where a party with live music will celebrate the community coming together and supporting the Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund and their efforts to provide music therapy services to under served populations in Canada. Goodlife Fitness, among others, has generously signed on as sponsor to aid in the success of the event. The goal is to have over 3000 people march in communities across the country and grow this number over the following years.

Accredited Therapist + Music + Science = Transformed Lives

The Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund is a national registered non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of Canadians through the therapeutic use of music. For more information and to support the CMTTF Mission, please contact

Christine Lever

Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund


[email protected]

416-535-0200 / 1-888-689-9545

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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