A new member of my Linked In group, Musical Healers, Lynda Kuckenbrod, a Therapy Musician (sometimes known as bedside musician) reminds us that music heals us at every point in our lives. Therapy musicians have brought healing sound vibrations to hospice and hospital patients, to nursing home residents, and in a variety of clinical settings.
Kuckenbrod, a lover of music, started her journey as a Therapy Musician after a vist to her mother in the hospital in which Kuckenbrod played her harp. You will find the full story on the Moon Shadow Harp website (link at the bottom of the page). She also trains harpists.
WME: Since the terms music therapy and therapeutic musicians might confuse people, meaning they might think it is the same, please give a short description of the work you do as a therapeutic musician as opposed to the work of a music therapist (which is hands-on with a client).
Lynda Kuckenbrod: Music Therapists have at least a 4 year degree. Often times they will actively engage their patient in the therapy. For example, the MT will have their patient sing songs with them to help the patient re-learn speech and speaking skills.
Therapeutic Musicians usually complete at least a 2 year certification training program. TM’s do not require any interaction with their music at all. In fact, the patient can be sleeping or comatose. Therapeutic musicians used frequencies, keys, modes and tempo to facilitate healing. We will also used the use of familiar or non-familiar music. The training is intensive requiring knowledge in medical terminology, psychoneuroimmunology, music theory as well as learning the specific musical techniques for various conditions. There is an internship that must be completed as well. But it should be kept in mind that you do not have to be an advanced musician to be a therapeutic musician. This type of music is very simple and even beginners do well. The only requirement is to be familiar with your instrument and have a passion to help others during, perhaps some of the most trying times of their lives.
WME: You mention that "Pachelbel’s Canon" is a favorite song among therapeutic musicians because of the key that it is in and its constant (soothing) rhythm and then you also mention "Amazing Grace" on the video on your website.
Why is the particular key in the canon so healing? Is this key universally healing?
LK: Many of the major keys are great for healing music in the Western World. Frankly, I like to play the Canon in C. it is a great ‘grounding’ key and does not evoke any emotion. (i.e. the key of A minor will produce a sad or melancholy emotion.) “Amazing Grace” can be classified as familiar music (same as “Pachelbel’s Canon”) . This song almost always helps to raise the voices of those in dementia units and will allow families to release emotions in hospice situations. It must be clarified however that hymns are used only when appropriate. Therapeutic musicians do not proselytize in any way – even in their choice of songs.
WME: Describe an experience where you play music for a patient at a bedside and improvise based on the energy you exchange with a patient. How do you tune into this energy? Where is your focus as a musician and as a healer?
LK: What a great question!! It is hard to explain. When we enter a patient’s room, we have no preconceived idea what we will be playing. We do a full assessment from what we can glean from the patient and the room. (Based upon the teachings in my course, Therapy Harp Training Program, LLC) we enter a room with positive intent and with the thoughts that we will do not harm. That is the absolute basic energy. As we enter this space, we use our assessment, our intent and our intuition. Many times our initial assessment is not quite on target. The beauty of live music at the bedside is that we can change it at a moments notice.
An example, often times, is in hospice with a patient that is actively dying. When you are allowed to be honored by that experience, you simply release any be conceived music and let your heart play the music.
WME: Do you have a story working with an end-of-life patient at a hospice that you would like to share?
LK: Oh my, there are so many stories. Many times I might be the only one in the room with a patient passes, but one time I entered a room to find the entire family: the daughter and her husband, the granddaughters and sons – were all there. It was obvious that they had been there more than a day. There were blankets on the lounge chairs. There were newspapers from days before. The grown granddaughter was curled up on a lounge chair wrapped in a blanket and was taking a nap.
Grandmother was sleeping peacefully in bed. I walked in with a harp; a stranger to this intimate gathering. After giving a quick explaination of therapeutic music, I sat and began to play. Eventually, the room fell back into the activity and energy that was there prior to my arrival. The son-in-law went back to reading his newspaper. The granddaughter rearranged her blankets and sat up and chatted with her mother. Every so often they would talk to grandmother and letting her know that it was ‘ok to go’. I played. They laughed. I played. They cried. I played. There was silence. It was a perfect setting.
All of a sudden there was a loud ‘THUD’. We all stopped what we were doing and looked around. Nothing was out of the ordinary. The room returned into the quiet loving space once again.
A few minutes later: ‘THUD!!’. This time the noise came from the window. Sitting outside on the window ledge was a white dove. At that moment, grandmother passed.
WME: Finally, you have this quote on your website, "Music is Hope". This quote seems obvious to me in that music gives us hope and healing which brings more hope. However, what do these words mean to you personally?
LK: Personally? Music is my life. It has been there when all else seemed to be falling apart. It has been my love, my life and my soul. In those quiet desperate times in our lives that we all face, music has been there like a long lost friend, a a soul mate, that will quietly pick me up, brush me off and help me take the next step.
Lynda Kuckenbrod, CHM, CCM, VAHTP, HSH
Clinical Harpist, Director, Therapy Harp Training Program, LLC
Clinical Harpist, Director, Therapy Harp Training Program, LLC