I’ve been very blessed to participate in music ministry for the past 10 years focused in the health care arena at an Indianapolis health system. The power of music in this setting can be overwhelming at times. We regularly play for patients at a long term acute care facility. We ask patients if they would like some live music and play from the hallway. If the patient appears to be sleeping but visitors are present, we will ask the visitors and often play for them. Over the years I’ve lost count of the times where we began playing when the “sleeping” patient started tapping a finger or shaking a foot in time with the music. We have heard from family members, “That is the only response we have seen in days!”
It is humbling and overwhelming to see the power that music has in these situations. It cuts through the clutter and activates a special place in the brain. It can bring back long lost memories, smiles, and just a general “feel good” attitude to those touched by the flowing sounds. I’ve seen videos of studies where Alzheimer patients were allowed to listen to music popular in their youth. In the video they show the patient trying to answer questions before and then after listening to the music, and the change is nothing short of remarkable. People who can barely speak become completely lucid, recalling memories from their youth. They are animated and full of life for a brief period before sinking back into the world in which they are confined.
In another setting we play for a day program for developmentally disabled adults. We take small hand percussion instruments so they can play along. The joy and energy experienced by both the musicians and the participants is palpable in the room. For me this response is better than I think I would feel if I received a standing ovation at the Met!
We started the Music Ministry so we could “bless” others with our gift of music. Now we know that most of the time we walk away feeling that we received the lion’s share of the blessing…