Music, memories and more

music therapyby Guest Blogger Rachelle Morgan, MA, MT-BC, Founder & Director Soundscaping Source

Music, memories and more. Music therapy is about so much more than music.

Our parents singing, that cute toddler dancing, and the radio in the car. The marching band at the football game, high school dances, church hymns…even the grocery store.

You are surrounded by music beginning at birth.

Music is thoroughly woven into the fabric of life. You may take for granted how important music is to the sense of self and community.

As a music therapist, I often work with folks who haven’t been able to do music the way they used to. Most often, it’s because their illnesses have them stuck at home. They are dealing with pain or fatigue or confusion, unable to attend concerts.

music therapyMusic and our brains

Music therapists and caregivers alike have long known that music brings people “back to life” in a profound way. Some folks with dementia can sing entire songs even when they can no longer speak in full sentences.

Now science is helping to explain these phenomena. Newer research using functional imaging technology shows us many parts of the brain are active when people are listening to music. Most crucially, researchers can see a great deal of activity in the limbic system. This is a part of the midbrain where of emotion, arousal, and memory activity happens.

Emotion, music and memories – lots of connections happening below the surface.

Music and our backgrounds

Music also connects us with our personal histories, our cultures, and our communities. When someone hears the songs from their wedding, or their place of worship, or their home country, that music can bring back memories and help us remember who we are in this big, scary world.

Music and connecting to each other

Perhaps even better than connecting with our past is that music can help us connect with each other in the present. Doing music together – whether listening, singing, playing, or creating – can give people from vastly different backgrounds a shared experience of beauty. This shared musical experience helps to build rapport among caregivers and care recipients, and to create a calm and healing environment.

These are three significant reasons why music can be profoundly important for all of us. This is especially true for people with serious health conditions and life-limiting illnesses.

One word of caution, however. Just as a song can take someone right back the joy of their wedding day, it also has the potential to deliver them back to the terror of an abusive relationship or other trauma.

Just as music can help someone reconnect with their faith community or ethnic group, it can also remind them strongly of the communities that rejected them or harmed them.

Healthcare providers wishing to use music as a tool in their work must learn to mitigate these painful situations caused by music.

Music therapists are here to help people find joy and connection in music, and to help healthcare providers and caregivers use music well.

For more information about music therapy and music in caregiving, or to request a free consultation, visit

The mission of Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care is to bring expert care, peace of mind, comfort, guidance, and hope to people who are affected by life-limiting illness or by grief. ur vision is that each person in our community is valued from life through death and each family is supported in their grief.



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