The Power of Music

man_piano_realpgWhether it’s a big band orchestra, a local school choir or visiting pianist, music plays a major part in our recreation programming – and for good reason.

From getting goose bumps and spilling tears at the sound of an inspiring church hymn to feeling warm, nostalgic, and cheerful when Christmas carols ring out, emotions are plucked like the chords of a bass fiddle when music enters our brains. Music has long been known to elicit feelings and affect mood. As an example, take the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. Considerable media attention has been focused on the energy and elation this song stirs in most anyone who hears it. A similar uplifting response is sparked by the classic “Singin’ in the Rain” by Gene Kelly—a song that is so happy that not even a downpour could dampen the spirits. And who doesn’t feel an emotion bordering on rapture when listening to inspirational songs such as “Amazing Grace” and “O Holy Night”? The fact that music can affect mood is virtually indisputable, and because of this, music is used to enhance many types of therapy.

Advances in the field of neuroscience and a new form of research called neuromusicology now help scientists quantitatively measure how music affects the brain. These methods have shown that music triggers activity in every identified part of the brain. Because of this, listening to music (and playing it) makes people happier, healthier, smarter, and more productive during all stages of life. It can improve mood, reduce stress, and convey feelings of empowerment and hope. Even sad music has a positive impact on people going through a difficult time, because it promotes emotional healing. All of this happens due to music’s ability to boost helpful chemicals in the brain and reduce those that are harmful.

Music brings everyone together and is certainly a mood booster at Sifton Retirement Residences. “The best part is listening to residents’ stories of specific songs and what they mean to them”, says Jessica Eichler, Recreation Manager at The Westhill Retirement Residence. As they prepare to launch a new program called Music Appreciation, Jessica and the residents of The Westhill are excited to experience the power of music and song.

Longworth resident, Joan G. recalls the first day she visited our residence with her daughter. As they opened the front door they heard a gentleman at the piano playing Glen Miller’s “In the Mood”. Joan’s response – “I want to live here!”