The stage is lined with residents from the Johanna Shores care center and assisted living. They are seated with their tone chimes, eagerly awaiting the start of the performance. There is an excited twinkle in the performers’ eyes as Music Therapist Lorie Ludwig steps up to conduct and they wait for their cues. The concert begins. Amazing Grace, Ave Maria, Let Me Call You Sweetheart; many of the songs in the program are resident favorites.
“That was fun! I didn’t realize that I could make music!” exclaims a player. Most of the performers have no prior musical training but they do have a willing spirit and are excited to learn. It is an opportunity to build self-confidence as the residents make music successfully. Lorie says, “The residents have been my greatest teachers and have enriched my music therapy practice immensely.”
The group gathers regularly to play music together. They reminisce and laugh just as much as they play. “We share memories activated by hearing these familiar songs as residents tap their toes and clap their hands. The satisfaction that comes with playing music together cannot be overstated; it builds self-confidence and creates joy-filled memories,” said Lorie.
Engaging the mind, body and spirit
One of the practices at Presbyterian Homes & Services is to provide for physical, social, mental, emotional and spiritual needs, and Lorie is a firm believer that music therapy has the potential to meet every one of these needs.
Lorie knows that the physical component of music therapy is in the exercise of playing instruments, tapping feet or clapping hands along with the music. Reading song sheets and following the director provide complex mental exercise. “We discuss the history of music and explore what they remember about certain songs,” Lorie said.
When the group rehearses or participates in other music therapy, memories are often evoked by the music and simple act of singing together. Bringing out these memories helps the performers remain in touch with their emotions. Playing music together and listening to each other’s stories keeps the group members socially connected.
Not least of all, Lorie says that music therapy engages people on a spiritual level, especially when singing hymns or prayers together. The tone chime ensemble plays for memorial services and holiday services, adding a depth in worship that only music can bring.
One resident sums it all up saying, “The music makes you feel good!”
When Lorie thinks about serving as a music therapist, she considers herself blessed. “The most fulfilling aspect of music therapy is helping residents be the best that they can be, whether that is working tired muscles, recalling memories, improving mood or participating in music when they thought they couldn’t do anything musical. I show them that they can do much more than they previously thought. Helping them reach their highest potential is a great gift for me,” she said.
“Being a music therapist means that I get to play at work and how many people can say that? When residents sing along, clapping their hands and smiling with joy in their eyes, I know that I am in the right profession,” she said.