Music Therapy Enhances Participants’ Lives

Move over ABBA—the lively and upbeat tune of “Dancing Queen”—recently blared from a small conference room at LIFE Butler County center. While the participants didn’t dance, they brought the room to life, as Barbra shook her tambourine and Anna kept pace on the drums. Slippery Rock student Griffin Moyer led the session as he played the guitar as part of LIFE’s weekly music therapy program.

“I love the tambourine!” proclaimed Barba. “I have never played one before.”

Thanks to a partnership between Slippery Rock University and LIFE Butler County, college students gain valuable experience working with older adults in the music therapy program while helping participants remain engaged and active.

“The program focuses on improving fine and gross motor movement, improving socialization, decreasing anxiety and depression and decreasing pain…,” explained Ingrid Tallarico, recreation therapy manager at LIFE Butler.

As part of the agreement, students spend one hour a week for 12 weeks working with older adults each semester. “I love working with them (older adults),”Moyer explained. “The interactions, everything. It’s wonderful.”

Moyer became interested in music when he started playing the tuba in middle school. In fact, he loves music so much, that he has decided to make a career as a music therapist working with older adults.

In the next session, Moyer pulls out his guitar asking participants to play, while he strummed the guitar. “Feel how the music goes up and down,” Moyer explained. Barbra and Anna improvise, performing their own unique solo to the beat of Moyer’s guitar. Barbra taps her feet to the rhythm and plays to the speed of his guitar. “That was fun!” said Anna.

In the closing session, Moyer asked Barbra and Anna to paint pictures in their mind as they played their instruments together. As he played a variety of rhythms and beats, he encouraged participants to imagine something from their childhood or a beautiful nature scene. “I’ve never ridden a horse,” explained Anna, “but I imagined I was on one. Breeze blowing through my hair. It was everything I imagined what it would feel like to ride one.”

Moyer closed the session with a song he wrote, “Goodbye See Ya Later.” Anna summed up her experience and the program is having on not only her life, but also her health. “I really enjoyed that. I have a lot of anxiety and this really does help me relax.”