By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Staffers with Northern Montana Health Care had an opportunity to learn about ways music can help their patients as a side benefit of the Northern Showcase concert series.
New Jersey pianist Robin Spielberg, who performed a Northern Showcase concert Sunday in Havre, was joined Friday by Helena music therapist Cheryl Sobeck to give workshops at Northern Montana Hospital. Spielberg, who is the artist spokeswoman for the American Music Therapy Association, said she tries to do workshops and publicity for the association whenever she tours.
"I talk to kids a lot, and get some interested in a career in music therapy," she said after her workshop. "Sometimes I get a huge response from hospitals."
Sobeck told the people at the 3 p.m. demonstration workshop - the pair held another workshop earlier Friday - that when she went to college, she was interested in careers in music, teaching, and special education. She found that music therapy deals with all those areas, and enrolled in that field.
Spielberg said her involvement in music therapy began after the birth of her daughter, Valerie, and a twin sister, who didn't survive. The twins were born about four months premature, and the daughter who survived went into a neonatal care unit weighing 17 ounces, Spielberg said.
She said she asked her husband to play a CD of her piano music for her daughter. The staff of the center noticed that whenever the music was playing, the vital signs of Spielberg's daughter and other babies within hearing range improved, she said.
"I became fascinated by this," Spielberg said.
She found the Web site of the American Music Therapy Association, and began to research.
Theories about the healing effect of music go back at least as far as the ancients Greeks, in the writings of Aristotle and Plato, the therapy association's site says. In modern times, doctors noticed that veterans recovering in hospitals during World War I and World War II had physical and emotional improvements while listening to music. That led to hospitals hiring musicians, and to the creation of the first music therapy degree program at Michigan State University in 1944.
The association says the therapy can help people with mental health needs, developmental disabilities, Alzheimer's disease, substance abuse problems, brain injuries, physical disabilities and chronic illnesses.
Sobeck said she uses a variety of therapies with the children she works with at Shodair Children's Hospital in Helena. She deals with troubled children and adolescents.
The therapy helps her patients deal with feelings they have held very closely inside them, Sobeck said.
Her techniques include allowing older children to listen to music they bring in themselves and discuss it, which often is very revealing of the children's problems, she said. Her example of a song that a child brought in was "Family Portrait" by the artist Pink, which talks about how the singer's family life is nothing like the happy-looking group in the family's portrait.
"A ton of things could be brought up in therapy from that song," Sobeck said. "It is amazing to have kids bring that kind of music in."
Another technique she uses is having the kids draw album covers, with the titles and pictures related to their feelings and the song titles listed telling