January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in Canada. A time for individuals to learn more about dementia and its impact on Canadians.
As the month draws to a close, Classic 107 was curious to hear more about the impact of music on the brain and welcomed registered music therapist Naomi Friesen to the studio for a conversation.
“The wonderful thing about music is that it fires off neuropathways in many different centers (of the brain,)” says Friesen.
A highly complex organ, the brain is divided into two parts, left and right, each responsible for different functions. Music often utilizes both sides, according to Friesen, leading to deeper connections.
“The other really cool part of music is that the memory aspect is stored somewhere else... it’s part of the limbic system so the emotional aspect of music also comes to the forefront when you’re interacting through music.”
A graduate of the Canadian Mennonite University’s Music Therapy program, Friesen’s work includes a wide variety of performing, teaching, and music therapy with all ages in her work at Prelude Music Inc. She is also the music therapist for a long-term care home where she leads groups and individuals to explore, express and process feelings and challenges in daily life – work which is deeply rewarding for her as well as loved ones who may also be present.
“The witness of their family, the witness of the other care people in (patients') lives, that say ‘I didn’t know that they could do that! I haven’t seen them do that in years!’” says Friesen.
As director of Vivace Voices, a therapeutic choir for people living with Alzheimer’s Disease, Friesen regularly uses song as a way to reconnect and build new connections.
“It’s a partnership between someone with dementia and their care partners,” explains Friesen, who notes current music therapy students also participate.
Performing songs from a variety of decades, a musical background isn’t a prerequisite, she says.
“We are not aiming for perfection. We’re aiming for music and community.”
For those who are looking for more information on music, the brain and, perhaps, getting involved with a music therapist, Friesen points to the Music Therapy Association of Manitoba or the Music Heals Charitable Foundation.
“The music in years from 18 to 25 are the straight shot to a dopamine hit for the older adults in your life,” says Friesen. “Bring it to them and make it accessible.”
To connect with Vivace Voices, find details below!