5 Songs That Instantly Make Me Feel Better

This has been a very unusual week at the Baddour Center. All activities in our department were cancelled since Tuesday due to a stomach virus that has spread from resident to resident and house to house. As a result, the building has been extremely quiet all week. There were no music therapy sessions, no social hour, no office visits, no expressive arts classes. It was odd, but we were under nurse’s orders.

While this week has been rather slow, next week is going to be killer busy for me. Between leading group music therapy sessions all by myself, going to Chattanooga, TN for the SER-AMTA regional music therapy conference, and choreographing a dance routine, this week is going to be hectic! In light of all this sickness and stress, I thought I would share with you 5 songs that are guaranteed to put me in a good mood, whether I am heartbroken, physically ill, or when I just have “the blues”.

1. “Circle of Life”.

It has to be the song from the movie, not the Elton John version. Maybe this is because I am a 90’s kid, but I can’t listen to this song without getting pumped about life.


2. Almost any song by Tim McGraw.

Tim McGraw is always going to have a special place in my heart. I grew up listening to country music, and he and his wife Faith Hill were my absolute favorites. When I am down or upset, Tim McGraw is my go-to.


3. “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey

Come on, you know you still turn this song up no matter how over-played it is. It will always be a song to fist-pump to.


4. “All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles

A classic “hippy-dippy” love song with a great message.


5. “Girl On Fire” by Alicia Keys

A new favorite of mine. It’s hard not to feel empowered after listening to this song.


What are your good-mood songs? Leave me a comment or send me an email at katelynfarris@mail.com.


6 Cool Facts About Music Discovered By Science

Being in the field of music therapy, I am continually astounded by the power of music. Usually when I talk to someone about what I do, I will tell them about the numerous scientific studies showing evidence of music’s ability to move and heal us.
If you watch the news, you have probably seen more and more stories of the success of music therapy. For instance, when Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was wounded by a bullet into the left side of her brain, she was able to talk again through music therapy. After the shooting, she was not able to speak, but amazingly she could sing the words, a common characteristic of patients with aphasia. Through success stories like this, music therapy has recently been brought to the public eye and gives people a glimpse of how effective it really is. And as any MT professional, intern, or student knows, it is important to keep up with these news articles and breaking research studies in order to be able to advocate for our profession. In this week’s post, I thought I might share with you some of my favorite articles and studies on the truly amazing things that music can do.

Disclaimer: Not everything on this list has been scientifically proven…yet. Because the field of music and its effects on the human brain is in its baby years, these studies only suggest and lead to conclusions based on the data obtained. Hopefully new research will find consistent-enough results to conclude what everyone has seemingly known all along: music is a powerful force to be reckoned with.

1. All pop music really does sound the same.

"That's just AWFUL."

It’s official: pop music is louder and blander today than it was 50 years ago. Some researchers in Spain used a huge database of pop songs from 1955 to 2010 to come up with data that says our chord progressions are getting simpler, volume is getting louder, and the overall timbre, or tone quality, has less variety. Simply put, there is a formula for a hit song, and pop artists and producers are cranking them out all the time. You may not necessarily hate today’s Top 40 (I know I don’t), but if you’re one of those people who sticks to the “oldies but goodies”, you may have a good point.

Article: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/26/us-science-music-idUSBRE86P0R820120726

2. Musicians who play together think together.


I remember this one time I was singing with the Carey Chorale for a concert, and we were singing a piece we had rehearsed quite a few times. I can’t remember if our director had maybe forgotten to cue us or if we just had a collective brain fart, but either way, we were silent for about four measures after we were supposed to enter, and we all knew it. But then it was like we read our director’s mind; almost ALL of us came back in at the same time, so nobody knew we had messed up at all! Afterwards, my Chorale friends remarked at how odd and uncanny that moment was, and it turns out that this is a proven phenomenon.

Scientists conducted a study with trained guitarists in which they attached electrodes to their heads while they played a duet. They discovered that the brain waves coordinated between the two partners in order to perform the music together.These findings suggest that brain waves coordinate in order to perform a collective task, in this case, a jazz guitar duet. The same principle can be applied to a capella groups, orchestras, small ensembles, and just about any other instance in which musicians are required to play in tune with each other.


3. Studying music rewires your brain.


We all know that learning music skills at an early age has so many benefits, but new studies are suggesting that it actually rewires the way we think. Research has found that certain parts of the brain are larger in musicians, and they have enhanced motor and auditory processing skills. Researchers also found that the more years of musical experience a person has, the larger the effect. So basically if you want your child to be a little Einstein, put them in piano lessons early.

Article: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/DyeHard/story?id=7050081&page=1

4. There is a name for those pesky songs that get stuck in our heads.

"If I hear that song ONE. MORE. TIME."

Ever had the urge to post song lyrics as your Facebook or Twitter statuses because you just can’t get them out of your head? Those annoying songs and lyrics are called Involuntary Musical Imagery, or “earworms”, and sometimes they drive us crazy. Some say they are even more predominant in musicians, women (?), and people who are tired, stressed or neurotic (kinda describes most musicians, but I digress). Personally, I have either a song or a catchy movie quote in my head all the time. When I was younger I thought it was just me, but turns out it happens to everyone. Think about it: what song is in your head at this very moment? You probably have been busy occupying yourself with various other tasks of the day, but turn up the volume on whatever is playing in your brain for a minute. Is it Taylor Swift? Maybe a commercial jingle? Are you annoyed by it yet? The best way to deal with them is to just accept it and think about something else. Another method is to sing the lyrics out loud to pass them on and “infect” somebody else. I’ve also heard that chewing on a cinnamon stick helps?

Articles: http://pom.sagepub.com/content/40/3/259.abstract http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/songs-stuck-in-head1.htm

5. You like a certain version of a song not because it’s better, but because you heard that version first.

How many times do we complain when Facebook changes it’s layout and newsfeed (for the MILLIONTH time)? And who else was irked with the new Darrin on “Bewitched”? Or the new Dumbledore? People like originals; we don’t like change. The same is true of the versions of songs we listen to. Some people may actually welcome change or don’t really have a preference for either song versions (I personally am torn equally between Dolly and Whitney’s versions of “I Will Always Love You”), but most of us detest it. And according to the study, we actually prefer something that looks or sounds original because we perceive originality as “better”.

Article: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S105774081000077X

6. Today’s music says that our culture is Narcissistic


A study in the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts journal confirms what you probably already know: our culture is becoming more and more about “me, me, ME!”. Since our music points to some of the attitudes of our society, researchers put this data into a study that suggests our culture is more “self-focused”. Words like “I”, “me”, and “mine” are more commonly found in song lyrics today than they were 15 years ago. Also, more violent words such as “hate” and “kill” appear in our lyrics. These characteristics are both common traits in Narcissistic and Antisocial personality disorders. Hmm…and antipsychotic medication use is up among our youth? (See: http://journals.lww.com/ajnonline/Fulltext/2012/11000/NewsCAP___U_S__prescriptions_for_antipsychotics_on.10.aspx)

Article: http://www.psmag.com/culture-society/song-lyrics-reflect-our-narcissistic-age-29644/

There are many more studies out there about the power of music, and there are many more studies to be done. Although I don’t believe there can ever be a scientific formula for the beauty and magic of music, I do believe there is much to be discovered about music’s effect on humans. This is a field that is constantly growing, and hopefully this research can expand and be applied in music therapy practice. Do any of these apply to you? Let me know what you think!

For more information on Gabby Giffords amazing recovery through music therapy, see: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/w_MindBodyNews/gabby-giffords-finding-voice-music-therapy/story?id=14903987

The Joys of Performing


Music therapists are first and foremost musicians and artists. Not many people who go into this field began if they had no musical talent or ability. Music skills are REQUIRED for the job. If you know a music therapist, they probably began taking lessons at a young age, or got a late start like I did. They may have played guitar throughout high school, or taken piano since the age of three. They may have been a band member or part of their elementary and high school choir. Then as they pursued music in college, they were required to take lessons on a primary and secondary instrument. They worked hard (or maybe not) perfecting their craft, putting precious time and effort into something that lasts maybe 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Why? For the sheer love of performing. Performing music is a form of expression and release for a musician, as musicians were created to have their music be heard. It’s only healthy for a musician to find outlets for their art.

Although my performance career started at age four when I sang songs from “The Lion King” in Pizza Hut, my true musical journey began high school as I developed a love for classical music and the opera. The first opera I ever saw was “Carmen” when I was 16, and I’ve been hooked ever since. When I decided I wanted to pursue music therapy in college, I began to take voice lessons as a senior in high school.   The man who taught me performed with Placido Domingo, worked with Igor Stravinsky and Leonard Bernstein, and founded the Hattiesburg Civic Lights Opera, so he had a legitimate love for classical singing which he instilled in me. I carried that love into college when I chose voice as my primary instrument of study. I worked hard on my technique, and eventually sang classically as my Miss Mississippi talent, competed in some classical voice competitions, got lead roles in WCU opera and musical theater productions, and sang with the Carey Chorale. During college, I was performing almost all the time and I loved it!

I got the opportunity this week to put on a mini concert for the residents and staff at the Baddour Center. I did not know how much I’ve missed performing classical literature and musical theater. In music therapy activities, there is no room to be a performer, because the most important person in the music therapy session is the client. Perfection in music while in therapy sessions is not as important as the music itself being a medium for therapy. The goal is not to be pleasing to the ears (although that is an important part of music therapy). So getting to perform pieces that I’ve worked on throughout my college years for the residents was a great treat!

Whatever your musical journey has been as a music therapy major, intern, or professional, I encourage you to find a way to perform for someone that has nothing to do with your job. I’ve always heard that it’s important to have music that is “yours”, that you selfishly listen to in your down-time and don’t use in therapy sessions. In that same sense, it’s also important to perform for yourself. Become part of a local ensemble. Agree to sing that solo in church. Start a band, even if you only play in the garage. Even singing karaoke can be invigorating! Whatever your instrument or style of music,  make sure you keep on growing as a musician, for yourself and your profession.  Performance can be a much needed form of therapy for the therapist!