Music with the power to heal

Music therapist Maya Charlton works with 8 year-old Dejua at Oakland Children's Hospital.

Music therapist Maya Charlton works with 8 year-old Dejua at Oakland Children's Hospital.

What if you could use something as simple as music to help people dealing with everything from traumatic brain injuries and strokes to neurological disorders and depression? Well, music therapists have been doing just that for more than half a century. And in the Bay Area, the field of music therapy is growing–in hospitals, schools and nursing homes–to help treat a wide range of medical maladies.

The Jared Kurtin Music Therapy Program at Oakland Children’s Hospital is the largest of its kind in Northern California. With two musical therapists working five days a week and a well-established internship operation, the program caters to an average of fifty patients every month. Therapists use music in a lot of different ways. For some patients, music is a way to help them express emotions they otherwise couldn’t. For others it helps to feel connected to their families while they’re stuck in the hospital. And for some patients with neurological disorders or brain injuries, it helps them find speech — many are able to sing before they’re able to talk.

The program is funded in part by money raised through Notes & Words — an annual charity event that features authors and musicians from around the Bay Area. This year’s event happens this Saturday, April 28, and features the band CAKE and Pulitzer prize-winning author Michael Chabon.

 

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