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Can Music Save Lives?

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Can music save lives? Listen to and watch professional pianist, composer, author, and American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) artist spokesperson Robin Spielberg share her personal story about the power of music here.

Robin grew up playing the piano. It made her feel better after a hard day at school, a "tough family day," and other challenges. It provided her a livelihood so she could also pursue acting early in her career. She likes to say she has composed the soundtrack to her life.

With a Carnegie Hall debut in 1997, Robin never dreamed she would take a journey where she would be pregnant with twin girls but have only one survive, weighing a mere 12 ounces at birth at 22 weeks' gestation. She never dreamed she would beg the nurses in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to let her play her own CDs for her "micropreemie" daughter to drown out the loud noises. She never dreamed that her daughter's vital signs and those of the other babies in earshot of the music would improve after four months in the NICU. However, it was true, and this amazing experience led Robin to seek out the American Music Therapy Association and the scientific basis for these results. She learned about Dr. Jayne Standley's work at Florida State University researching the effects of music and music therapy on preemies.

Robin never dreamed her daughter Valerie would be subject to many challenges and conditions because of her premature birth. Short-term memory was one of these challenges. Robin never dreamed she would use the rhythm and melody inherent in music to assist Valerie in memorizing definitions of health terms in the second grade. She started composing musical mnemonic devices to help Valerie remember crucial information in many other subjects as well. Valerie is now a talented percussionist and successful high school student! Robin is convinced that Valerie's percussion lessons, incorporating rhythm in a musical way, strengthened the daily rhythms of her life.

Robin never dreamed she would take a journey where she would make connections that would make all the difference in the world for residents in nursing homes. As a professional touring musician and spokesperson for AMTA, Robin often looks for opportunities for what she calls "side volunteer gigs." Sometimes she witnesses the power of music alongside professional Board Certified Music Therapists (see the Certification Board for Music Therapists) , and other times she goes solo to share her music. In the Tedx talk, she recounts an hour she spent playing Broadway tunes for senior citizens in a nursing home. No one applauded when she left, but the impact of her music was profound. As Robin exited the building, a nurse excitedly thanked her for this gift: Her playing of Moon River had inspired a man who had not spoken to anyone in six months to sing along and to feel ready to reconnect.

Robin never dreamed she would witness this type of power that music possesses. When she shadows a music therapist, Robin sees and hears firsthand music opening pathways to healing that she never knew were possible. She has observed music therapists assisting with pain management for those living with chronic medical issues, supporting social interaction for kids with autism, facilitating coping skills and self-expression for adults with traumatic brain injuries, and so much more!

Robin asks, "Can music save a life?" She can't say that for sure, but what she can and will tell you for sure is that music can have a life-changing effect on your life or that of your loved one.

To learn more about music therapy and how it impacts the lives of so many, visit www.musictherapy.org.

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