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ASU Music Therapy students use technology to keep bodies and brains moving

Posted at 5:06 PM, Jul 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-13 20:48:16-04

TEMPE, AZ — The music must go on, just in a different way.

For seniors, people struggling with dementia, and those with traumatic brain injuries, music therapy is instrumental in building memory and social skills.

Students and staff at Arizona State University in the School of Music were told they could no longer go into facilities when the pandemic began.

To keep the therapy playing on, they had to be innovative and decided to move their music therapy courses online.

"Absolutely not just karaoke and dancing around," Sereen El-Ghossaini said. "We have very much a purpose for every little thing that we do."

El-Ghossaini is a graduate student at Arizona State University and she is one of the students who is learning how to virtually hit all the right notes and provide therapy to those in need.

"It creates like really amazing opportunities for more connection, even though you're not sitting in a room with somebody," El-Ghossaini explained." You can still feel that connection."

El-Ghossaini is now working through Zoom and YouTube to create videos to help improve skills through music therapy.

"I used my guitar and I use the chorus of 'Country Roads,' because who doesn't love a good 'Country Roads,'" El-Ghossaini asked. "We kind of re-wrote the words to implement and insert where they grew up and something they loved about it, so that way they were practicing sharing. They're doing a lot of cognitive and social things, making sure that they're taking their turns, passing it off to someone else in the group when asked."

Dr. Melita Belgrave is leading the students as the Associate Professor of Music Therapy.

She said bringing music therapy into an online world had its challenges, but it was worth trying.

"I certainly don't know how to make a YouTube playlist, but I can Google it," Dr. Belgrave laughed. "I can figure it out."

Creating a playlist meant their usual clients at Tempe Adult Day Health Services could log on and participate with pre-produced videos at any time. They also began offering live Zoom activities.

"Even when everyone is muted, you can still be singing and it looks like you're engaged and then as the therapist, I'm like, 'Hey, Megan! I really like how you're doing something,'" Dr. Belgrave described. "And then you're just smiling, right? Because I see you and you can see that I see you and you can hear that I see you."

While virtual music therapy may not work for everybody, this group at ASU believes it is a great option to reach those who need a little music to get their body and brain moving.

To view some of the students' videos, click here.