It’s been said that music has the ability to activate the entire brain of a person. So for children, who spend much of their youth hospitalized, having a place to go that feels like an escape can create a sense of intimacy and comfort that can be difficult to put into words.
“Music therapy works better than anything I’ve ever seen,” said Tara McConnell, MT-BC, a Sacramento native and graduate of University of the Pacific, who is a board certified music therapist and owner of McConnell Music Therapy Services based in Auburn. Her company is a music therapy practice that provides services to clients within the greater Sacramento and South Placer County areas in the home, school or hospital setting.
McConnell notices that when music therapists sing to their clients – be it people with trauma and mental health impairments, physical/medical health impairments, developmental delays, autism spectrum disorders, and traumatic brain injury – there are better outcomes.
“It’s just plain fun. They don’t know they are in therapy,” McConnell said. “By having them play with their doctor, it creates a sense of intimacy,” she said.
Music therapists use a variety of techniques that have been proven to be effective in helping children and adolescents reach a wide range of goals through music. Activities and techniques include listening to live music, songwriting, singing, live music making and improvisation, song lyric analysis, and/or guided relaxation.
McConnell explained the goal is to address therapeutic outcomes and increase pain management through music. “We’re not looking at how great they sound. We are looking at what comes out of it,” she said.
McConnell’s musical background spans back to her early childhood when she played in jazz bands and orchestras. Her main instrument is bass and she’s played in local bands and theater companies.
All of her company’s services are provided by a music therapist who meets all educational and training standards for clinical practice in music therapy, certification by the Certification Board for Music Therapists, Inc., and professional membership in the American Music Therapy Association.
She said music therapy can be an extremely powerful outlet for adolescents. She had heard recently about a an 18 year old who suffered from cancer for five years and was committed to writing a song about giving his family hope. “It was a goodbye song. It was such a powerful way for him to connect to his feelings and give hope to his family after he passed away.”
McConnell has provided services (her staff of three music therapists) to Sutter Medical Center and was one of the hospital’s first music therapists. McConnell’s Music Therapy provides services to the cancer center’s adult oncology unit, Sutter for Psychiatry on Howe and provides services to children with special needs for cerebral palsy and autism. Her company also does home visits and has private clients with varying disabilities.
McConnell said she started working at the Sutter cancer center in 1997 right after school and has worked with their pediatric unit, until it ended in 2006 due to budget constraints.
That’s not to say it is gone for good, however. Funds are being raised now to bring it back because the hospital sees its value.
Amy Medovoy, Child Life director at Sutter said: “often many of the children do best not by talking, but by creating experiences, so music can be used for relaxation and to reduce anxiety.”
Medovoy said without the Donut Dash, the last one, which was held on March 9 at William Land Park and raised $40,000 for the Child Life Program at Sutter Children’s Center, they would not have been able to work towards bringing back music therapy.
The same people (or person Zack Wandell) who brought out the Donut Dash are brining a Duck Dash to Raging Waters on June 15. So expect to see thousands of yellow rubber duckies racing in the Calypso Cooler, an 800-foot-long lazy river.
Medovoy said Zack’s target is $15,000. Wandell began as a volunteer at Sutter about 10 years ago and started the Donut Dash four years ago. “He runs the Donut Dash, which now has expanded to the Duck Dash. I have a feeling we will keep hearing more. He is really passionate for what he does and wants to find more ways to support children and families. And he’s doing that in an incredibly tangible way,” Medovoy said.
The Duck Dash is owned and operated by Donut Dash, a registered 501(c)3. Tax ID 27-1671648
If you go:
What: Duck Dash
When: June 15 at 5 p.m.
Where: Raging Waters at Cal Expo (Calypso Cooler)
Why: To raise funds for music therapists at Sutter’s Child Life Program
On the web: www.theduckdash.com