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Arts as Medicine during a Pandemic

by Sam Yoder

Well done to all the staff and teachers at Allegro! It's wonderful that we can continue music lessons and Inklings meetings during this time!

Stay safe, Audra B.

In the midst of a worldwide life and death struggle against a silent killer virus, why should we be concerned about The Arts?

My perspective on both the Corona virus and the importance of the arts is from a slightly different perspective. I am, among other things, a Registered Respiratory Therapist, certified by the National Board for Respiratory Care. I have had a long career in healthcare, and in previous pandemics, I was the person in charge of the ventilators we keep hearing about. And I was one of the folks who put in forty and fifty hour shifts when we ran out of therapists to manage the ventilators I was able to rent, beg or borrow.

I am also a lifetime musician who, in addition to my formal education in healthcare, majored in music, (guitar and vocal performance). I left healthcare after more than thirty-five years of service, mostly in critical care, to focus full time on my music career.

Along the way, I became more aware of the affects of music on the human brain. Supported by decades of extensive research, music became, for me, much more than just a feel-good, pastime thing to do. I discovered that music uniquely affects all aspects of the brain in ways no other activity can. Among many other things, it can stave off dementia, and dramatically improve overall health. In other words, I discovered Music as Medicine, even beyond the effects of Music Therapy. Even England, with their social medical care model, have installed Music as a prescription item.

The brain is a truly unique thing. As a controller, it can make you sick and even kill you. Check the NIH or CDC statistics of death by heart disease resulting from depression. (Just one of many examples). But it can also heal. In one international study, simply by actively participating in the study of music, individuals saw a 38% decrease in doctor visits, and a 33% decrease in hospitalizations.

The Corona virus is an ugly silent killer. The statistics are what they are. But with the quarantining, social-distancing, and complete lockdowns necessary to fight the disease, we are in real danger of substituting deaths from a virus with deaths from depression and mental illness resulting from cabin fever and a constant stream of gloom and doom from the folks who are managing our national response to the disease. This is not theoretical. Again, check available statistics of increases in suicides, domestic violence, heart disease and diabetes.

Now, more than ever, study of the arts (now on-line), becomes a very real life and death issue. As the Exec. Dir of Allegro, I am committed to making meaningful on-line study of music, dance and theater available to everyone who wants to participate. We are sponsoring a virtual ‘open mic” directed directly at school kids who are now stuck at home, and are dealing with cabin fever. It’s not easy, but it’s a battle well worth fighting.

The kids have loved being able to continue without interruption.

Melanie S.

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