Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Brian Schreck and the Preliminary Effects of Music Therapy Cardiography

Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Brian Schreck and the Preliminary Effects of Music Therapy Cardiography

Article excerpt


Music therapy is recognized as a valuable tool in meeting the complex needs of patients in palliative care and neonatal intensive care units (NICU). Music therapy has been shown to improve quality of life, alleviate physical symptoms for patients, and aid family, friends and caregivers in the grieving process.

In palliative care environments, music therapy is continually becoming recognized as an effective and powerful therapeutic intervention. In a survey of 300 hospices, music therapy was one of the most popular complementary services offered to patients (Demmer, 2004). The goals of music therapy in palliative care include: improving quality of life, reducing physiological and psychological symptoms, as well as providing social and spiritual experiences for patients and caregivers (Hilliard, 2005). In order to reach these goals, music therapists offer a variety of interventions including instrument playing, singing, songwriting, musical life review, and improvisation (Clements-Cortés, 2016; Hilliard, 2005).

Neonatal intensive care units (NICU) are also environments where music therapy is a beneficial therapy. In a meta-analysis studying the efficacy of music therapy in NICU environments, it was found that music therapy had a significant positive effect on premature infants (Standley, 2002). The clinical benefits of these interventions included: reduced hospitalization time, increased weight gain, mother-infant bonding, improved oxygen saturation, and increased feeding (Standley, 2002). The informed, intentional therapeutic use of live sound and parent-preferred lullabies applied by a certified music therapist can influence cardiac and respiratory function (Loewy et. al 2013).

Brian Schreck is a music therapist who works in Intensive Care Units (ICU) and palliative care environments and has developed a powerful intervention utilizing patients' heartbeats in his music therapy sessions. This article outlines Schreck's method and contribution to music therapy, as well as the benefits of heartbeat therapy.

Introducing Brian Schreck

Brian Schreck is expanding the role and powerful effects of music therapy in palliative care and ICU environments. Schreck works as a music therapist at Norton Women's Hospital and Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville, KY. The technique he has developed exemplifies the significance of music therapy for patients and their families dealing with chronic and terminal illness. In Schreck's music therapy sessions, he records patients' and their family's heartbeats and incorporates them into songs with instrumental and/or vocal tracks. The patient and their family choose the music to their preferred taste, but the hallmark (function) of Schreck's intervention is that the underlying beat of each song is the patient's heart. Schreck's innovative and creative methods have garnered attention and have been recognized for the valuable and prevailing impact they have on each family. Schreck's marriage of technology and music therapy has helped hundreds of patients and their families through the difficult trajectory of their diagnoses by bringing meaningful music and positivity through music therapy.

Music Therapy Cardiography

Schreck developed the idea to record patient's heartbeats after hearing a moving story about a family whose daughter passed away after an accident. Her heart was donated to a woman named Patricia Winters; and in a moving reunion between the two, the family was able to hear their daughter's heart beating again inside Winter's chest. It was then that Schreck was struck by the influence of the heartbeat (Small, 2016).

The heart is the sound of life and love, and its natural rhythmic beat creates an ideal instrument to be incorporated into music. Schreck uses a microphone that fits inside a stethoscope to record heartbeats, and then works with the patient and their family to choose music that will be blended with the recording (Small, 2016). …

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