For Patients of Music Therapy, Success Stories Abound

A program at The Music School of Delaware is hitting all the right notes.


Published:

Illustration by Vlad Alvarez

Meryl Lammers’ love of music stretches back to her childhood when she jammed out to Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and other classic rock bands in her bedroom. However, one special moment at a high school concert proved to be the muse to inspire her career.

She recalls a time when she performed a jazz version of “Amazing Grace” on her flute. She noticed a woman in the audience started to cry, so after the show, she asked the mom why her solo caused such an outpouring of emotions. “She said it brought back memories and some regrets,” the 35-year-old recalls. “It was then I realized the power music had.”

In college, Lammers went on to major in music therapy, a field that uses music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship. “Humans are built for music,” explains Lammers, who now works as a music therapist at The Music School of Delaware. “We have a heartbeat. We have our own rhythm. Music is part of who we are—mind, body and spirit. It’s a universal language and an incredible force of love and connection that really helps to cross boundaries.”

An ensemble of benefits

With branches in Wilmington and Milford, The Music School of Delaware offers individual and group music therapy, both on- and offsite. 

The instructors in the program, now in its fifth year, have seen hundreds of patients with a variety of conditions, including autism, Alzheimer’s disease, Down syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dementia. “It’s our responsibility to spearhead major projects and innovations as the primary community music school in the state. This is in our purview, and it’s our responsibility,” says Cheri Astolfi, dean of the school. “We are still very much growing this program and hope to establish the reputation of making it the place to go for music therapy.”

While they work to expand the program, they also constantly fight the common “all fun and games” misconception about this clinical- and evidence-based form of therapy. “Don’t get me wrong,” Astolfi says. “Music therapy is wonderfully rewarding musically and aesthetically, but it’s just not ‘playtime’ or a fad. It’s a legitimate form of therapy that only licensed music therapists are authorized to provide.”

Strike a chord

With 11 years of experience, Lammers has seen patients with developmental disabilities and substance abuse problems, vets with post-traumatic stress disorder and seniors in hospice. Using guitar, drums, small rhythm instruments (like a shaker), piano and flute, she focuses on people with autism at The Music School of Delaware, where she started last year.

Lammers conducts a clinical assessment during the initial session, speaking with the parents or guardians to find out their goals and to learn some background information: Are they verbal? Do they have sensitivity to light or sound? Are they drawn to any particular instruments? Do they have any favorite kinds of music?

Caryn Tazartuz is optimistic that music therapy will help decrease her daughter Jennifer’s anxiety, increase her socialization and quality of life. Jennifer is 23-years-old and non-verbal but enjoys listening to The Beatles—a top selection for many in music therapy.

Lammers observed Jennifer’s reactions to the instruments during their initial session. For example, she didn’t like to bang the drum hard, so she might have a touch sensitivity. On the other hand, when Lammers sang to her, she saw an increase in eye contact. 

Jennifer Tazartuz

After the assessment, Lammers discussed the goals with Caryn and how to best accomplish them. One objective looks to have Jennifer identify preferred songs by pointing to related picture symbols on cards and hand them to Lammers. Other components of the structured 45-minute sessions include a “hello song,” “a rainbow song” with colored scarves to add a tactile element, and a “goodbye song.” “All the while music is engaging her,” says Lammers, who notes throughout the sessions Jennifer’s anxiety melts away and she begins to make eye contact, laugh and smile.

Caryn, a Hockessin resident, decided to start sending Jennifer to music therapy to give her a structured program that can strengthen her skills. “She’s out of the school system and doesn’t have the kinds of activities that a typical 23-year-old would have,” Caryn describes. “I wanted her to have something extra, something that she would enjoy.”

Jennifer has progressed since she began attending in July 2015. Now, when Lammers sings The Beatles’ “Let It Be,” Jennifer will give an approximation of “be,” and during the goodbye song, she says “Dad” when her father attends the class. “It’s really cool,” Caryn says. “My husband never heard her say ‘Dad’ before.”

Success stories have become a regular part of Lammers’ job. For instance, she worked with an Alzheimer’s patient with garbled speech who could barely communicate. As part of the therapy, she gave him a rhythm instrument and sang him popular songs from his youth. “All of a sudden, he would tap his toes and sing the songs verbatim,” Lammers says. “Then, he would tell me how he played the violin as a child. It’s a beautiful thing. He could have a coherent conversation with me just 30 minutes after engaging in live music.”

Lammers shared an equally powerful experience about another client, a 58-year-old man in hospice who once was a musician and roadie for the band Hall & Oates. “Music was his life,” she says.

Because of his condition, he lost most of his fingers, but he wanted to write a song for his daughter. He called Lammers, and she went to his house to help him. “I was his scribe and instrument, and we wrote a song together,” she says. 

In a touching moment, the daughter visited to watch them perform the song live. He died the following day. “It gave him control and power in a powerless situation,” Lammers says. (You can listen to the song on YouTube.)

What is music therapy?

The roots of music therapy date back millennia, as Aristotle and Plato wrote about how music could influence health behavior, according to the American Music Therapy Association. In modern times, music therapy grew as a discipline after World War I and II when community musicians went to hospitals to play for the thousands of veterans dealing with trauma. Following the performances, the patients showed notable positive physical and emotional responses to the music.

“Music is a total brain experience,” says Lammers. “It stimulates both hemispheres of the brain. Other forms of therapy, like speech therapy, can benefit from collaborating with the music therapist to achieve more of an interactive rehabilitative and therapeutic experience.”

Research backs up music therapy’s potential, she says. Clinical- and evidence-based benefits include: enhancements in quality of life, relaxation, social skills (eye contact, speech, sharing, turn taking) and the ability to participate in a group; improvements in mood, breathing, heart rate, creative and emotional expression, verbal and non-verbal communication, and fine and gross motors skills; decreases in physical, emotional, and spiritual pain and stress; and the increased ability to focus attention and follow directions.

Clients don’t need to have musical talent to participate and benefit from therapy, but the therapists must be highly trained. Professional music therapists hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in music therapy (plus, they complete a 1,200-hour internship), and to practice, they require their MT-BC (Music Therapist-Board Certified) credential.

Music therapy can be provided in individual or group sessions in a variety of settings, including assisted living facilities, nursing homes, hospitals, schools, group and private homes, and elder daycare centers.

Financial aid available

The Music School of Delaware offers music therapy programs for people of all ages and types of special needs. At this time, private health insurance doesn’t cover music therapy in the state, but the school has aid available. “We’re hopeful that before someone says, ‘It’s impossible for me to attend because of the cost,’ they come to us and we’ll make every effort to make sure they’re involved,” says Cheri Astolfi, the school’s dean.

For more information, call 762-1132 for the Wilmington branch or 422-2043 for the Milford branch, or visit The Music School of Delaware's website.

Wilmington Branch
4101 Washington St., Wilmington

Milford Branch
P.O. Box 442, 10 South Walnut St., Milford

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Cost: 0.00

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View map »


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Contact Name: Nicole Schmid
Website »

More information

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More information

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Cost: FREE

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More information

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More information

NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

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GARLAND OF SUCHNESS Karoline Wileczek February 1 - 24, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop Karoline Wileczek's grid pattern work functions...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

HALF : HALF A Draper Experiment by Willie Yao January 4 -  February 24, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

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ORIGINS Rick Rothrock & Stan Smokler January 8 - April 22, 2019 Special Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  5:30 - 7:30 PM Artist Talk | 6:30 PM The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 130-265-66466

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​Brandywine Baroque, Karen Flint, harpsichordr; Laura Heimes, soprano;  Tony Boutté, tenor;Eileen Grycky, flute; Edwin Huizingal, violin;  Martin Davids, violin; John Mark...

Cost: 5-15

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Road
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 302-831-2577
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

More information

For the month of February, get a full set of Lashes at Premier Spa and Laser Center for just $199.

Cost: $199

Where:
Premier Spa & Laser Center
537 Stanton Christiana Rd #210
Newark, DE  19713
View map »

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An eclectic mix of paintings featuring Ed Bronstein oils of Philadelphia neighborhoods and cityscapes,​ plein air scenes from Kennett Square and surrounding areas by Dan Chow, mixed media...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville , DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

CCArts Winter class registrations are open   The Center for the Creative Arts presents its Winter 2019 class and workshop offerings. With over 50 classes and workshops there is...

Cost: 0.00

Where:
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
Hockessin, DE  19736
View map »


Telephone: 302-239-2434
Contact Name: Nicole Schmid
Website »

More information

NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

IN BETWEEN THEREShelley Thorstensen November 24, 2018 - March 17, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, December 7 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop For her first solo exhibition in Delaware,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

GARLAND OF SUCHNESS Karoline Wileczek February 1 - 24, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop Karoline Wileczek's grid pattern work functions...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

A SENSE OF PLACE 47°-80° N Bethany Springer January 16 - May 12, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop A Sense of Place 47° - 80°...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

The Wilmington branch of the American Association of University Women is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its sale of used books to fund college scholarships for women and is also preparing for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Concord Mall
3737 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE  19803
View map »


Sponsor: American Association of University Women Wilmington Branch
Telephone: 302-428-0939
Contact Name: AAUW

More information

Two-time Delaware Division of the Arts Fellowship recipient Ellen Durkan of Iron Maiden Forge, who is both a graduate of and an instructor at Delaware College of Art and Design, will present a solo...

Cost: Free

Where:
Delaware College of Art and Design
600 N Market. St
Wilmington , DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware College of Art and Design
Telephone: 302-983-5710
Contact Name: Susan Coulby

More information

Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through discovery, exploration, and hands-on experiences.Ages 2 and up. Visit delart.org for list of books. ...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through a story reading followed by an interactive tour of relevant works of art and a studio art project. This program encourages...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

HALF : HALF A Draper Experiment by Willie Yao January 4 -  February 24, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

ORIGINS Rick Rothrock & Stan Smokler January 8 - April 22, 2019 Special Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  5:30 - 7:30 PM Artist Talk | 6:30 PM The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

  UHS Used Book Sale 750 Unionville Road Kennett Square, PA  19348    Unionville High School's gymnasium is hosting the annual Unionville High...

Cost: Free

Where:
Unionville High School Gymnasium
750 Unionville Road
Kennett Square, PA  19348
View map »


Sponsor: UHS PTO
Contact Name: UHS PTO
Website »

More information

For the month of February, get a full set of Lashes at Premier Spa and Laser Center for just $199.

Cost: $199

Where:
Premier Spa & Laser Center
537 Stanton Christiana Rd #210
Newark, DE  19713
View map »

More information

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Calling all bicyclists to ride for a good cause. Help the Sea Colony Recreational Association raise awareness and money by sponsoring, pedaling, or cheering on fellow bicyclists. Ride for Delaware...

Cost: General Admission is FREE!

Where:
SeaColony, Freeman Fitness Center
38994 West Way Drive
Bethany Beach, DE  19930
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Sponsor: Delaware Hospice
Contact Name: Jen Neal

More information

An eclectic mix of paintings featuring Ed Bronstein oils of Philadelphia neighborhoods and cityscapes,​ plein air scenes from Kennett Square and surrounding areas by Dan Chow, mixed media...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville , DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

CCArts Winter class registrations are open   The Center for the Creative Arts presents its Winter 2019 class and workshop offerings. With over 50 classes and workshops there is...

Cost: 0.00

Where:
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
Hockessin, DE  19736
View map »


Telephone: 302-239-2434
Contact Name: Nicole Schmid
Website »

More information

Create a unique design to use as part of a necklace, bracelet, or earrings. The  2 day workshop includes demonstrations and design so that students can leave with a wearable work of art!...

Cost: $160 Members, $180 Non-Members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Cub Scout Tigers—Tigers in the Wild, 9:30am-12pm, Scouts will learn the difference between what animals eat, and whether that makes them an herbivore, carnivore, omnivore, or detrivore. Discover...

Cost: $12 - $5

Where:
Brandywine Zoo
1001 North Park Drive
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Website »

More information

A SENSE OF PLACE 47°-80° N Bethany Springer January 16 - May 12, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop A Sense of Place 47° - 80°...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

The Wilmington branch of the American Association of University Women is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its sale of used books to fund college scholarships for women and is also preparing for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Concord Mall
3737 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE  19803
View map »


Sponsor: American Association of University Women Wilmington Branch
Telephone: 302-428-0939
Contact Name: AAUW

More information

Two-time Delaware Division of the Arts Fellowship recipient Ellen Durkan of Iron Maiden Forge, who is both a graduate of and an instructor at Delaware College of Art and Design, will present a solo...

Cost: Free

Where:
Delaware College of Art and Design
600 N Market. St
Wilmington , DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware College of Art and Design
Telephone: 302-983-5710
Contact Name: Susan Coulby

More information

IN BETWEEN THEREShelley Thorstensen November 24, 2018 - March 17, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, December 7 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop For her first solo exhibition in Delaware,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

GARLAND OF SUCHNESS Karoline Wileczek February 1 - 24, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop Karoline Wileczek's grid pattern work functions...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

HALF : HALF A Draper Experiment by Willie Yao January 4 -  February 24, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

ORIGINS Rick Rothrock & Stan Smokler January 8 - April 22, 2019 Special Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  5:30 - 7:30 PM Artist Talk | 6:30 PM The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

Engage in a variety of hands-on experiments related to science, technology, engineering, and math, at the DCM's annual S.T.E.M. Expo, led by the Science Ambassadors from the Charter School of...

Cost: Free for Members

Where:
Delaware Children's Museum
550 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

February 23 – Saturday – 1 to 4 p.m. Science Saturday – Pump It Up! For this Saturday’s activity, visitors will have fun with fluid dynamics and hydraulics - Pascal...

Cost: Activities are included in regular admission and free for members.

Where:
Hagley Museum & Library
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Hagley Museum & Library
Telephone: 302-658-2400238
Contact Name: Laura Jury
Website »

More information

Sat. Feb. 23: Cub Scout Bears: Critter Care, 1pm-3:30pm, Bears Elective Adventure: Critter Care Caring for an animal is a big responsibility! Join us at the Brandywine zoo to learn about different...

Cost: $12-$5

Where:
Brandywine Zoo
1001 North Park Drive
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Website »

More information

  UHS Used Book Sale 750 Unionville Road Kennett Square, PA  19348    Unionville High School's gymnasium is hosting the annual Unionville High...

Cost: Free

Where:
Unionville High School Gymnasium
750 Unionville Road
Kennett Square, PA  19348
View map »


Sponsor: UHS PTO
Contact Name: UHS PTO
Website »

More information

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   CONTACT INFORMATION Phone: (302) 369-3466 E-Mail: busmgr@newarksymphony.org Website: http://www.newarksymphony.org   NEWARK SYMPHONY FEBRUARY...

Cost: 0 - $20

Where:
Newark United Methodist Church
69 E. Main Street
Newark, DE  19711
View map »


Sponsor: Newark Symphony Orchestra
Telephone: 302-369-3466
Contact Name: Business Manager
Website »

More information

The NSO February Chamber concert, conducted by Principal Guest Conductor Rebekah O’Brien, opens with a performance of Jacques Ibert, Concerto for Cello and Wind Orchestra, featuring Douglas...

Cost: $0 - $20

Where:
Newark United Methodist Church
69 E. Main Street
Newark, DE  19711
View map »


Sponsor: Newark Symphony Orchestra
Telephone: 302-369-3466
Contact Name: Business Manager
Website »

More information

For the month of February, get a full set of Lashes at Premier Spa and Laser Center for just $199.

Cost: $199

Where:
Premier Spa & Laser Center
537 Stanton Christiana Rd #210
Newark, DE  19713
View map »

More information

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