ECU students share the power of music therapy

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - From premature babies to patients in a nursing home, university students in the east are sharing the power of music with different groups of people one note at a time.

When moving through life gets to be more difficult, music is awakening.

"It's like breathing life into their spirits, we have spirits and they need to be awakened and music is a language that makes the body move," says Terry Edwards, the activities director at MacGregor Downs Health and Rehabilitation Center.

To help these seniors take that breath, a group of ECU students visits the Greenville center every week.

"This gives them hope and this gives them purpose and this gives them direction, these students didn't have to do this, ECU doesn't have to do that," Edwards says.

For music therapy students like Bella Francisco, sharing these notes and rhythms is a passion.

"It's universal, everyone loves music, maybe we don't like the same kind but music can touch anybody, anybody's heart, anybody's mind," she says.

A passion that can help others through music therapy

"There's been a lot of research that says what we do makes a difference," explains Michelle Hairston, the chair of the Music Education Department at ECU. She says music therapists can be successful in areas where other people can't.

"It's the power of music, it's because they are not threatened by it and it is easier to put things into a song than do something repetitiously over and over," she tells WITN.

The physical therapists like Marsha Thomas at MacGregor Downs say they've seen that power firsthand.

"It takes them back to a time where they are not in pain," she says. "They have joy where they can run and jump. So for a split second, this music therapy allows them to be themselves and that makes our job easier."

Now more and more facilities and programs are using music therapists to help patients with all types of disabilities.

"We go from cradle to grave and there's not enough of us," Hairston says.

According to the U.D. Department of Labor, recreational therapy, which includes music therapists, is a growing field. In the next 10 years, it projects there will be more than a thousand new jobs available.

"You know it's not performing, you don't just go up there and play a song and hope people like it, you play a song and hope people interact with it," Francisco says.

Helping patients reflect between the notes.

"A lot of great memories," says Linda Evans, one of the patients. "It's wonderful to be able to take those memories with you wherever you go."

Making life more joyful even if it is just for one song.

These music therapy students work with a whole bunch of different groups in the community and they are actually hosting a concert with a group from the Pitt County Group Home next Monday, February 19. If you are interested in seeing the power of music therapy firsthand, you're encouraged to attend.