Category: music therapy


If you’re old enough, you may remember the catchy rhythm in Frank Sinatra’s daughter Nancy’s recording of These Boots Are Made For Walkin’. We’ve used that song in some of our exercise classes to showcase how humming or singing while practicing certain movements can actually improve the effort being made. Music can reach parts of the brain that control how the body responds to rhythm and actually improve not only speech volume, swallowing and breath control, but also unsteadying gait challenges caused by Parkinson’s.

Read more from this interesting article posted on line by Parkinson’s News Today. Then, see if you remember these lyrics and apply them to the fight against Parkinson’s: “These boots are made for walkin’ and that’s just what they’ll do. One of these days, these boots are gonna walk all over YOU.” 


Our 8-week percussion series, led by MedRhythms music therapy instructor Stian Berg Hansen, focused not only on the drumming itself, but also on using rhythm to engage listening, memory, and motor coordination.

During earlier class practice, Stian had the group use alternating drumming hands and clapping movements. This wasn’t always easy at the outset of our time together, especially when Stian also added in having us increase and decrease speed and volume over the weeks that followed. But we improved regularly over time! We also learned how to use boomwhacker instruments, which are colorful plastic tubes of varying lengths and tones of the music scale. Eventually, we divided our circle into three separate sections, with each group of five or eight players beating a different rhythm. The end result?? A pretty rhythmic, integrated sound!

We were able to provide this most recent free music experience through the support of a community grant from the national Parkinson’s Foundation and the generous use of space provided by the Danvers YMCA. From the alternating facial expressions of both focus and smiles, we feel the program was well received by the participants and their care partners!


Quoting information provided in a Michael J. Fox Foundation Foxfeed blog post titled “Ask the MD: Music as Medicine for the Mind”…

“In certain diseases, like Parkinson’s, the brain rhythm in the circuit controlling movement gets off track. …Playing music exercises the mind and body. It provides a route for social interaction. In drawing someone into its rhythm, it can calm a resting tremor, break a freezing spell and bring gait into a more normal pattern. Music can boost memory, lessen depression, and improve the volume and tone of speech.” (

Join our new MedRhythms 8-week neurologic percussion series beginning on Wednesday afternoons from 1-2 PM at the Danvers Community YMCA starting May 1st! Beat a combination of drums, smack a boomwacker, shake maracas…and SO much more! The series is limited to 30 people – take a chance on something new, motivating, beneficial, and fun. Register early by emailing to be part of this pilot opportunity  here in our area! 


WHOA! We all attended the start of our 8-week MedRhythms/Parkinson’s Fitness music therapy series for a number of reasons. We want to learn techniques for strengthening our voices so that we can continue to communicate effectively with others; we want to tap into the regions of our brains where music rhythms help trigger the signals that help us with mobility; we want to have fun singing while we learn together! The program is available for people with not only Parkinson’s, but also Multiple Sclerosis, stroke recovery, and traumatic brain injury therapy.

MedRhythms music therapist, Stian Hansen, and his assistant, Michi, introduced a group of 37 men and women to the opportunities that await us through their use of vocal sound variations, facial exercises, pitch “sliders”, musical instruments, rhythm tapping and, of course, singing!

Stian encouraged us to share our expectations for joining this new series, and he stayed after the session to speak personally with whoever had questions. We are certain that he will continue creating an ongoing program over the remaining weeks that will prove to be a wonderful tool for everyone who attends. And if the predicted snow for the upcoming week doesn’t force us to postpone our second session, the space provided for us at the Beverly Council on Aging will once again be alive with music from 2:00 to 3:30 PM!

Curious? Interested in attending? Please click here to email us or phone Linda Hall at Parkinson’s Fitness: 781-572-5918. To learn more about MedRhythms’ concepts, click here to visit their web site.


Parkinson’s Fitness and MedRhythms Neurologic Music Therapy collaborated to provide THE  best educational seminar at the Beverly COA on September 7th!

MedRhythms Neurologic Music Therapy CEO/co-founder, Brian Harris, presented such interactive, engaging, eye-opening information, that all 78 of us who attended couldn’t believe how quickly an hour and a half passed by! Everyone remained completely focused on what Brian explained and demonstrated.

Video clips showing the effect of using music rhythms to reach areas of the brain that control speech, body movements, and cognition were fascinating, especially because actual patients were shown interacting with the MedRhythms therapists. Brian and a seminar audience volunteer held everyone’s attention as she participated in a demonstration of how rhythmic beat affects the way our brain “tells” the body how to move.

Our audience included people affected by Parkinson’s, stroke, traumatic brain injury, Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy and other forms of neurologic conditions, as well as memory impairment. Brian’s program was a wonderful introduction into a complementary form of neurologic therapy. To witness in the videos the effect of specifically chosen rhythms on movement and gait, and the happy look of satisfaction on the face of a patient who re-gained his ability to once again communicate, was heartening to watch.

There’s a future filled with promise waiting to be explored by many people here in our local communities, and we will do whatever we possibly can to create a way to build programming that includes MedRhythms neurologic music therapies. We invite you to join our efforts!

To read more about MedRhythms, click here.




We’re excited about hosting a free educational seminar

in collaboration with MedRhythms Neurologic Therapy, Boston on September 7th!

When did Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) first appear?

“NMT was researched and developed by the Academy of Neurologic Music Therapy in Fort Collins, Colorado.
The first certification program of NMT was held in 1999.  Since then, Neurologic Music Therapy has seen rapid growth in healthcare.”

Millions of people lose language, cognitive, and movement abilities each year from neurologic disease or injury – i.e. Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Huntington’s, Cerebral Palsy, stroke, traumatic brain injury, autism, etc. MedRhythms collaborates with individuals, medical clinicians, and assisted-living and nursing care staff on an inpatient and/or outpatient basis to restore quality to lives.

Most of us in our area are aware of the first-class neurological services available at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown, outside of Boston. “Spaulding Rehabilitation Network was one of the first rehab providers in the country to create a full-time Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) inpatient program and has now announced a partnership with Boston and Portland, Maine based MedRhythms to offer NMT services on an outpatient basis, making it the most comprehensive program of its kind in the nation.”

It is our hope that MedRhythms will become a recognized collaborative partner with residents, organizations, hospitals, and rehabilitation therapists in our North Shore Area.

Remember…while music therapy lifts spirits through singing, drumming, bell ringing, etc. …it’s also about connecting the brain and body

Click here to see seminar details and how to register for the September 7th event in Beverly. Register by September 1st!


Following a well-attended and successful five-week trial run this summer, our new singing program is now continuing forward through December!

The Beverly COA has graciously allowed us to schedule sessions on pre-determined Mondays from 2:30 to 3:30 PM. Our music therapist instructor, Emily Interrante, is a joy to work with! She teaches vocal warm-up exercises that help improve breath control and sound projection, both of which affect communication. By the time we finish practicing tongue twisters and singing all kinds of music, tight facial muscles relax into smiles.

In the words of Beverly COA Executive Director, MaryAnn Holak, “I am so delighted we get to host this program! I love the sound of music in our building!”

Thank you, MaryAnn and Patti Rice, for making us feel so welcome! We hope more people will venture to the center to join us.

A reminder about the dates: September 19 and 26, October 3 and 24, November 7, 21, an 28, December 5 and 19.




What Does “Back to the Future” Mean for Your Voice?

For this week’s second music therapy singing session, the word “back” refers to a simple song we learned as children and how practicing it can affect the “future” for the use of our voices.

At one point, seventeen men and women divided into three sections to sing the simple musical round, “Frere Jacques”. That song is the “back” part…back to childhood, when most of us learned that song during music class in elementary school or at camp.

The “future” is what we’re singing toward, including improved voice projection, better breathing stamina, stronger swallowing muscles, and more relaxed facial expressions.

Here are the lyrics…why not invite someone to sing it as a round with you!

“Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques,
Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?
Sonnez les Matines! Sonnez les Matines!
Ding, dang, dong! Ding, dang, dong!”

After that exercise, we sang songs made familiar by John Denver, Julie Andrews, Mitch Miller, Peter, Paul & Mary, and others! Come join us for what comes next!

At our first music class, we sang and laughed and shared and learned together.

“He who sings scares away his woes.”

This title quote by Miguel deCervantes Saavedra describes how we felt today!

Twenty people came to the first of five newly created weekly August group singing sessions today in Beverly. For an hour, we sang and laughed and shared and learned together. Our creative, engaging director, Emily Interrante, led us in vocal exercises that can help counter the affects Parkinson’s has on voice projection, swallowing issues, facial muscles and breathing.

Try one of the tongue-twisters we practiced using different rhythm and tone scales: “Mommy made me mush my m&m’s!” Faster and faster, higher and lower we went…pretty much like being on a roller coaster ride, as one participant described it! Maybe we’ll try Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life”, especially the verse that begins with “I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king….” Run those words together with emphasis on puffing a breath out through the lips when singing the words that start with the letter “p” – do it a number of times, as it makes good use of the lip muscles that aid in making regular speaking conversation.

Lots of music titles were suggested and we’ll be busy printing lyrics for the upcoming weeks. So much joy-full (spelling intended!) sound filled the room today. We’re all looking forward to returning to see what comes next!

Music can play a powerful neurological role

Consider the following exchange quoted in a Neurology Now magazine interview. The article was titled “Unchained by Melody” and referred to findings by the late world-famous neurologist, Oliver Sacks.

Neurology Now: What do we know about the effects of music upon people with Parkinson’s?

Oliver Sacks: “In general, when one has a disease of the basal ganglia – such as Parkinson’s – and low levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, the flow of movement, speech, thought, and feeling has either stopped or takes on a stuttering, sputtering quality. Music can reorganize this and give the people a pattern and timing and rhythm. So, in this way, I think of music as a sort of prosthesis for the injured part of the brain.”

Equally interesting is the following information from an April 2016 write-up in Medical News Today about the effect of music on Parkinson’s (for the full article, visit

“Impairments in breathing and voice are also substantial hurdles that cause a significant drop in quality of life.

Voice impairments impact 60-80% of Parkinson’s patients. Their voice can become monotone and display less variety in volume; there may also be a reduced vocal intensity and pitch, and a harsh, breathy voice.

           Standard Parkinson’s treatments do not target these aspects with the same level of success as the motor symptoms.”

Our Parkinson’s Fitness programming is initiating a new pilot choral group for North Shore Parkinson’s residents for the five Monday afternoons in August. To address facial, swallowing and vocal issues, as well as to foster joy and friendship, our team has partnered with music and neurologic music therapist, Emily Interrante, who lives and practices in the Cape Ann area. Here are the particulars:

Where:  Beverly Council on Aging, second floor (parking and entrance in rear of building), 90 Colon Street, Beverly

Dates:   Mondays – August 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29

Time:    2:15 to 3:30 PM – please arrive by 2:15 to “settle in” before the warm-up and singing begins at 2:30

Cost:     Initial five weeks are free of charge!

No prior singing or music-reading experience is necessary. Family members and other support providers are invited to join in this joyful experience.

To register, please email: or phone Parkinson’s Fitness at 781-631-7221 or 781-572-5918


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