The Song Team - Team Building Blog
Starting this month I begin a new blog series to address the case for music therapy in healthcare. I want to put my profession to the test. Does it hold the value I feel it does? Are there areas we need to improve?
In this first post I start by re-visiting some of the happenings before music therapy became a formalized profession. Like all health professions the beginnings are unique. For example:
- Chiropractic care originated in 1895 when Daniel Palmer of Iowa performed the first chiropractic adjustment on a partially deaf janitor. While the shirtless janitor bent over to empty a trash can Palmer noticed that he had a vertebra out of position. When asked what happened, he replied, “I moved the wrong way, and I heard a ‘pop’ in my back, and that’s when I lost my hearing.” Palmer had him lie face down on the floor and he proceeded to make an adjustment. The next day, the janitor told Palmer, “I can hear that rackets on the streets.”
- Psychology was a branch of philosophy until the 1870s, when it became an independent scientific discipline in Germany.
- Physiotherapy started with physicians like Hippocrates, and later Galenus, who advocated for massage, manual therapy techniques (joint manipulation) and hydrotherapy as a way to treat people in 460 B.C. Now hundreds of years later these interventions have become their own disciplines.
The history of music in healthcare begins in ancient Greece alongside the theories of Plato that medical centres should embed art, music and many other forms of healing into its core. Early on Indigenous communities, also believed in integration between mind and body and that only when harmony was achieved could health be restored.
The earliest known reference to music therapy appeared in 1789 in an unsigned article in Columbian Magazine titled “Music Physically Considered.” In the early 1800s, writings on the therapeutic value of music appeared in two medical dissertations proposing music as an intervention to treat medical diseases.
Later a documented case of a physician in the 20th century using music in the context of surgery occurred in 1914, when Evan O’Neil Kane published his report in JAMA on the use of the phonograph within the operating room. Patients from this study identified that anesthetic induction was better coupled with music for reducing anxiety prior to surgery.
More documentation happened after The Second World War in America. Doctors found that music helped the soldiers physically and mentally. Training programs began to spread worldwide. And well….the profession of Music Therapy was well on its way.
Since then global Music Therapy Associations and regulatory bodies grew to oversee Music Therapist’s certification. The evidence collectors, including many music therapist researchers, continue to add to the informed use of music therapy in healthcare.
In my short time of being a music therapist (maybe not so short now) the most exciting changes have been not what we have been doing but where we now provide music therapy because of the outcomes achieved:
- Mental Health Facilities, Addictions Programs and Forensic Units
- Hospitals and Neuro Units/Programs
- Dementia Care and Long Term Care
- Schools and Children’s Development Programs
- Palliative Care and Grief and Loss Programs
- Corporate Wellness Programs
I feel the area that can and should develop next is in area of preventative medicine – we will address this later.
As I review this brief history, I am left with this thought – that all professions worked very hard and had many struggles during their time of formalization – and many continue to face old and new challenges – from being misunderstood (do needles hurt during acupuncture?), to the public not knowing when to access what treatment (when do I go to chiro vs. physio vs massage), to feeling that other disciplines are taking up some of their rightful professional space (is harp therapy different enough from music therapy that they needed their own certification?).
What I believe is important at this stage of investigation is to recognize that no ONE treatment will solve all our complex human needs. But what is important, particularly to the consumer, the general public who are paying for these services either out of pocket or through taxes, is the knowledge that what they are getting has evidence behind it (including the potential risks), and the assurance that the person treating them has the training, experience, and intention to help and not harm.
Last week, our Senior Therapist and Program Advisor Klifton Fehr, LHMC and myself traveled to Nashville, in route to Knoxville on a quest to pilot our GET IN TUNE program for underserved youth at a Boys & Girls Club there. We were excited about the prospects of reaching more kids, and partnering with additional great community organizations in different markets. As the trip began, the COVID-19 crisis was heating up, but had not yet attained anywhere near the level of National Emergency it was about to become. Still, flying to TN. Our plane was 85% empty.
Tuesday, March 10th Travel from Ft. Lauderdale to Nashville.
We arrived Nashville about a week after devastating tornadoes had hit my adopted home town and the surrounding areas. We were coming into town to meet up with Scott, run some errands to gear him up (literally) for both Grace Notes and GET IN TUNE programs coming around the bend to launch stage in Nashville. We had launched GRACE NOTES 2 months prior in music city in partnership with YMCA’s of Middle TN. And 50Forward. While there was growing concern surrounding Corona Virus, by Tuesday things hadn’t yet reached fever pitch, and our upcoming two days in Knoxville to launch GET IN TUNE is where our focus is currently.
Scott took us to Enterprise to get our car, we picked up Amplifiers and some ancillary gear at Guitar Center for “Grace Notes Project”, headed to Five Below to pick up blank journals (which we give to attendees upon completion of GET IN TUNE session 4) to give to Karen Reynolds in Knoxville and to leave with Scott Barrier for our projected April launch of the same program at a Nashville location of Boys & Girls Clubs and Notes for Notes studios.
By dinner time, we wanted to find someplace cool and local to eat and show Klif some of the local flavor. We were staying at the house of Scott and Erin Barrier to save the organization on travel dollars (not the first time!) Erin, Scott’s amazing wife wanted to stay home, so it was just the 3 guys for dinner. Opryland Hotel is where we landed. Many restaurants there were already closing and hotel bookings down. Little did we know.
Wednesday, March 11th – Nashville to Knoxville – Mountains, Apple Blossoms, GET IN TUNE
At 5:30am the next morning, (630 our time) Klifton needed Starbucks. Our body clocks were off, and we were anxious to hit the road. Though I knew Scott and Erin would put coffee on in about an hour, Klifton was eager to go to a local coffee shop he’d found online. It was closed however, so we ended up at Starbucks. His kindness naturally displayed itself in insisting we bring our hosts coffee.
By 9am we were leaving the Barriers cozy hospitality and little pups behind for a 3 road-trip east on Route 40. I planned on using this time as a mobile meeting/brainstorming session and was excited by the prospect of uninterrupted time together with brothers-in-arms. Whatever our differences as humans, all of us in this car believe in the healing and communication powers of music. Off we went, headed up into the hills, and through much of the damage-zone from the twisters that recently decimated the area.
About an hour in, all the early morning coffee and other hydration mandated we take a pit stop. Plus we were hungry. On the Cumberland Plateau, around Cookeville we stopped at the “Golden Arches.” Ugh. I know.
15 minutes later, back on the road we were listening to a variety of music, mesmerized by the beautiful rolling hills, and saddened by the vast swaths of Tornado damage unfolding before us. The Apple Blossoms are out…I take it as a sign of hope and faith. We discuss our programs, strategy, tactics, media opportunities and get more into the aspects of lyric analysis with Scott Barrier. Scott is one of our new, key team members on the ground in Tennessee. Helping us launch our programs, AND our first Nashville installment of THE LOVE WINS REVIVAL. An event which combines songwriting, storytelling, and sing along songs with social action, benefitting Face the Music Foundation while opening the floor..through music of course to discuss addiction and broader mental health issues. (More than likely you’ve heard Scott’s songs on commercials or national TV shows, as he’s begun to make inroads in that world of commercial songwriting/sync.!)
Around 1pm we check into the hotel, and work on clearing up some problems with the reservation before heading to lunch. By 4pm we want to be at the Boys & Girls Club to set up. An hour or so before that, the NBA cancelled it’s season, and MLB postponed theirs. We could actually feel it in the air…the “shift” in conversation surrounding Covid-19, and what may be coming.
When we arrive at the club, we talk a bit outside waiting for Karen Reynolds and Mickey Chapmen. Karen sits in the East TN. Writer’s Hall of Fame with other notables such as Dolly Parton, and Mickey is a licensed-therapist and specialist in working with the teen population. Karen also directs the execution of Educational Music Programs for the prestigious FRANK BROWN Songwriters Festival! We’re going to mentor them with 2 sessions of GET IN TUNE today and tomorrow, so as to be able to hand off execution of sessions 3 and 4, along with future modules (when funding can be found here) of GET IN TUNE to them! While waiting we ran into Girl Scouts selling cookies! How exciting. Tagalongs. Thin Mints. A good sign.
We facilitate a highly interactive lyric analysis session with 18 wonderful teens, and while I watched Klifton lead them through dissecting and discussing the lyrics of 2 different songs pertaining to the topic of the day, (self-esteem) I jump in from time to time. We’ve learned how to work well together these past months, and are hoping that interplay comes naturally for Karen and Mickey as well.
After a successful first session, we all head to Outback to discuss observations and suggestions. Of course, by that time the National Emergency had changed the urgency…of the day. Of the moment. Of the now, and immediate future.
Thursday, March 12th Knoxville GET IN TUNE, Day Two, then back to Nashville
One of the great things about Hampton Inn’s are the breakfast and the newspaper. When I’m not traveling it’s rare I eat more than a “Perfect Bar”, Banana and coffee for breakfast. Rarer still that I get to review the morning paper.
We all spent the morning in our respective corners on laptops working, and making calls. By now, many of us were commencing with some sort of social distancing. That trend of course would continue to grow in the coming days. Now the NHL, NCAA, MLS and PGA have followed the NBA and shuttered the windows on all professional sports leagues of note. Broadway is dark, concerts being cancelled left and right, which really pains us as musicians and fans.
I had a great talk with Nikki at Music Health Alliance in Nashville, and was reminded the scope and variety of good work they do to help musicians and their families in times of need.
After lunch, we returned to the Hampton Inn’s comfortable lobby to resume our work day. We had time before GET IN TUNE Session #2, and appreciated the hotels’ hospitality, though we had already checked out. Catching up on thank you notes and data entry, and staying in touch with program partners, while keeping an eye on the news.
By 3:45pm, we’re back at the Boys & Girls Club for GIT Session #2 (Bullying) – It’s SO exciting to see several of these kids who were not so open yesterday, ENGAGE and activate their creativity and desire to learn today! Klifton suggests we turn over the 2nd half of the program to Karen and Micki, and I agree it’s a good idea. This is a little uncomfortable, because it’s the first time we’ve handed this off to others for execution, since I’ve been part of this team. But of course, my fears are unfounded…they are pros. We had originally been staying in Knoxville that night to attempt to meet with other potential community partners and local media possibly, however with the lightning fast changes occurring due to Covid-19, we decided to cancel hotel rooms, save the organization on those costs (hotel was understanding) and head back to the warm embrace of Scott and Erin’s house in Nashville.
As we leave the club that day, we are pleased with how it went, but grounded by the knowledge that sessions 3 and 4 may be on hold…along with so much else. Storms are predicted back in Nashville, so we hit the road on 40 West back to Nashville.
With the darkness growing around us, fog too, we crank some tunes to unwind…NeedtoBreathe, The Beatles and Marc Broussard serenade us as we search for a good stopping point.
Cracker Barrell, in Crossville fit the bill. The rocking chairs on the front porch were inviting and yet as we entered… the company’s somewhat controversial past was briefly discussed. Though unintended, this past helped to shape a shift in cultural norms long-held in the south. Loved by many for it’s comfort and consistency…and yet as an organization, far from perfect. Just like all of us humans…we are flawed, and imperfect….but we have to keep trying…reaching….striving to improve and shed more light in the dark. So did this organization. At FTMF, we share that spirit of continual daily improvement.
While eating dinner, and discussing our mission people at 3 different tables reached out to us, having “overheard” bits of our talk about mission and helping others. For an extra hour that night, strangers became friends and I handed out a few cards…asked these folks to look further into what we do…maybe spread the word.
By the time we got back to Scott’s place with the mini-dogs, and caught up with Erin a a bit, it was time to watch the news….. of a world gone crazy. In my head I’m thinking, look how the world is starting to pull together to “fight this foe?” What could be accomplished with the addiction and mental illness epidemic, with climate change, with gun violence, with income inequality….if we all pulled together in that same fashion? Why….not?
Friday, March 13 – East Nashville – Brentwood – Airport-Florida
Morning Coffee in Scott’s Kitchen at around 7am, and we catch up on the latest news. A National Emergency. Pandemic. Scott’s on his way to a co-writing session, and we’re headed to East Nashville to meet with a new community connector who has already done a good deal of sweat equity for us here at FTMF. We met at amazing local coffee shop Kettners’ Coffee. Julianne Lee works for amazing organizations, Give a Note, and GENEROUS. The latter is a new fundraising plat-form online which was created to better align recording artists, their fans, non-profits, and corporate sponsors as a way to maximize charitable giving. We had a wonderful meeting, and we’re going to connect soon to discuss how this platform may work with our growing mission and operational scope at FTMF! Storm Damage in this community from the Tornados is everywhere. And it made me think…we’re headed into a storm with no clouds a we enter back into the realm of the unknown…life in the midst of a growing society shut-down.
With some time yet before we needed to be at the airport, lunch and a visit with our partners at Recovery Unplugged out in Brentwood, TN was in order. We brought in food from Local Taco, a GREAT local Mexi-style place. Here not only did we meet with some folks from the clinical and outreach teams, but I also got to meet in person, 2 folks who have recently benefit from Face the Music Foundation Treatment Scholarships. This was a powerful and emotional experience. I don’t often get to meet the folks we help, so I was really impacted by this opportunity. I won’t mention their names, but one of them gave me her latest milestone coin, and I got teary. And the other, who carried her fiddle with her everywhere, played some beautiful music for us. Grateful…we all felt at that moment.
3 days after arriving at Nashville International Airport on the cusp of a global crisis, we returned through these doors to a entirely new reality. You could see it on the faces of everyone at the airport. What do we do now?
We move forward…and we help someone. And it’s going to take all of us. A Team…together.
We have great news about our Song Team member, and now …….. for the Face The Music Foundation, Scott Barrier. His song “Merry Christmas With You”, which he wrote with songwriter Donna De Sopo and artist Keegan Ferrell, was premiered on episode 3 of the nation wide presentation of “The Moody’s Christmas” on FOX. The song was performed by Keegan, and was produced by Nate Cornell. Congratulations to Scott and his team for their success!
Like so many great ideas, Recovery Unplugged, and its sister non-profit organization, the Face The Music Foundation, came into being out of a conversation about a problem.
One of the many things that make this particular conversation special, at least to you and us, is that this meeting of the minds took place right here in Florida’s Hollywood.
The problem, which we hear about constantly, is the rise of addiction among not just kids and illegal drugs, but also working adults, and seniors, with alcohol and prescription drugs too. And what’s worse, the existing methods for treating these addictions are just not working very well. Only ten percent of people completing traditional rehab programs are able to stay clean and sober.
It’s difficult to measure the effectiveness of recovery services and all too common for individuals affected by addiction to cycle in and out of rehab several times throughout their recovery process.
Enter Recovery Unplugged, with a new approach using the power of music as a catalyst for positive and long-lasting change. And now, with its sister/partner non-profit, the Face The Music Foundation, what it’s out to do is to transform the entire addiction treatment industry, with a new, three-pronged, approach: treatment and relapse prevention for those afflicted, working with kids to prevent the problem before it starts, and reducing the stigma associated with addiction.
Recovery Unplugged was an idea, says Paul Pellinger, Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder, born out of frustration. After more than 20 years working in the recovery area, as a court liaison helping to put criminals with drug-related offenses into rehab rather than prison, and as a consultant helping open drug rehab centers, he was frustrated with the low success rates the rehabs were experiencing. He knew that there had to be a better way to get to the source of the issues causing addiction, and help the people suffering from it.
A Crazy Idea
“There are,” Pellinger said, “some universal truths. One is that everyone loves music. It communicates to the soul. In all my years in the recovery and treatment industry, one thing I’ve never heard anyone say is ‘I hate music.’
“So I had this idea to combine music and music therapy with different kinds of tried-and-true addiction treatment programs to create positive and long-lasting change. We could use music to help clients maintain what they learn, actually sending them home from treatment with musical prescriptions specifically designed for them, aimed at their hearts, not their heads, to engage them to have more long-lasting effects.”
Addiction And Crime
“Those dependent on illicit substances are responsible for a disproportionate number of crimes,” he stated. “Marshall will back me up on this. This is why he dedicated his life to this.”
In the courts, Pellinger had worked closely for many years with Marshall Geissler, a local criminal attorney who was also frustrated with the system. Geissler was instrumental in the formation of the Broward County Drug Court in the late ‘80s. And Geissler did indeed agree.
“As a criminal attorney with 32 years in this field,” he said, “I can tell you that it goes beyond the 80/20 rule. I would say that 95% of the people I represent are with me because of drugs or alcohol. And the vast majority of my clients are good people who just made some bad choices.”
Geissler was intrigued by Pellinger’s ideas, and introduced him to a client of his, Hollywood businessman Andrew Sossin. For Sossin, the problem of addiction hit closer to home.
“Quite frankly,” said Sossin, “there were people in my family with drug and alcohol abuse problems, including my mother-in-law, and I was getting tired of paying for rehab programs that didn’t work.”
So the three got to talking, and in 2013, Recovery Unplugged was born.
Early on, Recovery Unplugged hooked into the natural connection with the music world and tapped well-known award-winning singer-songwriter Richie Supa of Aerosmith fame as the Director of Creative Recovery.
“It’s important to know, there’s a lot of science behind what we’re doing; this is not a gimmick,” explained Pellinger. “This is not something where you go home and listen to a song and that will combat addiction. We have medical professionals and licensed clinicians implementing proven techniques to reach the root problem, and using music to connect with the brain’s hardwired reward system.”
Along with curing the problem of addiction, both Recovery Unplugged and its partner, the Face The Music Foundation, are working to transform the stigma of the disease.
“Music will always find its way in: there’s no defense against it,” said Richie Supa.
And the bottom line is, it’s working. The Recovery Unplugged system is producing statistics unheard of in the rehab community.
Where the norm is a staggering 90% failure rate, “Ours is four times better,” said Pellinger. “Now, that’s still 60% relapsing, but I choose to look at it as that many more thousands of lives we’re saving. And, we have a 95% approval rating from clients, and the number of clients who leave us ‘against medical advice’ before their scheduled treatment is complete is less than ten percent — that’s over five times better than the average — which directly correlates to better outcomes.”
The Addict Next Door
Only about three percent of addicts are the classic “skid row alcoholics,” according to Pellinger.
“The other 97% are people like us, they have jobs, are functioning, don’t necessarily have track marks and a red nose and a brown paper bag; every single one of us has been directly or indirectly affected by addiction,” he averred.
“There have been two deaths in the last 24 months, right here in the religious community in Hollywood where I grew up,” Sossin noted. “Here we have an eclectic pool of people from different cultures, a wide range of populations. I would say that where we live is a microcosm of the country, because we have such diversity, and we have all kinds of people having these issues. I know, because I am approached almost on a weekly basis, right here in Hollywood, by people of all ages. Last week I met someone who was 21, and a grandmother who was 66.
“That’s why we’re here. And we’re just getting started. ”
Addressing the Stigma of Addiction
Along with curing the problem of addiction, both Recovery Unplugged and its partner, the Face The Music Foundation, are working to transform the stigma of the disease. It helps, said Pellinger, that the CDC recently reclassified addiction as a brain disease. And it also helps that so many of the famous people who made the drug culture so alluring are now on the sober bandwagon, making it hip to be straight.
“I was clear from the beginning, maybe more so than my partners, that the idea of using music to help cure addiction was a cool idea and it was going to work,” said Pellinger. “But even I had no idea that we would attract so many famous and legendary musicians who are now a part of what we do such as Dion, from Dion and the Belmonts, Steven Tyler from Aerosmith, Richie Supa who I already mentioned, rocker Candlebox, rappers Flo Rida and Ty Dolla $ign, Liberty DeVitto, who is the drummer from the Billy Joel Band, Morris Day from Morris Day and the Time…the bottom line is that as far as the stigma, these people are ‘out there’ that they’re in recovery, so we are using them as influencers to change the stigma, and to help people see that addiction is a serious disease.”
Face The Music
Wanting to help as many people as possible and never turn anyone away for lack of funds, the trio founded the Face The Music Foundation, the fund-raising and awareness-building partner of the organization.
The Face the Music Foundation, like Recovery Unplugged, says Pellinger, was also born out of frustration. Too many addicts were still ending up dead or in jail before they could get help because they didn’t have money or insurance.
“Not my clients,” quipped Geissler.
“So we came up with another cockamamie idea,” said Pellinger. “What if we created our own 501(c)(3)? We already had a brilliant, Grammy award-winning songwriter on the board!”
“We could put on events, (like the one we did recently at the Circle in Hollywood, added Sossin), where the goal would be to raise awareness, solicit sponsors, build community partnerships and raise money for scholarships.”
In 2014, they started the Face the Music Foundation and began to build a schedule of music and outreach events and community programs.
The search for a new executive director for the foundation in 2018 brought the trio together with Hollywood musician, team-building and non-profit pro Jeff Jacob. Sossin and Jacob had been communicating via email and phone about Jacob joining the organization when they found themselves seated together at a Jewish holiday dinner. It was, as they say, Besheret (fate).
“I believe that everything I’ve done personally and professionally up to this point has led me to be with these guys now,” said Jacob, “helping to solve this problem, and like Andrew said before, we’re just getting started.”
While the primary goal of Recovery Unplugged is to help people get and stay sober, the leadership team of the two organizations are clear that their work doesn’t stop there.
This cutting-edge treatment is now available in five locations: Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Lake Worth, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; Austin, Texas and Northern Virginia, with new facilities slated to open in the near future.
More importantly, Jacob believes, is to work within the communities they serve, to prevent addictions before they start.
Face the Music runs a program called Get In Tune, established with grant money from the Broward County Sheriff’s Department. Get in Tune is a prevention and awareness program which uses music to help underserved adolescents ages 12 -18 cope with situations such as bullying, abuse, divorce, and addiction.
“We are fortunate to partner with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Broward county and are in our second year, based on the success of the first year. The kids love us and we are overwhelmed to be able to help as many children as we possibly can,” says the Foundation’s website.
Another program, called Grace Notes, works with recovering musicians to bring music to underserved populations such as senior and special needs residences.
“Putting people into service and keeping them busy and purposeful helps them stay clean and sober,” said Jacob.
“We have now gotten requests to expand these programs into other organizations besides the Boys and Girls Clubs, and into other cities, and we should have some funding coming in to do so,” he said proudly. “In fact, at this moment we are preparing to launch programs in every major city in Tennessee in 2020.”
Keeping the Faith
People have asked if Recovery Unplugged and Face The Music are faith-based organizations.
Not in the traditional sense, said Jacob.
“But we do have faith; Faith that music can do amazing things.”
After seven years of beating the odds and increasing successes, it looks like Recovery Unplugged is indeed doing that.
“Recovery Unplugged shows that music can be magic,” said supporter Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. “It can be a healing experience.”
When you’re building something special, the beginnings rarely look anything like the “end-product.” For example, this old shipping pallet, partially torn apart over a weekend…hammer, saw, pry bar…trial and error…measuring… certainly doesn’t look anything like what it’s parts will evolve into, as I turn them into something that looks a LOT better than the old wallpaper they are starting to cover up in the kitchen in the new house.
Similarly, the glitzy moments such as here where I’m fortunate enough to be hanging out backstage with legendary Music Producer Butch Vig (Nirvana, Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, Soul Asylum) and Recovery Unplugged Co-Founder Andrew Sossin at a Benefit Concert for Face The Music Foundation, at The famed Riviera Theatre in Chicago…these moments are not really what it’s about. Rather, it’s about moments like this other picture here where I’m with our resident maestro on fiddle, Carl Schmid, and Roosevelt from a local Boys & Girls Club that we recently teamed up with for one of our educational programs…“Get In Tune!” (looking for funding by the way, just saying!) These sessions work towards breaking the cycle of addiction through music. Early on, before the disease can take root… On the streets, where it’s real, just watch the music heal.
Whether your re-purposing old wood shipping pallets, and trying to find just the right size board, the right color tone, the right texture, or trying to assemble a first class Board of Directors, or Creative Team, it’s all about patience, open-mindedness, creativity, vision, heart. That’s how you turn the individual notes, into a beautiful chord of music.