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Tom and Brian's Stories

Tom and I have connected in many ways through music. We have played the drums, made jokes and played around, connected through our love of classical music, sang songs together, told each other life stories and I’ve even had the opportunity to make music with Tom and members of his family. Music has allowed Tom and I to communicate clearly with each other, even though his words don’t always come out clearly.
— Kate, Music Therapist

When you visit a music therapy session at Willow Hall in the Nova Scotia Hospital, there’s no time for talking! You’re immediately surrounded by the sounds of singing and drums.  Brian and Tom are two clients of Willow Hall who enjoy taking part in one-on-one music sessions with their Music Therapist, Kate.

Willow Hall is a 19 bed gero-psychiatric acute care unit specializing in the mental health of seniors. Willow Hall is the territory care inpatient unit for the province of Nova Scotia. The unit serves seniors with psychiatric and medical presentations, providing diagnostic clarification, medical assessment and stabilization, or resolution of presenting medical, psychiatric or behavioral challenges. The addition of music therapy is a critical element of success for patients on Willow Hall.

As a form of sensory stimulation, music provokes responses due to the familiarity, predictability and feelings of security associated with it.

“When Brian comes to music, he comes to life. He sings, claps his hands, taps his toes and will even play air guitar. His sense of humour comes shining through and his eyes light up.”
~Kate, Music Therapist

 Music is processed and experienced in the more primitive part of our brains-the pleasure or “limbic” system, with strong links to our memory centres. For this reason, music can be a therapeutic and pleasurable experience even in the most mentally ill, and in those with dementia. Music can also access language areas- some patients with severe dementia are still able to sing the complete words to a song, even when no other language abilities remain.

Once you join a music therapy session, the music truly speaks for itself. Tom shares his drumming skills and Brian adds enthusiastic ‘Yee-Haws’ for ‘She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain.’ There are so many joyful moments. It’s easy to see –and hear- this program is making a difference in the lives of participants. And that’s why stories like this are always guaranteed to end, on a happy note!


Thank you for helping music heal.

Story written August 2014


Story photography generously provided by Lori Buhlman.
Learn more about Lori's work