Nearly everyone knows the comfort, joy, and inspiration that music offers. We use music to mark important occasions, to tell someone how we feel about them, and even to rev up or unwind. Music therapy recognizes the profound effect music has, and uses it to bring comfort, calm, and motivation to a variety of people in a variety of situations. Music therapist and Grandmont Rosedale resident Dr. Jody Stark’s work week takes her to Children’s Hospital of Michigan (Music therapy is provided by MSU Community Music School-Detroit, and made possible through funding from The Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation), Kadima Mental Health (a mental health agency that provide services for adults with mental illness where Jody facilitates sessions with Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians and the adults at the Kadima Center), Saturday sessions at MSU’s Community Music School-Detroit, teaching and supervising the clinical portion of the music therapy students’ curriculum at Eastern Michigan University, and to a few facilities and private homes to work with hospice patients. Jody also runs her own business, Creatives Arts Therapies, Inc., which offers music therapy as well as dance/movement and art therapy. It’s no surprise that Jody uses a color-coded calendar to help keep track of her week. Jody’s work as a music therapist shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, since the current COVID-19 crisis, more people are realizing just how important it is to have a way to reduce stress and provide calm. Jody’s work at Children’s Hospital of Michigan is not just important, it is essential. Since COVID-19, some of her work has moved to telehealth, an online way to distribute health related information and services. For her work at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Jody has learned to sing through a mask and play guitar with gloves on. Music therapy is the reason some patients engage more easily in their difficult physical therapy, work toward physical and cognitive goals, and music therapy enables some to undergo medical procedures with little or no stress. Keeping music therapy in many of her clients’ lives during the epidemic is vital. An interruption in a long standing relationship with a trusted music therapist adds stress and can stall progression toward physical and cognitive goals.
IT ALL STARTED ON A HAMMOND ORGAN IN IOWA
Jody’s journey to her current busy work week began on a Hammond organ when she was 7 years old in her hometown of Cedar Falls, Iowa. After a few years of organ lessons, Jody chose the clarinet on Instrument Night at her elementary school. She played that through high school while also taking up saxophone to play in the jazz band. As a member of her church bell choir, Jody got to tour Boston, her first big trip outside of her hometown, and she later toured Europe as principal clarinetist with her university chamber orchestra. “Music opened up the world for me,” Jody says, an experience that still guides her work as a music therapist one that led her to serve as a representative at the World Congress of Music Therapy in Australia in 2005 and Japan in 2017.
As Jody was finishing high school her clarinet teacher asked her “Now what?” Jody knew that she did not want to pursue performance or becoming a music teacher. When her teacher mentioned music therapy, at the time a growing field, “something clicked.” Jody researched which colleges offered music therapy, and landed on Colorado State University. Music therapy students must learn many instruments as they will use multiple instruments with their clients, using the one(s) that works best in a given situation for a specified goal. Jody could already play clarinet, saxophone, piano, and had taught herself guitar. Percussion, composition, and improvisation are also essential. As Jody’s musical education expanded, so did her ability to reach more and more people. “Music is a tool to meet the therapeutic goals of the clients,” explains Jody. “Music is used to reach non-musical goals.”
Degree in hand, Jody completed her music therapy internship at the University of Michigan Hospitals. She then worked with chronically mentally ill clients at a community drop-in center in Ypsilanti. She became the Program Coordinator there, and then the Executive Director. Because this position took her away from being a music therapist, Jody resigned that position and began work as the Director of Performing Arts Special Education Program at what was then called the Center for Creative Studies, Institute of Music and Dance. Budget cuts closed that portion of CCS, and so, in 1991 Jody started her own business, Creative Arts Therapies, Inc. Jody built this business to include dance/movement and art therapy as well as music therapy. Currently Jody has 8 employees that offer a range of therapies to children and adults with mental and physical disabilities, people with Alzheimer’s, seniors in graduated care facilities, and special education students. Simultaneous with running a business and working as a music therapist, Jody earned a Masters in Arts Administration from EMU in 1990 and PhD in music therapy from MSU in 2012.
MUSIC THERAPY PLAYS A VITAL ROLE IN HOSPITALS
Jody is particularly excited about how the field of music therapy has grown and changed with evidence-based research in medical settings. “More and more, music therapy is being used in the medical field. Doctors and nurses recognize that music therapy can play a very important role in a medical setting.” Children’s Hospital of Michigan doctors and nurses regularly consult with music therapists. Music can provide patients dealing with fear and pain, a needed distraction. Music therapy also benefits the doctors, nurses, and parents who are caring for a child. Jody had a patient, an infant in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, who had to have fluid extracted from her brain every day for nearly three months. Jody or a colleague provided instrumental guitar and voice during the daily procedure. The distraction was so calming to the child that, according to Jody, “the baby became conditioned to fall asleep when I began to play. It was incredible.” The nurses requested that Jody or her colleague be present for the procedure because it also calmed them and required less pain medication for the patient. The patient’s Mother saw the effect music therapy had on their child, and felt it herself. She insisted that music therapy remain a part of her child’s treatment. Recently, Jody and her colleague conducted music assisted relaxation during a staff retreat to provide stress reduction. This can be particularly helpful during the pandemic when stress levels for hospital workers are high.
During the pandemic, neither Jody nor the therapists who work for her are able to go to clients’ homes or facilities like long term care units or psychiatric hospitals, and so Jody reached out to other music therapists around the world to find out how they were adjusting to the new restrictions. Jody learned how best to use telehealth, taught her staff to do the same, and now they implement telehealth with 60% of their agencies and clients. “With this pandemic, people are taken out of their normal routine,” Jody explains. “Our clients are home and isolated from their therapist. It can be very disorienting for them. With telehealth, they can see their music therapist, and hear their voice. The therapist is an important figure in their lives and with telehealth they are still able to work toward therapeutic goals. Telehealth also allows some of our clients to connect with their peers as well. It’s amazing how well it works.”
Music therapists are part of the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Child Life Team, who help kids understand “the medical procedures they have to undergo and provide activities for kids who will be in the hospital for a long time.” The coronavirus has prevented patients from accessing the hospital playrooms, but the music therapists, art therapist and school teacher now broadcast to them on the hospital closed-circuit TV. Children and their parents can tune into to see, hear, and sing along to some old favorites. “’Baby Shark’ is pretty popular right now,” Jody smiles. Recently, Jody was trained in how to create heartbeat recordings, an intervention in pediatric music therapy. Heartbeat recordings are created as legacy projects for families of children in palliative care, or for children who are waiting for and receive heart transplants. The patient’s heartbeat is recorded, pre- and post- transplant, and then combined in a recording with songs meaningful to the child and/or their family. Like a beloved photo, there is a record of this lifesaving, live changing moment that can be kept and revisited.
MOVING TO GRANDMONT ROSEDALE
Part of what makes music a healing force is its ability to bring people together, to create community, even if that togetherness must be via a screen or through masks. The power of community is also what drew Jody from Cedar Falls, Iowa to Grandmont Rosedale in 1989. “I moved to Grandmont Rosedale due to a love of the historic homes and sense of community,” Jody says. “I continue to love the historic homes, but the close sense of community has impacted me and my daughter the most. The Community House events, the ice rink where my daughter learned to skate, the parking lot where she learned to ride a bike, the playground where she played with friends, and our extended ‘family’ of friends in the neighborhood have made it a wonderful place to live.”
From starting on the Hammond organ when she was 7 to her current position on the cutting edge of medical therapies, Jody’s work has not gone unrecognized. At this year’s Great Lakes Region of the American Music Therapy Association Conference in Illinois, a room full of mentees, students, and colleagues, stood to clap and cheer as Jody received the Service Award which is “awarded to a Music Therapist who is a member of the Great Lakes Region, and who has demonstrated a pattern of outstanding service and dedication.”
Guiding Jody through her years of experience in a wide variety of settings with a broad client base is her unwavering belief that “Music is something everyone deserves. Not just for the talented, but for everyone.” What she realized all those years ago after a trip to Boston still holds true: “Music opens up the world.”
You can check out a Detroit Performs episode that featured Creative Arts Therapies, Inc. and all that Jody’s business offers by visiting https://creativeartstherapiesinc.com/