Last night I saw a most touching and powerful movie titled, “Alive Inside.” It is a documentary about one man’s passion for helping dementia and alzheimer’s patients by giving them headphones and an iPad with their favorite music on it. People who had been completely unresponsive or had not spoken in years simply came alive — and all for the cost of about $40!
Spearheaded by social worker, Dan Cohen, these deeply touching, life-transforming experiences were captured on film over the course of three years. You will laugh and you will cry, but most of all, you will wonder WHY insurance companies, nursing care facilities, and doctors alike do not support this inexpensive, joyful way to bring back memories and awaken senses instead of medicating these people to often become zombies.
This movie especially reminded me of my own passion as a young person. I was a pianist in high school and won contests all around the state, but I also loved people, so I did not want to be in a practice room for hours and hours a day; plus I realized I had the talent but was just not cutthroat enough to become a concert pianist. Thus, when I learned about it, Music Therapy seemed like a perfect fit for me.
At that time Music Therapy was a brand new field, so when I was choosing a college, there were only two schools in the country that offered it — the University of Kansas and UCLA. Having grown up in a town of 4500 in Iowa, going to California seemed like going across the world to me at the time, so I chose KU.
Although I loved my professors and the school, the first year was very discouraging for me. In those days in Music Therapy, they required you to learn to play every instrument there was. Having been extremely involved in my piano and often practicing 3 and 4 hours a day, I never had time to do this when I was younger. Therefore, it turned out to be a very humiliating experience. I will never forget how the girls in my sorority house AND my little brothers teased me when I was practicing “Merrily We Roll Along” on the saxophone for my final exam!
As a result, I ended up changing my major to Piano my sophomore year and then switching to English my junior year to become a teacher. I still kept my love for music, but, at least at that time, I thought I could give more back in the classroom and feel more sure of myself by teaching English and drama in high school and college. After watching this precious movie, however, I must admit that I am a little sorry that I did not stick it out. Watching these lives being transformed to find JOY and LIFE again was a wonderful blessing.
Now, I am thinking about how I can become more involved in this pursuit — buying some ear phones and iPods and taking them to local nursing homes and donating money to Dan Cohen’s foundation, musicandmemory.org. In the meantime, I am going to make sure that MY children have a list of all my favorite music because one day each of us may very likely find ourselves, just like so many aging people today, struggling to hold onto our pasts.
This precious movie proves that music CAN heal hearts and souls! Thank you, Dan Cohen, for the blessing you have brought to so many lives.
To learn more about Barbara’s beliefs and expertise, go to www.barbaraglanz.com.