Thursday, September 6, 2018

Sounds of Healing: Music’s Power To Heal

Neil Tatar, musician and workshop facilitator
Music can be so much more than entertainment, it often has a strong impact on the brain.  Science has proven that certain types of music boosts immunity, increases cognitive function and memory and can even help alleviate pain.  Mood-elevating music releases the powerful neurotransmitter, dopamine, which regulates our reward-motivational behavior. As a result, we may become joyful, enthusiastic, passionate and inspired, possibly even smarter, more creative and more productive.

New Age musician Neil Tatar is a composer, pianist and guitarist who says he uses music as a means of communication. “Music becomes my words,” he says. When he isn’t recording music, he focuses his creative energy on leading improvisational workshops for a variety of groups, including, regional arts councils, various college groups, adult mental health programs and camps for children with serious illnesses. His workshops echo the energy he brings from continued inspiration and training. As a facilitator, he creates a safe and supportive environment for participants. He welcomes the musically inexperienced as well as the seasoned professional.

Tatar saw music’s power first-hand when he recalled this memory of a woman, so disengaged, that he was wondering if she was sleeping.

“As the workshop progressed, I saw that she started communicating by tapping her foot to the music,” he said, noting that it could have been her way of communicating.

“Whenever you get any group together, it creates a safe community where people feel permission to communicate and facilitate an open conversation. They feel safe enough to express their feelings and it allows self-expression. The tapping may have been her words.”

Well-known scientist Albert Einstein was aware of the link between music and spatiality.  To him, music as much more than just a composition of notes and he said, “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”

Just as mathematics can be considered both a science and an art, so can music.  In fact New Age musician Anaya (Aonki) often uses her background as a Digital Information Specialist to match the most effective sounds with her spiritual concepts, while guitarist-scientist Lawrence Blatt (FLOW) incorporated his love of the Fibonacci sequence into an album called Fibonacci’s Dream.

Many of us know that music has long been used operating rooms to help patients cope with anxiety and fear, but a fairly new program, utilizing music therapy, is being used by hospitals for patients undergoing surgery, rehabilitation or other procedures. The patient spends some time with the music therapist, who will ask what types of music evoke certain memories, and then will select music where the beats are aligned with breathing, heart rate, goals, etc.

Tatar said he was once told by a hospice nurse that one of his songs, “Where Did the Time Go?” was played throughout the facility to calm anxious patients:
“The song was inspired by a phone conversation with my mother. As we reminisced she said to me, “Neil, where did the time go?”

He continued: “Several years later when she was in hospice, I sent it to her.  Sadly, she died before it was able to reach her but, even through my sadness, I was gratified to learn it helped others.”

In fact, one of the highlights of Tatar’s long career occurred in 2017, when The C.A.R.E. Channel notified him that they would add his music to the channel, which is a music and relaxation program shown in hospitals and medical facilities throughout the United States. Neil's latest album is After The Rain.


Going beyond relaxation, music can also be a tool for motivation and learning. Tatar saw music’s ability to teach kids new skills and develop IQs from an early age, and he began teaching guitar when he was an undergraduate student at Boston University in the ’70s.

Many of the kids seemed distant and disinterested.  Always outspoken about music’s ability to engage and support people, one of the first questions Tatar would ask his students was “why are you here?”  Nine times out of 10, he said, he’d get some version of the “I’m-here-because my-parents-made me” response. So he turned the question around to “what do you like to listen to, and why?” Overwhelmed with the amount of dialogue it opened, he responded,  “Okay, we’ll address that in class, but first we have to do the ‘official’ stuff, like learning chords.”  

The students enthusiastically agreed, and actively participated in the class. His workshops to kids usually involve the creation of a composition, which develops:
  •      Understanding and reasoning: The kids have to keep asking themselves “Is this music in line with my writing?” and “Does it convey the emotions I’m looking for?”
  •       Listening skills:  In order to ask the above questions, one needs to listen and be aware.
  •       Self-esteem:  They need to stand up, present their piece, and take CONSTRUCTIVE criticism
  •       Learn the importance of collaboration. Even solo pieces often require harmonization.

So there you have it; whether you’re in need of relaxation, self-expression, or therapy, consider reaching for your instrument of choice, your favorite CD, or a new playlist to help you adjust your mood and reach the state of wellbeing that you desire. It’s not only nice to hear, but to paraphrase that well-known commercial, Music: It does a body good...and the brain, too.