Music and Medicine Work Together

Volume CVII, No. 7/8July, 2007

Larry Rawdon

The healing power of music was a central theme of the lectures delivered at the May 14 symposium on music and medicine at the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine that I attended. The health and medical needs specifically related to musicians and performing artists was also a major topic in many of the lectures.

The audience included musicians, music therapists, and people from the medical profession who were interested in hearing what the experts had to say about the scientifically proven benefits of music beyond entertainment.

The Louis Armstrong Center was certainly the perfect place to have such a discussion since it exists for the sole purpose of helping musicians and with using music therapy to help anybody whose physical, mental or emotional condition might benefit from music’s healing powers. (The center is part of Beth Israel Hospital and is located at 10 Union Square East.)

I can personally attest to the healing power of music. I had a lung transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fl. on Oct. 30, 2005.

I had contracted idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and a lung transplant was the only treatment that could possibly save me.

At the Mayo Clinic, they periodically have one-hour live concerts at noon for patients and hospital staff who wish to attend.

During my six-month stay near the Mayo Clinic, I helped promote the concert series and even arranged for the world-renowned classical guitarist and friend of mine, Roland Dyens, to perform there.

What I was able to observe in others and what I experienced myself was that for the period of time the audience was listening to the music, it was as though they didn’t have a care in the world.

And, judging from the mood of the audience as they departed, I believe they carried that with them for some time.

Doctors are well aware that a patient’s frame of mind plays a huge role in recovering from a medical procedure and with remaining positive to cope with an illness.

Since the beginning of March, I have been attending a one-hour weekly session called “Music For Air” at the Louis Armstrong Center. My music therapist is Joanne Loewy, the center’s director.

It has been extremely helpful to me, as evidenced by my spirometry tests.

Also, the sessions at the center and my own practice sessions at home have had such a calming effect that I can actually lower my own blood pressure using an instrument such as a recorder to monitor air flow and achieve proper breathing technique.

There is a lot going on at the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine. Musicians are certainly welcome there. You can get information by calling (212) 844-8387 or by visiting