Thursday, August 22, 2013

Latest News: Singing can decrease snoring

But it is not quite as simple as that.
Research in the UK has resulted in exercises that strengthen the throat and mouth muscles, so that they do not get slack, and then vibrate, causing snoring.

The singing comes in, as it is much easier to sing the exercises than just speak them, and therefore the repetition is easier and more interesting to do.

Here is the website that will tell you more about this new finding

Here is a link to an interview with Alise Ojay

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Just returned from ICVT conference July 10 - 15 at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music

The ICVT conference in Brisbane, Australia was stimulating. Known as the International Conference of Voice Teachers, it was for singing teachers, not speech therapists.

There were over 500  people in attendance, but only two presentations about working with seniors and their voices.

At the same time, there were many interesting presentations given on voice, different styles of singing, the science of voice, in many different forms.

Professor Ingo Titze  is an expert in this field, and he produced one of the images that I found most useful in talking to my own students about where the vowels are placed in the mouth and throat, which I have reproduced below.  I have in the past drawn it in a circle, with  the 'i' vowel and the 'u' vowel close to each other. The formant frequency mentioned is the harmonic of the note that is being sung. Fascinating stuff!!

Diversional Therapist's Conference

I was pleased to be able to present the Singing for Seniors programme to the attendees at my workshop on Music Therapy at this conference, held in Hamilton, my home city. The biggest barrier that we have found, for people implementing the programme, is that people with no confidence in their own singing just can't get started. So the presentation took them through the steps, which are reproduced here.

There are 8 steps to implementing the programme
1.     Visit the and read (especially) the frequently asked questions. You will find out all about me,  about the company, and the programme.
2.     Order the discs, after discussion with your manager. The Do-It-Yourself plan comes with no support. If you want phone support to get your programme off the ground, go for the $11 per week programme. (How much do you pay someone to come in and entertain, without any guarantee of audience involvement?)
3.     Duplicate the lyrics, either A4 or A3 depending on the sight capabilities of your residents.
4.     Talk to residents & find people who want to sing. Get them to talk it up among their fellow residents.
5.     Find a time and space where you can play CDs (or order the DVD programme, which is now available, where lyric are on the screen in large font).
6.     Publicise your first event, with posters at appropriate places in your facility.
7.     Listen to (or view the DVD) to familarise yourself with the products.
8.     Run your first session.

It was interesting to be able to help one participant find her upper voice, and she is going to be meeting me in Skype for some singing lessons, so that her residents do not criticise her singing any more.
At the dinner that evening, with a wine or two under their belts, the whole conference were happy to join in singing the chorus of the song that I always use in workshops: the Happy Wanderer. I use it because there is always laughter "Val de ri, Val de ra, Val de ri, Val de ra ha ha ha ha ha Val de ri Val de ra, my knapsack on my back"

Go to my Facebook site: Harmonic Health, to see the images from the conference.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Melody, Rhythm can Rewire a Damaged Brain

 This article appeared in the ABC news website:

It has been two months since the Tucson shooting spree that killed six people and injured 12, including Arizona Rep.Gabrielle Giffords. Now Giffords, who survived a gunshot wound to the left hemisphere of her brain, is finding her voice through song. 

"Gabby responds to music because she knows a lot of songs," said Maegan Morrow, Giffords' music therapist and a certified brain injury specialist at TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital in Houston.  Since Giffords was transferred to TIRR Jan. 21, reports of her singing "Happy Birthday" for husband Mark  Kelly and Don McLean's "American Pie" have signaled what some have called a miraculous recovery. 

"The brain can heal itself if you do the right protocol," Morrow said. "It just needs lots of repetition, lots of consistency."  Protocols like music speech stimulation and melodic intonation therapy can help patients with damage to the brain's communication center, like Giffords, learn to speak again.   "It's creating new pathways in the brain," Morrow said. "Language isn't going to work anymore, so we have to go to another area and start singing and create a new pathway for speech."

Music therapy was first recognized as a tool to aid soldiers returning from World War II with brain injuries.  "It was discovered that music was more that a diversion or recreational activity -- it could be incorporated into the overall treatment of an individual," said Al Bumanis, director of communications for the American Music Therapy Association. "It could address non-musical goals in a very unique way -- sometimes coming in through the backdoor where some therapies can't."   Indeed, a person who has suffered an injury due to stroke or trauma may have difficulty speaking but be able to sing. 
"Patients can be essentially mute, unable to utter a single word but put on the Beatles' "All You Need is Love" and suddenly patients can sing. Substitute some of the words and now patients are speaking again," said Dr. Michael De Georgia, director of the Centers for Neurocritical Care and Music and Medicine at University Hospitals Case Medical Center. "Music is very powerful." 

Music Can Rewire the Brain 

Evidence supporting a healing role for music in the recovery from brain injury is mounting. But many people remain skeptical, and few insurers will cover it.
"I think the name, 'music therapy,' is a barrier. Most people are like 'what is that?' It sounds childish," Morrow said. "I know that it really works. They're already seeing that healing in Gabby."
Music is very closely linked with language. Some people believe that we may have started to sing before we started to speak, De Georgia said, citing "The Singing Neanderthal: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body," by British archaeologist Steven Mithen. 

"In fact, one of the reason we enjoy music (particularly tonal music like Bach, Beethoven) is that it follows clear structural, syntactical rules that we can follow, understand, and anticipate," said De Georgia. "We tend not to enjoy atonal music as much (like Schoenberg) because it is all over the place tonally and structurally. Our brains don't get it." 

Music is also linked to brains areas that control memory, emotions, and even movement.
"The thing about music is that it's something that's very automatic -- part of our old brain system," Morrow said. "If I play a rhythm, I can affect the rest of the body. The body naturally aligns with a rhythm in the environment." 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

From one of my singing students

I have really grown with my singing with Julie as my teacher. She really helped me understand how to breathe and bring out my voice.  There was so much I learnt from Julie in my lessons, that each week I was amazed at what I achieved with my voice. She gave me the confidence to take each step.  Each lesson was added to, and easy to get to grips with. Julie is fun and has a unique way of teaching that I felt myself on a huge learning curve and felt that I achieved so much. I feel very grateful for the lessons.
Thank you Julie
Annie Jameson

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

From Brian Age 82
Retirement Village Resident
Member of the Hamilton Chorale

"In retirement years I find there are two things that make a whole difference to life. These are a satisfying activity to give a measure of achievement and a comradeship with like-minded people. Singing with a performance choir gives both.

As with everything else, frequent use of the singing voice improves its performance. Practice under a helpful and knowledgeable conductor extends that, as well as giving physical and mental improvement. Put simply, physical and mental well-being is improved.

Belonging to a group that has an adequate and improving level of performance has many benefits, as teams on a sports field will agree. It promotes pleasure in belonging to the group, which satisfies a fundamental human need.

These benefits are those which retired people need to hang on to, in order to gain personal satisfaction from life, otherwise living becomes just a continuance of existence, and the thrill of it diminishes.

So join a choir and get cracking!"

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Michelle & Elizabeth

Michelle came to her singing lesson, reporting that she had been hospitalised because of tightness in her chest and loss of breath when going up stairs. This had gone on for a week and was getting worse. She was put through a barrage of tests, including treadmill, and ecg.

Within 10 minutes of her arrival the chest pain had gone, and she was breathing naturally and efficiently. What I did was to get her to lie on the floor, with a book under her head (important, otherwise the head goes back too far and the throat closes), and just relax. We than chatted about what had happened for a few minutes, and then I got her to concentrate on the breath going 'into her abdomen'.  She realised that she had somehow got herself into upper torso breathing patterns, by lifting and lowering the ribcage that were unsatisfactory which had led to the tightness-of-chest pains, as it became more and more frustrating.

This is Elizabeth, in her own words
"After 65yrs with Chronic Brochierctasis and unable to sing, I've been able to take part in 3 choirs, thanks to Julie Jackson-Gough. The physiotherapist at Waikato Hospital was most impressed that someone suffering a lung condition would be able to sing, and recommended the activity as an excellent pursuit for improving breathing and keeping lungs expanded."

Monday, June 10, 2013

Neurological Journal reports benefits of music to mental and physical health

The Neurological Foundation of New Zealand's newsletter has arrived and contains the following article, which was reprinted from Trends in Cognitive Sciences

It was written by professor Daniel Levintin, who is the James McGill professor of phsychology and behavioural neuroscience at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, with additional appointments in music theory, computer science, and education.

It is a meta-study, a distillation of 400 research papers in the neurochemistry of music, which found that music can improve the function of the body's immune system and reduce levels of stress.

Here is the article:

Research by Professor Daniel Levitin demonstrates that listening to music is more successful than prescription drugs in decreasing a person's anxiety before undergoing surgery. A report from 2011 indicated that anxiety in cancer patients can be reduced by music. Prof Levitin explained: 'We've found compelling evidence that musical interventions can play a health care role in settings ranging from operating rooms to family clinics. But even more importantly we were able to document the neuro-chemical mechanisms by which music has an effect in four domains:management of mood, stress, immunity, and as an aid to social bonding'

Results showed that music increases an antibody that plays an important role in immunity of the mucous system, known as immunoglobin A, as well as in natural killer cell counts, the cells that attack germs and bacteria invading the body. Listening to, and playing (singing) music can alos lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), according to Prof Levitin and Dr Mona Lisa Chanda, his post-graduate research fellow.

Previous research in the British Journal of Psychiatry  demonstrated that music therapy when combined with standard care, is a successful treatment for depression.

The experts reccommend a number of areas for later trials in the field. For example, identifying the relationship between the "love drug" oxytoxin, group affiliation, and music. They suggested administering naltrexone (and opioid antagonist drug used when a person is having alcohol  withdrawal) to determine whether musical pleasure is encouraged by the same chemical systems in the brain activated by other types of pleasure, such as food.

a 2011 study suggested that thrilling music is similar to food and sex - more pleasure and anticipation means moire dopamine. The authors also urged for studies "in which patients are randomly assigned to musical intervention or a rigorously matched control condition in post-operative or chronic pain trials" They poinetd out that proper controls include TV, comedy recordings, audio books or films. Additional the scientists developed an outline for future experiements with questions including:
  • What are the different effects, if any of playing (singing) music compared to listening to music?
  • Are the positive effects of music a result of mood induction, distraction, feelings of bonding/support, or other factors?
  • What stimuli can be used as a foundation o comparison to match music along dimensions of arousal, attractiveness or lack thereof, engagement, and mood induction?
  • What role does "the love drug" (oxytoxin) play in mediating music experiences?
  • Are certain people ore likely to experience a positive impact form music than others? If so, what individual differences, such as personality traits, genetic, or biological factors, aid the success of music interventions?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The word is spreading

It is exciting to have contacts from around New Zealand and further afield asking about the Singing for Seniors programme. Following up is being done by my commercial manager. I have been contacted by the woman who ran the Weekend of Workshops in Tirau, to ask if I want her to contact groups there about the programme. She will set up the visits and we will visit together. Krissy Jackson, part-time high school music teacher of New Plymouth is planning how to market to the 23 villages in the greater New Plymouth area. Christchurch villages are being followed up in the next week. A day is being planned for the Rotorua area, and a three-day campaign around the Auckland villages.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

from the book "Music, Health and Well-being"

When this book came out, it was one that I had to have, because it speaks so well into what I am passionate about. In the conclusion for the article "Music Therapy: Models and Interventions" by Gro Trondalen & Lars Ole Bonde there is this statement.

"Expressive and receptive musicking (music making) allows for experiences at different levels through a present aesthetic participation within a multi-layered framework of interpretation. Such a musical relationship based on empowerment and attunement supports affirmative, corrective, emotional and relational experiences through musicking, and it defines music therapy as a specific health promoting practice."

In the article "Musical Flourishing: Community Music Therapy, Controversy, and Wellbeing" by Gary Ansdell and Tia DeNora has this paragraph

"Aristotle, unlike Plato, did not think that music helped because of metaphysical correspondences with the planets, but because it promoted earthbound conviviality and communality (wine, women and song, to paraphrase!). Well-being is not just the absence of illness, or just an individual matter, or just the result of the provision of 'health technology'. It is, as Mark Vernon suggest, part of our pursuit of the 'spirit level' part of our seeking the good life, through which we may find well-being together. For many people well-being emerges in the spaces made between people and music. This was, after all, an insight that the pioneer music therapists Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins came to 50 years ago: that when music flourishes, people flourish too."

I trust that this give you informative reading material.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Exciting new venture coming to fruition

I am very pleased to be spending time with my commercial manager, working on the website for my new venture "Singing for Seniors". In this programme, villages receive two CDs every two months with a new set of ten songs. There are two CDs: one with sing-a-long tracks and one with accompaniment only.

The website is  Please go and check it out. My commercial manager has built it, and put hours and hours of work into it. I am immensely proud of him (he being my eldest son, Matthew). He is a very astute business man, and of immeasurable worth to my business.

This programme grew out of the work that I had done with the Hilda Ross Glee Club, who I left, for commercial reasons,18 months ago. They had recorded their first CD, they had performed in 8 to 80 concerts, they had travelled to Auckland to sing at the sister Edmund Hillary village. They had sung a wider variety of songs, some easier songs, and some that really stretched them.

Since I left them, the repertoire has changed, and the song choices are now more aligned with the 1940/s and earlier. I have had them surveyed about their preference for song choice and the singers in the Glee Club (at that time there were 31 singers, many have left and the group is now much smaller) are unanimous (100%) in preferring the songs that are newer and more interesting. " I enjoyed the songs that we had to put work into, because then we could see the results. We need things to work on. The sense of achievement leaves us on a high" Pauline

The website is designed to inform individual villages, and companies who run retirement villages, about the programme. In working out the costing, it seems to me pretty obvious that villages that do not have singing can use this programme, and it is much cheaper than the costs for doing it themselves.

I am going into the recording studio to make the recordings. I wad going to use GarageBand, but was not happy with the quality of the recordings. This ha added significantly to the costs of the project, but the customers are getting a quality product, with consistently high standards of production maintained. At the same time I am supporting a local business:

who are being very supportive, and doing an excellent job of both recording and mixing my tracks.

The first orders go out this week, which is incredibly exciting. Not just in a business sense, but because I am so aware of how good singing is for people and how good it makes them feel, thus contributing markedly to their quality of life!!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Online media has changed

When I made my last post here, my Facebook business page had started to take off, so I have been concentrating my efforts there. For those who like a longer read, the is the summary of my tasks & responsibilities for 2013

The bread & butter stuff
I have 10 face-to-face singing students and 1 Skype singing student
I continue to conduct The Hamilton Chorale which is growing exponentially (40% on last year's choir by the second rehearsal)

The fun stuff
The 8-80 concert for 2013 is performing in just 2 days. It is the model that I have always envisaged, where the local primary (elementary) school choir joins with the retirement village choir. They sing separately, and together, and it is magic! Of course,when people sing together, they form an emotional bond, and the buddy system which matches child to senior helps this along. Next Monday, the senior choir is going to perform  at the children's school assembly, which will be the start of a whole new relationship between village & school.

I am the musical director of the Bay Audiology Retirement Villages Association Festival of Choirs. Encouraging choirs in retirement villages to send audition DVDs by May 31st to be considered for a festival in Wellington (NewZealand) in September this year. The expressions of interest at present are a bit slow, so we will see where this goes.

I have just commenced a 6 month programme with the local  Pathways organisation. Their mission is with people with mental health situations. I am hoping to make myself redundant by the middle of the year.

I am making recordings of songs that are more modern than the song books that  are sitting in retirement villages. Sample tracks have been sent out to all of the RVA villages, and a playlist for residents to make selections from. Then the village gets a disc with : ten singalong tracks, and ten accompaniment only tracks. The songs are slower,and a little lower as well, and all lyrics are included in the package.