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November 29, 2012
Doretta Royer 315 464-4833

Musicians with Upstate’s therapeutic music program set to play for patients

SYRACUSE, N.Y.— Six musicians, including a clarinetist who played for the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra (SSO), are poised to be among the first Syracuse-area residents certified as music practitioners through the national Music for Healing and Transition Program, now offered at Upstate University Hospital.

As a final step to full certification, the six will embark on a 45-hour internship program, beginning in January, to providing healing music to patients at Upstate University Hospital and other area healthcare facilities.

Upstate’s Music for Healing and Transition Program, which enrolled its first class in March, trains musicians on how to use live music to create a healing environment for those with acute and chronic illness.

Each musician has already had more than 100 hours of classes taught here in Syracuse by certified music practitioner instructors from across the country.  Students are currently taking their final exams. Their internships, which begin in January, will mark the first formal therapeutic musical encounter they have with patients.

Mary Tolone, whose instrument is her voice, said the program piqued her interest as a way to extend her vocal talent to new areas.  But the course work, she said, was transformative.  “The training empowered my musical abilities,” and highlighted the infinite scope of what music can be, she said.

Harpist Laura Jordan said the training reaffirmed what she had known from her days as an educator, that music has the power to change the environment.  “Music can fill more than a room; it has the power to promote a healing environment, and that will be our roles as music practitioners,” she said.

Music practitioners are not music therapists. Music practitioners use their training and talent to create a healing environment that may reflect changes occurring in the patient.  Music therapists are part of a patient’s clinical care team and often engage patients in a music-related activity to meet a therapeutic goal.

All of the students agree that being a music practitioner is less about performing than it is about creating that healing environment.

That’s especially clear to Libby Joyce, a lifelong pianist.  “The instruction has had a transformative affect on my music. My music is much more spiritual now; there is a therapeutic meditation element to my music and I find it very soothing,” she said.

Victoria Krukowski is most accustomed to playing Beethoven, Bach and Mozart in large concert halls, having played clarinet for more than three decades, most recently with the SSO.  But the experience of playing for patients is most satisfying. “This program has broadened my horizons. The instruction and the interactions we’ve had to date with patients make it clear that music, the piece you play and how you play it, are part of the healing process,” she said.

Participating in the internship portion of the program next year are Lida Black, of Syracuse; Nancy Haney, of Baldwinsville; Laura Jordan, of Baldwinsville; Libby Joyce, of South Onondaga; Victoria Krukowski, of Cicero; and Mary Tolone, of Mattydale.

In March, Upstate became the first and only academic training site in New York for certification in the national Music for Healing and Transition Program, which is accredited by the National Standards Board of Therapeutic Musicians. The program is supported by Upstate’s Center for Spiritual Care.

Dona Wonacott, a harpist and physical therapist who developed the program at Upstate, is eager to get additional students for the next class session, which starts in March.

“I have been encouraged by so many who have expressed an interest in this program as a way to share their talent with others in a meaningful way,” she said.  “The certification program requires a significant time commitment, but the rewards are inspiring,” she said.

For more information on the Music for Healing and Transition Program at Upstate, call Wonacott at 315-303-4015

Caption: Musicians who are part of the first class of Music for Healing and Transition Program, which is a national program offered by Upstate University Hospital, are, from left, Laura Jordan, Victoria Krukowski, Libby Joyce and Mary Tolone. Not pictured, but also members of the class are Lida Black and Nancy Haney.  All six will end their studies by doing a 40-plus hour internship, beginning in January that requires them to play for patients at Upstate and at healthcare facilities throughout Central New York.  Upon completion of the course requirements, the musicians will be certified as music practitioners.

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