From March 19 through April 5, there is a special theatrical event going on in New York City: the Red Fern Theatre Company, established in 2006 and dedicated to producing positive change in the community by producing socially conscious plays, is partnering with the Nordoff-Robbins Foundation. The current production is the play Miss Evers' Boys, written by David Feldshuh, which relates the story of the infamous 1932 Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Poor African-American men who tested positive for syphilis were promised treatment by the US government, while in fact they were denied treatment even when penicillin became available. Music and dance played an enormous role in these men's lives, providing escape, comfort, and a source of pride and personal expression. It is this recognition of the power of music that led the Red Fern Theatre Company to partner with the Nordoff-Robbins Foundation. The Foundation receives a portion of the proceeds.
The acting was electrifying as the actors pulled the audience into this fascinating story. The moral issues that Nurse Evers wrestled with were complex, as arguments were put forth at the time weighing the fate of the men in the study against the greater good to society at large. Questions were raised regarding the ethics of denying people services that were known to be beneficial, or at the very least allowing individuals to decide for themselves what risks they were willing to take. What price are we as a society willing to pay for scientific research?
This has led me to think about the children and adults who would benefit from music therapy, but who either do not know about our services or have limited access. The answer lies in education and outreach: how can we deliver our services to those who need them? We rely on all those who understand the value and effectiveness of music therapy to act as ambassadors, educating others so that no one who might benefit from music therapy is denied this unique form of treatment.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Friday, March 6, 2009
Last week Alan Turry, our Managing Director, appeared on live radio on WNYC's "Soundcheck" to discuss the role of music therapy in treatment for adults with dementia. In a conversation with host John Schaefer and Dr. Petr Janata, the author of a recent study examining the neural connections between music and memory, Dr. Turry discussed the many positive effects of music therapy. While the Nordoff-Robbins approach was originally developed with children, it is easily adapted to helping people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia maintain their functioning and improve their quality of life. In past years we have done outreach projects at local community centers for seniors with dementia, and this year a group from Chinatown traveled to the Center for music therapy. The afternoon of the broadcast we received several phone calls from people seeking services for their family members. Clearly there is a tremendous need for services for this population. Here at the Nordoff-Robbins Center we have experience working with people with dementia and are here to help.