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Music Is Art, Blues Society to bring music therapy to Horizon Health

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

A program known as Nurs'n Blues, which utilizes blues music as a form of therapy for those battling chemical dependency, is being made available to patients of a Western New York mental health and substance abuse treatment provider. A collaboration uniting Music Is Art and the Blues Society of Western New York is making it possible.

Nurs'n Blues, created about three years ago according to nurse and local blues musician Patti Parks, has served more than 600 clients.

"Today, we continue to provide therapy twice a week," she said. "We have a more global perspective in what we are doing in the sense that not only are we serving our clients but now we are using both therapy for music and clients so they can get to a point of communicating in a very safe manner."

Music therapy, say its proponents, has proven to encourage patients to open up and better communicate. It may involve listening to music, playing it, analyzing lyrics or even compose songs or lyrics.

"Movement to music, for example - we all know physical exercise - physiologically, endorphins release. those are mood elevators. That will help them to elevate their mood if they're dealing with a lot of anxiety, stress, depression," said Sheila Connors, a certified music therapist who will work with clients at Horizon Health Services. 

"We call them music interventions. All the music interventions that I create and implement have the end goal in mind."

Those goals, according to Connors, are reducing the sense of loneliness, increasing concentration and fostering a sense of community.

"When there's an actual plan of care involved with it, it allows someone to maybe get to those deep-rooted issues that they would not be able to express," said Parks. "Using music as a safe vehicle of expression is non-threatening."

But blues? Lovers of the genre say it's the ideal music for helping patients work toward recovery.

"As a blues lover, as president of the Blues Society, I know its healing powers," said Adrienne Thompson, president of the Blues Society of Western New York. "Blues music isn't sad. Blues music is all about healing. Blues music is about saying what you feel and feeling better about it."

Robby Takac, founder of Music Is Art and the longtime bass player for the Goo Goo Dolls, admitted his own blues background is severely limited, mostly to his love of the Rolling Stones, the legendary British rock and roll band that was influenced by blues.

But he, too, sees blues as an ideal genre for music therapy. He considers it a more user-friendly form of music. Takac said where he might not sit in with a jazz group or progressive rock group, he'd quickly sit in with a blues group.

"You don't have to be amazing at it, in order to do it," he said. "I think that's one of the greatest things about this concept. You can come in knowing a few chords and a few guys can sit down and have an amazing time together."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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