At first glance, Tina Callahan, looks like any other 317 Main student behind the keyboard, smiling and focused on the music in front of her, but look a little closer, and you’ll notice that she plays with only one hand. In conversation, her halting speech reveals the tell-tale signs of brain injury.
Tina had a massive stroke in 2002 at the age of 44 that robbed her of her ability to speak and left her without the use of her right side. She’s not alone. Tina is one of 2 million Americans suffering from Aphasia, the loss of language, but not brain function.
But the reason for her visit to 317 Main wasn’t about what she lost. It’s about what she’s regained. She and her husband of 34 years, Tom, were featured in a workshop led by certified Music Therapist Patricia Mulholland on the healing power of music.
“The therapy is about using music intentionally to promote growth and healing,” explained Mulholland, Speaking to an audience made up of caregivers, stroke survivors, musicians and people with cognitive disabilities, Mulholland explained how playing music allows neurons in the brain to make new connections. This kind of rewiring, called neuroplasticity, is especially important following brain trauma.
In Tina’s case, music therapy with Mulholland helped Tina regain both physical and cognitive skills.
With help from Mulholland, Tina wrote “Sonata for Piano: A Stroke Survivor’s Story. ” The piece, with narrative interludes from Tom, recounted the trauma of Tina’s stroke and her slow but steady recovery through music.
The takeaway for the audience: music can be an effective tool for anyone recovering from brain trauma. “There are new doorways awaiting you,” says Mulholland.
317 Main is hoping to make Music Therapy a part of our regular programming. If you would be interested in learning more, please contact us and we’ll notify you about upcoming classes. amy317main.org.