Melody, rhythm and harmony on call with Music as Medicine

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Playing music with a level of expertise requires considerable dedication.

“We spend a lot of time in practice rooms and to see how this actually impacts people, real people in real life, is super rewarding,” South Dakota Symphony Orchestra violinist Magdalena Modzelewska said.

Modzelewska is part of a recent Music as Medicine performance on the Avera McKennan campus in Sioux Falls. The program also recently brought their musicianship to a Sanford Health hospice facility.

“It’s this healing aspect of the arts,” said Delta David Gier, music director of the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra.

“It makes us stop and just take a break from where we are, from the rush of the everyday life,” Modzelewska said. “And that’s what we see in Music as Medicine. We see people all the time doing just that.”

“It’s a different kind of way of being relevant to the community,” Gier said.

Music as Medicine brings the symphony’s musicians out to area health facilities. A clinic can become a concert hall. Gier says it’s about connecting people with this music.

“It’s part of a broader philosophy approach to how the orchestra serves our community … we have Music as Medicine, but it fits right in with our educational programs and our Bridging Cultures programs,” Gier said.

Different people might take in this music that is for them. Avera Health art therapist Carol Rogers says these performances offer the opportunity for stress to drop.

“It’s staff members, it is loved ones of the patients that are here, it’s the patients who are here in the building, it’s also people from rehab, people from surgery center,” Rogers said.

Music can take the mind to a place it would rather be.

“They have that music right here in front of them, and it’s such a close interaction with them,” Rogers said. “It’s wonderful.”

“The classical music that we play tends to just draw people in, and it has this healing effect on people,” Gier said. “It brings them to another space. It’s not a diversion kind of space. It’s a reflective space.”

“It does give you permission to sit and just relax for a bit and reflect,” Rogers said.

Sounds and scenes like these might not be what immediately come to mind when you think of health care.

“We play in the symphony hall for people that come to us,” Modzelewska said.

“There’s definitely a relevance to playing Beethoven in a concert hall,” Gier said. “That’s great music in a great concert hall by a great orchestra; that’s its own justification. But a lot of people don’t make it into the concert hall to experience the orchestra.”

Gier brings up one Music as Medicine moment that particularly impacted him.

“He just sat down and started playing a Bach cello suite, and that entire space was transformed and people just in awe,” Gier said. “People just walking in would just stop in their tracks, ’cause the music was just so arresting.”



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