May 2, 2024

The Power of Music as Medicine

(coming from a pharmacist!)

Karen is on a mission to help individuals and corporate teams – who feel stressed and burned out – shift their mood in under 10-minutes through the power of music.

Karen’s journey with the British Academy of Sound Therapy (BAST) began after a series of “life events” that brought her back to music.

After years of classical guitar study, that culminated in the recording of an album at age 14 and her subsequent high school years studying both science and music, Karen was at a crossroads – would she go to university for music or pharmacy. She chose the latter but promised herself to go back to music, but not before spending over 30-years gaining a Doctor of Pharmacy and Masters of Science and building a career in both the pharmacy and pharmaceutical industries.

Then, in 2018 she fell 15-feet off of a rock-climbing wall in San Franscico, requiring elbow reconstructive surgery. 

The following year, she watched her father – who was dying of the end-stages of dementia and generally unresponsive near the end of his life, utter the name of the piece she was playing at his bedside. Music tapped into a part of his brain that was still very much alive and Karen was determined to understand – how and why.  

It was through these seemingly unrelated life events – her fall and the loss of her father to dementia – that stimulated a process of discovery where Karen found BAST in her search for the evidence for music as medicine. 

“I was fascinated by BAST’s Music as Medicine Study, along with BAST’s other research and loved how the team at BAST was tied in with the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. I was hooked and determined to learn more.”

“My training was in ‘evidence-based medicine’, but what I discovered, through BAST, was ‘evidence-based music’. I was able to take my critical appraisal of the literature skills and apply them to MUSIC as the intervention, rather than DRUGS.”

While Karen still consults to the pharmaceutical industry on drug plan design and practices as a pharmacist, she now runs workshops and is a keynote speaker for corporate groups on music for stress reduction, productivity and resilience. 

She completed the Group Sound Arts Therapy (GSAT) and Group Voice Arts Therapy (GVAT) courses – learning online and even travelling to the UK for two-days of practical training, followed by 18 case studies for private groups of professionals, residents in retirement homes and participants in yoga studios.

“Although the instrument case studies (GSAT) felt comfortable, I was a bit apprehensive (okay, very apprehensive) about running the voice case studies (GVAT) as I’m not a vocalist. However, My BAST training, along with the support of my fellow students gave me the confidence to step forward.”

“My training through BAST gave me the fundamental knowledge to speak on the health benefits of music. I saw this first hand, with my father. I also saw the distinct possibility of music being taken away from me after my rock-climbing fall”.

To this day, Karen as found convergence between her role as a healthcare professional and also as a musician. BAST has been the glue that has brought these two worlds together.

Karen now speaks, and runs workshops, on the Power of Music as Medicine, and the health benefits of music on mood, motivation and concentration to corporate groups and university students throughout North America. She also runs interactive group sound arts therapy sessions, based on her BAST training, for older adults in retirement homes, for yoga retreats and for corporate wellness programs. She’s also collaborated with a visual artist for art-and-sound therapy workshops.

When we asked Karen “what’s next”, she said “I’m looking to continue my work in the corporate wellness area while also expanding my role as a sound therapy practitioner. While it’s very different than managing patients’ medication and giving immunizations, I believe sound and music are overlooked, yet extremely powerful, forms of medicine that complement traditional therapies. And, who knows, I may just find myself in another BAST course soon!”.

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