Deaf man is amazingly self taught on the piano

via the Hamilton County Times

Does Kyle Thomas know how beautifully he plays the piano?
He’s been told.
The Noblesville resident can hear the piano. But he can’t tell if it’s in tune.
He can hear the volume, but he can’t distinguish the pitches.
Thomas, who was born deaf, has played the piano since he was 12.
“I taught myself,” said Thomas, 41, who can distinguish between high and low, loud and soft, fast and slow.
Just like learning any new skill, playing the piano takes practice to do well. “It’s easy for me now, after all of these years,” said Thomas, who has developed a technique and understanding of what goes into the music, structure and theory.
He plays so beautifully that he’s often sought after for local community theaters.
“It is amazing that he can play when he basically cannot hear the music,” said Jan Jamison, director of Westfield Playhouse’s production, “33 Variations,” on stage weekends through Feb. 18. The play, interestingly, goes back and forth examining the creative process between Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Diabelli Variations” and the journey of a musicologist who has ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, to discover why Beethoven, who while growing deaf, was compelled to write 33 variations on a simple theme.
“I looked at Beethoven’s music and decided it would be a worthy challenge,” said Thomas, whose livelihood is warehouse work at the Amazon fulfillment center in Whitestown. “I would consider several of the variations to be among the most difficult pieces I’ve played.”

During Westfield’s play rehearsals, I watched and listened as Thomas sat at the baby-grand piano in his borrowed black tuxedo with tails, loud crazy-patterned socks and long, thick beard that he’s he’s been growing for a year.
He played the variations throughout the play as they were mentioned.
But how does he do it? “With my hearing aids on, I do hear the piano, just in a different way,” he said. While hearing aids don’t correct hearing loss in the way that eyeglasses correct vision,” he said, “For me, they amplify sounds but don’t necessarily help in clarifying them.”
He said, “So I have to rely on visual cues in addition to what I’m able to hear.”
During his play rehearsals, he develops a sense of timing and learns exactly what to listen and look for, he said.
“If I make a mistake, I know it mostly in a visual or physical sense. My fingers may slip, or my timing is off, or I know that what I’m playing doesn’t match what i’m reading on the sheet music. So I correct things to the best of my ability.”
Thomas said neither of his parents are deaf nor is he aware of any family history of deafness. When he was a baby, his parents noticed that he wasn’t responding to auditory stimuli, and doctors confirmed that he was indeed deaf. His mom actually taught at Indiana School for the Deaf but said her son didn’t show any interest in learning to sign as a child. So he was put into Washington Township Schools in Marion County. At school, he used hearing aids and other assistive-listening devices.
Looking back, he’s always been performing in some way. As a kid, he acted out fairy tales, put on magic shows and participated in the usual school programs.
As for learning the piano, both sets of grandparents had pianos in their homes, so he “did the usual banging on the keys.” And he said, “My childhood friends usually spoke of music lessons as being boring.” But it wasn’t until he saw the movie, “Great Balls of Fire!” in 1989 that he thought, “Wow, I wish I could play like that.” He started teaching himself, used old lessons books from his grandparents, then took lessons from his church organist.
A turning point in his life occurred his freshman year at North Central High School, where he was cast, in 1991, in the play, “Children of a Lesser God,” about a deaf student and her teacher, and he began to learn American Sign Language beyond the basics. Then, he played in his first musical, “The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd.” From that point on, he was involved in so many shows that he lost count.
He was on stage in most shows, acting and, if it was a musical, dancing and lip-syncing. And then he started getting asked to play the piano in shows.
Read the full article here

Brain damaged musician makes music again through technology

A brain damaged violinist has performed in concert with her best friend 29 years after they last played together after her mind was wired up to a computer to allow her to play notes using only her thoughts.

Rosemary Johnson, 51, was a leading member of the Welsh National Opera Orchestra but her promising career as a soloist was cut short when she was involved in a devastating car accident in 1988 while travelling to a concert.

Miss Johnson was left in a coma for seven months and suffered a debilitating head injury which robbed her of speech and movement, confining her to a wheelchair and leaving her unable to lift, let alone play, her beloved violin.

Alison Balfour 
Alison Balfour 

But in a groundbreaking project led by Plymouth University and the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in London, her brain was linked to a computer using Brain Computer Music Interfacing software, allowing her to compose and play music again.

This month, for the first time she was able to perform with her best friend Alison Balfour, with whom she last played when they were both violinists in the Welsh National Opera Orchestra in the 1980s.

Rosemary Johnson, aged 19, before the accident 
Rosemary Johnson, aged 19, before the accident  Credit:  Paul Grover

“The idea with playing with Rosie again after so many years was something I never imagined would be possible,” said Mrs Balfour, who now plays with the Bath Philharmonia.

“I felt honoured to be doing this with her, to be her sound, her music, her violin and to have her next to me again was wonderful, really wonderful.

“Music has an extraordinary power to move people. It can give them a voice, it can give them a chance to express themselves. It can be a release of emotion and a connection with other people.”

“I can remember the first day Rosie came in. She had the kind of musical look about her that gave us confidence in what she was doing.  I am a rank and file but she was a solo player, she was a numbered position.

“She had everything ahead of her. After the accident I remember the orchestra felt broken. That lasted a long while.”

Read more here

The mystery of music and the mind…

via nature.com

Whether tapping a foot to samba or weeping at a ballad, the human response to music seems almost instinctual. Yet few can articulate how music works. How do strings of sounds trigger emotion, inspire ideas, even define identities?

Cognitive scientists, anthropologists, biologists and musicologists have all taken a crack at that question, and it is into this line that Adam Ockelford steps. Comparing Notes draws on his experience as a composer, pianist, music researcher and, most notably, a music educator working for decades with children who have visual impairments or are on the autistic spectrum, many with extraordinary musical abilities. Through this “prism of the overtly remarkable”, Ockelford seeks to shed light on music perception and cognition in all of us. Existing models based on neurotypical children could overlook larger truths about the human capacity to learn and make sense of music he contends.

George Pickow/Three Lions/Getty

How the human brain processes music remains a mystery.

Some of the children described in Comparing Notes might (for a range of reasons) have trouble tying their shoelaces or carrying on a basic conversation. Yet before they hit double digits in age, they can hear a complex composition for the first time and immediately play it on the piano, their fingers flying to the correct notes. This skill, Ockelford reminds us, eludes many adults with whom he studied at London’s Royal Academy of Music. Weaving together the strands that let these children perform such stunning feats, Ockelford constructs an argument for rethinking conventional wisdom on music education.

He positions absolute pitch (AP) as central to these abilities to improvise, listen and play. Only 1 in 10,000 neurotypical people in the West have AP — the ability to effortlessly, without context, name the note sounded by a violin or a vacuum cleaner (“That’s an F-sharp!”). Among those on the autism spectrum, the number rises to 8%, roughly 1 in 13. For people born blind or who lost their sight early in infancy, it is 45%. AP, Ockelford argues, enables children to sound out and tinker with familiar tunes; that experimentation leads to a deep grasp of musical structure.

Read more here

Music education proven to enhance early learning

Music is part of everyone’s life. It is all around us, all the time. It can be heard on the radio, in vehicles, at the grocery store and in our homes. It can be used to calm or to excite, and it can even be used to help the learning process. When a child becomes engaged in learning through the use of music, it stimulates them in more ways than just being easy on the ears.

Tiffany Wibbenmeyer, a band instructor at Perry County School District No. 32, said that music positively affects students, and thata musical education can contribute to other areas of their learning.

“There are very few things that literally every single culture, in any era, shares, and music is one of them,” Wibbenmeyer said. “Music engages the entire brain. It’s so good for the growth of young, and even older, minds. Music invokes emotions; to hype people up, or to make people laugh or cry.”

Many years of research have discovered that music facilitates learning and enhances skills that children use in other areas of their life. Making music involves more than just singing or playing an instrument with your fingers; learning through music makes children use multiple sets of skills at the same time.

Through the use of music they learn to work their body, voice and even their brain together. Just by practicing an instrument, children are improving their range of motor skills, such as hand-eye coordination, much like playing sports.

Children love to imitate what they see and hear around them. As the child copies things they see, they pay attention to try and imitate everything from actions to songs and words. According to the Children’s Music Workshop, the effect of music education on language development can be seen in the brain. Studies have shown that any kind of musical training helps to physically develop the left side of the brain, which is the part where language processing occurs.

Children who are musically involved, versus those who are non-musical, also show signs of a higher neurological development and activity over time. By learning to read music and identify patterns, they are constantly using their memory to perform, even by reading from sheet music. It also promotes craftsmanship and discipline, such as dedicating time to learn how to plan an instrument or a piece of music.

“Sometimes making up silly songs to go along with new material in a classroom helps students memorize things better in school,” Wibbenmeyer said.

“Even very young students use music to memorize things, just like The Alphabet Song. If you want to make something better you add music to it. I can remember songs I haven’t heard in years because the music helped me to remember the words.”

Listening to music has been proven to help young children detect different elements in sound, like an emotional meaning in a baby’s cry. Students who practice music can have a better auditory attention to pick out patterns and sounds from surrounding noise. By understanding music and how it works, children are taught to visualize the different elements and how they perform together. This can train skills in the brain that are used to solve multistep problems often found in math, art, gaming and even computer work.

Students also have been seen to improve test scores more than other students not involved in music. In a study published in 2007 by Christopher Johnson, professor of music education and music therapy at the University of Kansas, students from an elementary school involved in a superior music education program scored about 22 percent higher in English and about 20 percent higher in math on standardized tests. Another report indicates higher SAT scores from students with musical experience.

Read more here

Piano helps you stay alert as you get older…

via the DailyMail.com

Pensioners should revive their youthful dreams of becoming a rockstar, new research suggests.

Learning to play an instrument could prevent their brain succumbing to the effects of old age, scientists claim.

A study found musicians have faster reaction times than those who are unable to play the piano, drums or a guitar.

Alertness is known to decrease in old age, but experts say picking up the skill could keep their brain healthy.

Learning to play an instrument could prevent their brain succumbing to the effects of old age, scientists claim

Learning to play an instrument could prevent their brain succumbing to the effects of old age, scientists claim

Researchers from the University de Montreal, Canada, decided to see if there was a way to prevent the negative effects of aging on the brain.

They compared the reaction times of 16 musicians and 19 non-musicians.

The musicians had started playing between the ages of three and 10, and had at least seven years of training.

There were eight pianists, three violinists, two percussionists, one double bassist, one harpist and one viola player.

All but one also mastered a second instrument, or more.

They were sat in a quiet, well-lit room with one hand on a computer mouse and their index finger of the other on a vibro-tactile device – a small box that vibrated intermittently.

A study found musicians have faster reaction times - which decline in old age because of a breakdown in natural brain processes

A study found musicians have faster reaction times – which decline in old age because of a breakdown in natural brain processes

They were told to click on the mouse when they heard a sound from the speakers in front of them – known as audio stimulation.

While they were also asked to click when the box vibrated – referred to as tactile stimulation.

Music therapy reduces depression in young people, study finds

Music therapy reduces depression in young people, study finds -BelfastTelegraph.co.uk

Researchers from Queen's University Belfast, pictured, and Bournemouth University found young people, aged eight to 16, also enjoyed improved self-esteem compared with those who received treatment without music
Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast, pictured, and Bournemouth University found young people, aged eight to 16, also enjoyed improved self-esteem compared with those who received treatment without music

The largest ever study of music therapy’s effect on children with depression has found significant benefits.

Recipients, aged eight to 16, also enjoyed improved self-esteem compared with those who received treatment without music, researchers from Queen’s University Belfast and Bournemouth University found.

More than 250 took part and experts said it suggested the care should now be made available as a mainstream option.

Professor Sam Porter, from Bournemouth University, said: “This study is hugely significant in terms of determining effective treatments for children and young people with behavioural problems and mental health needs.”

The research found:

:: Young people aged 13 and over who received music therapy had improved communicative and interactive skills, compared to those given the usual care options alone.

:: Self-esteem was significantly boosted and depression lowered.

:: Even after music therapy had finished, social functioning improved long-term in all age groups.

:: However, most improvements tended to be modest and short lasting and there was a higher drop out rate of 38%.

T he findings were part of a Music in Mind study carried out in partnership with the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust.

It concluded the results of the trial strongly indicated the need for further research to ascertain what type and dosage of music therapy was most effective, for whom and in what circumstances.

Mental ill health affects up to a fifth of children and adolescents worldwide, including social, emotional and behavioural problems. Adolescent depression and anxiety frequently co-occur and extend into adulthood, the report added.

The therapy used musical experiences within a patient/therapist relationship to achieve better health.

Dr Valerie Holmes, from the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s University and a co-researcher, said: “This is the largest study ever to be carried out looking at music therapy’s ability to help this very vulnerable group, and is further evidence of how Queen’s University is advancing knowledge and changing lives.”

A total of 251 children and young people were involved in the study, supported by the Big Lottery Fund, which took place between March 2011 and May 2014.

They were divided into two groups – 128 underwent the usual care options, while 123 were assigned to music therapy in addition to usual care. All were being treated for emotional, developmental or behavioural problems.

The Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust said: ” The findings are dramatic and underscore the need for music therapy to be made available as a mainstream treatment option.

“For a long time we have relied on anecdotal evidence and small-scale research findings about how well music therapy works. Now we have robust clinical evidence to show its beneficial effects.”

Read the full article at the Belfast Telegraph here

Music therapy helps children, families cope with illness

By ROBERTA GEDERT | THE BLADE

Nine-year-old Hannah Gorham loves to sing.

She loves Carrie Underwood and reading Fancy Nancy books, and she adores Bear-y, the tattered stuffed animal blanket she has had since birth.

Her hero is Calysta Bevier, the 16-year-old ovarian cancer survivor from Hannah’s hometown of Grand Rapids, Ohio, who advanced to the semi-finals on the popular NBC show America’s Got Talent.

And Hannah’s therapeutic savior might just be music.

In ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital since Aug. 31 for severe migraines, Hannah was introduced recently to music therapy, a growing practice for hospitalized children and those with developmental or physical disabilities.

Operated through the hospital’s Child Life program, music therapy helps children and their families cope with stresses related to a child’s illness and the adjustment of a hospital stay. David Putano, a music therapist who owns a private practice in Toledo, visits children like Hannah at the hospital for weekly one-on-one musical sessions.

“When you expose people to music they love, the feeling of success, of hopefulness, reminds them of things they love,” Mr. Putano said. “At a hospital, we sometimes get away from things at home that we love, things that are beautiful.”

On this particular Friday, surrounded by stuffed tigers, monkeys, and dolls, Hannah, a quiet, petite blonde with glasses, finds her place on the keyboard and joins Mr. Putano in making music. The pair first coordinate musical notes to a preprogrammed rhythm (this, time, they choose one reminiscent of an epic space movie; Mr. Putano often uses movie references to get students in the right creative frame of mind). As Mr. Putano plays the guitar, Hannah finds her happy place on the keyboard and joins in.

“OK, start going slower, we are going to sneak up on the ending,” Mr. Putano prompts. “When I count to three, you play one more note.”

Twice, the session is interrupted so that Hannah can take medication. Then, it’s back to the beat.

Hannah watches intently as Mr. Putano searches for the perfect hip-hop beat on the keyboard. She clutches Bear-y as he explains to the young girl that there are 12 notes in music and helps her find the A note on the keyboard.

“Play whatever you want … Atta girl!” he encourages.

“You can tell when someone is really wired for music. You do really well,” he says to his tiny student as they finish up.

She smiles. Quietly.

“My favorite part was doing this with David. It made me happy,” Hannah said after the lesson. “It feels good.”

Soothing the soul

Hannah was diagnosed two years ago with Chiari malformation, a congenital defect in which part of the skull at the back of the head is too small for the brain.

“She started stuttering; she would trip over things and there would be nothing there,” said her grandfather, Rick Tolles, also of Grand Rapids.

Her mother, Heather Gorham, was optimistic that music therapy would help.

“Heck, it’s worth a shot. All of this medication is hard on her little body, but if something like this would work, that would be fantastic,” she said.

The young girl had been getting migraines for about a year, but a week into fourth grade, they became severe, Mr. Tolles said. Now, when she gets a migraine, Hannah runs to her grandfather and hides in the crook of his arm to shield herself from the light.

“I think the biggest thing is the music. It makes her rest easier — I can get her to close her eyes,” he said. “I haven’t found much else that helps.”

Music is considered to be a primary cognitive experience, meaning as human beings, we have no control over the emotions we feel when we experience it, Mr. Putano said.

“If we can identify music that a patient loves, music they have positive associations with … if we can engage them in playing music that they really like a lot, we can instantly have them experience those positive emotions,” he said.

Music versus medicine

Researchers have found that music therapy provides a diversion from negative feelings and helps manage the pain of not only adults but of children with developmental, physical, behavioral, and neurological disabilities, said Al Bumanis, a certified music therapist and now the spokesman for the American Music Therapy Association. Continued research with music shows effects on the subjects’ vital signs: blood pressure goes down, the heart rate slows, body temperature goes up; it calms and relaxes but also motivates.

Read the full article here

Piano music raising the bar at elementary school

Via CBS News

These days, as Michelle Miller is about to show us. thousands of elementary school students are hitting all the right notes:

The Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School sits in a New Orleans neighborhood stressed by violence, poverty and the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina. But don’t tell that to the music teacher.

“Ooh, everybody has such a beautiful smile this morning! Good Morning!”

Pat Sylvain-Little’s music class is a world apart. And she says there’s a lot more going on here than just a piano lesson.

“It’s something about the keyboard,” Sylvain-Little told Miller. “You have so many things you have to do at once. You’re playing with two hands. You’re trying to read the music. You’re trying to count the rhythms, all at the same time. And what researchers have found is that it sparks the brain.”

Sparking the brain of a child is what motivated Lisha Lercari to create this course that’s now being taught in 14 schools in New Orleans, and 130 in New York City.

Lercari is a music teacher on a mission.

“I think children need to read music,” Lercari said. “I want to raise the bar high for them. I want them to be thinking beings while they’re playing and not just play it. It’s making it a process of thinking about it. It’s a process of using their brains.”
music-and-the-brain-students-620.jpg

The education program Music and the Brain aims to instruct young people far beyond the rudiments of music.

CBS News

In 1996, Lercari read a Newsweek cover story about children’s brains and how they develop; how exposure to music rewires neural circuits; how, in one experiment, music lessons improved the abstract reasoning of preschoolers.

She then spoke to scientists and researchers, and asked herself: How could she translate what was happening in laboratories back into the real world?

Miller asked, “Why is this necessary?”

“It’s necessary because children don’t have music in their lives,” Lercari replied. “But it’s also necessary because of what it does in other areas of education. We have seen their literacy improve, we’ve seen their language skills in other ways improve. Music sticks. It enhances memory skills. It helps with attention. It helps them focus.”

Decades of budget cutbacks had led to the gutting of art and music classes, so Lercari got funding from various foundations, devised her own program, and called it “Music and the Brain.”

“You’re doing it. Very good job! I love it. You’re doing a great job. Keep up that singing!”

At PS 71 in Queens, New York, Claire McIntire has been teaching the course for 12 years, mostly to kindergarteners and first- and second-graders.

“I don’t want to be a music teacher where it’s taught like ‘drill and skill,’” she told Miller. “Like, ‘Let’s go. You gotta do it again! Again!’ and make it boring.

“When the kids come in the room, I want them to walk in with a smile. I want them to leave with a smile. I want them to feel good about it. Mistakes happen every day, and I want them to know that’s OK.”

Most schools discover the program through word of mouth. And when they do, Lercari arrives bearing gifts: “Keyboard lab with piano, music stands, and keyboard stands and headphones, piano books, teachers’ manuals, theory papers, posters that go along with every page of every book, CDs that are instructional, and CDs that are for fun listening, and rhythm CDs as well.”

Here’s how it works: Students first sing the melodies — classical, world, folk and children’s songs.

Next, they learn the rhythms. Then, the notes. Along the way, teachers add the history, geography and languages associated with the music.

And finally, practice at the keyboard. One or two times a week, 30 to 45 minutes at a time.

Miller asked, “Can anybody teach this?”

“Yeah, if they’re willing to work at it!” Lercari laughed. “I would say the only people who can’t teach this are people who probably shouldn’t be teaching at all.”

Lercari is in constant contact with her music teachers. If a technique works in one classroom, she believes it will work in another. But in all the schools, the key is finding teachers who care as deeply as she does — teachers like Pat Sylvain-Little.

“Pat is one of the most beautiful teachers I’ve ever worked with,” Lercari said. “So many kids in New Orleans need a way out of ‘No Way.’ And she makes sure they find it. Nobody fails in her hands.

“I can tell you she saw every child every day. And we watched the ranking of this school go straight up. Her kids can do anything.”

Sylvain-Little says, if it weren’t for these classes, most of her students would never play the piano … let alone have one at home.

“Parents will say, ‘I didn’t even know my child was studying the piano,” she said. “I have some children that have told me, ‘I practice on the kitchen table.’ You know, they sing the letters and go through the music. And so a keyboard is wonderful, but if you don’t have it, it doesn’t stop you.”

Claire McIntire said, “A lot of the parents will come to me and they’ll say during parent-teacher conferences, they’ll ask me, ‘Miss McIntire, should I buy a keyboard?’ And I always tell them, ‘Listen, it’s better than video games. It’s better than watching TV. And your child really loves it. So why not?’”

Lercari plans to expand Music and the Brain into many more schools.

She’s ready for battle.

Read more here
Or find out about education programs here

Science: Music makes beer taste better

Music can influence how much you like the taste of beer, according to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology.

Their findings suggest that a range of multisensory information, such as sound, sensation, shape and color, can influence the way we perceive taste.

The Brussels Beer Project collaborated with UK band The Editors to produce a porter-style beer that took inspiration from the musical and visual identity of the band.

The ale had a medium body and used an Earl Grey infusion that produced citrus notes, contrasting with the malty, chocolate flavors from the mix of grains used in production. This taste profile was designed to broadly correspond to The Editors latest album, ‘In Dreams’.

Then, a team of researchers led by Dr. Felipe Reinoso Cavalho, from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and KU Leuven, designed an experiment to see if the influence of music and packaging design would result in a more positive tasting experience.

They invited 231 drinkers to experience the beer in three different conditions.

The first served as a control group and drank the beer along with a bottle without a label. In this case, they didn’t listen to any specific song.

The second group, testing the influence of packaging, tasted the beer after seeing the bottle with the label.

The third group drank the beer presented with the label while listening to ‘Oceans of Light’, one of the songs on the band’s latest album which the beer was created to reflect.

Before the test the participants rated how tasty they thought the beer might be. Then after tasting they rated how much they had actually enjoyed the drink.

The results showed that those presented with the label and track reported both greater enjoyment than those presented with the beer and label alone.

Filipe said: “We have been able to see that people tend to feel more pleasure when experiencing beverages along with sounds that are part of the beverage’s identity.

“In this case, we have shown that people that previously knew the song that was used in the experiment, not only liked the multisensory experience of drinking beer more while listening to it, but they also liked the beer itself more.

“It seems that the added pleasure that the song brought into the experience was transferred into the beer’s flavor.”

Speaking about the next steps for this research Felipe said: “We want to keep assessing how sounds can modulate perceived flavor attributes of food and beverages, such as bitterness, sweetness, sourness and creaminess.

“We also want to understand how sounds can influence our decision making process, in order to see if different sounds could, for example, lead people towards healthier food choices.”

Research into the interaction of different sensory information on taste has opened up the way for food and beverage retailers to create a range of novel eating and drinking experiences.

Read more here at medicalxpress.com