Read the Olympian article about my Music Healing work here
“Elizabeth’s music brings my Dad joy and happy memories. He looks forward to every visit, and always shares with me how much he enjoys listening to Elizabeth. Dad’s blindness and other disabilities leaves little pleasure left in his life. We have been so thankful for Elizabeth’s gift of music to brighten his days! “
-Carrie Walker Petit
“The music you provide to me and others is heart-lifting!”
–Bob Walker, resident at Panorama CRC
As a Music Healer, I play instruments and sing songs people love and remember, as well as my own songs. I seek the unique connection and spark with each person, especially elders and those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of neurological impairment.
If you are interested in customized, healing, and engaging music for yourself or a loved one, please contact me at: elizabethhummel (at) yahoo (dot) com.
Since 2016, I have been working with elders both as a volunteer and as a paid musician. Singing and playing guitar for them and with them is a critical part of the work, as is engaging staff and families. I work in nursing homes, Adult Family Homes and Retired and Assisted Living Facilities. I also work privately with individuals in need of some joy and music.
As any music can be healing, I de-emphasize the “therapy” aspect. Most of my clients get enough therapy in any given day! I would rather focus on experiencing our shared humanity and joy through music–which has a power and impact of its own. I have also brought the music to folks who are dying, as a volunteer through Hospice.
“Elizabeth brings joy and comfort to our residents and their families whenever she is here. Whether it is a large scheduled group activity, a small impromptu concert in the hallway, or a 1:1 session with a bedridden patient, her caring heart and capable skills make a significant contribution to the quality of life of our residents and their families. “
–Deb Becker, Activities Director, Panorama CRC
I have been writing essays inspired by extraordinary changes that I feel and see in this work–changes in myself, in the people I sing with and for, and for their families. They are stories of love and unexpected gifts, of hearts and minds expanding. I have published some of the writing on Facebook. Based on positive feedback and the feeling that this work really strikes a chord with many, I am working on compiling and expanding them into a book entitled Mama Always Did Like it When We Sang: A Musical Journey of Joy and Inspiration. You can read a few of these essays here.
“When you sing, you make the pain go away!”
-May, a resident at Woodland by Bonaventure
Originally, I started doing this as a volunteer. I saw it as a way to confront my own fears about aging (or “the extreme sport of olding” as my friend Mick Dodge calls it), illness and death. I want to be fearless, to be able to look these scary things in the face with a smile and with love in my heart. I was also in a period of transition in my life, and I saw this as a tangible way to make a difference with the skills I have cultivated in a lifetime of musical development, performance and songwriting. After a year of volunteering this way, it has grown into “right livelihood” for me, as the Buddhists call it.
I love this work because it is so direct and because people are just so interesting! I enjoy not only the residents, but the aides, nurses, cafeteria, and laundry staff, who sometimes join in the singing or simply enjoy the music too. This engagement of the elder community makes the experience all the better for the residents, but also creates better work places.
“I am constantly busy, but often see and hear Elizabeth playing for our residents at Panorama. The calm smiles on everyone’s faces and the clarity of her voice and guitar make tangible the true spirit of caregiving. She brings light to all of us.”
-James Finn, Restorative Aide and songwriter
The group performances always include lots of songs they know and love, but also my own songs which they enjoy too. Like any audience, they are curious about me as an artist, and enjoy hearing new work. In the one-to-one work, I completely customize my set to the person. I incorporate what I learn about them over time, and what their needs seem to be in the moment. Sometimes it’s trial and error: we all have different tastes! Facilities hire me to do work in this way, and families also hire me to spend time with their loved ones singing and playing.
One of my favorite gigs is working with the “Gentle Care” folks who have memory loss or other conditions requiring special care. I have developed a successful weekly program for these residents and their families at Panorama CRC and also two Adult Family Homes.
“My wife lives at Panorama in the Gentle Care unit. She has Alzheimer’s, which profoundly affects her speech and memory. She is rarely verbal—but when Elizabeth comes to play and sing to the group each week, she comes alive! Sometimes she speaks, she often smiles, laughs, and even sings along with songs she remembers. One week I was astonished when she knew the words to Amazing Grace! I didn’t know the words, but she did. Even if her eyes are closed, her feet and hands constantly keep time with the music.
I appreciate that Elizabeth gives such connecting and personal attention to her and the other residents, as they all clearly enjoy it so much. And I enjoy the music too! This weekly hour of music is a vital part of life to people who have lost most of their communication ability. It is also a wonderful way for me and other family members to share quality time with our loved ones.”
-Jack Van Leuven
My article: “Ten Things to Remember When Your Loved One Has Alzheimer’s” is here.
I have also been writing songs inspired by and for these wonderful people. Here are two of them that I have recorded:
I Love You Merlene (for a dear 105 year old lady who taught me to yodel!)
Stars of Orion (a prayer for a return to the stars to a dying woman.)
As I tell my “elderfans” often: “The science is in! Music helps your heart, your brain, your blood pressure! And we all know it helps our mood, so sing with me!”