Music to soothe the soul |

Music to soothe the soul

Photo by Joe Kusumoto NRO and BOEC pic 4

BRECKENRIDGE – Without a word, Deforia Lane walks into the center of the circle surrounded by about eight children and 10 adults.She begins to sing – la, la, la, la – as she holds out a tambourine. The children immediately take her up on her nonverbal invitation to hit the instrument.One girl with black pigtails, about 9 years old, sits forward on her seat with a slight smile, her eyes intent on Lane. An observer would never know minutes before the girl started crying when a stranger said hello to her; she has a sensory integration disorder that causes her to become easily overstimulated and frightened. Therapists soothe her by constantly saying, “It’s OK.” When her jaw starts trembling and she’s about to cry, she repeats the phrase to herself while holding her stuffed doggies.Every child in the circle has a sensory integration disorder. They are oversensitive to noise, textures and sights, which causes them to act out in anger or become easily upset. Some have attention deficit disorder, a learning disability, or both. This week, they are at the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center’s (BOEC) Griffith Lodge as part of a four-night therapeutic course coordinated by the Children’s Hospital in Denver.

During the course, the children will have the opportunity to increase self-awareness and communication skills in a supportive environment, said BOEC staff member Rosie Thom.Having five musicians in the room normally might be too much for them to handle, but Lane eases them into the process of sharing music. She gently sings her instructions, asking them to pass around and play instruments. She works on impulse control by leading a game of stop and go while playing music.After a few activities, four musicians from the National Repertory Orchestra (NRO) bring their instruments into the circle. They play name that tune, and each time someone identifies the song, the whole group sings.One girl jumps up when Lane invites her to solo. She runs to Lane, holds hands, smiles and looks the therapist directly in the eye as she sings “Hot Cross Buns.”By the time the 40-minute music therapy session ends, the children have played violins with the orchestra and danced.

“This is the most I’ve seen (him) participate the whole time in camp,” said occupational therapist Bridget Bax about one of her clients. “(Music) connects with them in a different place. Sometimes when we can’t reach them with all the activities we do, music can.”Lane began working as a music therapist with children with mental retardation in 1979. She is now the director of music therapy at the University Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. She addresses anxiety, depression and physical pain perception with patients. In her session with the children Thursday night, she worked on impulse control, leadership and team building.”The No. 1 thing I’m trying to do is provide purposeful, pleasant and success-oriented experiences – things they could master themselves,” Lane said. “I let them experience playing instruments because with sensory problems, the feel of the violin strings under their fingers and the vibration it creates is a lot to handle at one time. But they were all able to do it.”During Lane’s week-long visit to Breckenridge, she collaborates with NRO musicians to teach them about music therapy.”It enriches the musicians’ whole perception of how powerful music is,” said Terese Kaptur, executive director of the NRO. “There are so many nontraditional places that you can take music beyond the concert hall.”

The musicians who participated in Thursday’s music therapy session were amazed at the powerful effect music had on the children.”The music captured and grabbed something inside of them,” said cellist Dance Johansen. “A lot of times in music, we lose sight of exactly what it is we’re doing to help people. We spend a lot of time practicing in rooms by ourselves. It was really interesting to watch how receptive they were to the different activities we engaged them in.””They say that music is the universal language, and this illustrates how it can touch everyone,” said bassist Karis Samson.Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or at

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