A Reno music therapy organization is helping people with all abilities
Music is more than just songs. For some, it can be a powerful therapeutic tool. A Reno music therapy organization is helping people with all abilities and ethnicities to reach their goals.
It's Wednesday afternoon and a group of people of different ages are getting ready to start a dance class. But it's not your typical dance class. This class provides healing through music.
Dance classes are only one of many services that Note-Able Music Therapy Services offers to children, teens and adults with disabilities in the Reno-Sparks area.
The organization has been around since 1999. It started as a music class at the Northern Nevada Center for Independent Living. The class quickly became the performing group “The Note-Ables”.
Four years after it began, The Note-Ables started offering music therapy services, said Sharon Hickox, clinical services manager.
“Those 15 people, they got together, they made music, they created this band. And then gradually, they saw a need for music therapy services. They ended up changing the name to Note-Able Music Therapy Services,” she said.
Music therapy is the use of music to work on non-music goals, Hickox said.
“We have fun with music and, all those kinds of things, but we're really taking a broader picture than that, like what are the needs of the client. We can use music to help them reach those goals,” Hickox said.
Note-Able also provides music therapy services to different organizations in the area, like United Cerebral Palsy of Nevada, a nonprofit that provides support for people with disabilities.
Twice a week, they are visited by music therapists, said CEO Jill Hemenway.
“These are folks with degrees of experience who move music and tie it to all these different things with cognition, and with helping them learn different kinds of movements and helping them with their mobility, building self confidence. I definitely see a lot of benefits from our individuals being able to be a part of that program,” Hemenway said.
Scientific research has shown that music can enhance physical and mental wellbeing. For example, it can improve heart rate, motor skills and brain stimulation.
Music can also help individuals with mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.
“Music processes in all parts of the brain. By utilizing music, we can ignite parts of the brain to help compensate for areas that might be temporarily or permanently damaged,” Hickox said.
Hickox, who often works with patients on the neurology floor at Renown Hospital, said some patients have been able to make progress through music.
“There are people that they've had a stroke, and they come in and they are not yet speaking to their family, or really speaking to anyone. And then we can start playing a song, and they will literally start singing that song when they haven't even made a sentence,” Hickox said. “And just the hope that it gives the families and gives the person that like, ‘wow, they can improve at least or maybe they can get all the way okay.’ It's very rewarding that way.”
Note-Able also seeks to reach out to underrepresented communities. In December, Cony Linarez joined the organization as a bilingual program support specialist.
The Latino community often doesn't know about these services, Linarez said.
“They don't know how it works. And culturally, finding services for people with disabilities, with autism, with all those things, culturally is very hard. So I am glad to be the bridge that will bring more clients to the services that Note-Able Music Therapy Services can provide to the community,” Linarez said.
One of those clients is Olga Mesina. Her 12-year-old daughter was diagnosed with anxiety and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at a young age.
“She becomes really overwhelmed, she'll withdraw from stuff and withdraw from activities or choose not to participate. When I was kind of exasperated, just trying to figure out what else to do, I remembered about the Note-Ables. And so I reached out, and luckily, they had space,” Mesina said.
Mesina said her daughter goes to individual music therapy sessions every week and she’s seen the benefit.
“It's really a great place for her to learn how to process her emotions. She's gotten a couple of different skills with playing musical instruments. Now she has learned to say, ‘hey, I need a break.’ That would have not been possible before," Mesina said.
Mesina is a first-generation Latina. She said no matter the language and culture, music is something all people can benefit from.
“Music is definitely a part of the Latino community. And so this is something that goes very well with our tradition. And you also find that camaraderie that's so needed and something that we value in our culture, to be able to have people to talk to you and say, ‘Here's my experience. Here's what's worked for me and what's worked for you,’” she said.
In July, the organization moved into a 17,000 square foot building that will allow them to expand services from 2,000 to 5,000 people per year by 2026.
The new facility is large enough to house a big auditorium, a dance studio, conference rooms, several individual music therapy rooms, and rooms for rent to area nonprofits, Hickox said.
The renovations are scheduled to be completed by January 2024.