Every Gorham High School freshman who has Jean Davis for English is assigned a research paper. Students must pick a topic of personal interest and interview real people. Kate Beever, who has loved music ever since she started playing the piano as a child, decided to write about teaching music to blind students. Her paper ended up leading her on a career path she never even knew existed – music therapy.
Today, Kate is a board-certified music therapist with a master’s degree in music therapy from New York University. Against the advice of some of her professors, who were worried there wouldn’t be any jobs in Maine and thought it would be risky to start her own business right out of college, Kate returned to Gorham in 2010.
“A valid concern,” admits Kate, “but I was pretty excited about it. I wanted to start on my own.”
She was excited because she knew what music therapy could accomplish. For example, she taught a 9-year-old boy who couldn’t move the left side of his body because of cerebral palsy how to play the drums.
“He really wanted to play drums,” she explains, “and he was really motivated. So we started working together and after a couple months he started being able to move his arms, just because the drums were so motivating. It ended up transferring into his legs, so he was able to walk up the stairs, and he was able to do things with his arms other than drums. It was just really exciting. His parents cried.”
Kate also recalls a cancer patient who was not doing well when they first met.
“He was really into show tunes. First, I would sing to him, then we’d listen to songs together, and finally he got up the courage to start singing himself. I think it was four months that I worked with him, and by the end he was inviting the nurses in and performing from his bed.”
Since returning to Maine, Kate has worked with a variety of individuals and groups, including people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families, and cancer patients. She also has a weekly music therapy group at Affinity, a community adult support program, where they recently listened to some blues. As soon as the music started, a member of the group immediately began snapping his fingers to the beat. Others followed suit. Another man, who appeared unable to communicate, suddenly looked up and asked, “Is that Stevie Wonder? It’s good.” It was Stevie Wonder.
“We are so thankful and fortunate,” says Denae Gendron-Mallori, Affinity’s senior adult program coordinator. “It’s not just Kate sitting and playing a guitar. There is a purpose to the group. There are definitely things that are being worked on and she has an awareness of the different needs of the individuals.”
“Music therapy has the same goals as any other therapy, whether it is physical, occupational, speech or even talk therapy,” says Kate, “only you do it through music.”
Denae shared an example of how music therapy has benefited a group member with autism and limited verbal skills. The woman, she says, “now not only remembers songs from the previous week, she can also sing them.”
The week the group listened to the blues, they also composed their own song about love:
Love is true, pure, and fair
Love is true, pure, and fair
We love our friends high and low
Whenever love comes
Friends make us glow and grow
Kate put the lyrics to music and together, they sang. At the end, a member of the group looked right at her and exclaimed, “You have passion and you have music in your heart!”
And that is only a fraction of what Kate Beever has to offer.
If you are interested in learning more, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.mainemusicandhealth.com.
Diane Atwood is a health and wellness communicator based in southern Maine. Her website is www.dianeatwood.com