Music has the power to evoke emotion and trigger memories. But what if music could be used as a form of medicine?
That’s the mission behind the Norman-based nonprofit Music Moves Mountains Foundation and its benefit concert scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday at the Blue Door in Oklahoma City.
The event is not only to raise money and awareness for the foundation but to inform people about the documentary film “Alive Inside.”
The movie follows a social worker witnessing Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers awakening, or “coming alive,” after being exposed to music from their lifetime.
The film will play as part of the deadCenter film festival at Harkins Theater in Bricktown at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, before the benefit concert, and again at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
“Music is something I think that we sort of take for granted,” said Julie Frost, founder and director of the foundation. “We don’t realize its powers on a medicinal level. It is an art and a science, and we’ve sort of taken that for granted in modern times, through (pharmaceuticals treating) things like autism spectrum disorder.”
Frost started the organization only two years ago, but already it has several programs and services with the goal of offering free or affordable music therapy, education and community outreach to people, from children to seniors, in need.
Son and inspiration
Inspiration for the foundation came from her son Hudson, 8. He has an autism spectrum disorder but has responded dramatically to music therapy, Frost said.
“On a day-to-day basis, we have basically a playlist that gets him through the day,” she said. “To be able to go out the door and into the world and to school and every challenge he’s had, he has used music to get him through.”
Music has helped Hudson discover the world outside his world. From age 4, by listening, writing, and playing music, Hudson has seen great improvement in his ability to verbalize his emotions and cope with his anxiety, Frost said.
“I remember when he discovered The Beatles. He didn’t just discover them, he went to the extreme obsession,” she said.
Hudson memorized the ends and outs of every classic hit, from who wrote and played what, to even the details of producers and labels.
“He would listen to something maybe two or three times, he would memorize all the lyrics, he would sit down at the drums and he would play it, and sing at the same time,” she said. “And this is like a 4- or 5-year-old kid.”
Board-certified music therapist Jennifer Voss received her master’s in music education with an emphasis in music therapy from the University of Kansas. Her degree program trained her to work with patients from “neonatal to end of life” in various circumstances.
“The umbrella for what we can do is very wide,” Voss said.
Music therapy can aid in speech development in young people, walking ability in stroke victims, memory access in dementia patients, learning disabilities in children and much more.
“Music therapy is a way to reach people (using) music to work on non-musical goals,” Voss said. “Music accesses so many different areas of the brain because it’s such a sensory experience.”
Jazzy night out
Guests attending the benefit concert will witness the Storyville Scoundrels, a rock-infused, swing-jazz, four-piece known for its vintage sound and stylized renditions of classics from jazz’s beginnings to the ’50s.
The band includes musicians Brad Carter on soulful sax, Bill Repavich dominating the drums, Stephen Schultz popping the bass and David Bruster gliding on guitar while he croons.
Bruster sports a villainous, cowboy-inspired mustache that aims for the sky at both points, but from behind the facial scruff comes a surprisingly silky sound. He described the band as “Pulp Fiction-esque.”
“When we think of songs, we think of what would fit in a Quentin Tarantino movie,” Bruster said after a fast-paced, three-song set at VZD’s Restaurant & Club in Oklahoma City. “Everybody here’s a jazz player, so we put this together in hopes of doing something with a more old school sound.”
The band was chosen for the event because the music it plays will get positive reactions from the older generations the foundation wants to reach, as well as appeal to younger audiences.
Carter’s grandfather died of Alzheimer’s, so being part of this event is extremely important to him.
“When he lost the ability to speak, I would play saxophone for him and see him light up to where that would be the most reaction you could get out of him,” Carter said.
The Blue Door is an all-ages, nonsmoking venue. The benefit concert is free but a suggested donation of $20 or a new or used iPod and headphones will be accepted at the door.
I remember when he (Hudson) discovered The Beatles. He didn’t just discover them, he went to the extreme obsession.”
Founder and director of Music Moves Mountains Foundation speaking about her son, Hudson, who has an autism spectrum disorder.