For Annette Rolleman, the importance of playing live music for her clients is a key factor.
“When you hear music being played, you’re more in the moment than you would be listening to a song with headphones,” said Rolleman, an accredited music therapist. “It’s more motivating to hear the vibrations and develop a personal relationship with the music.”
As the only accredited music therapist in northern BC, Rolleman has no shortage of clients in Terrace. When she first started, Rolleman said she had one session per month, but two years later has expanded to hosting between 10 to 12 sessions per week.
She sees people from all ages, ranging from under five years old to over 100 years old, with various types of physical and neurological conditions including autism, alzheimers, dementia and depression. In palliative care, like the burns and plastics unit in Vancouver General Hospital, Rolleman said she saw first-hand how music can help ease pain and soothe anxiety.
“Singing and playing music increases endorphins and decreases the amount of cortisol or stress in the body, which mean the pain and music receptors in your brain begin battling it out to see who comes out on top,” Rolleman said. “Sometimes, the music wins out.”
According to a paper by Sandra L. Siedlecki in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, listening to music can reduce chronic pain by up to 21 per cent and depression by up to 25 per cent. Rolleman said this kind of therapy can also help trigger lost memories in patients struggling with alzeheimers and dementia, because music has the ability to tap into long-term memories stored in areas of the brain last touched by the disorder.
“I think of medication as a temporary solution to a larger problem, like a band-aid. Working with a more holistic approach like music therapy can help patients discover the actual root of the issue,” Rolleman said.
When she realized she didn’t want to practice playing music for hours a day, Rolleman began looking into ways of combining her musical talents with her passion for helping others and said music therapy seemed like a natural path for her to take. She offers a free initial consultation with her clients and works with them to develop a list of ‘non-musical’ goals, which can range from speech and vocalization targets to learning how to manage pain and emotional distress. Invoking catharsis with her music is a huge element of her work, Rolleman said.
Upstairs in the Terrace Sportsplex arena on April 7, Rolleman set up a table filled with different instruments including drums, hand-held chimes, and coloured eggs that were used as maracas during her music therapy workshop. To begin, she played “Obla Di Obla Da” by the Beatles on guitar and led the group of 14 people in song, then brought some attendees up as volunteers to showcase various interactive methods of combining physical movement with music and tone.
Mykee Laird, a musician who attended Rolleman’s workshop, said he is really excited to hear that a music therapy practice has come to northern BC.
“Both my wife and I play music quite often, and we started a music project last year and spent the summer travelling out to villages playing music. We were actually able to see how music can be really effective in bringing peace and unity to people,” Laird said.
Becoming an accredited music therapist required 8 years of schooling altogether for Rolleman at Capilano University in North Vancouver. She said there is a huge need for more licensed music therapists in northern, rural parts of the province where access to these kinds of therapy can be difficult to find.
“The closest accredited music therapist besides myself is closer to White Horse, near the Yukon territory,” Rolleman said. She said she is supportive of eventual government regulation of the industry to make it more accessible to people across the province.