Research on the power of music and the human body is extensive. Science indicates that humans are physiologically wired for music. Interacting with music, whether by listening or creating, introduces information into our bodies and impacts our biological circuitry, rewiring our brains and stimulating the release of neurochemicals, hormones, and endorphins. As a matter of fact, many scientists regard music as a basic human need.

Music therapists have long understood this “science behind the sound”. Jake Beck, Board-Certified Music Therapist and owner of Vancouver-based Upbeat Music Therapy Services, has been improving his clients’ quality of life through music since 2011. His extensive experience includes training in Neurologic Music Therapy, as well as Hospice and Palliative Care Music Therapy. Jake will be joining Artstra’s Creative Relief at this year’s Vancouver Arts and Music Festival to engage festival-goers in arts experiences.

Artstra sat down with Jake to find out more about how his company is using this art form to change lives in Clark County and beyond.

Artstra: What is Music Therapy?

Jake: Music therapy is a type of healthcare where trained professionals use music to help people achieve specific goals. These professionals have completed a certified music therapy program. Music therapists use instruments like guitar, piano, and their voice to work with clients wherever they are, aiming to meet goals decided by the client, their family, caregivers, medical professionals, and the music therapist. Music therapists help many different groups, including newborns, children with autism and developmental disabilities, teens and adults with mental health issues, adults and seniors with dementia and physical disabilities, and those in end-of-life care, in a variety of medical and home settings.

Artstra: What inspired you to become a music therapist?

Jake: I graduated from a small liberal arts college in 2003 with a degree in music performance, and although I was passionate and emotional about music, I could not envision myself living the life of a traveling or gigging musician.  In 2004, I moved to Portland, OR, with my wife, Brooke (who would go on to become a naturopathic physician), and and was stuck badly enough in a cycle of unemployment that I was driven to research non-music careers at the downtown library.  I “discovered” music therapy in a book about caring for people at the end-of-life, and almost simultaneously finally found meaningful work as a caregiver at a small group home for adults with developmental disabilities, a job that I found surprisingly fulfilling and well-suited for. The two experiences dovetailed perfectly in my mind, and I was thrilled to realize that there was an entire clinical-based profession where I could continue to indulge in being a high-level musician, yet also seek to assist people in need.  I started my Music Therapy training at Marylhurst College in the fall of 2005, and have been a board-certified music therapist since 2009!

Artstra: In what ways do you personally see music impacting your clients?

Jake: Music is a rare, and possibly the most rare, of modalities that affects the vast majority of most people in most situations, and so the positive impacts are numerous and often profound.  Music Therapists are working to accomplish many types of goals with their clients, whether they be cognitive, emotional, physical, musical, or even spiritual, but for me, the main “positive” impact that I’m striving to make in any given session with any client is in the area of engagement.  Since playing appropriate music for someone isn’t just about them listening to it or enjoying it, the range of behavioral impacts is rich: the person at the end of life who is immobile making eye contact; the person with dementia who can no longer speak but sings familiar lyrics; the person having an anxiety attack who is able to have their breathing and heart slowed through rhythmic entrainment; a person on the ASD spectrum who appropriately socializes with another person through improvisational music. Plus, it almost never hurts to be the “music person”!  A person lighting up when I enter the room with my guitar and songbook is a positive enough impact for me…

UpBeat Music Therapy’s team consists of several Board Certified Music Therapists and a registered Art Therapist (ATR) and Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC). They have worked with thousands of individuals and groups of clients in the Vancouver, Camas, Ridgefield, Battle Ground, Longview, and Portland areas on their therapeutic needs. Upbeat uses client-preferred music and art interventions to create lasting improvement in domain areas: psychosocial, communication, cognitive, physical, emotional, and sensory. Upbeat’s clients include well elders, older adults with neurological disorders or brain injury, Alzheimer’s or other dementias, Parkinson’s Disease, developmental disabilities, chronic illness, and mental health diagnoses.

Find out more about UpBeat Music Therapy Services

A substantial body of literature exists to support the effectiveness of Music Therapy, and can be found at the website of the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), the largest professional association representing over 5,000 Music Therapists, corporate members and related associations worldwide.