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Bread & Roses Blog

News and information from Bread & Roses, a non-profit organization that presents live music to bring hope, healing and joy to the community.

Performers Create Community for Bread & Roses Isolated Audiences

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Mickey Hart, best known as the drummer for the Grateful Dead and a member of our Circle of Advisors, talks about the rhythm of music that connects us all in a common heartbeat. At Bread & Roses Presents, we are fortunate to witness on a daily basis the transformative power of music and the performing arts to bring diverse audiences together in a communal experience. Wiley and Debbie Rankin of Jump for Joy Music, Ross Commons and Gail Muldrow are among the many performers who create community for Bread & Roses isolated audiences in a variety of ways.

Jump for Joy Music Offers Respite

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'Rock The Ages' at Whistlestop: Health Benefits For Seniors Through Choral Singing

There's been a lot in the media recently about the health benefits of choral singing for those who are older.   The "Rock the Ages" chorus at The Redwoods in Mill Valley performed an inspiring and poignant concert for Bread & Roses at Whistlestop's regular lunch program for seniorsin San Rafael recently. Many benefits were received not only by the audience, but especially by those who were singing.

Chorus member Dave, who kicked off the concert with a solo on Coldplay's "Yellow," said "I like singing in the chorus as it gives everyone a feeling of happiness."

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'Singing Surgeon' Eases Stress by Mixing Music and Medicine

Dr. Laura Esserman

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On ABC's 20/20: Gabrielle Giffords Finds Her Voice Through Music

Highlights from Diane Sawyer's interview with Gabrielle Giffords which aired on ABC's 20/20 on November 14, 2011.

A few weeks ago ABC's 20/20 with Diane Sawyer aired an inspirational segment on Arizona Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, who in January 2011 suffered from a near-fatal shooting, leaving her in critical condition for several weeks and severely damaging her brain. In the special, Diane Sawyer interviews Giffords for the first time since her injury, and showcases Giffords' amazing spirit, determination and courage.

Due to the injuries Giffords had suffered from receiving a bullet point blank to the head, she was afflicted with aphasia, the inability to speak due to damage to the linguistic pathways in the brain. Yet in the 11 months since the shooting, she has made remarkable progress, and has regained much of her speech and motor skills, a triumph that can be attributed in part to music therapy.

The bullet had mostly damaged the left side of Giffords' brain, the part that controls speech. The words were there, but she had to find a different route to access them. It was through song that she was able to attach rhythm and melody to words, and thus create a new neural pathway to language. You might wonder how music accomplishes this. According to neurologist and best-selling author, Oliver Sacks, "Nothing activates the brain so extensively as music." This is because music is able to activate visual, motor, coordination and emotion centers in both hemispheres of the brain. Thus one can use music to retrain the brain in order to compensate for brain damage.

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Live Music as a Connecting Force: Violinist Robert Gupta Plays at LA Mental Health Clinic on KQED California Report

Robert Gupta's story is an inspiration to us all: not only does he play first chair violin for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, he is also their youngest performer, having joined the orchestra in 2007 at the age of 19. What is perhaps most remarkable about this young prodigy is that in addition to his professional music career, he also directs his own free concert series, The Street Symphony, which brings live classical music to the homeless and mentally ill on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. KQED's California Report recently did an audio story on Robert's social service outreach, which includes comments from the patients after his concert. You can listen to the report here.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, Bread & Roses serves a number of residential mental health facilities at major hospitals including short-term units at San Francisco General, and California Pacific Medical Center, as well as longer-term treatment facilities such as Cordilleras in Redwood City and Canyon Manor in Novato.  Among our most challenging audiences, we know that mental health patients, particularly those who are also homeless, can be hard to engage and at the same time, are often deeply appreciative of and positively affected by music's healing force.

Gupta's interest in music as therapy for the mentally ill was perhaps inspired in 2008 when he met and began tutoring Nathanial Ayers, the schizophrenic musical virtuoso who is the subject of the bestselling book, The Soloist by L.A. Times columnist, Steve Lopez. Many of you might be familiar with the film adaptation, which stars Jamie Fox and Robert Downey Jr. Of his time working with Ayers, Gupta remarked that he was struck by how music seemed to calm Ayers and act as a sort of medicine or therapy. It was at that time that Robert began The Street Symphony.

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“The Power of Music to Affect the Brain”

The Power of Music cover

At Bread & Roses every day, we are privileged to witness the healing power of music, and today scientists and neurologists are confirming what we’ve known for over 37 years: that “humans are hardwired to respond to music.”  

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The Music Never Stopped: Share Your Thoughts on Music, Memory and Healing

Bread & Roses serves people of all ages and backgrounds who are isolated in institutions. Some of them suffer from lapses in memory.  We have seen seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, for instance, who may not recognize their grandchildren, but are still able to recall all the lyrics of a song.

Those who know the power that music has to invoke memory will appreciate The Music Never Stopped, a 2011 Sundance Film Festival pick that examines the relationship between memory, music, and healing. In the film, Gabriel (Lou Taylor Pucci), is reunited with his parents, Henry (J.K. Simmons) and Helen Sawyer (Cara Seymour), when he turns up at a hospital in New York in 1986 with a large, yet benign brain tumor that has severely damaged his memory.  The past, present and future are virtually indistinguishable for him and he is incapable of interacting with those around him, including his parents, from whom he’s been estranged for 20 years.

When medicine and traditional therapy fail to help Gabriel regain his memory, Henry contacts a music therapist, Dianne Daley (Julia Ormond), who discovers that when Gabriel listens to the music that he loved as an adolescent, especially the Grateful Dead, he is able to reconnect with the world. We all have a soundtrack to our lives, and somehow that musical memory seems to survive even the most traumatic of brain injuries.

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Our "Music Therapy" in Marin Magazine

Thanks to Executive Editor Jim Wood & our friends at Marin Magazine for the nice piece in the August issue in their "FYI: Causes" section about Bread & Roses mission to provide hope and healing through live music.  Marin Magazine staff attended several recent Bread & Roses programs at the Manzanita Child Development Center in Marin City,  The Cedars in Ross and the Canal Family Support Center in San Rafael.  Kudos also to performers Ira Marlowe (singer-songwriter/guitarist), San Domenico's Virtuoso program (classical music) and Johnny Kearns (magician/clown/juggler).   Your support means so much...  

Marin Magazine: Music Therapy

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Music Therapy for Alzheimer's Patients

Bread & Roses brings hope and healing through live music. As this article from the Wall Street Journal suggests - music therapy holds a key for unlocking healing potential in Alzheimer's patients. We can attest to the healing quality of music for all of our audiences that listen to a Bread & Roses show. Click here to read the full article.

Here is a snippet of the Wall Street Journal article:

"Caregivers have observed for decades that Alzheimer's patients can still remember and sing songs long after they've stopped recognizing names and faces. Many hospitals and nursing homes use music as recreation, since it brings patients pleasure. But beyond the entertainment value, there's growing evidence that listening to music can also help stimulate seemingly lost memories and even help restore some cognitive function."

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