Music Therapy of the Rockies has rebranded to Music Therapy Retreats — Learn More

January 30, 2023

Mack Bailey Speaks at Berklee College of Music and Health Institute Symposium

An update from Mack Bailey, Music Therapy of the Rockies Founder & Executive Director


Speaking in Boston about Military, Veterans, Music, and Mental Health

Pursuing and receiving my masters in music therapy was very important to me. We know that music is powerful and is an integral part of all our lives. The driving force behind my seeking a post graduate degree was to know the “why”. It was important to me to feel like I could replicate these music therapy retreats around the country and receive the same results.

My music therapy education was centered around neurologic music therapy, making it all brain-based. Here I was, a 50-year-old folk singer, taking 500 level neuroanatomy courses and loving every minute. My drive became to be a part of the conversation of music and mental health. 

Recently, I was contacted by Dr. Joy Allen from the Berklee Music and Health Institute to speak at their Intersection of Music and Mental Health: Military and Veterans symposium in Boston. There were other speakers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Creative Forces, Songwriting with Soldiers, and other Creative Arts organizations that support veterans with PTSD.

First off, Boston was a wonderful place to be. The history, the people, the food, and the sights made for a wonderful experience. It is truly amazing how many high caliber higher institutes of learning there are in Boston. It was mind-boggling how close they all actually are to each other and to be of such high quality.

The Symposium

Thursday evening was the screening of a documentary called Music Vets. It focused on three veterans and their music therapy treatment. Very powerful. They focused on songwriting, group drumming, and music instrument instruction. The documentary directors, El Sawyer and Jon Kaufman, were passionate and professional in their presenting of these veteran’s stories, as well as the music therapists working with them.

Friday started at 10 a.m. with the welcome and opening remarks. The audience included health care professionals, music therapists, and undergrad and postgrad students. All of the presentations focused on approaches and philosophies of treatments and programs dedicated to supporting veterans with PTSD. Each organization was well represented and kept the building of energy in the room. We had music improv experiences that helped bring the energy of the room to a wonderful level.

Music Therapy of the Rockies’ Presentation

Our Presentation is called “Music and the PTSD Brain.” We focus on what we know about PTSD regarding the diagnosis, the presenting symptoms, and the regions of the brain that are affected by the disorder and their responsibilities. We then address how to use music to correct under firing of regions and over firing of others through evidence-based music therapy techniques. 

It felt to me that audience members were intrigued about our approach. We weren’t just creating songs and using guitar for coping skills, we were showing exactly why every aspect leads us to our goal of mental wellness through music. It was interesting to hear audible acknowledgement to key phrases in our presentation, such as “the brain is the hardware and the mind and thoughts are the software. If the hardware is not working well, the software will not work well.”

We also include a quote from the TV show “A Million Little Things” that hit me from the moment I heard it:

“It’s not that I don’t want to live, it’s that I don’t want to live like this.”

It appeared to resonate with the group by their reaction.

I enjoyed meeting everyone there and look forward to future interactions. The more we can further the profession of music therapy through research and collaboration with like-minded and other healthcare modalities, the better our clients will be served and our missions fulfilled. 

I hope to participate in many more discussions and share what we are doing as an organization and learn what others are doing. These gatherings certainly give me a sense of motivation and excitement.

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