Many musicians will tell you that playing music is therapeutic, but one local group is taking that notion to the next level. Brittany Barko is a certified neurological music therapist for Lake Erie Music Therapy, a program sponsored by UPMC Hamot. Her work provides an interactive experience used to help a myriad of conditions from traumatic brain injury to autism. Many of her clients use private, home-based sessions but on days like today she visits people staying in the hospital
Brittany Barko, Neurological Music Therapist, “Most of my referrals are from nursing or neurology for anything from pain management to anxiety reduction.”
Barko became a music therapist when she combined her love of music and neuro-science. One thing she says is important in this work is knowing the right music.
“So I know everything from a little bit of classic country to hip hop, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5 anything in between because meeting the patients needs is what’s most important,” says Barko. One day recently she came across a man who was suffering from organ failure. She asked his son, who was by his side, if she could play him a few songs. But what happened next would have a lasting impact on them.
Mark Thompson, Son of deceased, “He was probably taking his last breaths, at which point I turned away from Brittany, the music therapist, and I sat with dad, held his hand talked to him. And she stood in the hallway and played him out. She played as he passed through the door. As he left us.”
Barko remembers that moment, “And it was phenomenal to be able to provide sort of an envelope of comfort through my guitar playing for this son to be able to say good bye to his dad without the stark silence or beeping of a hospital.”
As Barko continues to use her passion to help others heal, she hopes more people will learn about the benefits of music therapy. “You know, there’s the famous quote from Shakespeare, ‘and flights of angels fly thee to thy rest, and she was it. She was the angels,'” says Thompson.