Sharon Sullivan

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September 27, 2012
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Music therapy helps young, old in Grand Junction

Ninety-year old Harvey Haats picked up his electric guitar Wednesday and in a strong, clear voice began singing "Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine," a Gene Autry hit, followed by the classic country tune "Just Because."

Certified music therapist Deborah Palmer, 32, accompanied Haats, by playing her autoharp and singing along, song after song.

During their music therapy session Wednesday at the Fountains assisted living center, the two sang several songs, including the Charlie Pride tune "The Crystal Chandelier."

"He (Pride) had to give it up because I came on the scene," joked Haats, who used to perform in a five-piece band for years when his wife was still alive and could drive him places. She was his eyes.

Haats lost his vision from an injury he suffered while serving in the Korean War.

After his wife died five years ago, Haats quit playing music.

"Now, I'm forced to get back into it," he said with a smile. "It's been good. It's wonderful to play the guitar again."

Even though he's 90, and his "fingers are not what they used to be," Haats started playing the guitar again about nine months ago when Palmer encouraged him to pick up the instrument during their weekly music therapy visits.

For an hour once a week, Palmer and Haats sing and play their instruments together.

"He has a vast repertoire - he chooses the songs," Palmer said.

When she doesn't know the lyrics, Palmer consults her smartphone, and the words pop right up.

"Sounds like a record," Haats' neighbor Josephine Brueckman said, as she walked by his room. "Sounds good."

Palmer, who lives in Montrose and works for Alpine Home Health and Hospice in Grand Junction, also contracts privately with individuals through her Peak View Music Therapy and often works with children.

Palmer's goals for Haats is to facilitate social interaction, support his spirituality, and assist in pain management, she said. The music helps Haats refocus his mind away from the pain he suffers as a result of age and past injuries.

Certified music therapist Cherlyn Crawford of Grand Junction uses music to address communication, emotional self-expression, and learning deficits with people of all ages. Crawford has worked in many clinical settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, child-adolescent day treatment programs and at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Fort Logan.

In Grand Junction last year Crawford began offering music therapy and speech remediation camps for children. The twice-a-week, four-week camps focus on speech articulation and interpersonal communication.

Robin Howell brought her 5-year old daughter, Lacy, to Crawford's music therapy camp to help Lacy be more ready for kindergarten. Lacy was diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech, a motor speech disorder where children have problems saying sounds, syllables and words. The child knows what he or she wants to say, but the brain has difficulty coordinating the muscle movements necessary for speech.

Children choose from an array of percussion instruments, and Crawford leads them in various singing, chanting and movement activities.

"Playing two different instruments gets the right and left hemispheres of the brain working together," Crawford said. "It involves huge coordination; neural connections are strengthening."

In one of the sessions, Lacy, who had trouble stringing several words together, composed lyrics and sang a song that Crawford put to music.

"She's excited to come; it's fun for her," Howell said. "It's helped stimulate talking.

"I would encourage any parent to consider adding music therapy for developing language skills."

The sessions are held at Redlands United Methodist Church, 527 Village Way, which donates the space for Crawford's music therapy and speech remediation camps.

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The Post Independent Updated Sep 27, 2012 05:15PM Published Sep 27, 2012 04:02PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.