• How to Stimulate Conversations with Veterans through Music

    Posted on March 27, 2015 by Jessica Ryan in How To.


    During a visit to a therapy group at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System’s H.J. Heinz Campus two years ago, PSO violist Penny Brill played music to cognitively stimulate veterans and encourage them to interact with one another. After hearing the music, one of the veterans opened up and told the group how he survived the Bataan Death March and spent two and a half years in a Japanese POW camp in Manchuria during World War II.

    Speaking of the conversation afterward, Penny remarked:

    I was able to share my music with him, but he was able to share something incredibly powerful with me. I just feel lucky and honored to be part of an experience like that. So I felt like they gave us a very powerful gift even though we were playing for them. Something really important happened between us and connected us in a very special way.

    The key to helping the veteran feel comfortable sharing this information with the group was to create a safe environment in collaboration with one of the VA’s music therapists. In the video below, Penny discusses how others can use music to facilitate dialogue. If you’re interested in learning more about planning music and wellness sessions for veterans or any other population, check out our Music and Wellness Program Handbook as well!

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