Congregation Etz Hayim at Hollis Hills Bayside

The consolidated communities of Hollis Hills Bayside Jewish Center and Marathon Jewish Community Center

The Power of Music

Many studies have proven that Music & Song is a great source of healing, both emotionally and physically. Music has a soothing effect on the mind, body and soul. They say that music helps secrete endorphins that help in the process of healing. Music can divert one’s mind away from pain and suffering, at least temporarily. After some surgeries, patients may be encouraged to undergo music therapy while recuperating.

I recall when Congresswoman Gaby Giffords had been shot and suffered severe brain injuries, it was reported that some of her doctors were using MUSIC as one of the forms of treatment. At that time, they explained that her injury caused damage to the left side of her brain, which controls speech, but by stimulating the right side of the brain, which is impacted by MUSIC, they were able to help the left side rejuvenate and heal. They had explained that through music therapy (singing music and hearing & working with rhythm), her speech would be stimulated and would improve. They would sing simple melodies with her like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” which was having an impact on the improvement of her speech.

As a Cantor, I often use music when visiting the sick. When I visit those in the hospital or in hospice I try to sing a melody or prayer that I know will be familiar to them. There are times when I’m visiting someone who is very ill and in a sleep condition, and suddenly, as I am singing, I see a tear rolling down their cheek or I see a smile appear on their face. It is amazing! When they hear me singing to them, they are moved. Every time I see this, I experience overwhelming emotion!  

I remember when I used to take the Children’s Choir to Nursing Homes and Care Facilities, like; Parker Institute & Margaret Tietz. Once we started to sing for them, they would light up and start to clap their hands and tap their feet. They had big smiles on their faces and they were full of joy! It was amazing how they would become so invigorated.

One incredible experience June and I had was when June’s mother, Lena z”l, had been stricken with Herpes Encephalitis Meningitis. She was in a coma for 3 months and the doctors thought she wouldn’t make it. I used to sit at her bedside and sing to her. One day, while I was singing to her, she suddenly woke up. It was remarkable! June and I could only thank God. She lived another 11 years.

I also remember when my friend Leon Charney z”l was in the hospital in the ICU in a comatose state fighting for his life. His wife called me and asked me to come to the hospital and sing to him. She firmly believed that music, specifically Cantorial music, would help bring him out of his dire state and bring him back. After all, Leon was a lover of Cantorial music. Two other Cantors that Leon loved also came to sing at his bedside. Well, after time, he did progress, came out of his coma and was finally able to leave the hospital. He was still not functioning well but he did survive the life-threatening episode and was able to live life for several years to come. He even came to our first concert at Lefrak Concert Hall with his wife Tzili.

Research has also shown that MEMORYis affected by many different factors and one of these factors is indeed MUSIC, which stimulates part of the brain. Many studies show that MUSIC ENHANCES the STORAGE AND RECALL OF MEMORY. Therapists now use Music Therapy to help people suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Recently, the TODAYShow, on NBC, presented a segment on THE POWER OF MUSIC. Their first story was about a “SINGING NURSE” from Staten Island, who goes to patient’s homes (as a visiting nurse) and in addition to performing the necessary medical treatments like taking blood pressure, administering medications, taking care of wounds, etc., she also sings with them. She sings all different sorts of songs, whatever the patients like. As they pointed out in the segment, she is like a virtual jukebox. She sings cute little melodies, TV Show Theme songs, pop, and even rock and so much more. She sings whatever the patients like and whatever song makes them feel good. You could see the patients light up, sing along and look at ease, and she does it with warmth. It was beautiful to see!

The TODAY show also showed another story about an ORCHESTRA that was comprised of individuals, many of whom were dealing with difficult issues in their lives. As an “ORCHESTRA”, they became a FAMILY. The comradery and friendship they experience while sharing & creating music together, elevates their spirits and helpsthem get through some of their personal difficulties. They explain how their CONDUCTOR is also part of their Musical Family and you could see in their faces how much being a part of the Orchestra helped them feel a sense of belonging and community and made them feel better about life! It seems that there are several of such community Orchestras across the country, lifting spirits & emotions!

Although I am a Cantor & I live and breathe music on a daily basis, I am still always amazed at the POWER OF MUSIC and the incredible effect it has on people’s minds, bodies & souls!  

Let us Sing Together as a Community, Lift our Voices & Spirits Together as a Community, as we Continue to Be There for Each Other!

REMEMBER; there is nothing like the SOUND OF MUSIC!

See you in Shul.

Cantorially always,
Cantor Sol Zim