Music, Music Medicine, and Music Therapy in the Era of COVID-19: A Sampling of Resources

Published by International Association for Music and Medicine on

Written by Ingrid Wheatley Rebling, Lukas Lanzilotti, Acksharaa Balaji, Grace Bigus, Sara Nagy, Edward Ortiz Almodovar, Jae Ung Park, and Carolina Vieira

This blog includes entries from music therapy students at Berklee College of Music who investigated sources from their home geographic regions and in their native languages, as part of an introductory research class, taught by Dr. Suzanne Hanser

Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways hitherto unseen. Isolation, stress, and uncertainty have created waves of mental anguish that have affected people the world over. Music, music medicine, and music therapy have had significant impact on people who are struggling through the pandemic, and the benefits of music interventions are bound to have implications for coping as the world emerges from the COVID-19 crisis. Virtual music-based interventions have helped people connect with music, music therapy, and music medicine strategies. and musicians have been using their talents to share their creations and personal expressions via online platforms. This document is a brief sampling of resources that have come about during the era of COVID-19. These examples demonstrate how approaches to music therapy and music medicine have been adapted to provide services. Also included is music written during the pandemic, about the pandemic, and for the purpose of coping through this very challenging time.

Selected resources from around the world

In English

Blair, E. (2021).Music Therapy Brings Solace To COVID-19 Patients And Healers. NPR (National Public Radio). Retrieved on March 21 2021 from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/02/13/965644120/music-therapy-brings-solace-to-covid-19-patients-and-healers

Tom Sweitzer, co-founder of A Place To Be (VA, USA), shares his experience as a COVID-19 survivor and facilitating music therapy via Zoom for other COVID-19 survivors who are still experiencing lingering effects.


Pinker, S. (2020). A Musical Cure for Covid-Related Stress and Sadness. Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-musical-cure-for-covid-pandemic-related-stress-and-sadness-11606335960 Retrieved on March 21 2021. 

This article cites current research on the benefits of music on the unique stresses and sadness related to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Rorro, M. (2021). Meet the Moment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ms4iK_TSaGA  Retrieved on March 26, 2021.

This video features photo contributions of American Medical Women’s Association Music and Medicine Committee members, AMWA Humanities Committees, and AMWA and Medical Women’s International Association physicians and students from around the world. It is dedicated to healthcare heroes everywhere!


Weiser, B. (2020). These Are the Bedside Concerts Comforting Virus Patients. The New York Times . Retrieved on March 21 2020 from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/03/nyregion/coronavirus-doctor-musician-rachel-easterwood.html

This article follows Dr. Rachel Easterwood from New York Presbyterian Allen Hospital in Manhattan (NY, USA), as she  organizes informal remote concerts for patients and hospital staff to raise morale. Dr. Easterwood reflects on this illuminating intersection between music and medicine– the effects it has had on her life as well as the effects she has observed in the hospital where she works.

In Spanish

Boronat Schvartzman, V. (2020). Musicoterapia en el ámbito deportivo. Grupo, técnica y pasión. ECOS – Revista Científica de Musicoterapia y Disciplinas Afines, 5(3), 91-111.

This article describes an interview with Julian Presas (music therapist), and explores the academic development of music therapy in the sports field, and how these two intersect. Presas mentions that music therapy is an important service for those facing adversity. It provides both support and motivation. He believes crises present opportunities, and now is a great time to find them. 


Campoverde Rosero, P. G., & Montalvo Rennella, P. A. (2021). El movimiento musical Indie en el Ecuador y sus prácticas comunicativas durante el confinamiento por la pandemia del COVID-19 (Bachelor’s thesis).

The pandemic forced the world to isolate, affecting economic and cultural sectors, as well as psychological factors. This situation directly affected independent musicians and artists who used public space to express their work, so they found a place in the virtual world to manage their efforts and productions. 


Cetratelli, C. (2020). Ingeniería Acústica y Musicoterapia. ECOS – Revista Científica de Musicoterapia y Disciplinas Afines, 5(3), 74-90.

This article describes an interview with music therapist, Maria Isabel Arango Giraldo. She talks about her “Te Escucho” project, which was born out of frustration in hearing-impaired people unable to communicate because they use face masks during the pandemic. It is hard for them to express their needs, even in the most basic scenarios, such as grocery shopping.


Errázuriz, M. P. (2020). ¿Son efectivos los métodos mindfulness y pausa activa para reducir el impacto en la salud mental en profesionales de enfermería en unidades de cuidados críticos durante la pandemia COVID-19 el 2020?.

Mindfulness methods are used with healthcare professionals experiencing burnout or acute stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. This article concludes that mindfulness methods are effective in supporting the mental health of nurses working in the ICU during the pandemic. 


Gerbaudo, N. (2020). Interdisciplina en acción: musicoterapia y sociología de la música en escena. ECOS, 5.

This article describes an interview with music therapist,: Gary Ansdell, who shares his thoughts on collaborative work between sociology of music and music therapy, the challenges posed by COVID-19, and the importance of recognizing the limitations of each discipline. Telehealth allows for “musical micro action” observation, but also presents technical obstacles when trying to achieve synchronicity. 


Godetti, E., Moscuzza, C., Pacheco, M., & Díaz Abrahan, V. (2020). ¿ Qué ocurre con la Musicoterapia en tiempos de cuarentena?. Ecos, 5.

This article speaks from a reflective point of view regarding the possibilities for practice and growth in the field under the current circumstances. It invites clinicians to redirect their perspectives to new forms of reality, seek institutional dialogue, and consider that the pandemic is a traumatic event for all humankind. 


Gonnet, D. H. (2020). Entrevista en” La Voz de la Ciudad”(Canal UNIFE TV) a Daniel Gonnet, integrante del equipo Cátedra Libre Musicoterapia UNLP, sobre el proyecto Consonancias. Retrieved on March 5 2021 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Y5byzKutX4&list=PLC21OZUqnmKYpSubOZjvYMeRWuUJ1EzKY&index=2&t=6s

The interview starts by touching on heightened stress levels and depression in front-line healthcare workers during the pandemic. It describes the effects of using a shared playlist directed at healthcare workers, and the observed effects these had on their wellbeing and stress levels. 


Ortega-Rosales, A. J., Romero-Ulloa, G. J., Pacheco-Montoya, D. A., Burneo-Rosales, C. A., León-Verdesoto, R. A., & Demera-Medranda, K. A. (2020). Efectividad de una intervención de música en vivo sobre los parámetros fisiológicos en pacientes de terapia intensiva con Covid-19. Polo del Conocimiento, 5(12), 139-148.

This article describes the effects of 20 min-music sessions on 27 adult patients experiencing COVID-19 in the ICU of a hospital in Ecuador. It concludes that music is a safe, cost-effective therapeutic tool that may be beneficial to the physical and emotional state of patients in critical care, who may require mechanical ventilation assistance. 


Vernia-Carrasco, A. M. (2021). Música y tecnología contra el Covid-19: un caso en personas mayores. Revista Prisma Social, (32), 244-261.

This article describes a case study describing the use of technology during the pandemic. A group of 12 older people (between 60 and 87 years) completed a survey on their experiences. Participants found difficulty using Skype, and had a preference for WhatsApp when direct interaction was not possible. The study addressed the need for socialization within this population during COVID-19, and the opportunity music therapy interventions present to satisfy this need. 

In Portuguese 

Junior, M. P. A. A. (2019). MUSICOTERAPIA NA GERONTOLOGIA: POSSIBILIDADES EM TEMPOS DE PANDEMIA DA COVID-19. REVISTA BRASILEIRA DE MUSICOTERAPIA.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the geriatric population. This article discusses feelings of social isolation and age discrimination that these older adults faced, while participating in remote music therapy. Through the use of rhythm for dancing and breathing, musical composition, and singing familiar songs with the music therapist, individuals in geriatrics received benefits from remote music therapy.  

From India

Roy, A., Singh, A. K., Mishra, S., Chinnadurai, A., Mitra, A., & Bakshi, O. (2020). Mental health implications of COVID-19 pandemic and its response in India. The International journal of social psychiatry, 20764020950769. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/0020764020950769 

This study reviewed how India has responded to the growing mental health implications due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the use of strategies that have been actively and effectively used within mental health care units. 


Surya, N., Srivastava, A., Nagda, T., Palande, D., & Someshwar, H. (2021). Education, Training, and Practices of Neurorehabilitation in India During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Frontiers in neurology, 12, 626399. https://doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2021.626399

The pandemic has affected interdisciplinary teams among neurorehabilitation services in India. A survey of neurorehabilitation professionals across India revealed that most teams did not include  physiatrists, rehabilitation nurses, music therapists, cognitive therapists, and urologists. The study states that tele-neurorehabilitation is now emerging as a model of service delivery.


Suryavanshi, N, Kadam, A, Dhumal, G, et al. Mental health and quality of life among healthcare professionals during the COVID‐19 pandemic in India. Brain Behav. 2020; 10:e01837. https://doi.org/10.1002/brb3.1837 

A survey of healthcare providers was conducted to determine the demographics of those affected by the pandemic and how they are managing and engaging in stress-reducing activities. These professionals were experiencing high levels of depression and anxiety, and highlighted the need to address psychological concomitants of the COVID-19 pandenic.

From East Asia

Jiao, W. Y., Wang, L. N., Liu, J., Fang, S. F., Jiao, F. Y., Pettoello-Mantovani, M., & Somekh, E. (2020). Behavioral and Emotional Disorders in Children during the COVID-19 Epidemic. The Journal of pediatrics, 221, 264–266.e1. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2020.03.013

This is an early commentary on the impact of COVID-19 on children. Since December 2019, health systems around the globe have struggled with what became a global pandemic. The aim of this commentary by the China-EPA-UNEPSA working group was to raise awareness regarding children’s psychological needs during epidemics and report early data collected in the COVID-19 affected areas in China during the current outbreak, emphasizing the role of families and caregivers in the timely recognition and management of negative emotions.


Kim, Y.  (2020). Music Therapy Trends and Tasks in the COVID-19 Outbreak. Korean Journal of Music Therapy, 22(2), 1-28.

This study examined music therapy trends during the COVID-19 outbreak and music therapy tasks in preparation for the post-Coronavirus era. As a result of analyzing the employment status of 260 therapists, 75 music therapists had retired due to the COVID-19 and 26 no longer had any job related to music therapy. The results generated from 234 music therapists, excluding the 26 respondents not currently working, were as follows: A decrease in the therapist’s working hours and income was reported in all areas of music therapy; therapists who worked for the elderly and patients were particularly affected.  Music therapists reported actively managing COVID-19 in ways such as disinfecting materials and instruments, and seeking to change the method of presentation to non-face-to-face. Music therapists sought help from the larger music therapy community for resources, and in order to prepare for the post-Coronavirus era, they reported the need for developing virtual interventions. Music therapists also expected that there would be many changes in the future, such as greater inclusion of persons with disabilities who could not previously access treatment. 


 Li, J., Li, X., Jiang, J., Xu, X., Wu, J., Xu, Y., Lin, X., Hall, J., Xu, H., Xu, J., & Xu, X. (2020). The Effect of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on Depression, Anxiety, and Stress in Patients With COVID-19: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Frontiers in psychiatry, 11, 580827. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.580827

A randomized controlled trial involving COVID-19 patients in China revealed that cognitive behavioral strategies were  effective in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety in these patients. Although the investigators do not mention music therapy, these findings have implications for recommending cognitive-behavioral approaches to music therapy.


Liu, X., Liu, F., Tong, F., Peng, W., Wen, M., Zou, R., Zhang, L., Jiang, L., Yang, H., Yi, L., & Huang, X. (2020). Psychological reactions and interventions to help Cancer patients cope during the COVID-19 pandemic in China. Journal of Psychosocial Oncology Research and Practice, 2(3), e35. https://doi.org/10.1097/OR9.0000000000000035

As the COVID-19 epidemic increased its impact worldwide, members of the Psycho-Social Oncology and Clinical Spiritual Care Group of Hunan Cancer Hospital provided a letter to the editor regarding the prevalence of distress amongst healthcare providers, as well as multiple sources of patient distress. The authors recommend enhanced strategies for psycho-social support.

From Italy

Giordano, F., Scarlata, E., Baroni, M., Gentile, E., Puntillo, F., Brienza, N., & Gesualdo, L. (2020). Receptive music therapy to reduce stress and improve wellbeing in Italian clinical staff involved in COVID-19 pandemic: A preliminary study. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 70, 101688. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aip.2020.101688

The article describes a study of the influence of receptive music therapy interventions on the stress levels and wellbeing of clinical staff working with COVID-19 patients. Significant variations in clinicians’ emotional status were observed, but remote music therapy was described as professional, empathic, and supportive. Remote music therapy proved to be feasible and able to be implemented effectively during the  COVID-19 pandemic. 

From Tunisia

Medhi, E. (2021). Tunisian doctor plays violin to boost coronavirus patients’ morale. ABC 10 News . Retrieved on March 21 2021 from https://www.abc10.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/doctor-plays-violin-to-boost-patients-morale/507-f2542103-3d11-4799-8ddc-4b48068a1078

This article shares Dr. Mohamed Salah Siala’s experience as a doctor working on the COVID-19 front line at Hedi Chaker Hospital in Sfax, Tunisia, playing violin for his patients in order to bring them joy and alleviate loneliness.

From the United Kingdom

 Coronavirus: Online music therapy group a ‘lifeline’ in pandemic.(2020). BBC News. Retrieved on March 21 2021 from https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-england-essex-52375524

This article shows the role of virtual music therapy in the wellbeing of a group of people with dementia and their spouses or carers who had received music therapy pre-COVID-19 through Together in Sound, a site based in Saffron Walden, Essex (UK).

Experiencing the  COVID-19 Pandemic through Playlists and YouTube Videos 

Playlists

Mood Manager Playlist Series

This collection of playlists was curated by various music therapists in response to a request from Pandora to introduce listeners to ways to manage their moods during the pandemic. Using the iso-principle, selected music therapists created playlists for change specific moods and Suzanne Hanser recorded general instructions for creating personalized mood manager playlists (see http://www.suzannehanser.com/music-strategies-for-wellbeing).

Lonely to connected (curated by Mark Fuller, Jr., a music therapist at Boston Children’s Hospital): https://www.pandora.com/playlist/PL:88099470834665434:1848504308

Sad to Hopeful (curated by singer-songwriter and music therapist, Sarah Blacker): https://www.pandora.com/playlist/PL:141258659014379481:1848504308

Sluggish to energized (curated by Marisabelle Diaz, a music therapist at Massachusetts General Hospital): https://www.pandora.com/playlist/PL:116917670598676406:184850430

Nervous to calm (curated by music therapist, Samuel Gracida): https://www.pandora.com/playlist/PL:120415217086632852:1848504308


Student Curated Playlists

The following collection is a series of playlists curated by the authors. The first playlist contains music which has helped them, their families, and friends cope with the effects of the pandemic. The second playlist contains music that directly relates to the pandemic. The third playlist contains songs which can relate to music therapy and may be beneficial for coping with the effects of the pandemic. The fourth student-curated playlist contains fun covers of some older, well-known songs. As a bonus, the researchers of this article included a playlist of Disney songs meant to aid one’s sleep.

Music to Cope (created by the authors for their families and friends): https://open.spotify.com/user/1239987429/playlist/2nWeSP7GIdw5tSI7G3x4Qs?si=VKi1YnGeQn-h-Q3g5l0Pcw

Music about the COVID World (curated by Ingrid Wheatley Rebling): https://open.spotify.com/user/1239987429/playlist/73mTzR2L9QZ36jRld8GljQ?si=eMOheZk0TCy1RrpJZuuaBA

Music Coping Playlist (curated by Carolina Veira): https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4kB372ngUJAvSH0eAr59Qk?si=4krlEz_hQNah8NGUDnbkJg 

Cute Covers of Old Songs (curated by Carolina Veira): https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5wRhFQLQeoBh8tit1A0CBv?si=xW5mHXtyTO2mY2XX0coV3w


Bonus Playlist

Disney Sleep (curated by Walt Disney Records): https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6XSxjcOvhC5xys1lqscPgn?si=y7e9-4K3TA6dGlFgMavcVQ 

YouTube Videos of Interest

Artists from Africa:

United States Parodies:

Scholarly Articles on Music Interventions during COVID-19

Cabedo-Mas, A., Arriaga-Sanz, C., & Moliner-Miravet, L. (2020). Uses and perceptions of music in times of COVID-19: a Spanish population survey. Frontiers in Psychology, 11.

Costalonga, L., Keller, D., & Messina, M. (2020). Ubiquitous Music Making in COVID-19 Times. In Proceedings of the 10th Workshop on Ubiquitous Music (UbiMus 2020) (pp. 3-16). G-ubimus.

Giordano, F., Scarlata, E., Baroni, M., Gentile, E., Puntillo, F., Brienza, N., & Gesualdo, L. (2020). Receptive music therapy to reduce stress and improve wellbeing in Italian clinical staff involved in COVID-19 pandemic: A preliminary study. The Arts in psychotherapy, 70, 101688.

Granot, R., Spitz, D., Cherki, B., Loui, P., Timmers, R., Schaefer, R., … & Greenberg, D. (2021). ” Help! I Need Somebody”: Music as a global resource for obtaining wellbeing goals in times of crisis. Frontiers in Psychology. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.648013

Habe, K., Biasutti, M., & Kajtna, T. (2021). Wellbeing and flow in sports and music students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 100798.

Hanser, S. (2021). A Musical Cure for Covid-Related Stress and Sadness. Suzanne B. Hanser Blog. http://www.suzannehanser.com/music-strategies-for-wellbeing

He, Y. (2020, April). Research on online teaching of music performance based on diversification and intelligence–Take the online music teaching during the COVID-19 as an example. In 2020 International Conference on E-Commerce and Internet Technology (ECIT) (pp. 193-196). IEEE.

Jiao, W. Y., Wang, L. N., Liu, J., Fang, S. F., Jiao, F. Y., Pettoello-Mantovani, M., & Somekh, E. (2020). Behavioral and emotional disorders in children during the COVID-19 epidemic. The Journal of Pediatrics, 221, 264–266.e1. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2020.03.013

Krause, A. E., Dimmock, J., Rebar, A. L., & Jackson, B. (2020). Music listening predicted improved life satisfaction in university students during early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Frontiers in Psychology, 11.

Lehman, E. T. (2020). “Washing Hands, Reaching Out”–Popular music, digital leisure and touch during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Leisure Sciences, 1-7.

Lemaire, E. C. (2020). Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures: the use of music to communicate public health recommendations against the spread of COVID-19. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 111(4), 477-479.

Li, J., Li, X., Jiang, J., Xu, X., Wu, J., Xu, Y., Lin, X., Hall, J., Xu, H., Xu, J., & Xu, X. (2020). The effect of cognitive behavioral therapy on depression, anxiety, and stress in patients with COVID-19: A randomized controlled trial. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11, 580827. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.580827

Liu, X., Liu, F., Tong, F., Peng, W., Wen, M., Zou, R., Zhang, L., Jiang, L., Yang, H., Yi, L., & Huang, X. (2020). Psychological reactions and interventions to help Cancer patients cope during the COVID-19 pandemic in China. Journal of Psychosocial Oncology Research and Practice, 2(3), e35. https://doi.org/10.1097/OR9.0000000000000035

Martín, J. C., Ortega-Sánchez, D., Miguel, I. N., & Martín, G. M. G. (2021). Music as a factor associated with emotional self-regulation: A study on its relationship to age during COVID-19 lockdown in Spain. Heliyon, 7(2), e06274.

Mastnak, W. (2020). Psychopathological problems related to the COVID‐19 pandemic and possible prevention with music therapy. Acta Paediatrica, 109(8), 1516-1518.

Negrete, B. (2020). Meeting the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic: Virtual developmental music therapy class for infants in the neonatal intensive care unit. Pediatric Nursing, 46(4), 198-206.

Ozer, B., & Ustun, E. (2020). Evaluation of students’ views on the COVID-19 distance education process in music departments of fine arts faculties. Asian Journal of Education and Training, 6(3), 556-568 

Palamar, J. J., & Acosta, P. (2020). Virtual raves and happy hours during COVID-19: new drug use contexts for electronic dance music partygoers. International Journal of Drug Policy, 102904.

Parivudhiphongs, A. (2020). COVID-19–You Can’t Stop the Beat!. Journal of Urban Culture Research, 20, 3-9.

Parsons, C. (2020). Music and the internet in the age of covid-19. https://doi.org/10.1093/em/caaa045

Situmorang, D. D. B. (2020). Music therapy for the treatment of patients with addictions in COVID-19 pandemic. Addictive Disorders & Their Treatment, 19(4), 252.

Vandenberg, F., Berghman, M., & Schaap, J. (2020). The ‘lonely raver’: music livestreams during COVID-19 as a hotline to collective consciousness?. European Societies, 1-12.

Yeung, T. Y. C. (2020). Did the COVID-19 Pandemic trigger nostalgia? Evidence of Music Consumption on Spotify. Evidence of Music Consumption on Spotify (August 21, 2020).

 Hash, P. M. (2021). Remote learning in school bands during the COVID-19 shutdown. Journal of Research in Music Education, 68(4), 381-397.

 Zhao, J., Chen, C., & Zhao, L. (2020). The spread characteristics of music videos relating to COVID-19 in China online video platforms. International Journal of Communication and Society, 2(1), 1-11.

김영신. (2020). 코로나 19 사태에 대한 음악치료 동향 및 과제. 한국음악치료학회지, 22, 1-28.

Conclusion

The state of the world has certainly been unpredictable, so it has been and will continue to be difficult to prepare for the next set of challenges and post-pandemic conditions. However, it is possible for individuals to take an active role in health and wellbeing, and to be creative about solutions to their problems. The resources in this article are a testament to the manner in which music and music interventions have helped people cope throughout the era of Covid-19. Creating music inspired by the coronavirus has been shown to provide an effective coping mechanism, and music interventions have been successful in achieving a variety of therapeutic outcomes. In the world post-COVID-19, music, music therapy, and music medicine will continue to be available to deal with the fallout from stress, loss, isolation, and other sources of pain and distress. There is reason to be optimistic about a future filled with meaningful, creative expression and beautiful music.


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