THE ISSUE

Music for Everyone, the Lancaster nonprofit dedicated to cultivating the power of music, announced a new initiative, Music for Everyone’s Well-Being, with the goal of connecting more individuals with the healing qualities of music. It will be rolled out in two phases, LNP’s Jenelle Janci reported last week: The first will be similar to the instrument grant program for which Music for Everyone is best known. The second will involve finding opportunities in which Music for Everyone can have a direct impact through programs, partnerships or other endeavors.

It turns out that singing along to the car radio on the way to work (knowing every word to the lyrics of “Stairway to Heaven,” of course) isn’t just a little guilty pleasure before you begin the day’s grind.

Listening to music — no matter if it’s classic rock, rap, country, Christian, reggae or Top 40 — or some other musical activity can be good for you physically, emotionally and spiritually, too.

So we’re excited to see Music for Everyone — a great concept to begin with — branch out into Music for Everyone’s Well-Being.

John Gerdy, founder and president of Music for Everyone, “has long been a proponent of music’s healing powers,” Janci wrote. He told her the organization has been helping the community in this way for some time — but Music for Everyone’s Well-Being is a concentrated effort to expand on that.

“It does seem like a logical next step,” Gerdy said. “We really think that this is the next frontier in music in terms of another way that it contributes to the betterment of our culture, society, communities, public health.”

In the first phase of the initiative, nonprofits using music toward the betterment of people’s well-being — whether in music therapy or otherwise — can apply for grants on Music for Everyone’s website.

In the second phase, Music for Everyone will seek opportunities through programs, partnerships or other endeavors.

To develop a plan, Gerdy put together a task force of musicians, Music for Everyone board members and medical experts, including Dr. Pia Fenimore of Lancaster Pediatric Associates. Fenimore, who writes a column for the Sunday LNP Health & Fitness page, likes the possibilities of helping young people who struggle with depression or anxiety.

“I’m always searching for other ways to address emotional health in kids,” Fenimore told Janci. “So this was absolutely a way to do that and I was excited to be a part of it.”

Fenimore said she often recommends her patients use music. (This kind of creative and holistic care distinguishes Fenimore as a physician.) For instance, if a patient suffers from anxiety, preparing a playlist of calming music before anxiety strikes might help.

“I think that medical professionals should recommend that people make music a part of their life, because the benefits of music to everyone’s health, particularly their emotional health, is well-documented and well-researched,” Fenimore said.

She’s right about the scientific link. The Johns Hopkins Medicine website reported, “Research has shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness and memory.”

“Music is structural, mathematical and architectural,” noted one Johns Hopkins otolaryngologist. “It’s based on relationships between one note and the next. You may not be aware of it, but your brain has to do a lot of computing to make sense of it.”

Julia Witmer Gallagher, a member of the task force as well as a singer in Music for Everyone’s Community Chorus, told LNP her late mother, Ginny, used music during her 20-year battle with Parkinson’s disease. When Witmer Gallagher’s mother suffered from a temporary inability to walk, she used music to keep calm and help ease her out of the spell.

“It was amazing how she would listen to the music and it could get her going again,” Witmer Gallagher said.

Fenimore told Janci she sees such an example as closely related to the thought that music can be helpful with mental health.

“When you are in a very healthy position emotionally, you’re stronger to fight physiological diseases such as Parkinson’s,” Fenimore said.

Victoria Mowrer said her membership in Music for Everyone’s Community Chorus helped her in her own fight with cancer.

“When you’re told that you have cancer, I think that most people, they have to find ways to cope. ... Coping and healing sort of go hand in hand, and often go beyond the usual medical benefits,” Mowrer told LNP. “And I would say, there wasn’t any activity I participated in that was more impactful to me than ending up in the chorus and singing with all these people on a weekly basis.”

We hope physicians follow Fenimore’s lead and heed the words of Mowrer and Witmer Gallagher, and prescribe music — a readily available, inexpensive but powerful resource — to their patients.

Mowrer emphasized that music can help everyone, not just those who are seriously or chronically ill.

“To me, I think just about everyone could use a little help in that department,” she said.

That’s why we enthusiastically support Music for Everyone’s Well-Being initiative. It’s a great idea, and we hope it catches on — like a favorite tune — among all ages in Lancaster County.