Music therapy and dementia with Alexis Baker
**Morgan Roe:** Alexis, welcome to Zeitgeist Radio.
**Alexis Baker:** Thank you so much. It's great to be here.
**Morgan Roe:** I'm so excited that you're here. Thank you. We met many, many years ago. And I just think what you do is so fascinating. So do you wanna start by kind of telling people what you do and then what that is?
**Alexis Baker:** Sure.
That is. The question I get the most. So I am a music therapist and one way I like to break down music therapies into four different elements. And it's using evidence-based music interventions to accomplish goals based on the needs of an individual or group. So that's the first element and the second element.
And then the third is that it involves a therapeutic relationship. And the fourth is that therapeutic relationship is a board certified and or licensed when required. Credentialed professional. So
**Morgan Roe:** that's, that's a lot of words,
**Alexis Baker:** but that's the, the four parts of what is music therapy. And another way I like to kind of break it down and just simplify is, is music therapy is using music to help people.
So it's, it's, it is goal-oriented. There are outcomes you're working towards. But yes, it's at, at its roots, it's using music to help people. I am
how you have so many questions. I'm so excited to talk to you about this. I'm excited to. So what, when you say goals, let's start there. Like what types of goals would people
All kinds. Literally anything. Music therapy can be used with any age in many, many different types of settings. So we're talking all the way from like, Prenatal, like in the womb to like the nicu, the neonatal intensive care unit all the way through, through death. So like hospice and end of life care. All ages, lots of different types of settings from like special education to mental health prisons, day centers for people with disabilities older adults, memory care type settings.
All kinds of different settings. So it really depends on the, the age, the population you're working with, the individual themselves, and what their greatest needs are. It could be their greatest need is to, IM increase expressive communication, and music is wonderful for that because we can be so expressive through music.
It could be to improve range of motion. So that would be a physical goal. There's all these different domains that goals fall under, like physical, emotional communicative even spiritual. You can have spiritual goals within music therapy. Yeah.
**Morgan Roe:** Oh my gosh. So do you specialize in any particular segment of this or do you do it at all?
What's, what's your
**Alexis Baker:** niche? Well, music therapists are trained to work with many different. Populations of people. We, we learn about a wide variety of disabilities and diseases and all of that. However, I think it's best to specialize and I do specialize. For the first three years of my professional career, I.
Was working with a variety of populations all the way from like kids to adults with developmental disabilities older adults. And it was just such a wide variety and I was finding that I really wanted to, to focus in on the older adult population, specifically dementia patients. So that's ultimately what I ended up doing and have been focused in on that space for the past six years.
**Morgan Roe:** probably right about when I met you is about when you started Bridge. So can can you tell people about your company?
**Alexis Baker:** Yes, yes. Bridgetown Music Therapy is my company. I began in kind of late 2016, early 2017, and we are focused on serving the older adult population, specifically people living with dementia.
Using music to make a difference in their lives. And really, we're really focused on music engagement. So helping people engage in music for the benefits that come with that. Like,
**Morgan Roe:** what, what are the benefits? I know like that I love music, but yeah. So what, what types of things do you see results
**Alexis Baker:** do you see from people?
Yeah, great question. It could be stress reduction, relieving anxiety. It could be in like getting them, moving more, getting the blood flowing in the body more. So we do a lot of singing, movement to music and then like deep breathing exercises and relaxation. So just think about those activities and how you, yourself benefit from singing, moving to music, music assisted relaxation.
And even like using music for deep breathing, like Yeah. Using it like the
**Morgan Roe:** meditative soundtracks that
**Alexis Baker:** people may Yes. Yeah, for sure.
**Morgan Roe:** Can you describe, I mean, I know that you have to be careful with confidentiality, but like, can you give any examples of like some sessions you've had maybe that are really meaningful or like, I don't know, what would a day look like or a session look like with the, the people that you serve?
**Alexis Baker:** Yeah. I think the clients that stand out to me the most are the ones where it's like in an in the moment response. For example I had this patient one time who had recently suffered from a stroke and had lost her ability to speak. So she was. Starting to recover, but, but wasn't speaking yet. And they weren't sure if she was going to be able to recover her speech.
And I got down at her level, her eye level and started singing a song, a very familiar song that I thought she would know, you are My Sunshine. And she started singing with me. Oh, like words or, or Sounds, words. Words, yep. And everyone in the room was so amazed they were like jaw dropped and just like, couldn't believe it cuz she had just suffered from the stroke.
And even my mind was blown. I was like, so instances like that where clients have found their voice again, whether physically , from like a stroke or expressively or emotionally, like it could it could be from the results of dementia where. they are so advanced that they've just kind of retreated within themselves and disengaged with the world around them.
Even though they still have a voice, they don't express themselves very often anymore. But through music, they're able to do that. So I love those kind of moments. Is it true
**Morgan Roe:** that music builds a different pathway to memory in the brain? I've read this somewhere that like, like a song will come on and you know, like if you have a very specific memory or a time in your life where like this was the song for example was on the radio a lot or something that Yes.
Like it actually builds a different neural pathway. Is that
**Alexis Baker:** true? So music affects every area of the brain because of all the different elements. Music involves. You have rhythm pitch, tam lyrics. So there's different areas of the, like we have a speech area in the brain, right? And music can trigger that area or it , can sometimes bypass it too.
So I don't fully know how to explain it cuz it gets down to like the physiological Yes. Yes. But yeah, music. Has an amazing effect on the brain, and memories are, can be very strongly tied to, to music, to specific songs. we form very strong attachments to music, especially with like prominent events or memories in our lives.
Yeah, yeah. So
**Morgan Roe:** do you use that when you're working with people? Like, do you ask people like, what was your favorite song or what was your, your prom date like, favorite song
**Alexis Baker:** or? Absolutely. Yeah. Music therapy is always about meeting them where they're at trying to discover what their, musical preferences are.
So it could be preference of a specific style or genre of music or of a specific song. Specific singers and artists. Mm-hmm. So just trying to discover that, what that is for them and what memories they might have tied to specific music. Mainly positive memories. I was
**Morgan Roe:** gonna say, you could go both ways with that.
**Alexis Baker:** It can go both ways and that's one, one caution in music therapy for sure is you always wanna be mindful of the effect. Music can have both positive and negative. Yeah.
**Morgan Roe:** Yeah. Oh, okay. So, let's go back a little bit. How in the world did you decide to go into this? Where did you start? Where did you learn about music therapy?
, and what led to that decision to pursue this?
**Alexis Baker:** Yes. I was hoping we'd circle back to that question. So, I first learned about music therapy in high school. I think I was about 16, and I was at that point where I was trying to decide what I was going to pursue Yeah. As a career, what I was going to study in college.
And I, I always knew that I wanted to do something that involved helping people. I am a helper at heart. That's just kind of my disposition. And so I was like, maybe I'll go into counseling or become a nurse. But I learned very quickly that nursing wasn't gonna work out for me for a variety of reasons.
And I had always loved music, so I was thinking like, there's gotta be something that involves music. However, I didn't want to go the traditional routes of performance or music education.
**Morgan Roe:** Yeah. Did you play in, in an instrument in high school or singing in a choir or something?
**Alexis Baker:** Yes, so I, I started taking lessons when I was eight.
I began with piano and then picked up guitar when I was 10. So I've been playing music for a while , and grew up in kind of a musical family. All my siblings played instruments and we had a family band at one point.
**Morgan Roe:** Nice. That's awesome.
**Alexis Baker:** Always been surrounded by music. Love it, loved it and wanted to do something that involved music.
And then I, it was a few things all at once. I overheard a classmate mention that she was hoping to go into music therapy and my ears kind of perked up like, oh, , what's that? Like, that sounds like it could be interesting. And then I stumbled a across an article on a music therapist, and I just naturally started looking into it, like what it, what it involves.
I, I discovered that it is an actual. Profession and thing you can go into for work and study in school. And then from there, I began researching schools that had a music therapy program.
**Morgan Roe:** I imagine there's not that many, like I, I don't,
**Alexis Baker:** there's about 70 in the us, 70 I, that, that may be an old number. I don't know what the most current is, but yeah.
Not, not too many. So yeah, I did running start in college where I was finishing my high school credits at community college and I was already starting to take music classes, like music theory and ear training and choir and, and just kind of going that route already. Yeah. But when I learned about music therapy, it just kind of clicked and like I knew and I was like, yeah, this is for me.
So, it was one of those things where I just, like, I knew right away, like it was my path and calling. And then I, transferred down to a university in Portland, Oregon and completed their music therapy program. It's a four year degree. It's kind of a double major. Cuz you're doing the music, you're doing all the music classes Yeah.
For music foundation. And then you're also studying psychology and inner theory and practice of therapy. Sure. So you're getting that training to become a therapist. So it's kind of a double major. It's very intense. , And then after you finish the coursework, you have to complete a minimum full-time six month internship.
Mm-hmm. Which amounts to about 1200 hours. So I did all of that and then I became board certified. And that's involves taking a, a test and passing and, and then just maintaining certification, which is a five year cycle and doing continuing ed credits and all of that. So yeah, I've been a, certified music therapist for about 10 years now.
I'm just about to hit my 10 mark. So it's been, that's a wild run.
**Morgan Roe:** What was your first job out of college? Did
you work for someone else?
**Alexis Baker:** I did, yes. Because I wanted to get, I just wanted to get experience initially. Yeah. And so I. I worked for the same company that I did my internship with. They hired me right out of my internship.
It was super part-time. So I ended up kind of funny, never planned this, but I ended up becoming a nanny, a part-time nanny to supplement my income. Sure. They could only offer me very part-time. So I just wanted to, to get started with that and get that initial experience. And I was with them for about three years and then I became brave enough to go off and start my own.
That is very brave. It was really scary at first, but I did it.
**Morgan Roe:** Yes. And here you are still many years later. Yes. That's so awesome. What was, do you remember the first patient
you ever treated? Well, I like one of the first.
**Alexis Baker:** Yeah. Okay. So in school we're required to do nine. It was nine. Quarters of practicum.
Mm-hmm. So I had, and that was part of getting those required hours. So my very first practicum experience was an observation and it was at a Kaiser hospital on an oncology unit, so cancer patients. Oh, wow. And it was super intense for like a first music therapy experience because I had never experienced it up to that point.
And I was shadowing a music therapist and she was like in the room while this patient was receiving chemo, like doing a, a guided meditation relaxation type intervention with her. And it was very powerful. But I also realized, Early on that the hospital setting wasn't for me. Cause I, I got kind of lightheaded and had to, had to step out of the room and I was like, I don't, I don't know if I can handle this.
It's really intense. Wow. But yeah, that was my very first experience, although that wasn't myself treating someone. And then after that I had a few different practicums in elder carrier settings and that's where I really fell in love with them. You just like bringing a smile to someone's face through music is one of my most favorite things.
And I, I've gotten to do that. So like I've witnessed that so much Yeah. Over the years. And that was something that really stood out to me as just how you can, it's such a simple thing, but how you can brighten someone's day.
**Morgan Roe:** Well, and
that's not a simple thing at all. You know, in some of these cases it's very stressful and very
Yeah. For, so that's a huge thing
to brighten someone's day. What is it specifically about dementia? Can you go, I, we don't have to go super sciencey, but, but how does dementia and, and music
therapy tie together?
**Alexis Baker:** Dementia is a symptom. It's kind of an umbrella term. Okay. It covers a lot. So a Alzheimer's is a degenerative disease and involves dementia. Dementia can be memory loss, it can be behavioral changes. It can be a lot of different. Things manifest in a lot of different ways. There are are many challenges associated with dementia and music is super powerful with, with dementia, and there's been so much research and studies on, on how music affects people living with dementia.
Mm-hmm. And oh, it's one of those things where it's like so hard to explain, but when you see it with your own eyes, like it, you just, it, you get it, it clicks and makes sense. But music can have a calming effect on people with dementia. It can help them be expressive, it can help engage them cognitively when they're struggling to engage cognitively in other ways.
and it also makes things fun. Like if, if you're. Trying to get someone with dementia to do something like you can bring music into it and make it more fun, make it more enjoyable experience. So yeah, it's not just one thing. It's many different things.
**Morgan Roe:** Sure,
Can you kinda share like the, I don't think I've heard of a, of another music therapist having a business model like you do now, and I'm really curious to hear about what you're doing
**Alexis Baker:** yes. It's very new, unique, and I think I mentioned something like, I'm, I like to call myself a non-traditional music therapist now because what I'm, what I'm currently doing looks a lot different than what formal.
In-person music therapy looks like. So Covid was a huge, I wanna say speed bump, but it was more of a, it was more than a speed bump.
Yes. COVID was just huge.
Yeah. So prior to Covid, I had been serving senior care communities in the Portland area. I had about two dozen contracts with care communities.
And I would go to them in person. So I was doing a lot of driving. Yeah. I would drive around to all these care care communities and bring my instruments and facilitate music therapy sessions with groups, mostly groups of residents so that the residents
**Morgan Roe:** I was gonna ask you if it was it groups or, or one-on-ones?
**Alexis Baker:** Yeah. I had a few individual clients, but mostly groups of the residents and. That's super beneficial for them because it gives them an opportunity to interact with each other and Yeah. Socially. Socially, yes. Yeah.
**Morgan Roe:** And I imagine that a lot of the, well, it depends, I guess but those communities that age groups are sort of similar enough that you could like place in Beatles and they'd all connect, right?
Like, like, yeah. Cause isn't it like during our teen years is like super formative for teen. Yes. Teen for
**Alexis Baker:** connecting with music. And twenties is, and twenties is the years of music we connect with the most. Yeah. Yeah. That's kind of a general rule of thumb in, in music therapy. Yeah. When you're, so I know
**Morgan Roe:** that some people end up in communities like that, that are younger.
Maybe they've had an accident or something, but mm-hmm.
**Alexis Baker:** But yeah, that would be, yeah, it can be a pretty wide age range. Sometimes like a 50 50. Cause you could have someone who's 60. And then you could literally have someone who's a hundred. Yeah, yeah, that's true. So that can be a little challenging.
But anyways I would work with groups of residents and, that was my, that was my work and that was my day to day, and then Covid began and one by one my yeah, the,
**Morgan Roe:** that's like the most vulnerable population. Yes,
**Alexis Baker:** yes. So I was first to like be affected by Covid compared to like the, the outside the, yeah.
rest of Society. So all of my clients canceled services, understandably. I was considered an outside vendor and they were not allowing anyone outside to come in. And that was all I was doing. So my my work went from. Fully functioning to nothing. Ah, so stressful. Yeah. It, it was really stressful. It, I, it was kind of like a freak out at first and then like paralyzed and then panic and just like all these different emotions all at once.
Very disorienting. Like, what do I do now? Like, yeah. What, what is my life all about? Yeah. But yeah, it was a, probably a, a couple, a few weeks of nothing. And then I began trying different things like music therapy over Zoom, which kind of has its challenges with the technology and the, the lag with it's, it's harder to do music over a live, platform with the, with the lag and connection issues and things like that.
And then I, I was doing a little bit of outdoor music therapy where I would like sit. Just outside a window or outside a door. Mm-hmm. And the, the residents would be inside, but that only works a, a few months out of the year in the northwest. Sure. And I That is props for creativity though. Yes. I even had one site, I was doing music therapy over the phone, like, it was just the audio.
Nothing else. Yeah. Nothing really panned out. And things were just super slow. Everybody was stressed in the senior care industry and just spread thin and trying to get everything under control. And music therapy was kind of like, it's
**Morgan Roe:** like when it's most needed is when Yeah. It's not accessible.
**Alexis Baker:** It's true. I was like, I, I kept thinking like I could help so much right now. Like, yes, everybody's stressed and residents are isolated and they just need something. But I wasn't allowed so then, then several more months went by and my husband and I were, had been talking about like, what's the future of my business?
Like, what should we do? And he's trained as a, as a videographer, he's a professional videographer. So we're like, what if we teamed up and put our skills together and began creating videos of pre-recorded sessions essentially. So we started doing that kind of as a test and had several people jump on as members and, and just went from there.
And, and that's what I've been doing since. And we've, in the past two, two and a half years have built up a library of over 300 videos. Oh my gosh. Yeah. So, So it became this, like, it's really grown into this big thing. Yes. We have a membership type model where when they sign up and it could be a, an individual, a group or community, and they get access to our video library, so where all the sessions are, and it's a mix of individual songs.
60 minute sessions and then 30 minute sessions and the sessions are a variety of music or they're themed and it's a lot of focus on singing and then, and then getting them moving. So gentle stretching and just movement to music. And then that relaxation piece with the like deep focus on deep breathing and just Yes, calming.
I love this
**Morgan Roe:** so much. There's like, cuz it's like what they need, it's just like access whenever, right? Yes. So 24 7 access. Yeah. So like whenever, like especially for the stress stuff, like if, like you could be stressed out at any particular time of day and or, or several times in the same day and you could still go on and watch one of these videos and just calm down and, and then maybe an hour later you need it again and you can be
**Alexis Baker:** Yeah, we like to say that.
It's great for any time of day, whether it's 2:00 PM or 2:00 AM Yeah. Cause a lot of times there's, with Alzheimer's and dementia, there's sundowning behavior, which is like an early evening, time of day. And then there's, there can be behavioral issues at night where they have trouble sleeping, they're restless, anything like that.
So it really does come in handy with evening. So a lot of communities, they plan activities throughout the whole day from like 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM but then they don't really have anything in the evening. So it's a great evening activity. Or even just on demand. Like as needed when needed. Right,
**Morgan Roe:** right, right.
Yeah. That's just so like, I don't know. To me that feels so. Spot on and like perfect for people. I assume that it's caregivers that would maybe have to be actually pulling up the videos
**Alexis Baker:** and stuff? A lot of the times, yes. So caregivers, activity professionals the ones leading activities, if it's an in-home setting, then a family member, a caregiver, whoever is there , helping get it, get it right.
**Morgan Roe:** Yeah. Yeah. how do you organize these videos? Cause that's so many, like if I were to log on and see 300, I'd be like, okay, I'm logging off.
**Alexis Baker:** It's a lot. Yes. And we do, we do program demos and, and show people, like, we give them a tour of like mm-hmm.
The video library and how it all works and give them ideas because it can be a little overwhelming. But we have We call them collections. So we have different categories. I mentioned the individual songs, right? We have about 150 songs. And then we have,
**Morgan Roe:** so is that like, just like on the, on the site, it's just the one song?
Is it a collection of songs or one song?
**Alexis Baker:** It's one song if you're in the individual song. Okay, okay. Collection. And those videos are like, I mean, one song is like three to four to five minutes. Yeah. And that's like if somebody has a favorite song and you just wanna pull up that favorite song, or maybe you just wanna do one or two or three songs.
Gotcha. And then you're done. Gotcha. But then we have 30, 25 to 30 minute sessions. And we have those by variety sessions where it's just like a mix of music and then we have themes. And it can be anything from like holiday theme Sure. To kind of random, like, we have Waltz's and it's all waltz's Totally.
Songs that are blue and it's all songs that have blue in the title. It's just like fun, like women's names and Hawaiian theme. So just totally fun themed.
**Morgan Roe:** So those are like curated playlists, sort of, yeah. Yeah. And have maybe some activities in there too.
**Alexis Baker:** Yep. And then and then we have the full length, the hour, 50 to 60 minute sessions.
And then we have, we did a whole like winter holiday collection. That's Christmas and holiday music. Yeah. And we have a patriotic theme and we're. Still creating new content. So we're always like putting, we release new content monthly and we're working on a hymns collection because a lot of older adults like really relate to those hymns and spiritual songs.
Will do a whole movement collection where it's all songs for movement and lots of other plans in the works. We also wanna bring in other musicians. For example, I have a music therapy colleague who's a harpist and Oh yeah. He wouldn't be amazing to do like harp music and perhaps like relaxation focused sessions with harp.
Yes, yes. So yeah, we wanna,
**Morgan Roe:** I'm getting excited listening to all of this. There's so much
**Morgan Roe:** so years I, for several years including I think when I. First met you. I was in a group a performing ensemble as a choir, but they were geared towards performing in assisted living communities.
And, the music was from the fifties and sixties and early seventies, so, oh, nice. And I just, it remember, like we, we, the, the director Don Anderson, incredible man and he has these visions for these concerts and they were all themed. And so I've seen a little bit of what you probably see every day, but like, I just remember certain, there are certain memories from my time in that group that were very poignant.
Like, like people would come in to our concerts and they'd be like, wheeled in, in their wheelchairs and they'd be just, they'd look super out of it and they're like, they'd be slumped over. Probably not, you know, like not making eye contact with anybody. And then we'd start singing and they knew all this music.
Like again, the director like programmed stuff , even down to radio commercials. Like we did a whole radio hour thing and it was like,
**Alexis Baker:** oh, that's awesome.
**Morgan Roe:** Like commercials for shampoo that like they, they don't exist anymore. But you know how jingles get in your ear and just stay there. When everyone was singing along to these commercials for like shampoo or like heartburn medic or whatever that were on TV at the time.
And I just remember particularly this one lady, by the time we left an hour later, she was like sitting upright and her eyes were bright and she was like engaged and she'd totally come in, just wheeled in, like all slumped over and I'm like, wow. That was like such a moment for me to watch that transformation in her over an hour.
**Alexis Baker:** Yeah, that's a perfect example. So that's. A lot of time. That's often what I would see going into these care communities is they're withdrawn, maybe their heads down and they're mm-hmm. They're dis engaged with the world. They're maybe they're not in a good mood and like, and then you start singing and it's like a 180.
Like they, they flip and they're, they perk up and like they start singing and by the end of the session they're like, they're happy and upbeat and yeah, just, I, there was one community I used to go to, I think it was in my internship, and one of the nurses said Music about this one client in particular music is the only thing that brings her to life.
Oh my gosh. So you just picture that like there's not much there and then there's suddenly like full of life again. Yeah. Oh, that's amazing. So powerful.
**Morgan Roe:** Yeah. I have a friend from choir developed Parkinson's. And he ended up in one of these communities and we actually came and sang for them.
So I was like, oh, hey, I know you. And he said that even after he couldn't sing in the Portland Sy Phonic choir anymore, he always kept in choir. They had a choir there. And I was like, oh, that's good. You're still, you're still singing. And he turned and looked at me like the most intense look, and he's like, if I stop singing, I die.
And I was like, whoa. Oh, wow. But like, that's what, like, that's how strongly he's like, I need to sing, like physically in order to manage my Parkinson's.
**Alexis Baker:** Yeah, it's a physical, physical need, but also like it gives him purpose and meaning Yeah. To involved in music. Yeah.
**Morgan Roe:** Yeah. It was. Again, some just kind of like very intense, memorable moments there.
**Alexis Baker:** Yes, for sure. Yeah. Love that.
**Morgan Roe:** What are some, like funny stories that you've seen? Have you seen people just be like, totally silly or like go over the top with something?
**Alexis Baker:** Absolutely. Like I, I think of moments where it's totally unexpected. Like somebody just gets up and starts dancing or with Alzheimer's specifically is just like the confusion that sometimes comes into play.
And like with some of the instruments I would bring in, or I also brought in like scarves for movement to help Sure. Like, as a, as a prop for, for movement. And like, you know, those little eggs shakers. Mm-hmm. , I would have some people just like stick 'em down their pants or something. They're just like stocking it away for later.
Like, they, they don't quite understand why it's in their hands. Right. So they're like, well, I must need this for later. So,
**Morgan Roe:** so I'll put it in my pants. Yeah. But I, you're like, I'm gonna wash this.
**Alexis Baker:** Oh yeah. Disinfecting is a must. Yeah. Some really sweet moments though is, is like after a set, you know, the effects of music can carry on.
They can, yeah. They can be post session too, not just in the moment and moments where you end a session and the residents are all like scattering and dispersing and the caregivers are helping them walk away and they're just like chugging along in their, with their walker and singing. Like on their own without me.
They're singing the song, the last song we sang or something like that, where it's like, it's so sweet. It's just so sweet.
**Morgan Roe:** Oh, that's awesome. So what type of movement stuff is it, is it straight up dancing or, I mean, I imagine with the older adults it's a little challenging to do like full dance Yeah.
Stuff, but what, what type of, movement is there?
**Alexis Baker:** We mostly do seated movement. Okay. Because there are fall risks Yeah. In, in care communities. So you just, you always gotta be mindful of that. Especially with with my, my online program, I'm not there physically and I'm not sure 'em as they interact.
So I always recommend they have a caregiver or a, a. Personnel staff, personnel present, yes. To just kind of monitor all that. But mostly like gentle stretching. So you want to get older adults, you wanna prompt them to move, but you wanna avoid injury or, or strain in some way. So it's mostly gentle, like mm-hmm.
Stretching arms above the head. But I do facilitate songs that like, we move to the music, so using elements of the mu music, the rhythm, the beat the words. I'll sometimes sing the, the movements we're doing as like a prompt.
**Morgan Roe:** Yeah, the one, the choir that I was in several times, a song that that made a frequent reappearance was the hand Jive.
We would do the hand J and it was funny cuz I, I had never heard of this, but everywhere we would go, like, we'd start doing the, you know, the like the little hand, I love it, movements things and over the shoulder and the fist together. . I would say half, like probably 50% of the people in the audience knew what it was.
And then the rest of it were, you know, trying to learn and follow along with the director as, as he went through the hand J so That's so fun. I can do the hand jive now.
**Alexis Baker:** I love that. Yeah. I've done, I mean I've done the Y M C A Uhhuh, the Macarena, the wait isn't that like from the nineties? Yes, I know, but it's adaptable so you can.
Adapt. It doesn't have to be with the original song. Sure, sure. With you can take the movements alone Yeah. And apply them to other songs. So that's what I mean. It's adaptable.
**Morgan Roe:** Yeah. How funny is that? That was look amazing to see like all these people in their like, you know, seventies to nineties doing the Macarena.
**Alexis Baker:** It's so fun. And then I always encourage people to just be creative and move however they feel like there's no right or wrong. . And. I mean, with, with video, it is one-sided. So I'm, I'm not interacting with them live in the moment. Mm-hmm. In person anymore. But the way I film, like the, the way I interact with the camera is all about engaging them in the music.
So I'll, I'll say things like, Hey, let's sing. Like let's, let's give this a try. Like, will you sing with me? And just like using different prompts, , in a natural way. Not like it's all about like having fun and Yeah. And yeah, just get, like getting them to engage in the music. And then also with it being a demen, we call it a dementia friendly program because it's really created to.
Cater to people living with dementia. So we keep things simple. Mm-hmm. And slower. So the pace to, to us, the pace might seem pretty slow, but Sure. People living with dementia do process things slower. So you, you don't wanna slow it down too much cuz you don't wanna dumb it down. But yeah. Slower pace, keeping it simple so that to avoid overstimulation.
Sure. And then just like the, the cadence of things. Sometimes I pause and like allow, time for them to respond even though I'm not, like, even though I don't see their response, like it's meant to be engaging and responsive and, yeah. And active participation. Yeah,
**Morgan Roe:** I can sort of relate just because I've created an online course too.
It's, it's geared a little differently, but like, I will play, you know, it's, my course is on how to sing and it's like, I'll play the warmup and then I'll give them time to do the warmup. So like j and that's just comes from years of teaching. And I'm sure it's the same for you. You just, you know what, yes.
How the, the cadence goes, years of teaching. I know that they're gonna need a little moment to, you know, do whatever. Exactly. And of course they can pause the video if they need more time. So I actually think for, for some a, you know, areas that might work better is if they do need more time, they can just, you know, pause.
They can hit the space bar and just, or you know, the character we can and, and give them any extra time they need.
**Alexis Baker:** Yeah. And that's the beauty of video too. Mm-hmm. Is it's like totally at your fingertips, at your control.
I took my years of experience interacting with clients in the moment and put that into video format. Yeah. Cause you really do like learn how to interact with people from years of doing it. Yeah. You get all the experience and, and then you can take that and apply it to video format.
**Morgan Roe:** Yeah. And I, I mean, that's so exciting to me because like when I look at that, like, you're able to help potentially so many more people than you would be able to physically drive from one place to another to another.
And then it's all in Portland. Well, what if someone lives in maybe a more rural area and they're not able to come, you know, like travel as much and they have a family member taking care of them. They still need this. You know, it's, and you're making that accessible now.
**Alexis Baker:** It's true. And I, Two reasons for that.
Like, I got really burned out on all the driving I was doing, so now it's like such a relief to not have to drive anymore. Yeah. But it's also true that there are not enough music therapists to go around Yes. To serve everyone. Like there just aren't, there's about, I think there's about 9,000 music therapists in the US but they don't all work in the senior care industry, like Right.
They work in hospitals and schools and lots of other different types of settings. So only a, percentage of them work with older adults and there are thousands upon thousands of individuals living at home. Right. For one. But also like all the care communities and like you mentioned there like. Rural areas where there's, there's no music therapists to serve those places.
But if they have internet and like internet is pretty much available anywhere now. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Or rural might be a little challenging, but yeah. Anywhere they have internet and they can, they can play the videos , on a smart TV or a laptop. A tablet, a phone, or they can connect their phone to the TV and play it from, like, there's so many different options because Right.
We're all used to like pulling up videos and playing them now. Yeah. YouTube gotta see us used to that. So it's, it's, it is kind of a newer idea in the care, the senior care industry, but I mean, video is the way of the future. Like, everything's shifting to video, so we're like, we're gonna.
**Morgan Roe:** There we go. I love that. And actually, this is side note here. I'm thinking my, so my grandmother lives in a community facility. , we got her a they make these like little boom boxes basically with just two buttons.
Super simple. She's blind, but she loves audiobooks and music and it's just, there's a stop play button, and there's a skip button and just those two, right? So even though she's blind, she can still. You know, find usually those two buttons by touch and that thing, according to my mom, that thing has like, completely changed her life and her experience just to have music constantly going and you have to like, load stuff onto it.
Right? So like my, when my mom goes up to visit, she'll like update it, you know, if, myself or I have a, a very musical cousin as well who's, you know, makes recordings, they'll put that on there. Or, you know, music that is new, new variety. They'll add that onto her boombox. And even just that is like, the difference in her is so drastic.
**Alexis Baker:** Oh, that's, that's wonderful. And that's, yeah. That just is an example of how technology has made so many things possible mm-hmm. And made things more accessible.
**Morgan Roe:** Could your videos be downloaded and put on like, like for people who are maybe blind or can't, you know, see
**Alexis Baker:** we haven't done that yet where it's like just the audio.
Yeah. And I'm not sure what type of device that is exactly. Yeah. This just played like an MP3 or WAV file. Okay. Yeah. There's always a way though. Yeah. There's always a way. Yeah. Yeah. And that's the beauty of technology is there's, there's always a way to do something.
**Morgan Roe:** So does your, you mentioned there's two levels. Again, I'm just so fascinated by this model, cuz I think it's, I think it's so interesting. , you mentioned that there's families and then that there's also like a facility. Are those like just the, do the facilities get like different content or is it all the same?
Or like, how does, is it like a group. Just, so
**Alexis Baker:** yeah. Yeah. So we ended up rebranding in the fall, this past fall, and creating two separate programs.
The one for individuals is called Singing at Home. Okay. Because it's typ typically an in-home setting. Yeah. . And then for groups and communities, it's called Music with Alexis.
Sure. So creative. And then with each program type, there's three membership options. We have month to month, six months, and 12 months. And that's just the, the length of time you get access.
Another thing we do, I forgot to mention so we release new content monthly. That's part of it. They get access to the whole video library. It's not like this part, but not that, it's just you get all the videos. Yeah. Because then you have them, like whenever you want to use, even like the. The winter, the holiday collection.
I mean that, that makes sense to have that available in the winter. But some people with dementia, you just, some people love Christmas a lot. Christmas in July, so it's available all year.
**Morgan Roe:** That's true.
**Alexis Baker:** We also have a member toolbox with lots of different resources and, and things like that. And then we also do a monthly live session with two.
Cool. I was gonna ask about that. Yeah. Yeah. So that is live in the moment over Zoom. Yeah. And it's available to anyone. It's actually free, so you don't have to be a member to join it. We have two time options and it's always a themed, a themed session. It's about an hour long and they're just a lot of fun.
I think the highest month we had just over a hundred registrations and they were like all over the country. So, Hey, that is so cool. It's really growing. And like the people who participate, they're, , you can tell, like you can see it on the screen and they use the chat box. And if it's like a community, there's like a staff member running the chat box and, but they're getting input from the residents and you can, if they have their camera on, you can just like see in their faces that they're engaged and they're, or they're singing or whatever, and they're just so appreciative and yeah, they've, they've really been loving it.
So that's something we've been doing since last summer. And it's been going really well. So we'll continue that.
**Morgan Roe:** That's awesome. And you'll provide links, so if people wanna join absolutely. It'll be in the, yes, it's open the description of this episode. Mm-hmm. Yeah. So as someone is, , what would you say to someone who's maybe like, caring for an older parent or is like, you know, maybe there's a concern about Alzheimer's dementia.
Is there any, like, is there stuff that can be done like preemptively , like at what point would you recommend someone like start researching music therapy?
**Alexis Baker:** Yeah, good question.
There is so much research being done right now on Yeah. Dementia and Alzheimer's and I think there are ways to like, to slow it down. I not necessarily reverse it. That would be Yeah. Really tough to like reverse it, but you can definitely slow it down mainly by staying active, like as active as you can physically, mentally, socially.
Mm-hmm. That's super important. Like, covid was so detrimental with social interaction and just the isolation that took place, and then the, the compounding, the resulting effects of isolation and loneliness. Mm-hmm. So sad to think about all of that. Yeah. I mean, music can be used at any point along the way.
Any, like, it's, it's good at any, any point. So I always, even though like I'm, I'm not doing formal music therapy right now, I'm always an advocate for it. So if if you're able to hire a music therapist or join a music therapy group or something like that, a wellness mm-hmm. Music wellness group, there's like general music, wellness classes and things like that.
I, I always advocate for that. But we are. Music therapists are limited. Like there's not enough of us to go around, like I said.
**Morgan Roe:** Yeah. Well, and I think you told me like years ago too that didn't, I mean, schools have closed too, like didn't your program Yes. The entire university is closed.
**Alexis Baker:** Yes. My school closed in 2018, so thankfully there was a second newer program Good.
That had opened. But yeah, it's, it's pretty limiting and it's and then Covid was a huge hurdle within the music therapy mm-hmm. Profession. And in the training part of it a lot of internships closed and
**Morgan Roe:** yeah. I mean, you couldn't go to hospitals like the, your, your experience is there no way for a cancer patient?
**Alexis Baker:** Yeah. And, and it's, it was nearly impossible to do my job even when things started to open up, like. Trying to sing for an hour with a mask. Like it's just so hard. And I couldn't bring instruments in. They, like, they weren't allowed to share. Yeah. It was just so limiting. And then like , I had to be six to 10 feet from my clients.
Right. So like, you just miss out on so much, you have a mask, so you're not like, they're not able to see your mouth and like your facial expressions. And the, the engagement and the interaction was just so limited. I, I really felt like covid took the fun out of my job. And that's, yeah, that's part of like the burnout I went through is like the, all the driving I was doing and then, and then covid and just like I, things are, things are opened up again and, and pretty much back to normal.
And I, and I could go back to doing that, but I can't. Do this whole online thing. Yeah. It's a full-time job now, so I am, I'm doing this full-time and I really see it as a new direction mm-hmm. For my business and have just like, fully embraced it and, and it really does serve a need in a different way.
Like it's in a different way. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It's, it's not formal music therapy. Ev everything has its place and its value and you can, you can even have both, like we say, even if you have a music therapist, like you can have our program in the off hours. Yeah. And it's it can fill those times when you can't have, like, music therapists typically aren't on call.
**Morgan Roe:** You're not gonna show up at 2:00 AM to help someone go back to sleep.
**Alexis Baker:** Right. But to have a program that's on demand is, is basically having someone on call that can provide music, even if it's just, even if it's through a video. Mm-hmm. Format. So, yeah, I, I lost track of your original question.
**Morgan Roe:** No, I was kinda like, is there anything preventive that people can do?
And I think you definitely answered that, like, yes, absolutely
**Alexis Baker:** staying active and there's, there's a lot of research on like diet too. Mm-hmm. Which that can totally affect things, but yeah, just all the, all the usual health. Mm-hmm. Health focused things really help to combat the effects of. Aging and dementia.
**Morgan Roe:** Yeah. One of the the coaches I've had for just for physical fitness said something that really stuck with me, which was it was talking about like doing squats or something. And how ultimately that is just the ability to get out of the chair and how when you can no longer get out of a chair, your health really starts to go downhill because suddenly your socialism, inter, inter, you know, interactions are limited.
Like it kind of cascades everything. And I don't know. True. Stuck with me's. Yeah. Is it true?
**Alexis Baker:** Yeah. And I've also heard a body in motion stays in motion. Hmm. So if you're, if you're constantly mo, not constantly moving, but if you're moving every day, then you're keeping your body in motion and moving, and it's less likely to get injured because of inactivity or strained or.
**Morgan Roe:** Yeah, I, the choir I'm in now, you can sense that I've just been in choir forever. When the choir I'm in now there's someone that I, I carpool with who's I forget, she's, I think she's 82, super active. She was a nurse and she's just like, go, go, go. And she, she complains so loudly and it's hilarious because she's like, oh, I'm just, I'm so, I'm sorry I'm so slow.
She's not slow. She's like, you know, getting out of a car and she's like, I'm sorry, I'm so slow, blah, blah, blah. I'm going camping for four days. I'm doing this, we're going hiking. We're going, like, she's just constantly, and she's, but she's mad that she's like, she was complaining the other day like, oh, I can't, I can't haul a 50 pound backpack up a mountain anymore.
I was like, wow, you're 82. And that's what like, That's just awesome , I don't know. I mean, I like, I understand that must be very frustrating, but the fact that she's still able to go camping and hiking at at 82 is Wow. Just so awesome. It's so awesome.
**Alexis Baker:** Yeah, that sounds really impressive to me.
**Morgan Roe:** And she stays in choir too. She's in, I think, at least two groups that I'm aware of. which again, she says for the, the social and then the, I mean, just the benefits of singing deep breath.
**Alexis Baker:** Totally. Yeah. There's so many benefits to singing. Yeah. I, I also have a blog and I've done a few different posts on like singing, like benefits of singing.
And another one that would be worth checking out for caregivers is Seven Ways to Use Music at Home With Your Loved One. That was another article I wrote, so yeah.
**Morgan Roe:** Well, I have one final question for you. So do you know what zeitgeist means?
**Alexis Baker:** That's not the question, but I have heard you share the. The meaning before, and I've also looked it up too.
**Morgan Roe:** Yeah. So Spirit of the Times, right. , so for me, and like with my anthropology background, I just, I, I think that music is, is such an important part of culture. And I think that, like we've talked about today, the music that we're around plays a big role in who we are and who we become and what we connect with.
So there's something that I call a zeitgeist moment, which is, you know, when you're like listening to music and you just like, you just like feel connected to everything. You're like, oh my gosh, I just get it. Or like, you either plug into something or, , you're just consumed by the music. It just, you just feel it really, really strongly and you feel connected to a broader.
Thing, whether it's culture or something universal or whatever. I kind, I'm started calling that a zeitgeist moment cuz we, it's something we've all experienced.
**Alexis Baker:** Yes. So absolutely.
**Morgan Roe:** What was a recent zeitgeist moment for you?
**Alexis Baker:** Oh man,
well my husband and I went to Ireland over. Over like Christmas and New Year's. Nice. And prior to that I was like, let's get in the, in the spirit for Ireland. So we ended up going to this trio, I think they're called the Gothard Sisters, and they do like Irish style of music. Nice. And yeah, I just, I really loved it.
Like it was, you know, how concerts were on hold with Covid and it was, I, I don't know if it was our first concert back. It might have been. But yeah, just feeling the power of music again, like yes, there in the moment at a, at a concert in person and yes, being there with other people. And they also incorporated.
Irish dancing with like the, the hard towed shoes. I don't know what those are called. Yeah. The tap shoes, I guess. And yeah, just feeling the rhythm and they did a couple of Christmas songs and invited audience to sing and just being there with everyone singing. And yeah, I would,
**Morgan Roe:** there was a period, like as, as Covid was co was like, as things were starting to open back up again where like every concert you went to, at least for me, like the, the o the performers just were crying.
Like they were so happy to be back on stage in front of people. And that feeling, I saw several people that were like, Just overwhelmed, like at how much they're like, I knew I missed this, but I didn't realize how much I missed it. And I know for sure that was true for me too. The first like concert that I went back to, I was like crying like, this is like,
I missed this so much.
**Alexis Baker:** Mm-hmm.
**Morgan Roe:** Oh, awesome.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with people?
**Alexis Baker:** . One thing I like to share is that music is like a vitamin. So a little bit every day does wonders for body, soul, and mind and spirit and yeah, just remember .
To do something music related every day. Take your music vitamin,
**Morgan Roe:** your musical vitamin. Yeah. I love that. Awesome. Well, Alexis, thank you so much for being on my podcast.
**Alexis Baker:** Oh, thank you. This has been wonderful.
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