When 86-year-old Martin Coyne, a retired businessman, co-founded Healing Sounds of Music in 2018 as a project to consume his downtime, he knew he was onto something. These days, the internet and major psychological journals are flush with articles and studies promoting just that: the healing qualities of music as a surgical palliative, as a speech recovery tool following stroke or traumatic brain injury, as a memory trigger for Alzheimer’s patients.
“Music has tremendous powers to heal. I think it’s pretty universal,” says Martin’s son, Russell Coyne. “Because when you hear music, especially something you heard when you were younger, it transports you back, more often than not, to something happy, that you remember fondly from years past. … They started doing studies on it, each coming up that music has tremendous properties to heal the mind—and when the mind’s healed, a lot of times the body follows.”
Martin Coyne started Healing Sounds to bring music’s pleasurable and therapeutic qualities to an underserved demographic: the residents of assisted-living facilities. Healing Sounds of Music began two years ago with a free concert inside Five Star Premier ALF. Funded by Martin’s own Coyne Family Foundation, the organization employs professional local musicians led by SYMPHONIA Artistic Director Jeffrey Kaye, who curates each concert’s eclectic program.
“I start out thinking if I was playing a recital in Carnegie Hall, what would be good for the body, soul, mind and spirit?” Kaye says. “They hear piano trios, quartets, a brass group in December, a jazz band, a rhythm section, show tunes. In 45 minutes, hopefully they’re moved a little, they hear something virtuosic, and also something refreshing or nostalgic.”
Martin died in 2019, but the organization has lived on, and expanded, under Russell’s leadership. Monthly performances in Five Star, which many residents have cited as the highlight of their month, led to future concerts at the Atrium at Boca Raton, and others on the books at Stratford Court of Boca Pointe and ManorCare that had to be canceled due to the coronavirus.
Not one to easily bow down from a challenge, Kaye suggested his musicians perform outdoors during the early stages of the pandemic. They played two well-received al fresco concerts, with residents listening from their windows, before the full quarantine prevented all nursing home visits.
“Ladies were on their balconies, having a glass of wine, 50 feet from us,” Kaye recalls, adding that “it’s been hard, the last few months, not being there. [Outdoor concerts] might be the first step back. A brass group doesn’t need amplification.”
Coyne, too, is anxious to resume programming for an audience whose options for live entertainment are limited even in the best of circumstances. “This is a target market that’s not able to get out much a lot of times,” he says. “A lot of these people are facing end of life at some point; their health is deteriorating. And I’m sure a lot of them were very active in going to concerts and shows. So it brings a bit of a depression onto a lot of them, not being able to do what they used to do.
“So to bring in these professional musicians, who are world-class, and play great music that brings them back to when they were younger and in better times, it’s really uplifting to watch.”
To support Healing Sounds of Music, visit healingsoundsofmusic.org and click “Donate.”