Singing With Parkinson’s: Therapeutic Benefits and Potential

This April, we at the George Center for Music Therapy are thrilled to be partnering with The Alchemy Sky Foundation for our inaugural season of Singing with Parkinson’s! Singing with Parkinson’s is a unique choral experience designed to address various symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) in an engaging, holistic approach. The program is designed by Neurologic Music Therapists to specifically meet the individual needs of participants with PD, and promises to be a source of community, fun and treatment for all participants. (For more information on the kinds of music we’ll be doing, check in with our next write up in a couple of weeks!)

PD is a neurodegenerative disorder that primarily manifests through impaired motor abilities for those with the diagnosis. Individuals with PD frequently experience a variety of movement-related symptoms, include tremor, gait dysregulation, bradykinesia (slower-than-normal movement), impaired speech production, difficulty swallowing, and muscle rigidity. In addition, individuals with PD are at risk for mood disorders, including depression and anxiety (Tan, 2012), which can further affect quality of life for the individuals and their families. As of 2018, there are approximately one million Americans with a diagnosis of PD.


Fortunately, there is a vast body of research supporting the use of music therapy to address these various symptoms. Studies have shown that music accesses various areas of the brain, and that rhythm synchronizes neural and motor activity in humans in general, regardless of diagnosis. This means that your body has an innate response to music, and is activated to respond in predictable ways based on musical input and interaction. Music therapy, and Neurologic Music Therapy in particular, use these intrinsic responses to facilitate both neural rehabilitation and motor regulation. In relation to PD, research shows that music therapy is an effective means addressing multiple symptoms, including improving gait regulation (Lindaman and Abiru, 2013), reducing bradykinesia (Pacchetti et al., 2000), facilitating speech production (Yinger & LaPointe, 2012), and decreasing mood disturbances and depression (Raglio et al., 2015), to name a few.


So what does this mean for Singing with Parkinson’s? It means that we will be using evidence-based methods to maintain and improve functioning with our members so that they can maintain their best quality of living outside of the rehearsal. Furthermore, we hope to provide members with an engaging, quality musical experience within rehearsals using a variety of repertoire and activities. And we hope to provide a place where various individuals of the Atlanta area can come together and experience a community of support, encouragement, and fun. When we make music together, we acknowledge our commonality, our ability to come together from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences to produce something beautiful.

We are so excited about this amazing program. And we are so excited to have you join us.

See you there!



Lindaman, K., & Abiru, M. (2013). The Use of Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation for Gait Disturbances in Paitents with Neurologic Disorders. Music Therapy Perspectives, 31(1). 35-39.

Pacchetti, C., Mancini, F., Aglieri, Ro., Fundarò, C., Martignoni, E., & Nappi, G. (2000). Active Music Therapy in Parkinson’s Disease: An Integrative Method for Motor and Emotional Rehabilitation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 62(3). 386-393.

Raglio, A., Attardo, L., Gontero, G., Rollino, S., Groppo, E., & Granieri, E. (2015). Effects of music and music therapy on mood in neurological patients. World Journal of Psychiatry, 5(1).

Tan, L.C.S. (2012). Mood Disorders in Parkinson’s Disease. Parkinsonism & Related Disorders, 18. S74-S76.

Yinger, O.S., & Lapointe, L.L. (2012). The Effects of Participation in a Group Music Therapy Voice Protocol (G-MTVP) on the Speech of Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease. Music Therapy Perspectives, 30(1). 25-31.

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Welcome, Sarah!


Sarah Edwards is excited to be completing her music therapy internship at the George Center for Music Therapy. She graduated from Converse College in May of 2017 with her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Upon completing her clinical work at the George Center she will receive her Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy, also from Converse.  During her time at Converse, Sarah worked with individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia, children with developmental disabilities, patients and families in hospice care, as well as patient of general and pediatric units in the hospital. In addition to her coursework, Sarah has enjoyed being a part of her church choir, Converse dance ensemble, performing as a vocalist locally in Spartanburg, leading contemporary worship services, and being president of Musicians Helping Others- a music therapy advocacy organization on her campus. Sarah is passionate about music therapy and can’t wait to learn through all that the George Center has to offer!

"This therapy is truly a gift that will benefit our son throughout his life.”


“We have been with The George Center for four years. Music therapy has made such a difference in our son’s life. It has helped his overall language development as well as his fine motor skills…He has also further developed his love of music and singing ability. This therapy is truly a gift that will benefit our son throughout his life.”

- Cindy Smith, parent

"Once you observe a session, you would have no doubt of its effectiveness..."


“Music Therapy has been a dynamic and integral part of our methodology. Once you observe a session, you would have no doubt of its effectiveness. It is an intervention which provides an opening in multiple ways – the children’s hearts and minds are open to input, interaction, and learning as the joy, laughter and music begins. Music therapy as a language intervention is well researched and documented for kids with Developmental Delays and Autism – we see this evidence daily.”

- Amy O’Dell

Founding Director, Jacob’s Ladder Neurodevelopmental School and Therapy Center

"...I watch children benefit each day from the therapeutic value of music and rhythm."


“Music therapy is a part of my student’s weekly programs here at Jacobs Ladder and I watch children benefit each day from the therapeutic value of music and rhythm. By incorporating music through out my students’ day I see many improvements such as: desire to interact with peers, higher comprehension and retention, release of muscle tension, decrease in anxiety, induced self stimulatory and aggressive/noncompliant behavior, improved eye contact and focus along with improvements in gross motor and academic skills. It’s beautiful seeing The George Center’s music therapists interact and connect with my students through the joy of music. A little girl once told me that she sings to make people happy; The George Center does just that by bringing smiles to faces along with warmth to the heart, all to the beat of music.”

- Katina Dunkerly

Instructor - Jacob’s Ladder Neurodevelopmental School and Therapy Center

"The skills he has developed... have made him much better equipped to succeed and reach his potential."


“How did you handle your last mistake? Extreme frustration or violent outburst? Probably not, as you have developed coping skills, over the years and your life experiences. For many kids on the Spectrum, these skills are developing at a slower rate.During the four years our son (12 years old) has been with the George Center, we have seen remarkable improvement in these areas. Starting with piano, he was able to develop a rhythm in the music, which carried over to his everyday challenges. As to mistakes, he is much more tolerant and is accelerating his coping skills. This is helping in everyday life, as well as on his new instrument, the trombone! The annual recitals give a wonderful opportunity for the kids to shine and it’s a treat for the parents to see how proud the kids are of their hard earned success.Now with middle school, he’s faced with many new obstacles. The skills he has developed, with the help of the loving, caring people at The George Center, have made him much better equipped to succeed and reach his potential.”

- Roger Lawton, Parent

"It is a highly preferred activity... through which he is exploring music skills I did not know he had."


“Therapy. Being a Dad of a special needs kid, i hear the word therapy a lot. To me, therapy typically means taking my son to a treatment that is not preferred, with hopes that I will see some type of measurable improvement with the assistance of a trained staff that may or may not ‘connect’ to my son. Music therapy at the George Center is not typical therapy. It is a highly preferred activity, with professional staff that connect with my special needs son, through which he is improving in social skills with adults and peers, appropriate group behavior, as well as exploring music skills I did not know he had. I highly recommend the George Center for Music Therapy for parents that want to see positive improvement in their child’s social, behavior, and music related skills with an exceptional staff.”

- David Seback, parent

"It is a therapy often overlooked, but now we know, is invaluable."

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My daughter, Abbie, is a TBI survivor. Over the past 3 years we have been through many many therapies but I think the most impressive was a true licensed and board certified music therapy program. This is not just learning to beat a drum or tap a piano key, this therapy activates both sides of the brain and works on so many aspects of recovery, including:

  • Improved communication
  • Behavior modification
  • Sensory skills
  • Motor skills
  • Social and emotional functioning
  • Cognitive skills
  •  Stress management
  • Promotion on wellness
  • Pain management
  • Memory enhancement
  • Fostering interaction and
  • Communication

We feel so much to have worked with The George Center for Music Therapy. Our music therapist was awesome and the entire staff was sp positive and caring. They have a beautiful office space and offer in home sessions. They will work with you insurance company and they direct you to scholarships and grants. 

It is a therapy often overlooked, but now we know, is invaluable. 

Thank you, 

Mary Beth Williamson