Rock-and-Roll Therapy

“There’s a study by Barry Bittman,” says Davida Price, “that found that 30 minutes of drumming actually improves the production of T-cells.” Price, 29, is a certified music therapist. “Those are the cells that are helpful to the immune system.” Bittman, a Pennsylvania medical researcher, for decades has been studying the effects of music and drumming on human health, a subject that Price is familiar with. Her own work, which she calls rock-and-roll therapy, is directed at kids and teens. “I developed it working with children at various local hospitals.” She says she’d rather not say which ones for reasons of confidentiality.

“I get a one-time shot,” she says. “I’ll come in with a bass guitar and a regular guitar and some amps and some keyboards, and we all play music together.” Price says there is no time to teach the nonmusical how to play an instrument and therefore has developed a system. She tunes the guitars to open bar chords, then marks the fretboards and keyboards with strips of colored tape that tell a beginner where fingers should go. For example, red is the G major chord, while green is a C major chord and yellow a D major chord. “We could play ‘Three Little Birds’ with those chords.”

She then sings the colors, by way of demonstration, over coffee in Normal Heights.

The sounds of music, says Price, hold restorative powers. She describes a hypothetical scenario in which a patient has suffered sexual abuse and is depressed. “I’d say, ‘You’ve never played bass before?’ So then I’d put this big, heavy bass guitar in her lap. I’d say, play this cherry-red Ibanez. When she says ‘I can’t,’ I’d put her fingers in the right places and help her make some low notes.” That, Price says, is when healing begins to take place. “She’s playing this traditionally masculine instrument that is libidinous in a way, and she’s in control of it. Can you imagine how powerful that is?”

Price got her degree from Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Price considered a career as a performer but says she found music therapy emotionally and monetarily more rewarding. Following an internship in music therapy at Music Works of California in La Jolla, she opened Bliss Music Therapy.

In the final analysis, do drummers live longer than other musicians? “I don’t know,” Price laughs. “I don’t know if there are any studies on that.”


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