A half-dozen people sit semi-circle at the Sorrento Valley office of MusicWorx, counting out their breath, blowing through harmonicas at their weekly session of the agency’s blues harmonica group.
Lindsay Zehren, a board-certified music therapist, counts out their cadence, soothing and nearly hypnotic, as she leads the group through a series of exercises that, although simple, have an outsized impact in combating one of the more debilitating ravages of Parkinson’s disease. Really, the session isn’t about the quality of their playing—or even being in key.
“As long as you’re breathing together, you can’t play a wrong note,” she tells the group.
That rhythmic effort of breathing through the reeds—in and out, in and out—made Zehren wonder last year whether the harmonica might have a special therapeutic value. When she looked into it more, she couldn’t find any research on how the harmonica impacts people afflicted with Parkinson’s.