Music is Medicine: Using Art Therapy to Repair Pathways in the Brain

by kyra on September 6, 2016 - 6:13am


In this article, Charlie Jensen tells us about the magnificent use of music therapy for people who have gone through some sort of brain injury, and how it helps them regain what they lost. A woman named Christine Blue, a clarinetist who worked as an elementary school band director in Cleveland, unfortunately got into a car accident that left her in a coma. Doctors didn’t even know if she would wake up, let alone be able to play the clarinet again, but one person really did believe in Christine: a man named Robert McAllister. Robert was known as “dean of the Colburn Community School of Performing Arts”, “a top performing arts education administrator”, and “a pioneer in the field of music therapy”, and is recognized for all of his amazing service.

After Christine had woken up and joined a physical therapy team, Robert decided to join to help her out. 28 long weeks of practicing to relearn the clarinet went by, and lots of progress was made; she could do scales again and play notes. After just 7 months of lessons with Robert, Christine had regained 95% of her clarinet skills. This discovery proved to Robert that his theories indeed do work; that music therapy helped restore the damaged brain pathways that Christine got from her accident.

Now, Robert’s reinstruction method is being brought up in multiple schools and conferences. He helped one person regain a part of her life back, and he will no doubt help many more people in the future.


1: “The music reinstruction approach helps stimulate the reconnection of disturbed brain cells and encourages the brain to create new pathways to the knowledge to replace more damaged pathways.”
2: “Relearning the scale created new brain paths that unlocked pockets of knowledge isolated by her accident. Now, she could regain free access to that previously learned information and use it readily as she played.”
3: “After seven months of lessons with McAllister, Blue regained 95 percent of her clarinet skills and played the first movement of Mozart’s clarinet concerto. Shortly thereafter, she returned to work.”
4. Therefore, music therapy does help restore brain pathways.

Personally, I am very convinced by the author’s conclusion, and the reason why is because there is proof that his conclusion is indeed true. His theory’s and ideas were tested out on a real person who did in fact have damaged brain pathways, and by the end of the music therapy she had regained her skills. Also, since this worked with Christine, I think it will work on others in the future too.

Link to the article:


Hello, Kyra. I was very interested by your summary and the topic you wrote about, since I myself love music and play many instruments. It was very intriguing to me to read about music therapy and its positive effects on brain pathways. Your article was well summarized and well standardized.
However, there are a little detail which makes me hesitant to fully believe your point. It seems, when I read your text, that Robert McAllister's theory is only based on the observation of one individual. Let me explain myself.
To me, Robert McAllister's experimental sample's size is way too small. He bases his conclusion that music therapy can restore brain pathways only on the story of Christine Blue. Perhaps Christine Blue was an exception and many outside factors other than music therapy helped her restore brain pathways. For me to fully believe McAllister's theory, it would have to be proven on a much larger number of human beings. Do you agree with me?
That said, your summary is still very well-written and very interesting. I enjoyed reading it and have learned many things.

Yes I completely agree with you! Looking back I think that I am not 100% convinced because of the fact that there was only 1 person "tested". It makes complete sense as to why you are not convinced. Thank you for your feedback and the comments you made, I appreciate it.

Hi. I found your summary very well written and was captivated by the subject since I am a musician too. I found very interesting how we could associate the learning of a musical instrument to the recovery of pathways in the brain. However, I did find an element confusing and maybe you could explain it to me if I misunderstood your point. In your last premise, you explained how Blue regained 95% of her clarinet skills and how she was able to go back to work shortly after. In this last argument, I did not understand the logical link between the recovery of her clarinet skills and her being able to go back to work since her job as an elementary teacher is not only based on her music skills. Therefore, I found this element was vague since nowhere in this article did you mention how the music lessons would’ve help Blue recover other skills she might’ve lost. However, like I said, I might have just misunderstood your point and would be glad to discuss with you! Great summary!

Really interesting topic you chose ! I really enjoyed reading your article because it is a really different subject ! However, it is a fallacy because the premise’s truth depends on the conclusion’s truth. Therefore, on Christine’s case, it worked and she progressed but each single person is different and it doesn’t guarantee that it will work for everyone. It would have been interesting if you provided other cases as examples or statistics to prove your statement. Other than that, nice article !

This topic is interesting however, I noticed that you only had one evidence in which was proven with only one person. Size of sample matters because its not enough to convince someone which is not your fault. This can also be considered hasty generalization since the author assumes that it’s the case for everyone.

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