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Music and Memory: How one music therapist connects with those with dementia

Local music therapist uses song to connect dementia patients to their memories.

*An earlier version of the text misidentified the Clarence Care Center's location.

“Music and Memory” is a short documentary that explores the power of music for treating dementia and other related diseases in the context of memory. Local music therapist, Harry Beckett, has led sessions in Columbia and adjacent areas for nearly 15 years. He incorporates well-known songs throughout the eras like “Crazy” by Patsy Cline and “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver.

Residents with varying degrees of dementia

Residents with varying degrees of dementia play along to music with egg shakers led by music therapist, Harry Beckett, during a group session on March 22 at the Clarence Care Center in Macon, Missouri. Music therapy is commonly used in those with dementia to help with cognitive and social functioning.

Unlike other types of memory, musical memory is stored in the brain differently, which enables those with dementia and other memory-related diseases to retain and retrieve the words to certain melodies. Music generally carries an emotional connection in people’s brains, which enhances its ability to be stored long-term.

Carole Martin, 85, sings

Carole Martin, 85, sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” during a music therapy session on March 2 at TigerPlace Independent Living. Prior to being diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, she dreamt of becoming a professional opera singer. 

This piece documents music therapy in four different spaces including the Clarence Care Center in Clarence, Missouri, a Parkinson’s Support Group in Columbia, a Ukulele Group for Veterans with PTSD, and at TigerPlace Living with Carole Martin. Each group or individual experiences music in relation to memory differently in order to navigate the effects of their disease. Watch the documentary on our website,

  • Cleo Norman is the Assistant Director of Videography at the Columbia Missourian and a graduate student at MU's School of Journalism. She has previously worked as a staff photographer and video editor at the Missourian.

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