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Rhythm, breath and a lullaby

Workshop to show how right sounds can help premature babies

A newborn baby is rapt with attention as a musical therapist sings and plays the guitar. Scientific evidence shows music therapy greatly aids premature babies.

Never underrate a baby.

They might be very young, but they are smarter and more sensitive than most people think. They also hear a lot more than you think.

That is why the music therapy in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) workshop — First Sounds: Rhythm, Breath and Lullaby — at Marylhurst University on Jan. 23 will be so significant for therapists, professionals and parents; anyone involved in the development of premature babies.

Giving the workshop will be Dr. Joanne Loewy and Andrew Rossetti, colleagues at the Louis Armstrong Department of Music Therapy at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City. Their trip to Lake Oswego is part of their non-stop world tour on which they train hospital staff neonatologists, nurses and music therapists.

In the form of lullabies, music therapy between parents and children has unofficially been going on since the beginning of time.

“The lullaby is like the secret ingredient,” said Loewy, an internationally known authority on music therapy. “It’s like a recipe passed from one generation to the next.”

However, the value of lullabies and many other sounds toward a baby’s development — especially babies born prematurely — was officially confirmed six years ago after a major study at 11 hospitals.

“The informed, intentional therapeutic use of live sound and parent-preferred lullabies applied by a certified music therapist can influence cardiac and respiration,” Loewy said. “Entrained with a premature infant’s observed vital signs, sound and lullaby may improve feeding behaviors and sucking patterns and may increase prolonged periods of quiet-alert states.

“Parent-preferred lullabies, sung live, can enhance bonding, thus decreasing the stress parents associate with premature infant care.”

Dr. Joanne Loewy and some new parents anxiously look up at a monitor to see how music is helping the vital signs of a newborn baby.

Loewy’s explanation would be even better if it could be accompanied by a live demonstration of how her method helps a newborn premature baby. Like the one in the article about Loewy that recently appeared in The New York Times. It described a mother clasping her tiny, fragile baby closely to her breast and singing a lullaby version of the Beatles song “Eight Days a Week.” While momma sang, the heart monitor showed the baby’s heartbeat decreasing and its oxygen intake increasing.

Dr. Laura Beer, director of the music therapy program at Marylhurst University, is the reason that Loewy is coming to Lake Oswego. Their friendship goes back many years, and Beer is a total believer in what Loewy offers in First Sounds. It was Loewy who inspired Beer to begin a pilot music therapy program at Doernbecher’s Neonatal Care Center.

“When babies are born prematurely they are placed in NICU units and subject to environments not nearly as stable or soothing as the womb,” Beer said. “The right use of music, however, can reorient these infants, provide comfort, and help regulate their breathing and heart rate patterns.”

Beer added, “I have already used her methods in the classroom, and students are eager to know more.”

Marylhurst is lucky to get Loewy and Rossetti, because their workshop is in demand all over the world.

“I’ll be in a country every month this year,” Loewy said. “Like Norway and London. I’ve got 13 countries on my schedule.”

The First Sounds workshop will be held in the BP John Administration Building on the Marylhurst campus, located at 17600 Pacific Highway, Marylhurst.

Cost for the workshop is $250 for professionals and $125 for students.

Andrew Rossett, who will team with Dr. Loewy at the workshop, searches for just the right tune to play on his guitar to help a premature infant.


Dr. Laura Beer of Marylhurst University is already making good use of the musical therapy program for premature babies developed by Dr. Joanne Loewy.

To register, go to marylhurst.edu/nicu-mt. For further information, go to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 503-699-6293.

Contact Cliff Newell at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..