“Eventide has always understood the importance of music therapy,” said Nancy Steckler, Eventide Jamestown director of life enrichment. “They have music therapists in their Fargo-Moorhead campuses for the long-term care so this is really just an extension of that philosophy of the value of music therapy that they made the decision to bring one to Eventide in Jamestown.”

Doug Panchot, Eventide Jamestown executive director, said the facility has been attempting to hire for the position for quite some time when Maggie O’Malley fell into the mix.

O’Malley started as the facility’s first music therapist at the end of April.

“Maggie is doing a great job,” Panchot said. “Obviously because of the pandemic – we are doing business a lot different and Maggie has done a great job of jumping in and being able to manage given the circumstances. We don’t have group activities or anything like that and so Maggie goes in and it’s basically a one-on-one session which I think helps promote and develop her care plan with each person.”

O’Malley said that she is still in the process of developing a care plan for all of the Eventide residents. As the facility is not running typical group activities due to the pandemic, O’Malley has instead spent time with residents on a one-to-one basis.

“As an organization and as a facility, you look at different ideas of what we can really do to develop a sense of self within our residents,” Panchot said. “A part of that is really what music therapy is and how that impacts the person that maybe other things don’t. This gives us more opportunities to really engage and connect at a different level.”

O’Malley said she has thoroughly enjoyed connecting via instrument and lyrics with the residents.

“Even just being here for almost a month, I have seen the music therapy sessions completely change the residents’ affect, their mood and their spirits,” O’Malley said. “I’ve just seen them laugh a whole lot more, they’re smiling and it’s just been really great being able to connect with them and just sharing music with them has been amazing.”

Typically O’Malley visits the residents’ private rooms to conduct a music therapy session. O’Malley brings her guitar and then sings to and/or with the resident. O’Malley has also played the piano but generally utilizes her guitar as the instrument lends itself to portability.

“Music helps us express all and every type of emotion we are feeling – not only through the words of the song but also through the melodies and harmonies,” O’Malley said. “I believe there’s a song for any emotion you’re feeling – whether it’s happy, sad, angry or hopeful.”

Panchot said there is a slew of emotions residents and residents’ families are working through in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Eventide Jamestown is still on lockdown, barring any non-essential visitors from seeing and engaging with loved ones. The only exception at this time are visits for end of life care. Panchot said while families have been very understanding, the reality of no family visits is a tough pill to swallow.

Panchot said he has seen the program help bolster spirits in the midst of this trying time.

“I think this (program) really supplements what we do and that’s why we are so glad that Maggie is here and is really working on it,” Panchot said. “I think whatever we can do to provide some added stimulation and socialization from a staff perspective is beneficial.”

O’Malley is doing everything she can to make the program beneficial, now and post-pandemic.

“One of the songs that I always like to play for the residents right now is a song called ‘You will never walk alone,” O’Malley said. “The lyrics say just that. It says, ‘Walk onto the storm and walk onto hope in your heart. You will never walk alone.’ Music helps remind us that despite our current circumstance or anything that happens in our lives there is hope and better days to come.”