An interview with Alexis Baker from Bridgetown Music Therapy: Music Makes a Difference on July 1, 2023 by George Ackerman, Ph.D, J.D.
Alexis Baker has been a board-certified music therapist since 2013 and is owner of Bridgetown Music Therapy, which she founded in 2017. She is passionate about serving older adults, especially those living with dementia. For Alexis, using music to make a difference in people’s lives is a life calling, and she absolutely loves getting to positively impact older generations through meaningful music engagement.
Please tell me a little about your background.
I have always loved music. I grew up in a “musical” family, learning to play piano from a young age and picking up guitar at age 10. In high school, I became more confident in my singing voice and joined a choir. I’ve always loved helping people and knew I wanted to do something in life which involved that. When I first learned about the field of music therapy in high school, it immediately clicked in my mind. It made sense to combine music with a therapeutic approach. Music has personally helped me in many different ways, and I wanted to use music to help make a difference in other’s lives. I went on to earn my bachelor’s degree in music therapy and become board-certified as a music therapist.
Can you tell me more about your organization?
I founded Bridgetown Music Therapy with the passion and desire to use music to make a difference in the lives of older adults. The benefits of music are abundant and far-reaching. Music can improve quality of life in a myriad of ways. It can support self-expression, physical movement, cognitive engagement, social connection and so much more. The first 3.5 years of Bridgetown, I was a traveling music therapist providing in-person music therapy services. Then in 2020, in response to Covid, I transitioned my business to an online model. I created a virtual music engagement program that’s accessible 24/7 and highly cost-effective compared to traditional music therapy.
What is your passion and how did you get involved in Parkinson’s awareness and hope for a cure?
My passion is serving people living with dementia, but I have also served people living with Parkinson’s and have witnessed the power of music in many individuals and groups of people. Dementia or cognitive impairment can be a part of Parkinson’s Disease. Music can address various needs of those with dementia, and singing in particular can be hugely beneficial for those living Parkinson’s. Our program is 80% focused on singing with about 10% focused on movement to music and the other 10% focused on deep breathing and relaxation. While not a cure, I know my work as a music therapist can greatly help with various aspects of the disease.
What type of goals do individuals with Parkinson’s have when working with you?
Goal areas may include the physical, mental, social, emotional, spiritual, cognitive, communicative, or musical. For example, goals may be focused on respiratory strength/breath control, physical movement, vocal strength, self-expression, social interaction, speech and language, spiritual support, and more. There are endless possibilities with music and how it can be used to address general needs or very specific needs.
What type of training and how long are the programs?
While not formal music therapy services, our program is versatile in how it can be applied. For example, it can be used in a group or individual setting. Our pre-recorded video sessions range from 2-5 minutes for individual songs to 20-60 minutes for music sessions. We have over 300 videos in our member video library! We also facilitate a free monthly live music session over zoom open to anyone. We have individuals and groups join from all over the country and recently, international.
What effect can it have on an individual with Parkinson’s?
Our program takes a general approach to the use of music to engage and benefit participants. As I mentioned earlier, the activity of singing can lead to positive outcomes for people with Parkinson’s. Our program also incorporates elements of wellness through movement/gentle stretching and deep breathing/relaxation exercises. The effects of music on a person can be subtle or small, but nonetheless valuable, or they can be very noticeable and significant.
What would you like to see as a future goal for your programs?
We would love to see more people accessing it! It can be tough to get the word out, and people don’t know what they don’t know. It’s a relatively new concept, but when people who are just the right fit for our program discover it, they express gratitude to us for creating it.
How does this also assist the caregivers?
Our program for individuals living at home and their caregivers (called Singing at Home) can function as a respite for caregivers, or it can provide a meaningful activity for caregiver and care recipient to do together. Both are needed; both meet a need within the care setting.
How can someone get in touch? What is your website?
In your opinion what is the key to effective advocacy?
I believe the key to effective advocacy is passion. It all starts with passion, and that is the fuel to continue when advocacy is tough.
What other activities do you undertake to help improve and support your daily living Eg. exercise and alternative remedies?
Personally, I try to stay physically active, regularly going on walks in the neighborhood and hikes when weather and time permit. On good weeks, I hit the gym 3 times for 45 minutes to an hour. I also incorporate high quality essential oils in my daily life which support better sleep, reduce stress, boost my immune system, and help reduce toxins.
If you had one song that would tell us more about you or represent your life, which song would it be?
Being a music therapist, I love this question! I think it would be a song without words. The song has changed over the years, but one that I still resonate with from the first time I heard it is “Gymnopédie No. 1” by Erik Satie. I also wrote a parody this past year to the song “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”. My colleague, Lindsey, and I recorded it in the park, and it can be found here on YouTube.
What are your social media Links?
If you had one final statement or quote you could leave for the Parkinson’s community, what would it be?
Don’t lose hope. If there’s one thing for sure in life, it’s that there is always hope. Also, music can help. 💜