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Tuning into the iPod pharmacy

Music therapists connect patients with the healing power of music – on donated iPods.
Oona Jean connects iPods with music therapy patients at The Victoria Conservatory of Music.

Oona Jean has seen first hand how music can affect positive change in people with chronic pain or dementia.

As a music therapist at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, Jean works off site, visiting people at various facilities. She arranges to have live music brought in, mostly for group settings.

We get to see the impact our work makes on a daily basis, it brings a quality of life to people,” Jean says.

And now Jean can take music therapy to a more personal level, and with increased regularity, thanks to the iPod Pharmacy program, an initiative of the province’s Music Heals charity.

The iPod Pharmacy is a ready-to-go package containing an iPod (or MP3 player), a set of headphones and iTunes gift cards for downloading music.

Ideally the patient can identify some music they’d like to download, if not we’ll help them choose,” Jean says.

Functioning iPods or MP3 players are cleaned, any previous music is erased, and they’re matched with a new set of headphones donated by Skullcandy. The iTunes gift cards are donated by a local Scotiabank branch.

This allows music therapists in B.C. to help more patients,” says iPod Pharmacy creator Chris Brandt, executive director of Music Heals. “Even if they’re just staying overnight in the hospital, they’re stressed and can’t sleep, or something else, people can be lifted by music in so many ways.”

The program is off and running in Vancouver and looking to expand to Calgary, Regina and Winnipeg.

Scotiabank comes on as a sponsor branch by branch, it’s not a national thing, so this is all about local investment at every level,” Brandt says. “We wanted to get people involved with Music Heals and instead of asking people for money, we wanted to see what else we could do.”

The distribution model for iPod Pharmacy gives the power to music therapists – of which there are 22 on the Island – to apply for and allocate the iPod Pharmacy packages in their community.

Music therapists are the experts so we put it in their hands,” he says.

This really relies on iPod donations and that’s where we’re trying to raise the most awareness right now,” Jean says. “So if you or someone you know is upgrading your iPod then please consider donating the old one. We’re ready to begin distributing to patients,” Jean adds.

Good-as-new iPods or MP3 players can be dropped off at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, or mailed to iPod Pharmacy, c/o Victoria Conservatory of Music, 900 Johnson St., Victoria, V8V 3N4. Cords to connect the device to the computer are also welcome, whenever possible.