Music and the Brain

Something you might not know about me is that I play the trombone.  I started playing in fifth grade and stopped playing my sophomore year of college.  I played in pep band, orchestra, jazz band, concert band, marching band, and the Greater Milwaukee Youth Wind Ensemble. I traveled and competed a lot, and I prided myself on maintaining the first chair position among a slew of boys.  I was even offered a music scholarship from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, my alma mater.  When I switched from a Music Major to an Exercise Management Major, I stopped playing.  A decision I still regret.

It wasn’t until 25 years later, in January of 2018, that I picked up my trombone to see if I could still read music and if my chops still worked.  When I realize I could do both, I couldn’t wait to get back to playing.  My husband surprised me with private lessons with the principle trombonist of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and after four months of lessons, I received a call from the director of the Fords Colony Dance Band, inviting me to join the band.  The rest is history.

Why did I decide to try playing again in 2018?  Because in July of 2017 my grandma passed away from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and in December of 2018 I took the 23andMe test, which indicated I had a genetic risk factor for early onset Alzheimer’s disease.  I knew that for the past 25 years I had been doing everything I knew possible to prevent this awful disease- I maintained a healthy BMI through daily strength training and aerobic exercise; I ate a healthy diet to include plenty ofOmega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, sardines, walnuts, eggs and flax seeds; I consumed plenty of fruits and vegetables to acquire my daily dose of antioxidants; I slept 7-9 hours every night; Heck, I even speak Spanish, a bilingual benefit that provides a cognitive reserve that delays the onset.

But did you know that recent studies suggest that music may enhance cognitive function and promote healthy aging?  Playing a musical instrument is associated with a lower risk of developing dementia.  This has been attributed to the ability of musical training and performance to increase the resiliency of the brain.  So take that, Alzheimer’s Disease!

It’s never too late to try something new.  I encourage you to do so today.  Train your brain.


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