Our New Year’s blog and radio show celebrates the extraordinary life and work of Dr. Oliver Sacks, a brilliant caring physician, neurologist, professor, author, and musician. The article of the month is “Be Grateful To Mentors” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM. Also included are three articles on improving mental health by hearing music and dancing to it.
Radio Show Feature Question for January 2016: How did Classical Music play a part of Dr. Oliver Sacks’ life as a physician, neurologist, professor, author, and musician and what musical instrument did he play?
“A Dialogue with Dr. Oliver Sacks” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM
Professor William Lincer, my teacher and mentor at the Juilliard School, asked me to promise, before he died on July 31, 1997 to have a dialogue with Dr. Oliver Sacks, the brilliant thinker, medical doctor, neurologist, pianist, author of “Awakenings”, Professor of Clinical Neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Professor of Neurology at NYU School of Medicine.
Professor Lincer during my studies with him at the Juilliard School introduced me to many of Dr. Sacks’ books. I enjoyed reading and studying them. I sent a letter to Dr. Sacks after Professor Lincer had passed away and included an article on my research for my new book, “The Secret of Teaching Science & Math Through Music”. I asked Dr. Sacks several important questions about students coping with epilepsy, cerebral palsy, brain cancers, Parkinson’s, and neurological diseases.
On December 31, 1997, Dr. Sacks wrote me saying he was “just now making a New Year’s resolution to try and answer all delinquent mail by midnight!”
He said, “You bring up far too many deep questions and issues for me to have ready answers to! I take the liberty of enclosing a paper from a conference we had at the inauguration of the Institute for Music & Neurological Function at Beth Abraham Hospital in 1994. I have been very much for music and music therapy, as you know, ever since I first encountered my Awakening patients in 1966”.
The article Dr. Sacks sent me was about an elderly patient who had broken her hip. She had had an operation to repair her hip and had physical therapy and yet she was unable to walk. The MRI said the hip had not been repaired.
Dr. Sacks asked the patient, “If she had moved her hip recently?” She responded that, “She had kept time to the music at a Christmas concert by moving her leg in time to a dance piece.”
Dr. Sacks had a music therapist play dance music for the patient to move to in dance motions to the rhythm of the music. After a month she was able to walk once more.
I wrote back to Dr. Sacks thanking him for his wonderful article and his letter. I treasure Dr. Sacks’ letter and article. His letter is in a frame above my desk as an on going inspiration to me.
Dr. Sacks began studying the piano as a small child and has continued playing throughout his life. He says “music has been the profoundest non-chemical medication for our patients. What we see, fundamentally, is the power of music to organize-and do this efficaciously as well as joyfully, when abstract or schematic forms of organization fail.”
Dr. Sacks had a patient suffering from severe Alzheimer’s. The patient “responded to ballroom music by taking his wife in his arms and looking into her eyes and dancing with her.”
One of his patients had a stroke and could no longer walk or talk. Dr. Sacks brought in an accordionist who played a familiar song, and the patient started to sing the song with him. Music has the power to stimulate memory. “Memory says Dr. Sacks, is the key to a sense of self” and music evokes emotion and emotion can bring it’s memory.”
In Dr. Sacks’ book “A Leg to Stand On” he was hiking up a Norwegian mountain by himself and encountered “a bull” and he, “ran, madly blindly, down the steep, muddy, slippery path”. He found himself “lying at the bottom of a short sharp cliff of rock, my leg twisted grotesquely beneath me, and my knee such a pain as I had never, ever known. ” It was freezing and to save his life he “knew he had to climb down the mountain, closer to the village” to have a better chance “of being found.” He used his umbrella which he carried “at all times ..as a walking stick up the mountain.”
Dr. Sacks snapped “the umbrella handle,” fashioning “a makeshift splint for his limp leg” so he was “able to move.”
On his journey he “musicked along .. . fell into a rhythm, guided by a sort of marching or rowing song, sometimes the “Volga Boatmen’s Song”, sometimes … chant of my own.”
Dr. Sacks said, “Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears – it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. But for many of my neurological patients, music is even more – it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them, music is not a luxury, but a necessity.”
Early Family Life and Education of Oliver Sacks:
Dr. Oliver Sacks was born on July 9, 1933 in Willesden, London to Samuel Sacks, a physician, general practitioner, and pianist and Muriel Elsie Landau Sacks, physician,“1st female surgeon in England”. His parents were both trained in neurology.
Dr. Sacks said his “mother, Muriel Sacks, was the 16th of 18 children; he was the youngest of her 4 sons”. She enjoyed singing and her favorite composer was Schubert. His Father, Samuel Sacks, played on an 1894 Bechstein grand piano and always carried a miniature score in his pocket and could hear all the instruments in his head. Dr. Sacks said, “The house was full of music, and it was full of science and medicine and so, in a way, they form natural partners.”
Oliver Sacks “felt that the brain was the most incredible thing in the universe and therefore important to study.” He earned his medical degree in 1958 “from The Queens College, Oxford’, and his internship “at Middlesex Hospital part of University College, London”. Dr. Sacks moved to the United States for his internship “at Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco and completed his residency in neurology and neuropathy at the University of California, Los Angeles.” Moving to New York in 1965 he began working at Beth Abraham Hospital and “became professor of neurology at New York University School of Medicine.” He was “professor of neurology and psychology at Columbia University” and “held the position of “Columbia Artist” recognizing “his contributions to art and science.” (2007-2012) Dr. Sacks also taught at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Dr. Sacks’ turned 75 on July 9, 2008 and decided to start “piano lessons again after a gap of more than 60 years.” He says , “On my iPod at the moment I have nothing but Bach, but I have all of Bach — incredibly, the entire 157-CD set fits on this tiny thing without difficulty. I have been in a very Bach mood for the last few months. I have been concentrating on the 48 preludes and fugues; I am practicing a few of these.”
Dr. Oliver Sacks’ Legacy:
Dr. Oliver Sacks leaves a legacy of case studies of his patients observing their uniqueness. He cared so much to help others and teach them that their affliction made them unique. He lifted others up! Dr. Sacks shared his gifts and insights to the very end as he was dying of cancer. He said, “I am a storyteller, for better and for worse. I suspect that a feeling for stories, for narrative, is a universal human disposition, going with our powers of language, consciousness of self, and autobiographical memory.”
Dr. Oliver Sacks said, “In examining disease, we gain wisdom about anatomy and physiology and biology. In examining the person with disease, we gain wisdom about life. If we wish to know about a man, we ask ‘what is his story–his real, inmost story?’–for each of us is a biography, a story. Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed, continually, unconsciously, by, through, and in us–through our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and, not least, our discourse, our spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives–we are each of us unique.” ― Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales
Dr. Oliver Sacks’ assistant Kate Edgar wrote in an article on Dr. Sacks’ entitled “A Life Well Lived” that “he spent his final days doing what he loved- playing the piano, writing to friends, swimming, enjoying smoked salmon, and completing several articles. His final thoughts were of gratitude for a life well lived and the privilege of working with his patients at various hospitals and residences… in New York.”
Dr. Oliver Sacks, the brilliant caring physician, neurologist, professor, author, and musician died on August 30, 2015 in Manhattan, New York City.
“Be Grateful To Mentors” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM
When did you last thank your mentors for helping you reach your goals or dreams?
Throughout your life you will have teachers, coaches, friends, family members, and bosses who inspire and motivate you to reach your goals.
Go back in time to your first school days. Who was your favorite teacher? Why?
My favorite teacher was Mr. William Whitson. He was a tall handsome young man with twinkling eyes and a big smile. He taught me to play the violin when I was 8 years old. He encouraged, motivated, and inspired me to work hard for him. He made me feel competent and capable.
Dr. John Maxwell, the number 1 leadership guru in the world said, “That teacher probably saw you as a “10”.”
If a boss, teacher, leader, or coach sees you as a “2” would you be willing to work harder for them?
When a teacher, boss, coach or leader sees you as a “10” – as capable and competent aren’t you willing to work harder for them?
At 17, I auditioned for Professor Peter Zaret for a full scholarship to attend Virginia Commonwealth University. He was tall, dark, and handsome, neatly dressed wearing a big smile. I played well at the audition and he offered me a full scholarship to the University, which I accepted. Professor Zaret made me feel like a “10” and I was willing to work hard and do my very best work for him. At his invitation I became a member of the Richmond Symphony and assisted him in teaching his adult beginning violin class. During that school year I was a violin student of Professor Zaret . He suggested at the end of the year that I audition for the Juilliard School. He was a wonderful mentor during that year at VCU and encouraged, inspired, and motivated me.
At each stage of your life’s journey you will have a different mentor to encourage, inspire, and motivate you.
Think back over each stage of your journey and write down the different mentors who saw you as a “10” and encouraged, inspired, and motivated you!
When I was 18 years I moved to NYC and lived in the Swiss Town House. My roommate was a lovely young woman named Anna Brady. She was a talented violist and artist, a few years older than me, also attending the Juilliard School. She was from a family of 10 children from New Jersey.
We became good friends and she was one of my first mentors at Juilliard. My violin teacher at the time thought of me as a “4”.
Anna said to me one day, “Come with me to meet my teacher Professor William Lincer. You will love him!”
I went with Anna and she introduced me to her teacher Professor Lincer. He was an older tall and distinguished man with dark hair with some gray, a mustache, and wore a big smile. He made an appointment to hear me play my violin for him.
After I played for him he called me a “red hot fiddler’’ and invited me to join his chamber music class even though it was full. Professor Lincer took me under his wing.
That was the day I discovered Professor Lincer thought I was a “10”. On that day he became my mentor. At the end of the school year I re-auditioned at the Juilliard to become a student of Professor Lincer full time.
Professor Lincer encouraged, motivated, and inspired his students. He took them under his wing. All his students loved and cared about him because he cared about his students. He was interested in training his students to not only be wonderful musicians but to be good thinkers. He had book assignments for reading outside of class and had you write a short book report. He also sent his students to Yoga classes to loosen up and Alexander Classes to teach coordination, balance, and movement. Professor Lincer would also check to make sure you showed up at these classes. He never left a student high and dry! He made sure his students succeeded and graduated with their Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D.’s. He never gave up! Anna Brady graduated with her Masters at Juilliard and so did I. He thought of each of his students as a “10” and inspired, motivated, and worked with his students to help them reach their goals. His students adored him!
Through your life’s journey you will have many mentors! You will have a mentor for every part of your journey just like my mentors Mr. Whitson, Professor Zaret, Anna Brady, and Professor Lincer.
Remember to thank them and develop others just like your mentors developed you.
What are the three things you can do to be a great mentor?
1) Dr. John Maxwell says, “Make people development your top priority and see everyone you mentor as a 10.” Lift them up: The person you mentor wants to feel important, capable, and competent. Help them by raising their skills. Encourage, inspire and motivate them. Take them under your wing like Mr. Whitson, Professor Zaret, Anna Brady, and Professor Lincer did for me.
2) Ask the people you mentor for their story and what their dream or goal is. Remember to encourage, inspire, and motivate them to reach their goals. Mentors stand behind the person they are mentoring until they are ready to solo and fly on their own.
3) Care about the person you are mentoring and want the very best for them.
Remember through life you will have many mentors. They can be teachers, coaches, bosses, leaders, friends, and family members. These mentors will see you as a “10” and will share books, tapes, suggest courses, and will lift you up, encourage and motivate you to increase your knowledge to reach your goals.
Mentors stay the course:
1) Your mentor shows you how to do the work. (“Model”) The person being mentored watches!
2) The person being mentored does it and the mentor watches over them to see if they need help.
3) The person being mentored tries it solo. The mentor sees if they are ready to solo on their own and fly.
I am proud to have mentored children and adults for over 30 years in schools, colleges, and businesses to reach their goals and dreams. Step up today and make mentoring others “your top priority”. © 2016 Madeline Frank
Contact Madeline Frank for your next speaking engagement at [email protected]
“Ballroom Dancing Helps Those With Parkinson’s Disease” (Nov. 18, 2015) by Audra Kincart from Iowa State daily.com
Elizabeth Stegemoller , assistant professor of kinesiology and the pianist for the class says, “The goal is to provide those with Parkinson’s disease to move and exercise. The best thing we do is music because it’s specifically tailored.”
“Doctors Comfort Patients Through Music” (Dec. 10, 2015) by Suzanne Ovel from Madigan Public Affairs. Captain, Dr. Edwin Choi, played classical music and other tunes on his guitar for his patient, a World War II veteran with dementia, to help calm his patient down.
“The Magic of Music for Mental Health” (Dec. 5, 2015) by Laura Trieste from the Daily Telegraph.com.au.
Dr. Haertsch said, “There’s something very primal about music that lights up the entire brain. It is an incredible way of connecting memories, mind and movement.”
“The Secret of Teaching Science & Math Through Music” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D. is now available in book form, and newly updated as an e-book on Kindle, Nook, or iBook:
Barnes and Noble(Nook)
“Musical Notes On Math” by Dr. Madeline Frank teaches your child fractions and decimals, the fun way, through the rhythm of music, Winner of the Parent To Parent Adding Wisdom Award is now available in book form, newly updated as an e-book on Kindle, Nook, or iBook.
Barnes and Noble(Nook)
Tips on how to use “Musical Notes On Math”
Madeline’s Midnight Melodies- Music From around the World” . This CD complements her books with a blend of dance music, gigues, tangos, ballet and favorites including “Danny Boy”, Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro”, Debussy’s “Claire De Lune” and others. “Madeline’s Midnight Melodies” is music to relax by and to move by for music therapy. ”Madeline’s Midnight Melodies” CD is now available for purchase by downloading a song, downloading the album, or by CD by clicking below:
Download Your Copy Today!
Dr. Madeline Frank’s book “Leadership on a Shoestring Budget” is now available through amazon.com. Click on the following Amazon.com link to order your copy of “Leadership On A Shoestring Budget” is available as an e-book on Kindle or in book form.
Click on the following link:
Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year 2016 from Your Non-Invasive Medicine Music Expert, Madeline
For over 25 years, Dr. Madeline Frank has helped children and adults overcome problems through Classical music. Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM is an award winning teacher, author, researcher, speaker and concert artist. She has found a scientific link between studying and/or listening to musical instruments and academic and societal success. Madeline Frank earned her Bachelor and Master’s degree from the Juilliard School of Music. Her education has included scholarships at the Juilliard School, Indiana University, and the University of Cincinnati and she has a violin performance diploma from the North Carolina School of the Arts. (C) 2016 Madeline Frank.