Music and health come together in Encore class

San Juan College Community Learning Center
San Juan College's Educational Services Center is pictured Feb. 23, 2012, in Farmington.

Before Teresita Heinen met "Mr. D.," the only word he said was "begot."

The man suffered a stroke five years earlier and was in a rehab hospital in Texas. He only spoke this one word in response to any question.

Heinen used music therapy with him, and after six weeks, he learned two phrases.

"He couldn’t talk, but he could sing phrases like 'cool water' and 'help me I’ve fallen' from old country songs, and he sang along word for word as I played the guitar," Heinen said.

This experience solidified the power of music therapy for Heinen — a power she will share in an upcoming Encore class that begins Jan. 29 at San Juan College.

In "Music Therapy for Longevity," Heinen, who has a bachelor’s degree in music therapy, will examine common diseases and share music therapy activities that address a variety of ailments.

"Think of the song that stirs your soul and takes you to another place," she said. "Think of marching soldiers chanting military cadence as they do their daily jaunts. These both are very simple examples of music therapy."

The goal of the class is for all participants to improve their health by moving their bodies through simple and engaging activities.

"Music therapy uses physical motion, breathing and other activities with rhythm and music, and it is well-established that music therapy can ease symptoms related to familiar diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and arthritis, " Heinen said. "As we age, music can play an important role in combating the onset of dementia and lengthen the time we can be physically active and mentally alert."

She added: "The power of music therapy is truly amazing. Not only can it improve physical conditions, but it also has the ability to bring joy into everyday life."

All Encore classes are designed for adults 50 and older but are open to students 18 and older. For details on "Music Therapy for Longevity" and other Encore classes, visit or call San Juan College’s Community Learning Center at 505-566-3214.