The therapeutic benefits of Music to help cope with stress during pandemic times



The therapeutic benefits of Music to help cope with stress during pandemic times

An interview with UCCI Faculty:

Mr. Glen Inanga – UCCI Assistant Professor of Arts & Humanities

Dr. Monika Lawrence – UCCI Associate Professor of Arts & Humanities

written by Mark Muckenfuss – UCCI Adjunct Instructor


Music can play a role in helping Caymanians get through the stress of dealing with the coronavirus and the social restrictions that have come with it, says Glen Inanga.

Inanga, an assistant professor, is head of the music program at the University College of the Cayman Islands. He said that along with the traditional channels for accessing music, the current pandemic has fostered new ones.

“What I’ve found really fascinating was how quickly many musicians have gone online to share their music,” Inanga said, referring to some of the recent well-publicised, web-based performances, “from people who are relative unknowns to people who are quite famous.”

Artists such as Lady Gaga, Chris Martin and Elton John have taken to livestreaming to bring their music, and sometimes their home studios and living rooms, to the digital world for free.

“It’s been a wonderful thing for people to stay connected and hear great music,” Inanga said. The live format is more potent than just putting on some recorded music, he added. “You’re hearing something made in the moment,” he said. “It speaks words that we can’t express.”

Studies have shown that music impacts areas of the brain associated with mood and can be a therapeutic tool in treating depression and other conditions, including stimulating motor pathways. 

“The wonderful thing about music,” Inanga said, “is its ability to express emotion or speak to parts of the brain in a way that words just cannot do.”

Sometimes, he said, it can serve as an emotional reset button.

UCCI Associate Professor Dr. Monika Lawrence teaches, among other things, dance composition and performance technique. She is director of performing arts for the school. She said music is helping her cope with the changes brought on by social distancing and curfews.

While she typically is more interested in the rhythm of a song, these days she’s paying more attention to the lyrics and suggests others may find this helpful.

“Find the music with the right message,” she said. “Music that gives you hope, with the message that there is life after the storm.”

She has found herself gravitating to more spiritual music, she said.

“Find songs that speak to the soul,” she said, “that lift you up. I think right now we almost have to go back to the old-time gospel music.”

She suggested such songs as “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” and “How Great Thou Art.”

Inanga, a concert pianist, leans more toward classical selections. One of his favorite pieces, he said, is the adagio from Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. “It was a love letter Mahler wrote to his wife,” Inanga said. “It takes you on this journey of stillness and calm.”

On a more upbeat note, he said, he’s been enjoying some of the Jackson 5 music his daughter has recently been playing, including “Rockin’ Robin.”

Inanga said he plans to do some recording and uploading of his own in the near future, bringing more music to Cayman and beyond.