Music Got Me Here – the power of using music therapy to heal and recover
Music Got Me Here follows the against-all-odds, true-life journey of Forrest Allen – a story of the power of music to heal and transform lives, often in miraculous ways. A snowboard accident leaves Forrest Allen, age 18, trapped inside himself, unable to speak or walk for almost two years.
Tom Sweitzer, an eccentric music therapist with a troubled childhood who credits music with saving his own life, is determined to help Forrest find his voice. He dresses up in costumes and makes up silly songs. For months, Forrest doesn’t even acknowledge him. Then, one day Forrest painstakingly types with one finger on his Dynavox: “Please help me find my voice”. Tom begins by teaching Forrest to breathe…then hum. After many months of painstaking practice, the hums turn into Forrest’s first two words. Within weeks, he’s singing entire songs and speaking in sentences.
Forrest is just getting his voice — and life — back, when he’s faced with one medical setback after another. Shortly after his 21st birthday, a serious infection requires surgeons to remove the prosthetic implant protecting his brain, where a large part of his skull was removed after his accident. Without any protection for his brain, Forrest begins to decline — his words become garbled and his ability to survive is uncertain. The clock is ticking. Surgeons at Johns Hopkins Hospital agree to perform a groundbreaking surgery, never before performed on a civilian. It’s Forrest’s last hope — and very risky. Filmed over the course of five years, this is a remarkable story about the power of music to heal and transform lives, often in miraculous ways.
Today, at 27 years old, Forrest loves snowboarding, riding horses, and scuba diving, he’s always accompanied by Toliver, his canine companion, and he’s currently a student at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
This is one of the most heart-warming movies you’ll watch this year. A story of strength, determination, belief, and love. Anyone watching this will find it impossible to not get emotional as they watch the struggles, setbacks, and successes of this courageous young man Forrest, as he strives to get his life back with the help of a dedicated teacher, and supportive family. The bond between him and his brother Justin is not at the forefront of the story, yet it is one that shows the deepest of care and concern throughout. His parents stand strong throughout the entire process, and Tom Sweitzer is shown as a true hero and leader in the underutilized field of music therapy. The film also delves into Tom’s own personal struggles as a youth, and how music got him through some dark periods in his life.
This remarkable story has such positive energy, and shows that with determination and a will to survive, there is always a way to overcome defeat. A story well documented by director Susan Koch, that is a must see for anyone battling with their own physical or mental anguish, or know others who might be.
Music Therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. A music therapist is a credentialed
professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. The concept of using music as a tool for healing dates back thousands of years. But it wasn’t until after WW1 and WW2, when music was used to treat veterans suffering from both physical and emotional trauma, that music therapy became a formal profession. Today, there are more than 6,000 certified music therapists in the US. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who
suffered a traumatic brain injury from a gunshot wound in 2011, creditsmusic therapy with helping her to regain her speech.
Ancient philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle and Socrates, recognized and wrote about the tremendous power of music. But it’s only recently that neuroscientists, using advanced magnetic resonance imaging, have been able to go beyond the anecdotal – and actually document the powerful pathways that exist between music and the brain. Music therapy has the potential to improve the lives of those dealing with some of life’s most serious challenges including traumatic brain injuries, Alzheimer’s, autism, Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy, mental health issues, PTSD, stroke recovery, pain management, and opioid addiction. National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins, featured in the film, describes today as “a golden moment” for neuroscientists exploring the music-brain connections. Forrest’s dramatic story shows what’s possible – and offers hope and inspiration for countless others. To learn more about music therapy, click here.
Winner of the Best Social Impact Award at the Greenwich International Film Festival, Music Got Me Here was filmed over the course of five years and features interviews with renowned soprano and music therapy advocate Renee Fleming and National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins.
Virtual Cinema premiere starting December 4 at Laemmle Virtual Cinema. Tickets here.
Join Director Susan Koch and film subjects Forrest Allen, Tom Sweitzer, Rae Stone, Kent Allen, and Austin Allen for a conversation. Sunday, December 6 5:00 pm ET 2:00 PT (no registration required)
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.