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Music and Dance Professor Krystal Demaine Authors and Self-Publishes Book on Music, Identity and Heartbeat Rhythm

Story by Tian Quinn; edited by Jessica Cook

Since joining Salem State University as an adjunct professor in the Music and Dance department in 2016, Professor Krystal Demaine has incorporated her experience as a board-certified music therapist, expressive arts therapist, and yoga instructor into her Introduction to Music Therapy course. For over a decade, Demaine, who has been practicing music therapy for more than twenty years, has been interested in authoring a book that outlines the inherent connections between heartbeat, rhythm, and music. In 2018, Demaine began developing a proposal for such a resource.  

During the initial book proposal stages, Professor Demaine intended to publish an academic monograph on the role of the heart in music therapy, and she signed an author contract to do just that. However, after her father died in early 2019, Demaine became more interested in including narrative elements to her writing, shifting the focus of her manuscript from purely academic to a more general adult audience. Recognizing that her book had changed shape, Demaine was inspired to follow a different path and self-publish her work. Doing so, Demaine notes, meant that she could create a finished product the felt truly her own. 

In Spring 2020, Professor Demaine took a sabbatical from her full-time faculty position in Expressive Therapies at Endicott College to focus on realizing her vision. Grieving the recent loss of her father and navigating the onset of a global pandemic, Demaine found solace in writing. The writing process allowed Demaine to forge a new direction that included reflecting on how her father inspired her musical identity. Exploring these connections was a special experience for Demaine, whose work as a therapist is to listen to others; in writing about the roots of her musical identity, Demaine had a space to tell her own story.  

Published in September 2022, The Roots & Rhythm of the Heart: Our Musical Connection to Identity, Spirit, and Lineage discusses how music impacts people socially and emotionally. The central concept involves exploring music within the self and recognizing that the heartbeat is the first rhythm that we hear, making it the first rhythm of our lives. Building upon these notions, Demaine’s chapters pair scientific explanations that walk the reader through the vibrational frequencies and energy of the heart with personal stories from performance artists, doctors, scientists, and families, who share how music plays a role in their lived experiences. The end of each chapter includes an expressive art or music-based activity to engage the reader in a multi-arts approach that encourages self-reflection. 

When people can name what they feel, Demaine says, their self-awareness increases, allowing them to look at how they may impact others.

While authoring the book, Professor Demaine frequently reflected on the inspiration that she drew from her Introduction to Music Therapy course at Salem State. Many of the end-of-chapter activities, in fact, are exercises that Demaine uses in the classroom, like a “musical life review” that asks readers (and Demaine’s music therapy students) to create a soundtrack to their lives. Professor Demaine describes her approach to teaching music theory as highly immersive and hands-on; she encourages students to reflect on the energy of their own bodies while asking them to name what they are feeling. When people can name what they feel, Demaine says, their self-awareness increases, allowing them to look at how they may impact others. In fostering these connections in her classroom, Demaine’s goal is to inspire students to explore music in their own lives and live authentically with heart. 

While Professor Demaine notes that self-publishing The Roots & Rhythm of the Heart brought about some new and sometimes challenging experiences—like securing an ISBN, copyright license, and distributor—the finished product is just what Demaine hoped: a book that can be enjoyed by all readers. Soon, Demaine will be working with a colleague to develop an academic resource on therapeutic and transformational writing, to be published by Routledge. More immediately, Demaine plans to continue discussing her books in author talks and workshops, which are listed on her website. In the spring, the book will play an integral role in Introduction to Music Therapy at Salem State, where Demaine will continue to foster connections between music, heart, and self.  

Congratulations on your book, Professor Demaine! 


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