Woman with wedding band on plying the harp with multicolored chords

Can Sound Make You Feel Better? with Jeff McSpadden

January 20, 2022

Season 3, Episode 1

Listen to the podcast at: Purpose in Retirement

Jeff McSpadden: Music and sound affects our mood and behavior with total economy. It’s very fast. People generally have a gut-level reaction to things that they hear. How can we craft music with an intention and purpose for healthier outcomes?


Scott Miller: This is a show where we’ll explore what it means to retire with purpose.

Juanita Fox: To make a difference, to invest in your family, your community, to live to your full potential and explore abundant opportunities to live with purpose in community.

Scott Miller:  From Garden Spot Communities in New Holland, Pennsylvania, welcome to

Juanita Fox: Purpose in Retirement.

Scott Miller: I’m Scott Miller, the chief marketing officer at Garden Spot Communities.

Juanita Fox: And I’m Juanita Fox, the storyteller.

Scott Miller: In this season of Purpose in Retirement, we’re going to be talking to experts who are going to share ways that innovation and emerging technologies can improve the quality of our lives and help us to live with purpose and community.

Juanita Fox: It’s going to be an exciting year for sure. 2022 will include a couple of things that are different with our podcast too. First, we’ll be releasing a new podcast each month rather than six podcasts that are at random times of the year.

Scott Miller: So by releasing the podcasts on a regular schedule, we hope that we’ll keep you engaged over the course of the year rather than dropping six in a row and then disappearing for a while.

Juanita Fox: Yeah, Scott, we’re still going to have 12 podcasts each year and 12 opportunities to share our stories with our listeners. We just hope to release the podcast on around the 15th of each month, so watch for an email inviting you to listen. If you don’t receive a reminder email from us, join our email list at www.gardenspotcommunities.org.

Scott Miller: So the other thing that we’re going to do that’s a little bit different is that we’re going to be dropping the commercials.

Juanita Fox:  As the podcast evolved, the idea of commercials didn’t quite work for us. Our listeners knew the podcast was sponsored by Garden Spot Communities.

Scott Miller: And we work really hard to bring good content to the podcast rather than just making a commercial for Garden Spot Communities or Garden Spot Village.

Juanita Fox: Thank you for listening with us as we’ve grown and evolved. I know I’m really excited for 2022. We have some really great stories to share with you. Our first podcast will feature Jeff McSpadden. We’ll be talking about the innovation and technology Jeff is using with Composure, a well-being app that uses sound and music to boost energy and mood. It’s pretty amazing.

Scott Miller: So in just a moment, we’ll talk to Jeff.


Juanita Fox: Jeff, thank you for joining us this morning.

Jeff McSpadden: Hi, thank you both. I’m excited to chat.

Scott Miller: You know Jeff, throughout 2022, Juanita and I are going to be talking to a whole variety of people about emerging technologies that’ll improve the quality of life. And in your case, the way that technology can potentially improve the quality of life for people who live in retirement communities and long term care.

Juanita Fox: So to begin our conversation, Jeff, can you give us your background and your work experience?

Jeff McSpadden: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Growing up, before I even had any kind of formal musical training, I was fascinated with music. And if there was an instrument lying around, I was always trying to noodle on it. I came out of college as a jazz musician and worked as a freelance musician for a number of years in and around New York in different settings, from jazz to classical to pop rock, what have you. And I really became pretty enthralled with the live music scene here in New York. But each time and every experience I had, I was always really interested and fascinated by the audience response. And in later years, I got more and more into composing original music, specifically for film, TV and advertising.

Scott Miller: Okay.

Jeff McSpadden: I worked in that field for approximately 15 years or so. The time I spent refining my craft as a composer in film and TV taught me a whole lot about how to utilize and leverage music and sound for an emotional response.

Scott Miller; Okay, so what’s that hunch that inspired you to start Composure? 

Jeff McSpadden:  Leonard Bernstein, you know, the composer, conductor and educator. He (I’m paraphrasing here) once said that music is the only art form that goes directly to the heart without first having to be filtered by the mind. And I read something earlier today that sort of says the same thing. It was basically the sentiment that music and sound affect our mood and behavior with total economy. It’s very fast. People generally have a gut-level reaction to things that they hear. How can we craft music with an intention and purpose for healthier outcomes?

Juanita Fox: So how does Composure work? Like how does it work for the end user?

Jeff McSpadden: The platform as it exists now is really aimed at helping give residents in long-term care communities a little more agency over their own well-being. So by that, I mean you can come to the app and you are asked some very simple questions about how you’re feeling and how you’d like to be feeling. Then we dynamically deliver music and sound that meets you where you are, takes into consideration your current state and takes you on this sort of gentle, guided journey through sound to get you where you want to be.

Juanita Fox: So how long does the sonic journey last?

Jeff McSpadden: We allow you to select the link that fits for you. So we have options of 10, 20 or 30 minutes on the resident app that I was describing. And then we also offer sounds that are good for group settings. So in communities, if you have a dining room or a common area that could benefit from setting a particular tone or intention, you can do so and choose anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minutes.

Scott Miller: You and I have talked about a number of different things. You said you’re involved in the film industry and you do some really cool and exciting things. But I’m wondering, how did you get into this retirement or long-term care market with Composure?

Jeff McSpadden: It became clear pretty early on that we wanted to focus on settings in which folks that would not normally have a lot of tools or options at their fingertips could benefit from something that is powerful and easy to use. All people generally deal with issues like depression and anxiety and so forth at various times in their life. In long-term communities, there’s a prevalence of that from time to time. Covid, especially in the last couple of years, has amplified that. We felt like this was a good time to get something out into the world that could be of benefit.

Scott Miller: Yeah. And that makes perfect sense. When you look at some of the things that we’re seeing, we notice that people are moving into these types of communities in their fifties and sixties. And we live there for a long, long time. There comes a point in time where our world starts to shrink. We can’t do as much as we used to do. Isolation sets in. And what I’m hearing you say is those are all factors that you can take into consideration to help people have a better quality of life.

Jeff McSpadden

Absolutely. And to be able to see if we can meet those needs or actually those unmet needs through something that is non-pharmacological. It’s a very gentle and quite frankly, effective type of product where we can not just deliver music and sound that you can get anywhere, like on the radio or your CDs or whatever, but deliver sounds that we’ve custom created with that desired intention of helping them achieve a particular mood goal.

Scott Miller; So it sounds like, we’ll go to some podcast or music station and we’ll select our playlist, right? But this sounds even more individualized than that.

Jeff McSpadden: Our desire is to be able to provide sounds that meet you where you are and take you where you want to go and do that as an individual, not as a demographic. If you use any kind of playlist service or YouTube, that kind of thing, they’re learning from everything you click on. We don’t really approach it that way. We’re approaching it by every time you use the app, it’s a brand new day. And we want to respond to how you’re feeling in that moment.

Juanita Fox: Jeff, what is your big vision for Composure?

Jeff McSpadden: In general, we’re very passionate about healthcare settings. Being able to leverage music and sound in this unique way to create these healthy outcomes, like I spoke about earlier, it just sits right at the core of what we’re about. I think in years to come, we’ll be moving into broader and broader areas of healthcare. So addressing mental health, addressing work conditions in and around healthcare settings like hospitals in general, that kind of thing.

Juanita Fox: Jeff, this sounds really amazing. And I’m just wondering: how can I as a consumer participate, or is there a consumer app that that I could download?

Jeff McSpadden: Yeah, well, be patient with us. Currently, we’re looking at this on the organizational level. And we’re really excited to be partnering with communities. And so if you happen to be a resident within some of these communities, you’ll certainly have access to it. The vision and goal right now is to learn and work with folks on the community level. However, saying that, the goal eventually is to mature the product and the offering into a consumer-level product so that folks can take advantage of that on an individual basis.

Juanita Fox: Where do you see Composure a year from now and even maybe five years from now?

Jeff McSpadden: The overarching goal is to make our product not just an app that you can use individually- make our underlying audio engine (the thing that runs and produces these dynamic blends of sound) something that can be tapped into various ways.

So one potential use case that we’re looking at for the future is sensor data. Using things like your smartwatch sensor data to help drive and select certain sounds that can help you.

And so I’ll illustrate what that might look like. For instance, your smartwatch can monitor your heart rate. And if you’re trying to keep an eye on that, we could set parameters so that if your heart rate is elevated and that puts you in a danger zone, we can deliver sounds to you to help soothe or calm that nervous system, and calm and lower your heart rate.

Scott Miller: Well, as we get ready to wrap up here, is there anything that you would like to tell our audience?

Jeff McSpadden: In general, the message I like to leave people with is don’t take your ears for granted. Realize that the way your environment sounds- for instance, I’m here in New York and anywhere I turn there’s a siren or loud truck horns or that kind of environmental stimulus. But then I get to walk over to Central Park and hear birds chirping, and the wind and the leaves and those kinds of things. And I’d really encourage people to take a moment to close your eyes, open your ears and realize what kind of impact that has on you.

Scott Miller: Jeff, thank you for joining us today.

Jeff McSpadden:  Oh, thank you both. I really appreciate the chance to talk with you guys any time, but it’s especially nice to talk about this and get the word out. And I love what you guys do. So thank you.


Juanita Fox: It’s incredible to hear about the ways Jeff is using technology to help people feel better emotionally without pharmacological intervention.

Scott Miller: The concept is really quite simple for the user, but it includes a pretty involved technology to make it all work.

Juanita Fox: I’m looking forward to the day when Composure is an app that consumers can also purchase. I know there are days when a little pick-me-up would be welcome. Or even days when I need to unwind, but just don’t feel like I have the time.

Scott Miller: And it’s not uncommon for people to take on new projects or to create new businesses or non-profits or ministries when they leave the workforce. So we summarized the five steps that Jeff used to create Composure, which can be applied to both product and service development. The PDF is entitled Five Steps to Create an Innovative Offering, and the link is in the podcast description. The PDF lists the steps. Number one is follow a hunch. Number two: research, research and research. Number three is experiment. Number four: refine the product or the service. And number five: invite others to join you.

Scott Miller: Thank you for listening to Purpose and Retirement. I’m Scott Miller.

Juanita Fox: And I’m Juanita Fox.

Scott Miller:  Special thanks to Jeff McSpadden for joining us for this podcast.

Juanita Fox: Our senior producer and host is Scott Miller.

Scott Miller: Our co-host is Juanita Fox. And our producer is Gavin Sauder.

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