Extra, Extra, Extra! Read All About It!

Image

My career as a music therapist has endured many changes over the past 11 years.  I have moved to different states and have worked under many different titles likes “vocal instructor”, “music educator”, “traveling music therapist”, “pre-k teacher”, “music therapist”, “lion tamer”.  Okay maybe that last one has more to do with taming children than lions, but needless to say I have worked in many different places over the years.

Another change is coming to my career, but it is very similar to what I already do.  It is also something I have always loved doing!  I will be running music groups with children.  Not only with children but with their families who love them.  I have decided to take the plunge and get trained to be a Music Together Director and Teacher.  This all came together rather quickly, just within the past week!  My mom asked me if there was anything unique she could give my little one for her birthday, like a music and movement class.  I of course said, “Music Together!!!”  They market heavily to music therapists, so I have always loved the program.  It was then that I realized, “wait. . . .I should research this again and see if it’s something I could do.”  Why send her to a class taught by someone else when I could take her with me to EVERY class and make music with her?  I previewed a class and loved it!  I can definitely do this.  And within a week, Music Together awarded me a scholarship to attend the training in Denver for half price, they gave me a ton of great information on the program, and I am working on two locations to start my Music Together center!  I am so excited I can hardly stand it!!!!!

So friends, family and colleagues, here it is.  The Music Together folks will be in Denver the first weekend of August to train new teachers and directors.  After that, I will apply for a license to open centers in Lone Tree, Evergreen and Golden.  I am still hunting for a good location to rent a room in Golden, so if you have any connections with churches or dance centers or any other place with space please contact me ASAP!  Licensure takes 4-6 weeks, so once I receive that, I will announce the official Music Together locations and get started with FREE demo classes and will hopefully start classes in October!

For those of you in the Denver area, classes will be for ages 1-5 along with their caregivers.  Special needs children are welcome!!!!!  I will be offering FREE demo classes once I received my license, and those who attend the demo classes will have a one time chance to sign up for the Fall session at a nice discount.  You won’t want to miss this!   So tell your friends and family!  Spread the word.  Follow my blog for the progress on this new adventure.  You can also stay updated on Facebook by “liking” me–check out the sidebar to your left.  This is going to be fun 🙂

Learn more about the Music Together program by visiting their website at:  www.musictogether.com

Watch an informative video that shows what a class looks like!  http://www.musictogether.com/video_families

Defining the Ethical Christian Music Therapist

My “I” disclaimer: I have been a Christian most of my life. I have been a music therapist for 10 years. I have seen probably hundreds of clients and patients in my time. I have never overtly or knowingly evangelized to anyone I have worked with as a music therapist. I do pray (outside of therapy time) for my clients when they or their family asks me to and likewise if they asked me not to pray, I would honor their request.  I sing religious songs when they are requested, not only Christian songs, but others as well. Singing songs during therapy from non-Christian religions has never and will never upset or bother me–I am not there for me, but for my client. I am excited to work with anyone, no matter what age, race, gender, or religion. I do enjoy when I see a client with similar views/desires/ethnicity because we have a commonality that may allow me to better serve them with our shared understanding, although I make every attempt to understand clients who hold beliefs and ethnicities different from my own.  I always do my best not to treat my clients differently because of our differences or similarities.  I enjoy learning about other religions, sacraments, ethnicities and cultures. I don’t seek out Christian clients, but many of my clients do consider themselves to be and have disclosed that to me. I have never turned away any potential clients due to their beliefs or lifestyles that have differed from mine. I have no plans to advertise myself as a Christian music therapist online or in my advertisement materials. My Christian values (such as humility, fairness, honesty, love, patience, unconditional treatment toward others) guide my private practice morally and ethically.  I deeply care about all of my clients and patients regardless of their background or current religious practices.

—————————

When I published my blog titled, “Christian Music Therapist or Music Therapist Christian“, I knew it would prompt some controversy, and it did . But on the flip side, I also had many Christian and non-Christian music therapists respond with agreement to what I had written. What I wasn’t prepared for was the rapid questioning that occurred between some of my colleagues that sparked some serious dialogue  about ethics and religion as a therapist. Words like transference, countertransference and projection came up many times. I rather enjoy discussing difficult topics as long as both sides are fair and respectful. The long discussion maintained that spirit with only a few jabs in between. But overall, my colleagues were respectfully questioning the meaning behind some key points of my blog, and I did my best to answer their questions. After a week and over 350 comments later, I am emotionally tired and have stepped away from the online discussion.

I am here writing about the Christian music therapist again because I want to clear up any confusion that is coming from my previous blog. What I did not think about when I wrote it was how my wording would be perceived by readers from various backgrounds, including some who were also Christian. I only looked at it from my point of view, which is deeply rooted in Christianity. So to clarify some points for those who may be inquisitive about a few issues I brought up, I have listed selected portions from the code of ethics we must adhere to as music therapists as well as the topics we agreed upon during the online discussion. The bulleted topics as listed below have always been a part of my private practice as a music therapist. While some of the wording in my previous blog may have been vague and left questions in the minds of my colleagues, my hope is that the statements below will better explain who I am (and try to be) as a therapist. A music therapist always striving to be in line with our code of ethics.

Music Therapy Code of Ethics:

1.6 The MT respects the rights of others to hold values, attitudes, and opinions that differ from his/her own.

1.9 The MT practices with integrity, honesty, fairness, and respect for others.

2.3.1 The MT respects the social and moral expectations of the community in which he/she works. The MT is aware that standards of behavior are a personal matter as they are for other citizens, except as they may concern the fulfillment of professional duties or influence the public attitude and trust towards the profession.

2.3.2 The MT refuses to participate in activities that are illegal or inhumane, that violate the civil rights of others, or that discriminate against individuals based upon race, ethnicity, language, religion, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, ability, socioeconomic status, or political affiliation. In addition, the MT works to eliminate the effect of biases based on these factors on his or her work.

3.3 The MT will not discriminate in relationships with clients/students/research subjects because of race, ethnicity, language, religion, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, ability, socioeconomic status or political affiliation.

3.11 In those emerging areas of practice for which generally recognized standards are not yet defined, the MT will nevertheless utilize cautious judgment and will take reasonable steps to ensure the competence of his/her work, as well as to protect clients, students, and research subjects from harm.

Discussion Topics:

  • It is never ok to project your beliefs onto clients.  Evangelizing can be done inadvertently, so Christians (and other faiths) need to be aware of that tendency and either take this issue to supervision or closely guard how we are perceived by our clients.
  • As therapists, we need to create an atmosphere of openness and honesty to allow our clients to express themselves in a safe environment.
  • When a client asks a therapist about their religious affiliation, the therapist must be aware of the therapeutic value of that question/answer before answering.  Answering that question could affect the client’s level of comfort in therapy. In many instances, answering that question may have nothing to do with treatment and should be diverted without making the client feel slighted . In other instances,  answering that question could make the client more comfortable and support the therapeutic process. In addition, answering that question could be directly correlated with treatment if the goals are spiritually-related.
  • Our focus should ALWAYS be on the client’s thrapy process, not the therapist’s needs/desires.
  • Self-disclosure on the therapist’s part should only be practiced when it serves the client.  When a religious question comes up, invite the client to consider what the question is about for them before deciding to share. We should ask questions like:  Is it safe for my client for me to disclose?
  • It is important to bear in mind that not all people who share the same faith hold the same worldview.
  • SEEK SUPERVISION!  This is of great importance, especially for those music therapists who are in private practice and/or work at a facility as the only music therapist.
  • Tolerance and Acceptance are not the same.
    The definition of the word tolerate is:

    1. Allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.
    2. Accept or endure (someone or something unpleasant or disliked) with forbearance.

    Acceptance is a different animal.  Another word that can be used interchangeably with acceptance is approval, which has a better definition that applies to our topic:

    1. The action of officially agreeing to something or accepting something as satisfactory.
    2. The belief that someone or something is good or acceptable.

    We must be accepting of our clients, knowing that it is not our job to use our beliefs to change them through therapy unless our beliefs happen to be a part of the goal our client is working toward.   This does not mean we should accept everything about our clients, though. They are coming to us with a problem and are wanting to elicit change in a positive direction. Like always, we need to be aware of these dynamics and whether we are tolerating or accepting our clients. In that case, we still need to be mindful, maybe even MORE mindful of the impact of our beliefs. This goes back to the statement made previously: “Our focus should ALWAYS be on the client’s therapy process, not the therapist’s needs/desires.”

  • What we say is who we are perceived to be.  Be careful what you choose to share with other colleagues, clients and the world.
  • What are the implications of this type of self-disclosure (ex., writing a blog about Christianity as a music therapist)?  We have to consider who may read it.  Current clients?  Colleagues?  Potential clients?  After answering that question, we need to individually assess whether this self-disclosure is appropriate for the work we do and whether it is appropriate to disclose our religious affiliation when coupled with our career.

In closing, we as music therapists have an obligation to treat our clients with the utmost respect and acceptance.  They are looking to us for help.  It is our duty to serve these clients without letting our own issues get in the way.  We should always be prepared for uncomfortable questions during therapy.  They do happen often.  When difficult and uncomfortable questions arise (about religion, personal beliefs, personal life), it is our responsibility to take a step back, ask why the answer may be pertinent to the therapeutic experience and then proceed with a professional response applicable to the client’s needs and goals.  Due to the nature of music therapy, our responses will vary.  Our settings, situations, goals and clients are all unique.  This is part of what makes music therapy so interesting.  So go out, be professional and don’t be afraid of questions that are related to religion or alternative lifestyles or politics. . . .your answers will be as unique as your clients.

Excerpt from the online discussion with other music therapists:  “The purpose of my initial blog was to look at another idea within therapy, not to put music therapists in a box. There are many facets and methods and ways to be a music therapist. There are many facets and methods and ways to observe our clients. . . .Observance gives me a slice of their life.”  –Valerie Kocel

Breaking the Silence

 

Image

 

In my private practice, I have encountered only a handful of clients/patients who are non-verbal.  Sometimes they are toddlers who haven’t learned to speak yet or older children who are 99% non-verbal and rely on other methods of communication.  We will focus on the child with autism who is also non-verbal.  

When faced with a client who may never learn to use their voice to communicate through language, this can be a challenge for a therapist.  As therapists, we create goals that the client works toward.  When working with a non-verbal child, it is necessary to be flexible in our session planning or lack of session planning (aka IMPROV!).  Some of the goals I have used in this situation are:  “Client will make eye contact”  “Client will hum along”  “Client will sit still”  “Client will allow touch”

As a student, I was immersed in behavioral music therapy.  We learned about all of the other music therapy disciplines enough to understand them, but our foundation was behavioral.  I planned everything and waited for the client response.  It worked sometimes and other times not.  Planning is comfortable for many of us.  It feels good to know what is coming next!  I still consider myself a behavioral therapist, but I have made some attempts to dabble in a little improv.  When I say improv, I am not referring to the NYU method specifically.  It is very loosely based on that method.  For this blog, improv will be defined as an unplanned intervention that follows the client’s lead.

Working with a non-verbal child can be difficult when they give little feedback.  A therapist can often wonder if they are “getting through” to them.  So let’s return to improv.  Because working with a non-verbal child presents some barriers to overcome, many of those can be diffused by being unconventional during our sessions.  In the ideas below that use touch, keep in mind that many autistic children have sensory processing disorder (SPD) and stray away from touch.  Use your discretion with the following suggestions while keeping in mind your client’s tolerance level.  When using touch, be sure to use some pressure.  Light touches can feel like bugs crawling on their skin and children with SPD will pull away.  Follow the lead of the child and enjoy these alternative ways to communicate with them!

 

1) Get on their level physically:  This may be different for each client due to the wide spectrum of autism and non-verbal children.  Some children need more space than others, so it is important to respect that and slowly work on getting closer to them.  Getting to their eye level while singing is a great place to start.  Making eye contact, even occasional eye contact is one way to communicate.  I have found that doing this helps the therapist to connect to the non-verbal child who may rarely offer a response. 

2) Movement:  If they are comfortable with touch, sit side by side with your client and put your arm around them while singing.  Sway back and forth and see if they will do so without your physical prompting.  

3) Hands:  Since many autistic children have repetitive hand movements, this is a great way to quiet their repetitions for a short time.  Hold their hands and slowly dance to the music.  If touch is accepted, this will give their brains a rest from the repetitive movements and may allow for a few seconds of eye contact and focus.

4) Avoid the guitar:  I have always been quite attached to my guitar, but it can sometimes be a barrier that separates us from our clients.  I found that when I put down my guitar and used a cappella singing with a non-verbal client, I was able to focus on the client and they were more responsive while giving me more eye contact.  So try it!  You may be surprised at the increased response.  In addition, the combination of a guitar and voice may be too much aural stimulation for these children and taking away one of those elements can at times eliminate their agitation.

5) Noise level:  A non-verbal client SPD may also have sensitivities to sound.  Observe them closely for signs of agitation.  Some may use their hand to stop yours from playing the guitar and some others may just cover their ears.  Be observant and simplify when they ask for it. 

6) Instruments?:  Even though we are music therapists, guess what?  We don’t HAVE to give our clients instruments to play.  Sometimes all that is needed for communication is the voice.  Be creative in using your voice.  Sing really high or really low.  Sing like a man or like a mouse.  This can elicit a fun response when the client isn’t expecting it.

7) Be respectful:  These wonderful clients are non-verbal but can usually understand what we are communicating to them.  Ask them questions.  Talk to them.  Ask them how school was that day.  Even though they won’t answer, they will appreciate you treating them with respect and value.

 

These are all suggestions to jump start your own interventions.  Working with a non-verbal child is a challenge but it will certainly help you to grow in your work as a music therapist.  Enjoy these children.  They are precious!

 

The Christian Music Therapist or the Music Therapist Christian?

Image
I POSTED A NEW BLOG AS A FOLLOWUP TO THIS ONE. PLEASE CONSIDER READING THE UPDATE (DEFINING THE ETHICAL CHRISTIAN MUSIC THERAPIST) AS IT WILL HOPEFULLY CLEAR UP ANY QUESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE!

Which one is it?  Should we be music therapists who practice Christianity on the side or  music therapists who use our Christianity in our practice?  It is a question that has come up time and time again in my 11 years as a music therapist.

Yes, you may safely assume that I am a Christian.  Most people know that I am a Christian because it is not something I hide because it’s politically correct to do so.  It is who I am, and I am not ashamed.  There is a fine line between letting people know who you are and shoving your lifestyle in their face to encourage their conversion.  I will always use my Christian “traits” in my practice.  I make an effort to be kind hearted, generous, loving, patient, and forgiving.  That is the least we should do.  But is it ethically ok to do more than this?  Yes and no.

As a music therapist, especially as a student, we were told to be very careful when dealing with our faith and the faith of our clients/patients.  I remember being afraid to ever bring it up.  I remember being terrified when a client brought it up!  “OH NO! Heaven forbid!  I don’t want to talk about Jesus!!!!”  The reality is, I DID want to talk about Jesus.

When I taught music at an elementary school for a very short time, we were allowed to bring up our faith if the student asked about it, but otherwise, be quiet.  I didn’t want to have a Bible study at the school or anything, but I didn’t want to be afraid to say that I believed in God or Jesus.  Oh how many times those kids brought God into the conversation!!!!  I struggled with this for years because I was not just a music therapist who was a Christian on the side.  I am a Christian music therapist.  I cannot hide my faith anymore than I can hide the fact that I am a woman.  So where do we find a balance without compromising our ethics?

This may be controversial to some, but we need to stop being afraid of who we are.  Whether you are a Christian or believe in something else, that is who you are.  That being said, I wouldn’t advise going into a session with a new client and saying, “Hi there.  I am Valerie, your Christian music therapist.  Let’s talk about Jesus.”  But I do encourage you be yourself.  I’m not saying to sneakily insert “God” and “Jesus” into every session just because.  It’s more than that.  We need to stop being afraid.  Don’t be afraid to say, “God or Jesus” if the topic comes up.  For example, a question that comes up frequently for me is, “how did you decide to become a music therapist?”  Well, that creates a problem right there if we are supposed to refrain from talking about our faith.  I became a music therapist because of a “God thing.”  So in a situation like that, I tell my clients that it was a God thing.  I try to keep it simple and not give too many details.  If they want to ask for more, then I welcome that.  And if not, I never pressure them any further.  You certainly need to respect their religion or lack thereof.

A good way to gauge your clients’ faith and beliefs is to look around.  Many times you can find clues if you are visually observant.  Look at their artwork.  Are there pictures of Jesus, Mary or Buddah?  Listen to how they speak.  Ask what type of music they listen to.  You can also include this topic in your assessment of music preferences.  I have a line that asks if they like religious/Christian music or would prefer to opt out.  I have never had a client opt out!  You can learn more about your clients by using your observation skills!

Nearly all of my clients over the past decade have been Christians.  Isn’t that incredible?  I didn’t find this out because I asked them point blank.  I didn’t find out because I hid my beliefs.  I found out because I was real with them.  And they could tell something about me was different.  Most of them asked me if I was a Christian.  It is always a good feeling when someone notices.  That means I am doing my job to be Christ in the flesh.  I realize that some who read this are not Christians.  You may be Buddist or Muslim or something else.  I say the same to you.  Be yourself.  You may not be liked or accepted, but if it is important to you, then you should let it out no matter what the outcome is! (while staying within your ethical boundaries, of course!)

I POSTED A NEW BLOG AS A FOLLOWUP TO THIS ONE. PLEASE CONSIDER READING THE UPDATE (DEFINING THE ETHICAL CHRISTIAN MUSIC THERAPIST) AS IT WILL HOPEFULLY CLEAR UP ANY QUESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE!

Leaving the familiar

20130222-122400.jpg
I guess it has been about a month since my music therapy instruments graced the halls at Denver Health. The anticipation of my last day was overwhelming. I felt angry, frustrated, sad, relieved, accomplished and sentimental. The funny thing to me is that I thought I would miss it more. Don’t get me wrong, when I hear a song that one of my regulars would request, I reminisce. I miss those moments. I miss the laughter from depressed adults who haven’t cracked a smile in months. I miss hearing from a staff member that a certain teenager hasn’t spoken to anyone until I showed up to do music therapy. Those times are special. But in our profession, many of us have said goodbye many times. Funding drops and music gets cut all too often. After years of advocacy…..years of bliss…..years of struggle.

Is it better to shrug your shoulders and say,”oh well. This always happens. Gotta move on.” Or should we stop and retain some sentimentality during the goodbye? This can be difficult for someone like me who gets sentimental over everything! Many times I have to separate myself so that I will maintain my composure. So what is the best way to say goodbye? It will be different for everybody!

If you can maintain your composure, then be sentimental! Soak up every second of your last day or last time with a client that is leaving. Talk about it.

But if you are like me, and you are on the verge of tears, it may be best to treat it like any other day. Say your goodbyes quickly and go. Chances are the last day will be difficult but given time, life will go on.

My life has moved on. A month ago I couldn’t see myself without Denver Health. But now I don’t think about it anymore. Life has been filled with new and exciting things. Saying goodbye is not something we should dread. Embrace it because it means another chapter of your life is about to open up!

Navigating the World of Adolescents

ImageTeenagers can be a challenging group to work with at times.  If you are the new therapist coming into the group, they begin to study you the moment you walk in the door.  What is she wearing today?  Does she look like a nice person?  What can I do to shake her up?  Will she like me?  And this all happens before you even say a word!  So yes, teenagers can be a challenge to work with.  Then add in previous abuse, mental illness or abandonment and you have to push hard to win their approval, or do you?

I spent many years working with adolescent psychiatric patients in college and during my first years as a music therapist.  I complained endlesslyabout it.  I felt like I was too close to their age and to top it off, I looked like I was a teenager until I reached my 30’s.  It was difficult for me to separate myself from them as an authority figure, rather than a peer.  For about 8 years I worked with other populations and avoided the teenagers as much as possible until last year when I received a call from a local hospital here in Denver.  They wanted me to do what?  Lead a weekly music therapy group where?  Oh yes, in the adolescent psychiatric facility.  “Yippee!” I said.  Nope.  Not really.  All I could think was, “I can’t do this.  I was awful the last time & will probably be again, but I guess I should at least try!”  I was scared out of my mind but did my best to hide it.

My first session with the teenagers arrived and it didn’t go so well.  I was nervous and they could tell.  A few complained, not wanting to participate.  Then others said, “so what time is music therapy over?”  Every week for the first month was like this, and I left feeling inadequate as a music therapist.  Until it happened.  It was sudden.  I began to realize a few key elements that made me happy and successful with this population, and I want to share them with you!

1–Be Yourself!
Teenagers and children have a keen sense of awareness when it comes to people.  They know when you are being real and genuine.  If a child or teenager is dealing with a mental illness, an abusive household or other challenges, they have encountered a lot of deceptive people, false love and broken promises.  They can spot a fake, so don’t be one.

2–Go Back in Time
Try to recall what it was like being a teenager when you were young.  The world was probably different and more innocent, but teenagers are teenagers.  If you can connect with them on that level, they will respect you.

3–Understand & Learn Their Music
Music is important to teenagers.  You don’t have to listen to and memorize their music, but you do need to have a working knowledge of the popular artists.  Every week my kids would talk about their favorite artists, and when I was able to converse with them on their level, they would open up in other areas.

4–Let Loose
Instead of towering over them like a military officer, be willing to have fun and get on their level.  You do have to establish your authority first, but once you have, let loose!  Joke around, laugh a little.

5–Don’t underestimate them
Remember that teenagers are still “kids” in big bodies.  Don’t underestimate or overestimate what they will enjoy or what they might think is childish.  You will see this put into action in one of the interventions below.  Teenagers enjoy when they are allowed to be kids.

6–Always be interactive!
Many times the reason these kids are in a facility is because they had difficulty communicating their feelings in a socially appropriate manner.  Allow them to interact as much as possible to give them opportunities to practice their social skills.

During my first month at this facility, I did very few interventions that were interactive.  Sometimes I think I was afraid of interacting too much because that is usually where conflicts will occur between patients.  But once we started interacting, the teenagers lit up, expressed more than I could have ever imagined and they learned how to deal with conflicts as they arose.  Below are two of my favorite interventions for teenagers.  The first one is called the Musical Obstacle Course.  I credit this to one of my amazing internship supervisors from Cleveland.  It was a part of her internship in Texas!  Another intervention I will share is called Emotional Chairs.  They LOVE this intervention!!!!

Musical Obstacle Course

Supplies:
blindfold (use an old long-sleeved t-shirt.  Cut off the bottom half, discard.)
chairs or any other large objects
at least 4 rhythm instruments (can be all drums or different hand held instruments)

Intervention:
For this intervention, you will need to give clear, precise instructions.  I usually repeat them several times and then have the patients repeat them back to ensure their understanding.

Set up the chairs or large objects around the room.  The patients will be navigating around them.  Choose 4 patients as the direction-givers (DG) and 1 as the blindfolded participant (BP).  Each of the 4 DG’s will be responsible for telling the BP which direction to go:  Left, Right, Forward, Stop.  If you choose to use only drums, come up with 4 distinct rhythms/sounds to represent each direction.  If you use hand-held instruments, be sure each is distinct in it’s sound.  (for example, don’t use the bells & the triangle.  They could confuse the sounds with each other).

Once everyone has their “job”, practice each direction multiple times before allowing them to lead the BP through the obstacle course.  Quiz them and then go!

When everyone has been the BP, take time to discuss.  How did it make you feel to be blindfolded?  Was it hard to trust?  Did your trust increase as you progressed?  When you finish discussing the obstacle course, turn it inward and talk about who they trust and don’t trust in life.  Ask them what may help them to trust and how they can be trustworthy people themselves.  We had amazing disclosures every time we completed this intervention.

 

Emotional Chairs

Supplies:
Chairs
Card stock with emotions written on one side (angry, sad, happy, mad, disappointed, encouraged, etc.)
tape

Intervention:
This intervention is played like musical chairs except everyone has a place to sit.  Line the chairs back to back in a line.  Tape an emotion on the back of each chair so that the patients are unable to see the words.  Turn on the music, let them walk.  When you stop the music, they will all sit.  No one will be without a chair.  This is the only difference between Emotional and Musical Chairs.  Once everyone is seated, have them look at their word and talk about the last time they felt that way.  Be prepared for their reponses.  They can be very transparent and deep.  I usually go through the process 2-3 times and then we play the “real” musical chairs.  And yes!  They LOVE it!  The first time I did this intervention, I stopped after we processed their feelings and was ready to quit.  Then they all begged me to do the kid version of musical chairs!  It became a regular part of the intervention from then on.  You will see lots of smiles, but be sure to give the ground rules so no one gets hurt when they are knocked out of a chair!  🙂

Would you like a little music on the side?

I have spent around 15 years of my post high school days working with children in some capacity:  as a teacher, nursery worker, music therapist and now as a mother.  This has resulted in the acquisition of a plethora of books!  My daughter will never be in want.  I have books for toddlers,  books for school age children, books about animals and Santa Claus and even books about grief.  But some of my favorite books are those that are about songs.

As if reading isn’t cool enough, there are books that you can sing to!  How cool is that?  I stumbled upon this idea back in the nineties and have been collecting them ever since.  When you add music to learning, a child retains the information.  Remember learning your ABC’s?  I bet you learned it from a song, now didnt you?  Music is an excellent tool for a music therapist to have in his or her back pocket!  Oh and for a parent, too!

Here are a few of my favorite sing along books:

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by Iza Trapani

Its Raining, Its Pouring by Kin Eagle and Rob Gilbert

Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?  By Iza Trapani

They are all published through whispering coyote press and have beautiful illustrations, especially those created by Iza Trapani.  The reason why I love these so much is because they don’t just follow the lyrics most of us know and stop there.  They have several verses that add to the fun of reading, I mean singing!  They also use traditional songs that most of us grew up singing.  With all of the budget cuts schools have to deal with these days, music tends to be one of th first courses to go.  This is a great way to keep music alive in your child’s life!

Check these books out and see how much fun it can be to add a little singing to your life.  And hey, you don’t have to sing well to sing to your child.  They don’t care!  They just want to spend some quality time with you.

What is Musical?

Several years back I received a publication from the American Music Therapy Association that included the following poem written by an SMU student.  This was written after she was informed that the SMU Dean of the Arts decided to cancel the MT program.  I don’t know what the ending fate was, but this poem has always been an excellent expression of what I do as a music therapist and the struggles I have faced throughout college and my 8 year long career.  This is a great insight into who we are a music therapists and as talented musicians.

I am a musician, but I don’t often perform.
What I do is heal with guitar strings that are worn.

It’s been quite a while since an aria escaped from my lips,
But yesterday, Mr. Johnson smiled as we sang about his bad hip.

My major instrument?  Oh, I have many. . . .
I specialize in my patients whose needs are plenty.

I know theory and history. . . .too many instruments to name;
Taken anatomy and physiology; read books about the brain.

Music is my medium, yet healing is my art.
I’m trained to help others. . . .yearning to do my part.

Yet still I am criticized; my ego torn apart.
Some consider me unmusical; others think I’m not smart.

You say I’m throwing my life away; a waste of a degree.
I say my life has just begun; my spirit has been set free.

I see miracles every day.  I know I have been blessed.
I still use my art and talents in pursuit of happiness.

Yet, it’s the happiness of others I crave.  I long to serve those in need.
Using melody to form connections, in the rhythm, I am freed.

You may say I’m not musical, but I know you are wrong.
I am a music therapist, healing the world with song.

By Suzie Jandt