Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sing A Song Sunday - Urge For Going

The other day, I was sitting at my desk at work searching for something to do. I had finished all of my clinical duties and had some time away from the computer (only one of us can use the work server at a time, so it was my intern's turn at the work computer). I happened to look over to see my most favorite songbook of all time - Rise Up Singing.  Inspiration struck!

I know many of these songs, but I don't know them all. I have worn through two copies of this book and am considering purchasing a third copy so I have one in good shape to carry around with me. This book thinks like I think - in chords and lyrics - there is just enough information about the song to replicate it.

When you thumb through my copies of this book, you'll find dots next to many of the songs. Those are the ones that I know, ones I can sing with familiarity or with just a little bit of thought. There are many, many songs that I don't know well. So, now I'm going to learn those songs.

The first one that I chose (randomly since I like that process) was Urge for Going by Joni Mitchell. I don't have much history with Joni Mitchell and her music, so I didn't have a clue what the song sounded like or what it was. Off to YouTube I went, and here is the song. Next step? Sheet music, of course.

You can find many examples of sheet music on the web, but I happened upon a free version. I don't know where it was since I am not at work right now, but I found a full copy for free. (If I find it again, I'll post the link here.) The sheet music and the recording by Joni were a bit different, but I had enough information to move into the music element portion of this song.

I don't have any ideas for how to use this particular song with my clients at this time, but I really like it. This song, and learning the music from Rise Up Singing, is probably going to be for my own enrichment first before I use the music clinically.

After listening to this song again, I can see myself using this to encourage rhythmic breathing, relaxation, and calming with my students. They probably won't have any prior experience with the song. I think some of the poetry could be changed to make the lyrics more relevant to my students. We might be able to change the words in a trauma-oriented session to address issues or situations that occurred in the lives of my teens, but I need to get much better at the song before I attempt that.

Join me as we go through the music of Rise Up Singing? I've got lots of songs to learn.


I am stressed today. I'm not sure why I have such a huge stress level right now, but I can tell that it's not really releasing.

So, now it's time to practice some of the self care that I preach to others about. 

I have been sitting here writing paragraph after paragraph of my rants, raves, and current stressors. Most of them are targeted around several people who don't really know much about the stuff they keep screaming about, and who will just continue to dig holes deeper and deeper until they realize what I already know. Operator error is the cause of almost everything that's going on. I've been telling them this over and over - since problems only seem to occur when one person is involved - but they are going to have to figure that out by themselves. I'm bowing out of the conversation and the process. Time to release.

I cannot continue to be shaken by the ignorance of others.

Releasing is easier said than done.

Why is it difficult to let go of things? I think that therapists are programmed to care deeply and passionately about things and others. That makes us likely to get too involved and too engaged in the things that we care about. When we are sensitive-types (like me), we can tend to take any type of criticism on any topic that we are passionate about as personal criticism.

Now, I'm often good at disconnecting, but it's not happening easily right now. There are lots of things at play in my life, not the least of which is job-related. I've learned over the years that it is better to express my feelings and then try to move on. If I don't actively engage in trying to find some resolution, I end up just stuffing the emotions down and then it all comes bubbling up in a thick, festering spew later on. So, take out the emotion, look at it, think about it, make a decision about how to proceed, and proceed. No second-guessing. No going back. Move on.

For the next several days, I will probably need to limit my interaction with the people who are currently driving me crazy. I will also try to work through my feelings as I am getting over some of the stress-filled situations that are out there in my universe.

I'm going to find some fun things to do today. I want to finish a project that I've been sewing on, and I have to do laundry (not really FUN, but necessary if I am to wear clothing next week at work - my co-workers would appreciate that, I'm sure!). Maybe I'll write a song or TME. I'm working on some new ideas for my website and for my own music therapy enrichment. That will be fun. Maybe I'll bake a cake or make cookies. I will certainly waste time on Pinterest and the web. I will cuddle with the cat and listen to her purr. I will hope that there are storms outside while I am sitting safe and sound inside. I will organize a small bit of my environment the way I want to without difficulty, opposition, or people getting in my way.

It's time to release and let go.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Favorite Thing Friday - There Will Always Be Chocolate

There's a bit more than chocolate in this version of the jar!
It is Friday, so I get to post about one of my favorite things, and today's post is about the ONLY promise that I make to my interns. 

"There will always be chocolate."

I have found, over the years, that I am not always the most patient of supervisors, therapists, or people, but I can always make sure that the chocolate jar is full of chocolate.

Are you one of those people who just can't figure out why chocolate is necessary for life? If you are, just leave this post now, because I can't really explain it beyond the idea of the strength of primary reinforcement. There are just times when a familiar taste is needed to ease stress or to celebrate a significant moment. Hence the chocolate jar!

I have some rules for my chocolate jar. First, no cross-contamination of flavors. Peanut butter and mint chocolate cannot be contained in the same jar as the caramel and plain chocolate. I have separate jars for those types of flavors. Second, the jar is fair game anytime clients aren't around. We have to respect their dietary needs, so we don't spend time eating in front of them, but any other time is an appropriate time for chocolate. Third, it is my job to obtain the chocolate - interns do not need to be paying for their chocolate! I just have to know what to get. Over the years, we've had jellybeans, M&Ms, Twix bars, Reeses, and any number of taste combinations and flavors. The configuration changes with each new intern. It's a subtle tradition, but one that is very important to me.

The current taste configuration? Reeses (in a separate drawer), Twix, and KitKat bars.

There will always be chocolate...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I Can See the Tunnel!

So, if you've been a regular reader of this blog lately, you know that my facility is involved in renovation - major renovation - that has lasted longer than it was supposed to (as always) and that affects the art therapist and myself more than anyone else at this point.

We were told yesterday that we were moving in by Tuesday.

Now, this is good news as it means that all of our clients will be schooled within the same complex (no more moving out in the 100+ degree F temperature with a rickety cart full of music instruments and scarves), but it also means a change in schedule, new classroom assignments, and stressed out teachers wondering how they are going to move their classrooms over a holiday weekend here in the states. It also means that the creative arts therapists are still homeless until their parts of the renovation are complete. I am one of those therapists.

So, I feel that I've progressed to the point where I can see the tunnel, but I'm not in the tunnel yet, and I can't see the end of the tunnel yet.

My poor intern is having to ride this out with me. She'll get to go through four major schedule changes and routines during her seven months with me. She gets to figure out how to change groups in mid-stream, she has a totally new group of clients to work with on Wednesday, and I have no guidance for her. I've never had to go through this before. I can't even give her any encouragement about how to proceed. None of us do. All I can tell her is that I'll be there with her as the process happens.

Now, we've all been through the process of packing up and starting to move before, so many of my fellow staff members are not really believing that this will actually happen. I know that I am settled in my current office location until the end of October (at least), so I don't have as much skepticism on the surface as the teachers at the school. I am just wondering how long it will take before I can get some semblance of the therapy sessions that I think my clients really need.

The tunnel is there. I can see it in the distance, encouraging me to just keep moving step at a time... day after day... session after session...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Today is Going to Be a Long Day

You know how you can just tell sometimes? It's going to be a long day. My intern wasn't feeling really well yesterday, so I'm preparing for her schedule, just in case, I woke up really early this morning, and actually cold, and now I have a headache just lurking at the fringes of my eyes.

So, what to do on these days when you just know that there are challenges ahead? Breathe.

My favorite way to get ready for the day is to sit with the cat on my lap. She doesn't cuddle often, so when she does, I try to take advantage of the moments just to enjoy. We spend a couple of minutes (she never stays for long), and I enjoy her purr, her breathing, and her ability to curl up and relax. She can be such a good influence on me as I get stuck in a hustling mode. So, I breathe.

I have some clients who use breathing to calm - if I can prompt them before they go into a crisis cycle, they can start to learn how to self-soothe. It's important to be able to demonstrate the soothing techniques that we want in our clients, so I have to remind myself to practice what I preach. So, when I start to get overwhelmed, I take an obvious breath.

Of course, that's about when I start to cough, but that's an entirely different story.

One of the best things about music therapy is that I can use those important elements of music to assist my clients in both breathing and self-soothing. It's not as easy as just plugging in relaxation music - there are other forces at work here - but I am able to use the elements of music in a therapeutic way that provides my clients with a musical structure and foundation that assists them in calming. The power of being a music therapist - not just someone who offers an iPod.

I am going to head off into the work world today, trying to anticipate whatever is going to happen, and focus on breathing. One breath at a time.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

TME Tuesday - Dice Compositions

Today's Therapeutic Music Experience (TME) is one that I borrowed from Mozart (allegedly). While it's attributed to Mozart, I'm not sure exactly where I learned it from, and I'm not sure when I first started using it, but I use it to spur my own songwriting as well as to encourage melody composition for my clients.

It's pretty simple. You need dice (at least one per two clients), paper - either lined or scratch depending on the level of musicianship, pencils, and an instrument that the clients know how to play (I like my Orff instruments since they have note names printed on them).

You can use a regular dice in order to encourage clients to transfer from one symbol notation system to another (numbers to note names or numbers to actual notation) or you can change a dice to simplify the symbol transfer. A bit of double-stick tape and you can place just about anything on the surface of the die. I often use note names in place of the numbers - it makes things easier on my pre-readers or novice readers.

So, we roll the die, write down what comes up, and roll again. We keep going until we get a specific number of notes or come to a natural end. Then, we go to the instrument and play our melodies.

For clients who are more musically sophisticated (and for me), I use different dice to indicate different musical elements. For example, I might have a red die be the note choices, a yellow die for note length (rhythm), and a blue die for other notation elements.

When I use it to compose, I take liberties with the musical choices that the dice offer me. I cheat, I guess. I choose a key and write cadences rather than just leaving things the way the dice dictate. Then I have a complete melody rather than one that just stops somewhere because I got tired of rolling the dice or ran out of time.

As always, I would love to hear how you use or adapt these ideas to work with your own clients. Drop me a line via the email address on the website. Happy Tuesday!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Time to Get Going

I actually slept in today. I awoke a short time before my "alarm" light turned on and laid quietly in the predawn silence. Once the light turned on, I actually stayed in for another 30 minutes. I'm tired, itchy, and unmotivated to get up and get going, but it has to happen - it would be more work if I didn't get moving, so I'm preparing for my day.

There are many things that go into one of my typical days. The first is actually getting ready for the day. Checking the weather, making lunch, choosing the right shoes (today's sessions includes a young man with a mild foot fetish), and choosing materials from home to take in to work (we are currently spread between four buildings, so lots of my stuff is here at home). Once I'm ready, I start out the door.

I have a 45-50 minute commute to work. I drive this much on purpose and try really hard to use that time for thinking, meditation, prayer, and organizing my day. I think through several sessions, any upcoming interactions, and imaginary situations. I watch the sun rise. I look for my favorite tree on my drive - sometimes I remember to look at it, sometimes I don't. The drive is something that I could change, but I find that I really like having that time to myself - no interaction with anyone or anything for a guaranteed amount of time. It is something I need to separate my day from home to work and back again. This natural separation of my personal and professional lives helps me leave work at work.

This year, I am challenging myself to arrive at work close to the time when I am supposed to arrive at work (rather than ridiculously early). I've done a pretty good job. The earliest I have arrived lately has been 7:15 - fifteen minutes early. The rest of the arrival times have been between 7:20 and 7:30! Hooray for me! The problem for me is waiting until 6:30 to leave, especially when I'm awake and going at 4:30. I start to feel antsy and want to make sure that I won't be late. Of course, if I was a couple of minutes late, nobody but my intern would notice, but I would know, so there is that stressor for me. It's easier not to put myself under that particular stress. So, I have timed my commute very carefully, and I know what may happen when I leave a couple of minutes early or late. Feeling pretty good about the outcome of my commute when I start off decreases the amount of stress that I have.

So, now it is getting closer to the time to leave. I still need to choose something for lunch, get the iPod, and cuddle with my cat. Then, off to the gas station to fill up, and off I'll go into my routine world of music therapy sessions, documentation, and meetings.

Ah, the life of a music therapist...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sing A Song Sunday -

www.musictherapyworks.comAfter putting up several musical pieces for Sing A Song Sunday, I thought I'd put up an explanation graphic for what I process when I'm doing these graphics. Isn't it amazing how all of this is included in every piece of music that we have? It astounds me! Comments are ALWAYS welcome! ~mj

Saturday, August 23, 2014

iTunes Will Be the End of Me

Dramatic? I don't think so. I think I will really suffer significant grief due to Apple computers and my lack of intuition when it comes to iThings.

Now, I know lots of people out there who swear by Apple products and love everything possible about them. I refuse to get into any other conversations about how everyone in the world should use iThings, especially music therapists. I am a proud PC-user and will always be a PC-user.

This may be a bit strange since my first computer (in my fifth grade classroom) was a Apple II-e. I was able to navigate through that operating system without a problem, but then came the era of the Macintosh. That advance in technology changed how Apple computers navigated the computing world, and that's where I was left behind.

My journey into iThings has been complex and varied. I have tried everything and anything to see if I can change, but I can't.

I currently have an iPod that I use at my facility for playing music. I purposefully chose an iPod over any other mp3 player for several reasons. First, I could get more storage on the iPod than on any other mp3 player that I could find. It's hard to ignore 160GBs of storage. Second, my Windows media player isn't compatible with the server at work, so music wasn't easily accessed through my work computer. Third, I have placed all of my recordings in iTunes since Windows Media Player doesn't work at work, so it was just easier to use iTunes for that service, and an iPod works more easily than another player.

Lately, though, my iPod and iTunes has given me fits. I'm getting notifications that the iPod has never been used before. Apple keeps telling me stuff. I keep trying to figure out what is going on, but as I don't really think about life as an Apple-disciple, I am at a loss.

For the moment, I will keep going as long as my iPod keeps going, and I will try to work within the shallow end of the iUniverse. Then I will scurry back to the familiarity and the logic of the PCverse. It will be fine.

Okay, iTunes, let's agree to just tolerate each other, and I think we'll be fine. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Favorite Thing Friday - Bulletin Board Strips

I am in love with making things out of bulletin board strips. Here are some strips that I have waiting for further development. I love how colorful they are, how INEXPENSIVE (I paid a dollar per package), and how versatile these can be. I primarily use these for matching things, but I also use them to play games (the strips end up as the game board) and to make file folders for other things.

These particular bulletin board strips have colored fish and numbered frogs. I'm using them with my little kids who are working on color recognition and number recognition. All the Fish Are Swimming in the Water with a slight adaptation to include colors (all the red fish are swimming in the water, swimming in the water, swimming in the water) incorporates the colors into a song that encourages creative movement. The other strips pictured here have numbers and lily pads. I use these as is for Ten Green and Speckled Frogs. Having the strips assists the client in sequencing and being aware of the duration of the song. They can see that we aren't finished yet. so they know how many more verses we have. I also use these as number lines for kids with higher academic skills to complete simple arithmetic (often within the same song).

I have many other strips at home. I have planets, musical instruments, classical composers, stars, you name it. My creativity is limited only by my imagination.

Some tips that I've discovered about how I use these things...
  • Each long strip project takes two strips - one for the background and one for the pieces. Double your purchase to get more strips for an entire large group set of strips
  • Use some of the strips to make coordinated file folders. Anything you can do with the strip pieces can be done on a folder
  • Each client needs their own strip. If you are pressed, maybe two folks could work with each other using on strip, but no more than two per strip. This allows for everyone to see what needs to be seen
There you go - an easy way to make attractive kid visual aids that can be used in many different ways.

One of my favorite things...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

10 Songs I'll Listen To For the Rest of My Life

Hello, readers. I've got to tell you about a blog post that I just found that is probably going to influence some of my posts for a bit. Wendy Nielsen, over at Writing A New Story, posted a link with several writing prompts, and I'm ready to dive in! The first one I chose is #51 on her list.

The Ten Songs I'll Listen To For the Rest of My Life:

(NOTE: This is really a difficult idea for me since I have music that comes and goes in my life, but I think I'll be able to find 10 songs that are mine forever... Just know that I may have to shuffle the list if another great song arrives...)
  1.  I'm Going to Go Back There Today - I love lots of music from the Muppets, but this one is my absolute favorite of all times. Gonzo is so pensive, hopeful, and resigned to his fate. My favorite lyric? "There's not a name yet, for old friends who've just met." It gives me shivers.
  2. The World Ain't Slowin' Down - Ellis Paul - This song came as part of my Me, Myself, and Irene soundtrack. I probably bought the CD because it was on sale, but this song has the perfect combination of musical elements and fanciful lyrics that just connects with me. "You gotta get gone, you gotta get goin." Okay. Time to go!
  3. Heart of Mine - Peter Sallett - I fell in love with this one when watching the movie, Keeping the Faith, and I couldn't stop thinking about the song snippet until I found it! Again, it has a good combination of musical elements for me. The music complements the lyrics, and I can understand every word! Words are important for me.
  4. Love Potion #9 - This one just makes me grin. Need I say more?
  5. If I Had a $1,000,000 - Barenaked Ladies - Again, it's the story. I guess I am more and more drawn to the words, but those words have to be supported with good music. If the musical arrangement is lousy, I'm not drawn into the musical experience. I don't think I would like these songs as much if they weren't supported by the right tempi, timbres, and harmonies.
  6. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan - Again, just a fun song. I love all the elements coming together. It's the one song that puts me in the holiday mood more than any other. I listen to this one on repeat...
  7. Past the Point of No Return - Andrew Lloyd Webber - I am a musical fan as well as a soundtrack fan. This song is the culmination of one of the major stories in the musical - the surrender of Christine to the phantom (or so he thinks...)
  8. High, Middle, Low - Sesame Street - My siblings and I learned how to sing in parts listening to this song. It has strong extramusical associations for me - memories of sitting in my brother's room (he had the record player in there), taking turns singing each of the melody lines. We spent hours harmonizing to this song, and all know how to sing in parts to this day.
  9. Classical Gas - Mason Williams - Finally, something without lyrics! I love how this piece moves and develops, becoming more and more complex. I will NEVER be able to play this piece, but I am grateful for great guitarists out there that can produce music like this.
  10. I Know A Place Where No One Ever Goes - I apologize for not having any information or a good link to this song, but it is one of my favorite songs for my own relaxation. It promotes breathing, long lyrical passages, and thoughts of peace - very introverted thoughts included in the lyrics. It's all about being in the place that gives you needed calming and opportunities to be with yourself. I love this song and sing it often to myself.
Wow. Ten songs. It's interesting how this is a simple exercise and a difficult one at the same time.

What are your 10 life-time song choices?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What is a TME?

This is an excellent question, and one that is not that difficult to answer, but the rationale and ideas behind both the question and the answer are not as easy to explain.

A TME is an acronym that I use for the term, "Therapeutic Music Experiences." I opted to choose this term (which I think originated with an intern who came from Western Michigan University) to describe what I do with my clients in the music therapy setting. It's a completely arbitrary term, but it felt better to me than "application" or, SHUDDER "music therapy activity." Because it felt better to me, I decided to use it as my term of choice.

Here's why I like it...

It emphasizes that everything I do in a session has a therapeutic purpose for its application. 

Why is this important? It's important because the administrative staff at my facility do not know what I really do. Sure, we call my service "music therapy," but more often than not, the service is termed, "music." My administrators don't see what is under the surface of what they can see. They know that music therapy has one of the lowest needs for hands-on safety assists, the lowest number of Assistance Team calls, and seems to turn kids from undesirable reactions and responses to more desirable moods for learning. They like what they see - "Happy children making happy sounds." By labeling my TMEs, I reinforce that there are lots of things going on in each event and invite more conversation from those who really don't know what is happening in the session.

I also like the term, Therapeutic Music Experience, because it exemplifies that the event is planned, purposeful, and somewhat focused before the client even enters the session space. Once the client enters, however, the Therapeutic Music Experience has to change to accommodate the things that the client brings into the session. Often, the way I think things will go during a session are SIGNIFICANTLY different from how things go once the client walks into the music therapy space. Hmmm, maybe it would be better to name these "Therapeutic Music Strategies." Maybe. I wonder if I could change now??

It is just as important to understand why I don't like some of the other terms - application, activity, intervention. In my experience, stating that I do music therapy activities seems to make those who don't know what's happening think that anyone can run the activities. Seriously. They don't see the level of sophistication needed to provide effective music therapy services. Application always sounds to me like the client doesn't have much choice or effect within the therapy space. Intervention sounds like there is a problem that I have to intercede in rather than assisting the client towards their own realization and growth. I prefer something that indicates more of a partnership as I believe that music therapy cannot be effective unless the client is willing to engage as an active partner.

So, I call what I do in sessions, Therapeutic Music Experiences or TMEs. It is a personal choice, and I feel it adequately reflects my treatment style, focus, and aspirations as a music therapist to those who don't know.

(By the way, my Art Therapist peer calls what she does in her sessions, Art Therapy Directives. I find that interesting. Just, by the way...)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TME Tuesday - Do What I Do - Old School

Today's TME is one that I wrote when I was at an interview way back in 2001. Pardon the old school way of presenting it - it's one from my card box days, and I haven't transferred it into the electronic format yet. This song is one that offers leadership opportunities to clients. The one, two, three prompt triggers completion of the motor example or the desired action. I've used this for toothbrushing, hygiene, motor skill refinement, and many other things during the years.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Early Morning Musings

Early mornings tend to bring out the philosophical thoughts in me. I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing. Right now, I'm thinking about the nature of illness and life, about music and it's elements, and about what to make for breakfast and lunch. I'm also wondering where the strange mosquito bites seem to be coming from. I seem to wake up with a new one every day. Strange ideas and thoughts during the morning, but the type of thing that happens on a regular basis.

In the past week, two people who have occasionally touched my life passed away. While I wasn't involved in their daily routines at all, I did spend some time with them and will miss them when I go back into those typical interactions. While I am sad about their deaths, I rejoice for the opportunities to share in small parts of their lives. 

About music - I always feel guilty that I don't listen to more music during my off-work hours, but that feeling almost always passes quickly. I played my cornet in public for the first time in 22 years yesterday. One of the kids at the church where I work plays, and his mom thought it would be a good idea for us to play a duet. So, I pulled out the cornet and practiced the alto line of Joyful, Joyful. All of this practicing was complicated by the fact that the kid got braces on his teeth two weeks ago, so his playing was different from last month. My lip is still not up to snuff, and he's having to learn a completely new way to play the trumpet. Still, we did a pretty good job of playing. As we were practicing, I realized a couple of things. First, being my age has lots of advantages when it comes to musicality. Second, it is a wonderful thing to watch someone grow up from an infant and then empower them to be the leader. Third, the people in our church love us and are VERY forgiving when it comes to the occasional missed note and squawk! Thank goodness!!

Last Friday, I filled my commute with Disney music. Usually I listen to a television show, but Friday needed music. So, I turned my Disney playlist on shuffle, and off I went. I sang and sang and skipped songs and then sang some more. It was fun and lifted my mood from ho-hum to happy to be home. If nothing else, I think that is one of the most powerful results of placing music into the environment. The right songs can vector difficult moods into less difficult moods.

So, it's now time to get ready to go to work. This is another week in four buildings; renovations are not finished yet. We still have no idea or timeline for when classrooms will be finished. Classroom materials are strewn from one end of the facility to the other, and nobody knows where things are. There isn't much education going on. All of the new curricula are web-based, and there are no smart boards and we have limited internet access in the classrooms. Also, all the new curricula are targeted towards the new classroom assignments that will occur when we move into the new building. Most of this doesn't affect me, but the level of frustration in the teaching staff is seeping into how students interact with each other and with me, so I get to assist students in releasing their emotions. It's a bit disorienting.

I am doing a better job of getting myself to work at the right time rather than early. My parents did an excellent job of installing the trait of punctuality in me, but I got the overdose - I feel that being on time is just plain old late. I'm trying to get over this feeling when it comes to work. I don't get paid extra for getting to work early, so why do I go? It is taking some cognitive retraining on my part, but I expect that it will become natural in a couple of weeks. We'll see.

As for breakfast and lunch, I have decided.

Breakfast this morning is lo mein and cashew chicken. Lunch will be a baked potato, cottage cheese, ranch dressing, and ham (or bacon). In addition, I have packed chocolate pudding and mandarin oranges as my "go-withs." It's nice to have a couple of decisions made for the day.

Happy morning!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sing A Song Sunday - Yellow Submarine

I picked up one of my favorite songbooks today, The Reader's Digest Children's Songbook, and I flipped to page 74 when I opened up the book. Lo and behold, there was the song, Yellow Submarine, by the Beatles. One of the best things about the Reader's Digest Songbooks is that there are short paragraphs at the beginning of each song that offer a bit of history about the song.

Now, I don't know much about Beatles lore, but I found the story of the movie, Yellow Submarine, made the song make much more sense to me. If you're interested, I recommend either watching the movie or reading the blurb in the songbook (how's that for piquing the interest?).

Here's the song chart! How would you use this with your clients?
I wonder how I'll use this...

Friday, August 15, 2014

Favorite Things Friday - Something I Cannot Live Without!

Drum roll, please...

Today's favorite thing is a toss-up between Velcro and super sticky post-it notes!

These are two of my favorite tools for music therapy. I always have plenty of both around me so I can access them at a moment's notice! I know, I know, you think that these things are a bit obvious, but since this is my favorite thing day - here's a list of things to consider using these things for...
  1. Put fluffy Velcro on anything that will stay put during a TME. So, if the TME is centered around a file folder, put the loop Velcro onto the file folder and the hook side onto the pieces that you move around. Then, if you need to, you can place the hook-sided pieces on the carpet, on your shirt, in your hair to demonstrate specific topics. Having the hook Velcro on the moving pieces gives you options.
  2. I keep super sticky post-it notes in my car. When a thought strikes, I have these notes at my fingertips. I know that hurtling down the highway at 73 miles per hour is not the optimal time for writing notes to yourself, but I can put a brief idea on a note and then stick it to my dashboard. The notes stick pretty well, and I can then take the note with me when I get home or to work. I like the shapes and colors, too!
  3. Velcro pens and pencils to stick to your storage boxes and bags. That way, you always have a writing implement within reach.
  4. Post-its are the perfect size for writing down melodies when you are improvising. They are also a great size for placing on the side of the guitar to remind you of things that you need to remember during the middle of sessions. They are unobtrusive - most of the time people don't even notice them.
Super sticky post-it notes and Velcro, these are a few of my favorite things...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Happy New School Year!

It is the first day of school for my students, so it's time to get started for the school year. I was one of those kids who loved school and waited impatiently for the three days before school so we could find out which teacher would be ours for the year. I loved shopping for school supplies - nothing fancy, but NEW! I enjoyed getting dressed up in brand new clothes and shoes for the first day, and I loved the start of the school year. That's probably why I am a school music therapist. I still love this time of year.

Currently, we have instability leaking out of nook and cranny at the school where I work. We were told that we would be moving. We were told that we could move everything into the new building. Then we did. Then we were told we could only move light things into the cabinets in the new rooms. Then we were told that we weren't going to move after all, and we were going back to the old buildings we were in before we started to move...but just for a couple of days - two weeks at the most. We'll see.

There is a joy in starting something new, and the beginning of the school year provides me with that joy each and every time. Now, this year, I didn't have to buy school supplies - I have all the school supplies that I will EVER need - but I roamed the aisles at my local stores looking at the notebooks, pens, pencil boxes, and lunch boxes available for sale.

I'll be making some New Year's Resolutions today. It's time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

TME Tuesday - Breathe In, Breathe Out

Today's therapeutic music experience (TME) is called Breathe In, Breathe Out. This is something that I feel I need today - a relaxation-type TME that helps me to focus on my breathing as loads of things are happening in the world right now. Remember to use the iso-principle to engage and sustain attention to the task at hand, calming.

Breathe In, Breathe Out

Therapeutic Music Experience
Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC

Purpose: To encourage relaxation through breath control; one-step directives; upper extremity gross motor development; entrainment to external stimulus

Source: Original chant. © 2012 by Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC

Materials: None required; OPTIONAL: steady beat provided by recording, instrument, or body percussion. **NOTE – beat must be steady and nonintrusive as to not compete with voice of the therapist offering cues.

Environment: Quiet environment with limited distractions. Group members should be able to sit in comfortable position either on the floor or in a chair. Lights may be turned off if desired. Steady beat stimulus kept at low volume to encourage entrainment but attention to voice of the therapist.


Breathe in, (X X X), breathe out (X X X).

Breathe in, (X X X), breathe out (X X X).

Breathe in, (X X X), breathe out (X X X).

A yawn is okay, too.

Hands up, (X X X), hands down (X X X).

Hands up, (X X X), hands down (X X X).

Hands up, (X X X), hands down (X X X).

A yawn is okay, too.


Procedure: R = Reinforcement opportunities; C = Redirection/Cue opportunities; A = Assessment
  1. Arrange the environment in appropriate manner for group members. May need to prompt group members to find a comfortable position or may need to arrange the physical environment to provide cues for relaxation
  2. C= start steady beat stimulus
  3. C= model deep breaths without speaking
  4. C= start chant
  5. A= observe group members to see if they are demonstrating entrainment to the beat and/or if they are completing requests as indicated by the lyrics
  6. R= reinforce all entrainment and/or request completion either within the context of the song or non-verbally
  7. Repeat the chant until clients show s/s of desired behavior state, boredom, or until time runs out

Therapeutic Function of Music:
The steady beat and predictable lyrics offer group members with a structure to facilitate relaxation behaviors. The tempo may be adjusted to accommodate changes in client engagement, entrainment, and behavior states. The rhythmic pattern and instructions contained within the lyrics also contribute to inducing relaxation behaviors.

Variable verbal pitch
Steady beat
Quiet level

Variable based on client responses
Verbal with beat provided through body percussion or instrument
Predictable and instructive
Chart adapted from Hanson-Abromeit, D. (2010). A Closer Look at the Therapeutic Function of Music. Presentation at 2010 American Music Therapy Association National Conference: Cleveland, OH.


  • ·         Use same lyrics to continue breathing
    ·        Change tempo to assess engagement with the external stimulus
    ·        Model behaviors rather than chanting the lyrics

  • Use same format for increasing attention behaviors rather than increasing relaxation behaviors – start with slow tempo that matches behavior indicators of group members and increase tempo slowly to speed up behavior indicators