Showing posts from January, 2015

I Have Nothing to Say...

So, it's the early afternoon, and I am just now starting to write my post for this blog. I actually tried to start a post earlier, but it just ended up being one rant after another and then I had to go to an Online Conference for Music Therapy executive board meeting, and then I had to arrange a presentation for this evening, and then I just was not interested in writing anything, so I read for a time trying to take a nap!

Well, the nap didn't work, but now I have something to say...I think.

Who knows if this will be successful - I've already deleted a paragraph that was starting to feel like a rant... hmmm.

Here is a simple truth.

Music therapy is important.

You, music therapist, out there in the world, using music to assist others towards their own personal goals, are important.

Please don't ever forget that fact.

That's it.

Thank you for sharing this profession with me.

Favorite Things Friday - Inspiration from Nothing at All

Do you ever have one of those A-Ha moments that just stops you in your tracks? I get them occasionally, and often when I am in the middle of a music therapy session. Sometimes it happens in Wal-mart. Other times it happens when I am in between sleep and wakefulness.

Lately my A-Ha moments have been completely unrelated to my work situation and completely related to where I want to be in the future.

My interns have asked me to tell them how I come up with ideas. I have to say that I don't really know how I come up with ideas. Most of my ideas pop into my head, and I try to remember them long enough to write them down. Most of my great ideas just pass through my head in and out in a moment. Some of them stick. I like it when they stick. It doesn't happen as often as I would like.

Today's goal?

Find one thing that inspires a Therapeutic Music Experience for my current clients.

I'm going to go out into the world with my eyes open. I'm going to look at my theme list, on the …

Sometimes Thing Just Don't Gel

On Monday, I had one of the worst sessions that I've had recently. The kids were completely uninterested in anything I had to say, none of them responded to reminders about points, and they just ran rough-shod over everything I had to share with them. Their staff members weren't helping, and the little bit of help that they tried just plain old did not work. i had planned something that I thought they would really enjoy. They didn't. It was just a mess from beginning to end!

I left the session feeling a bit defeated. These feelings were enhanced by the fact that I was coming down with my annual bout of bronchitis, but most of the issues were based on my perception of failure with this group. Now, when I look over this session, there were some good things going. The kids were socializing with one another (not something that happens often), and they were united in their decision not to engage with me (very unusual - I can generally get at least some of them going along with m…

40 Degree Swings

There's an interesting phenomenon happening right now in my area of this world. We are having daily temperature variations of 40 degrees. The day starts off hovering around the freezing mark and gets warmer until the temperature is similar to that of Spring. Today it's currently 33 degrees Fahrenheit and is supposed to be about 72 degrees Fahrenheit this afternoon. It's the type of day where you need to open up the windows and blow the winter out of your house. So, that's what I'm going to do.

(I'm also going to go to the doctor to get my annual antibiotic for my seasonal bronchitis, but that's typical for this time of year as well.)

The weather swings are wreaking havoc with my allergies, bacteria, and general ability to do my job. There are robins frolicking in the trees (a sign of Spring?? I'm thinking the worst of this winter is yet to come). Insects are coming back with a vengeance - we need the freezing winter to help cull the numbers of bugs - it r…

TME Tuesday - Looking for Something New to Do

At this moment, right now, most of the posts on Music Therapists Unite are of the "What are your favorite...?" ilk. "What songs do you like to sing with people who are [fill-in-the-blank]?" These types of posts both baffle and intrigue me. Maybe it's a function of my longevity in this profession - I remember a time when you were completely on your own with a library card to help you find ideas. Maybe it's a function of how I was raised - my parents always offered us with challenges to be creative and expand our view. Maybe it's a function of my life in this profession - I don't often have the opportunity to talk to other music therapists about what they do in sessions. When I do, I am often the leader, not a participant, so I don't have much that I can absorb and learn from...

I don't often answer those types of posts. Occasionally I will, but I reserve my comments for times when I think my idea will truly enrich the sessions of specific clie…

It's My Turn for the Ick

January and February are prime times for my entire facility to come down with a bug. This year, most of my clients and fellow staff members have had a particularly nasty stomach virus. In addition, Influenza A has been going around. These months are not the best for folks in schools. The cold temperatures keep us all inside in the heating where germs seem to thrive. It's going to be a long winter.

So far, I have avoided the viruses going around. This is my typical pattern. I don't usually get what everyone else has - I get my own brand of ick. This is starting up right now. Two weeks ago, I woke up with a full sinus and lots of sneezing. Everything indicated allergy reaction (my typical January/February reaction), so I started my heavy-duty allergy medication. You know, the one that knocks me out for 24 hours, makes me dizzy, gives me terrible dry mouth, and tries to up my blood pressure? That one. I stayed home for the day so as not to fall asleep during my commutes and so I c…

Synthesis Sunday

Here we go again - time to change the Sunday post focus.

(I tend to get bored with my Sunday topics much more frequently than the Tuesday or Friday topics for some reason. It's curious to me, but I can't figure out why this happens.)

I've been spending time reading my music therapy textbooks - both new and old. I take notes when I do this, because I am a visual learner with touches of kinesthetic learning - if I read it and then write it, it gets into my brain twice. I am able to remember it pretty well. 


I have several notebooks full of notes and thoughts and assimilations and ideas. So, why not use them on these Sundays.

Now, I haven't really transferred this into reading the music therapy journals, but I should. If you are interested in journal-type discussions, head over to Janice Lindstrom's BlogTalkRadio. She and Meganne Masko spend some time talking about current research on a regular basis. This month's podcast is about Music Therapy Perspectives, an…

Favorite Things Friday - West Music

This post is going to be a blatant advertisement for West Music Company. I am just thrilled with them on a regular basis. We sent in an instrument order on a Monday, and everything arrived on Wednesday! It was better service than Amazon!! I loved getting my new instruments that quickly. I have also always been able to talk to them about getting bulk instruments for good prices. I was able to negotiate a great price on a set of Orff instruments. When they heard it was for a music therapy program, they helped me out immensely. I have learned that it pays to ask for assistance when you need it.

So, today I've had to talk about West Music.

Now, there are some things that I will not buy from West Music. I do not like their scarves. My clients shred them. I don't purchase many materials or props from West. I prefer to buy my books from other vendors - don't know why, but I do. Most of the basic percussion instruments that I need I buy through West. 

(I also like Music Is Elementary…

Some Days, Working with Kids is a Mixed Blessing

I love my clients.

I love my clients.

I love my clients. Sometimes it takes a mantra to remind myself that I really do have a form of love for each and every one of the developing humans that walk into my music therapy room. This form of love helps me remember important things like, "Even when they are kicking or biting me, they are still learning a valuable lesson if I keep my actions kind, calm, and consistent," or "I cannot believe this is happening right now. I am the adult in this situation, and I will remain calm."

What could happen you may ask?

Every day is an adventure when you work with other people. I don't care if you are working in an office building, a hospital, or in a school like me - every interaction with another human is an adventure. I bring my part of every interaction, but the other side of the interaction is completely up in the air and dependent upon the other human. That's what makes interacting with others an adventure.

My students are w…

Creativity Camp - A Place to Play

I am toying with the idea of running a creativity camp - online, of course - a place for music therapists to develop unique and meaningful materials and Therapeutic Music Experiences (TMEs) for specific clients.

I like making things.

Over the years, I've learned how to make mallets, file folder activities, jingle bands, lots of pitched as well as unpitched percussion instruments, adaptive cuffs, visual aids for things like Orff instruments, and various and sundry other things as well. I know that there are lots of us out there who like to make things, so why not share with one another?

What would you like to learn how to do? Make recordings of clients? Learn how to use green-screen replacements to make videos? Sew parachutes? Make client-specific schedule boards? Web-based assessments?

Now, I don't know how to do most of these things right now, but I am always interested in learning more and would be willing to try these things out and post about them, or start camp so you can lea…

TME Tuesday - The Database

How do you organize your Therapeutic Music Experiences? You know, the things that you do with your clients? Do you organize by music? By goals and objectives? By something else? How do you keep track of your ideas? Do you keep them all in your head? Or do you write them down?

I write many of them down, but not all of them. I make my interns write theirs down as well. Once they are written down, I had to find some way to organize them - hence, the database...

Currently, my database is simply an Excel workbook. I list the TME title, the goal areas addressed, the original author/composer, and the person who developed the TME. My TME database is never going to be complete, but it is as complete as possible at any given time. I try not to print out things on paper anymore, but the TMEs are all hyperlinked to the database so I can click on the link, read the TME, and print, if necessary. This is how I currently organize my "bag of tricks."

It isn't enough for me, though. I want m…


During my internship, way way back ago, I participated in what I was told was the first ever Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Phoenix, Arizona. At the time, the holiday hadn't been recognized as a state holiday, even though it was a federal holiday in 1983. After the citizens of Arizona voted against recognizing MLK Jr Day in 1990, the state lost the Super Bowl. So, in 1992, (when I was a young intern in the state) voters again addressed the question and finally recognized Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a state holiday as well. So, I got to go to the first parade.

At the time, it wasn't a big deal to me. I didn't realize that some states marked the holiday and others did not. My main states, California and Kansas, did. The state where I was working as an intern, Arizona, had not until that year, 1993. I have spent most of my life learning about Dr. King and his famous I Have a Dream speech, so there wasn't anything new for me to experience, but the people in Phoenix …

Song Switch Sunday - Timbre

I really enjoy moving music from one setting into another. I've been really making many of my students angry these days because I insist on playing our choir songs using the guitar or piano instead of the iPod! They are quite angry with me when I start to play the piano. It doesn't sound like Katy Perry's version of whatever song we're singing, but it's as close as I can get to it!

The advantage to changing how the music is presented (iPod to instrument) is that I can use the musical elements to adapt the music for my students to provide them with success in getting the words out and singing appropriately. The disadvantage is that they often do not recognize the song without the original timbre.

I wonder why this is, and then I remember that my students do not have an easy time of abstract thought and the concept of music staying the same even when the sounds change a bit is an abstract one.

Taking a familiar melody from the original setting to another is a good way t…

Favorite Things Friday - Trips

I love to travel. I have been to many places here in the States and a handful of places outside the States. I love train trips, plane trips, boat trips, even car trips. The only thing I haven't done is go on a long bus trip. My perfect job would include traveling on a regular basis!

In my travels, I have roamed many places for music therapy purposes. The AMTA National Conference happens in a different place every year, so I get to go someplace new every year. Next year? Kansas City - not so exotic, considering that I currently live very close to KC, but still... who knows where I'll be in November. I've been to the World Congress of Music Therapy in Australia and hope to go to Japan in 2017. I've gone places to be a music therapy consultant and presenter. Traveling is a great adventure.

I'm getting ready for a trip at the end of next month.

Like many of the other trips, this one will be music therapy-related. The Online Conference for Music Therapy is starting the pro…

Follow-Up to Five Music Therapy Advocacy Conversations... My responses!!!

So, in light of Music Therapy Advocacy Month, here are the ways I answer the questions posed by others just looking to get a bit of knowledge about our wonderful profession. Just so you can tell, my answers are italicized. Look, it's the music lady/man! Easily recognized by bags full of instruments that jingle, shake, and thump, your persona becomes completely linked with your job."I know. You can probably hear me coming from two hallways away. I always say you can hear a good music therapist coming from a mile away!! Here comes the MUSIC THERAPIST. (I often add a musical hit right here with the jingle bells!) Brrrring!" Why do I say it like this? It's good to have an identity and to be associated with what you do, but it's a casual way to emphasize that there is much more than just making noise to what I do. It also puts my official title in front of the remarker. They may never use the title officially, but it will sink in. One day, they will be speaking to a…

5 Music Therapy Advocacy Conversations Every Music Therapist Will Have... At Least Once!

It is Music Therapy Advocacy Month here in the States, and it's time for an advocacy post! Here is a collections of advocacy moments and conversations that all of us will have at one time or another. How do you respond to these conversations? (I'll post my responses tomorrow!)

Look, it's the music lady/man! Easily recognized by bags full of instruments that jingle, shake, and thump, your persona becomes completely linked with your job.You are so good at making people happy. My favorite variation on this particular theme? I kid you not! "Happy children making happy sounds!"What is it that you do? Followed by three seconds of stunned silence and then the follow-up question, "So, what is musical therapy, anyway?"Oh, I know what that is. My niece plays music to the elderly. Well. There's a bit more to it that that...I do music therapy with my clients/students/pets/children/etc. We have an iPod.What other advocacy conversations do you have? 

The rest of th…

TME Tuesday - Mirror, Mirror

Today's choice is Mirror, Mirror, a TME designed to increase self-esteem and self-awareness. It's old school, so here are the cards...

It's a chant, not a song. I don't tend to use this one very often, and almost always with groups that are made up of one sex rather than a mixed group. Adolescents tend to share more self-esteem type things when they are not having to engage in posturing behaviors in front of their crushes.

The Week's Themes

One of the pods at my school has figured out themes for each month, and, after years and years of asking teachers to give me some guidance about what they are talking about in the classroom, one of the teachers FINALLY did! So, I know what they are talking about at some time during this month!! I'm taking advantage of that fact to coordinate a part of my music therapy treatment for these classroom groups.

There are four themes each month. For January, we are focusing on Kansas (because we have to celebrate Kansas Day by the 29th - state mandate), Winter, Letters, and something else that I wrote down at work and have planned, but cannot remember right now... [head hung down in shame]. This week we are doing Winter and the something else I cannot remember right now. (NOTE: I think it is traveling in air vehicles...)

I am not a therapist who likes to plan out a script and follow it regardless of what the clients are doing. I am a therapist who likes to have basic ideas of how I will ad…

Song Switch Sunday - Lyrics

This is one of the easiest ways to switch up the musical interaction in your music therapy sessions - change the words!

It often seems like a "duh" kinda thought, but changing lyrics to familiar melodies is a quick and easy way to increase novelty and direct attention towards the therapist or the music. When songs are familiar, they may not make much of an impact on a client who gets into a routine easily. It is easy to tune out and just go with the routine, so changing the words can shake up the routine.

Think of the tune to Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. It's a culturally familiar song. Here in the USA, this song is a ubiquitous element of early childhood development. There aren't many people in this culture that do not know this song. Yet, members of the culture automatically know what to sing when you start to play. They sing Twinkle Twinkle, or The ABC Song, or Baa, Baa, Black Sheep. It is an interesting exercise to start playing the song and watch clients start to…

"I am NOT amused!"

Today's post is courtesy of my mother, evil plotter, who made me do this! (That's my story, and I'm sticking with it!)

This is Bella-Leia. Do you notice the far-off look in her eye? She's contemplating how to slowly shred the skin off my body when I am least expecting it! Ms. Bella-Leia has retired to the bedroom right now - lots of busy napping to do - while I get to spend some time with folks from the Online Conference for Music Therapy- it's almost time for the conference, and then go to my part-time job to take down the Christmas decorations before tomorrow's church service. After that? Who knows!!

The days are getting more and more full of things I SHOULD be doing. That SHOULD goblin shows up more and more around this time of the year. Maybe it has something to do with it being a brand new year and all, but I really start to get overwhelmed during these long, cold days.

I think I'll keep this picture nearby so I can be immediately refreshed by the wisdom …

Favorite Things Friday - My Music Therapy Friends Out There

When I really make an effort to sit down and count them, I realize that I have many, MANY music therapy friends and acquaintances out there in the world. These men and women continuously celebrate, challenge, criticize, and support me in my music therapy life.

Before the advent of social media (yes, children, I am THAT old!), it was difficult to make music therapy friends unless you were geographically close to them or met them at conferences. Now, in this age of faster-than-light communication, I can interact with music therapy people from everywhere! This is both good and not so good, but we're going to focus on the good part here in this blog post...

One of the things that I relish about my music therapy friends is the opportunity to understand different practice areas and theoretical constructs. I can see music therapy through their eyes and through their training. Every interaction widens my view of what music therapy is and can be.

Something else that makes me value my music th…

Thursday. Here It Comes!!

Today is Thursday.

Now, in the range of things, the fact that today is Thursday is not really all that big a deal. I mean, they happen once per week, don't they? For me, however, a Thursday coming around means that I have a long therapy day with limited opportunity to sit quietly and contemplate things that need to get done. The contemplation has to start early in the morning.

What is there to contemplate?

Not much regarding the actual daily work that I have to do. The teachers from the Novas Pod gave me a copy of their educational themes for the year. I've taken those themes and determined Therapeutic Music Experiences (TMEs) to do each month that support and enrich the thematic materials.This week's themes are Letters and Kansas (Kansas Day is coming up on the 29th). We did Letters on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday contain a Kansas themed TME - we're going to sing Home on the Range (the state song). Theme accomplished! The rest of the session will be based c…

I Just Plain Old Forgot...

...that yesterday was TME Tuesday!

Yesterday morning, I woke up, finished a big audacious project that required my attention at the computer, left for work, and completely spaced out that it was a Tuesday. Yipes! I need to get back into my routine of weekly posts again, but it's a bit difficult right now with lots of other projects also needing to be done. I will make a better effort to work on a schedule, but life is kind of interfering here, so it will be what it will be.

How do you manage yourself when things start to get piled up higher and higher?

I try to keep going until I hit a wall of frustration. Then, I have a meltdown, make some lists, and get going again. This time around, I am trying to avoid the entire process of hitting a wall of frustration, so I am making lists right now.

My process in this new year has been to choose three things to focus on each day. I have one task left from yesterday - something that needs some attention for the Online Conference for Music Therap…

Falling Behind, and It's Not Even Work Time Yet

Well, that's not really true. I did go back to work on Friday, but it was an inservice day, so that really doesn't count in my book. I only feel like I'm working when I'm actually doing music therapy, and you kinda need clients to be doing music therapy. Today is the day I get to go back to work!

I love the first day after a long break. Kids are happy to be back to school, and we have lots of discussions about what happened over the break. We are all happy to be part of our school routine, but that happiness doesn't really last long. The second day after break is never as smooth. We all have to get up yet again, and the routine is not as attractive as the idea of sleeping in and staying home. The second day is much more challenging. By day three, we are still working on making the routine routine again, but things get better.

Anyway, I am currently sitting here, thinking about what I need to do this week. The list is growing and growing, and I haven't even made i…

Song Switch Sunday - Timbre and Instrumentation

Today's post is designed to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. I have to make an audition tape demonstrating my guitar, piano, and vocal skills, so I'm going to use this tape to illustrate something else that is an important musical element to consider when you are choosing music for a music therapy session - timbre!

The types of instruments that you choose for your music can affect how a client responds.

The simplest example of how timbre can affect therapeutic effectiveness comes when you work with persons who have auditory sensitivities to particular instruments. This occurs, at times, with a wide variety of people. I have some sensitivities to particular timbres - saxophones, high harmonics on string instruments, my sister's voice on the telephone in my left ear. Some of my students have timbre sensitivities as well. I have one student whose screaming increases in volume when I play rhythm patterns on the keyboard. (He actually screams all the time, not because …

New Year Chores - Things to Do to Keep Up Professionally

Today is the first day of this new year that I've had some time to sit and figure out my path into 2015. The first two days of the year were full of travel, presenting information to co-workers, and trying to organize my work place. Today is reserved for getting my professional life up-to-date and in order.

I read a blog by a woman named Liz Ryan. Here's a link to her one of her blog posts. I enjoy her blog for several reasons. First, she offers practical advice for people who are looking for jobs. Now, I'm always in search of another situation, but not always formally, but my interns are formally looking for jobs, so I like to keep up. Second, she includes pictures that go along with her themes. These pictures are drawn by her and are watercolored or inked by her. I am a visual learner, so these pictures drew me into her blog world.

Well, in a recent post, Ms. Ryan suggested several things to do at the beginning of every year. First and foremost, take a bit of time to updat…

Favorite Things Friday - Caring for Others

Yesterday was a day of travel for me. I started off the day in the airport near my parents' house and ended it at my home. In between, there were flight cancellations, significant flight delays, missed flights, rebooked flights, significant attitudes displayed, and FINALLY, a way home.

I like to think of myself as someone who cares for others. (This may not be evident by this blog, which does tend to focus on ME, but that's in the title - and, everyone is entitled to a little selfishness every once in a while.) I honestly try to place the needs of others before my own, but this trait has a way of making me a doormat when other people want their ways.

This was demonstrated over and over again in the airports yesterday.

People were making demands. They were cutting in lines. They were yelling at ticket agents - who were not the ones making the decisions. People kept insisting that their situations were more dire than the situations of each and every other person on each flight. Som…