Thursday, December 31, 2015

Thoughtful Thursday - Stand Out

This week's thought sitting on my desk was this gem from Sarah Ban Breathnach. Apparently, Ms. Breathnach wrote several books in the mid-late 90's and early 00's about finding gratitude in simple things. The first book, Simple Abundance, debuted in 1995 and encouraged women "to search for the small and the sweet in our daily round with appreciation and awe..." (

There is much to think about when you start to examine the things that go on in your own life. There is satisfaction to be had when you realize that what you have is abundance, but there is something to be said for looking forward to new challenges and goals.

I don't really feel like I am one who demonstrates this particular quotation very well. I have spent lots of my life trying to fit into situations, groups, cliques, and ideas that have not really been my place. It has taken me lots of time to realize that, if I have to work so hard to fit in, then I don't need or even want to be part of said group, idea, clique, or situation. If I have to be someone that I'm not, then I shouldn't be trying to be there. It is my job to be the authentic me - not what someone else wants me to be.

The problem with standing out - outside the expectations of others, outside trying to break into something - is that it can be lonely.

I enjoy reading the work of The Bloggess. WARNING - She can be profane. She also speaks about her particular brand of living life. She is open about the diagnoses that she's accrued over her life, and she talks about the challenges of living her life. I find her to be inspiring, especially when I am mired in my own minutiae. From the things she's written about her life, she has always been the one who stood out. She writes about not understanding why she was unable to be part of things that others wanted to do - I can relate to that on a different type of degree - and how she felt about feeling isolated and alone all the time. The blog has found a community of people who felt similarly. Now she has many people who fit in with the former standout.

"Find your tribe." - Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess
Jenny says that we all have a group of people that are our people, we just have to find them. It is important to find the people that value us for what and who we are without trying to mold us into some sort of idea.

I have to remember these things when I feel pressured to be like every other music therapist in the world.

I have to remember these things when others say things that I don't agree with - it's okay not to agree with everyone else.

I have to remember these things when I have to speak up for those who don't speak up.

I have to remember that standing out from the "norm" is something that someone has to do in order to challenge the status quo in order to encourage growth in a profession, in a theory, in a job.

Standing out in other places is lots easier when you have found your tribe and know where you fit in.

Thank you, music therapists, for accepting that we have different ideas, different ways of doing the job, and different opinions about how the job is to be done. Thank you for supporting those who stand out, and for accepting those who conform.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Adventures with iTunes

So, about once a year, I get into some sort of kerfluffle with my iPod. It's happening right now and continues to simultaneously baffle and confound me. I have said before (and I'll say it again and again), the logic behind iThings is not my logic.

My current struggle?

I've gone from over 21 thousand songs on my iPod to 3 thousand. I've lost 18 thousand songs. I did this somehow, but I can't figure out what I did or how I did it. I just know that things have left the iPod to the ether of my failed Apple experiences (there are lots of them, let me tell you!!).

Somehow, iTunes has put two different music libraries on my iTunes account. I have multiple copies of music lurking in several places in my computer pieces so I have multiple copies of things taking up valuable space. I am trying to consolidate but can't because I don't have enough space on either hard drive to put things on just one.

What to do?

Lots of gnashing of teeth, going to the internet for answers, and trying really hard not to scream.

I've ordered another external hard drive with much more storage, so I should be able to change this entire situation in about four days, but I'll have to wait until Sunday to get the box. In the meantime, I am trying to figure out what's gone missing, what needs to be ripped, and what I can backup onto the next drive. 

Both music folders (yes, there are two that I've found - one on my external drive where it's supposed to be and one on my personal computer where it's not supposed to be) have more than 3 thousand music files on them, but neither of them are communicating with iTunes the way they need to be. I am confused and baffled. I've gone through all of the different help manuals, internet tutorials, and user forums and still can't figure it out. I've looked at my iTunes media folders and attempted to consolidate them over and over again.

I went into the entire world of iThings kicking and screaming. Looking over mp3 players and the difficulties that I have with music storage at work, I found that the iPod classic gave me the biggest storage and most functionality. So, I went with an iPod when I needed something portable. Since then, Apple has stopped making the iPod classic model for things with significantly less storage, and I've wrestled with the thing over and over again. I don't have cloud access at work, so I still need this device, but I am trying some new options for music sharing and use. 

My struggle with iThings continues, but I've got a plan. We'll see if it works.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

TME Tuesday: I Resolve

It's that time of year when resolutions are on the forefront of most people's minds. The idea of a future goal is something that eludes many of my clients - they find the future to be too abstract to plan and work towards. So, we sing about it. Here's the lyrics, analysis, and my procedure. If you would like the sheet music, please contact me here. Happy New Year!

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

Purpose: To engage group members in personal goal setting; executive function; creative expression; emotional awareness; fine motor (if writing) skill development; social interaction

Source: Words, music, and therapeutic procedure © August 11, 2014, by Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC.

Materials: OPTIONAL: dry erase board and marker or prepared lyric sheets and writing utensils for group members to use to write their responses

Environment: All group members within hearing distance of the leader; provide writing surfaces if needed.

Song/Chant/Words: I Resolve.pdf
I resolve to eat my vegetables.

I resolve to make my be-ed.

I resolve to make new fri-ends.

I resolve to listen to others in this brand new year.

Procedure: R = Reinforcement opportunities; C = Redirection/Cue opportunities; A = Assessment
1.      C=start accompaniment pattern of repetitive bass line – D T L S, moving when the melody moves.
2.      A=assess if clients start to show entrainment behaviors (such as moving body parts to the beat or speaking in rhythm)
3.      R=reinforce group members who start to entrain through embedding their names into sung patterns
4.      C= start to talk or sing about resolutions. Ask group members the following questions:
a.       “what is a resolution?”
b.      “why do people make resolutions?”
c.       “what are your goals for yourself this (year/month/week/day/music therapy session)?”
5.      A=assess whether group members are able to answer the questions without additional explanation
6.      R=reinforce correct responses and redirect incorrect responses to the first two questions. Reinforce all responses to the third question
7.      C= while continuing the musical stimulus, ask a group member to either sing or write down his/her resolutions for the year
8.      A=assess whether group member is able to complete the task
9.      R=reinforce all attempts to complete the task
10.  C=provide additional assistance if group member appears unable to complete the task
11.  C=sing sentence completion of group member for entire group to hear
12.  R=reinforce group member’s lyrics
13.  Repeat steps 7-12 until all group members have had a turn, group members appear to be bored, or until time runs out

Therapeutic Function of Music:
The repetitive nature of the music emphasizes the lyrics as the dynamic part of the TME. The predictable melody allows for persons with limited musicality to engage in a simple melodic line. The rhythmic figure focuses on the macrobeat as the primary rhythmic pulse, but the rhythm of the pattern may be shifted to accommodate different lyric patterns as appropriate for client responses. The pitch, tempo, dynamics, and timbre are all variable to accommodate the preferences or instrumentation available for the group.

Downward melody with limited skips
Variable to accommodate client needs or preferences
Set pattern on macrobeat. Predictable motion
Variable to accommodate client needs or preferences
Limited harmony – this TME can be accompanied by a bass line doubling the melody line

Variable to accommodate client needs or preferences
Variable to accommodate client needs or preferences
Variable to accommodate client needs or responses
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.

·         Make one resolution per person/group. Track progress towards goal.

  • Give specific parameters to the resolutions – e.g., first one – personal hygiene skill; second one – relationship with family member; third one – relationship with peer in group; fourth one – personal academic goal


Monday, December 28, 2015

Back In the Saddle Again

"Vacation" is over for me. It's time to start getting back into the routine of writing every day, working on music therapy tasks and projects, and moving the knee around so I can keep up with my clients in about a week. I am more than ready to get back into work routines. It's been a long month  of recovery, holidays, and changes. I'm still waiting for a phone call from someone about physical therapy, and I need to talk to the insurance company, but the rest of the time needs to be spent getting organized and coordinated for getting back to work. I have never spent so much time away from working in my career before. It has been strange and not something I want to repeat any time soon.


I am a bit trepidatious about going back to work. One of the things about working with a population where treatment is changing from long-term to more acute care models is that many of the clients I knew before Thanksgiving will be gone. There will be many new faces that will not know what music therapy is - they will only know what music sub plans are like. That's not music therapy. That's something that is time-filling.

I am worried about the state of my room and my equipment. Even the adults in my facility (the ones who are supposed to be "in charge" and "responsible") often struggle with things like using materials safely and putting things back from where they were obtained. The last time I was gone, folks broke a new-to-me karaoke machine, two microphones, and tried to take apart my drum set! This time around, I took my guitar home, locked all the cabinets, loaded up the sub plan boxes, and took the drum set apart myself. Hopefully there will be limited things to pick up, move around, and rearrange when I get back. I have a lifting restriction of 5 pounds. My guitar is 5.8 pounds, so I will not be able to get many things moved in my room. I hope folks were respectful and responsible.

If I could pick up my guitar (without restrictions), I would be playing and singing, but I can't, so I guess I will play my ukulele (good thing I bought two at AMTA this year - I didn't even plan it!! Serendipity right there!) and learn some new chords on the instrument. Right now, I've got C, F, and G down, but I need to get some more chords under my belt so I can play more songs. Probably not this one, but who knows what I'll do in this last week of vacation. 

It is time to get back into what it is I love to do. Music Therapy. Music therapy with my clients. Music therapy stuff for other music therapists to use in their sessions.  Music therapy thoughts and ideas. Time to start thinking and doing. It's time to get back in the saddle again!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Welcome Back

The holidays are over (at least, mine are), and it's time to get back to work. I'm a bit overwhelmed with thinking right now, and I'm a bit preoccupied with myself these days. I still have a week off, and I am getting more than ready to not be at home these days. I still have my present to myself to look forward to (it should arrive today), and there will be some fun figuring out how to use it!

I just realized that today is Supplemental Sunday (one of the problems with holidays and vacation - I lose track of which day it is). I've got nothing this week. I'll do better next time.

Thinking of all of my Texas music therapy friends in light of the tornado/winter storm action last night. Be safe.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Thoughtful Thursday: Laughter
Today is many different things - Christmas Eve, December 24th, Thursday. I've been living with this quotation for the week, and find that it speaks to me on many different levels.

If you don't know, Victor Borge was a comedian, composer, and pianist. He was born in 1909 in Denmark, and died in the year 2000. Many of his routines included him sitting at a piano and using it to illustrate the rest of his routine. Here is a link to Borge at the opera. Anyone who has ever had to accompany another person can find something to relate to in this sketch. Another link includes Mr. Borge illustrating how people from different professions play the piano. Another link has Mr. Borge showing how to punctuate music for the listening ease of the audience. If you check out the link at the bottom of the page, you will find much more information about this wonderful man who brought music and more to many in a way that made it memorable.

Anyway, this quotation seems extremely apropos for me when I think about my work with adolescents. 

There are some adolescents (I call them the "too-cool" kids) who just don't think that music therapy is for them. They are not engaged in what I offer at the beginning and are often loud and disruptive during sessions. I think there are feelings of inadequacy behind much of the bluster, but I don't always know what the feelings behind the emotion actually are, so I try different things to see if I can make a connection. Many times, the way into a therapeutic relationship with this "type" of client is a joke or a game or something silly.

Before my surgery, I was working with a young man who has spent some time in juvenile detention, who is a follower of persons with stronger personalities, and who is "too-cool" for just about everything. No one was having any luck getting him to engage in any type of therapy - he wasn't interested in group therapy, art therapy, music therapy, or anything. When he first walked into the music therapy session, he started posturing right off. "You're not going to make me do anything this stupid." My response? "That's fine, you don't have to engage. Feel free to just sit and watch." So he did.

The next week, this young man came in and tried to posture again. I repeated my prompt and went on as usual. Peers spent time playing games, singing songs, completing projects, and engaging in music therapy. This young man made several comments about the things we were talking about and was acknowledged each time.

On week three, when he entered, this young man looked at me and said, "Don't do that thing with your eyes. It freaks me out." I said, "What thing with my eyes?" He said, "You just do things with your eyes. It freaks me out." (Now, I actually think that he means my eyebrows, but he's not able to verbalize that fact. I use facial expressions with my clients lots, so I have a wide variety of expressions that utilize changes in my eyebrows to express emotions. I do this almost unconsciously.) For the rest of the session, he stared at my face and labeled when I was doing the "freaky thing."

The next week was the final breakthrough. Knowing that he had some interest in my facial expressions (and my monster eyebrows), I wore a headband over my eyebrows when his group walked in. He took one look at me, laughed, and shook his head.

Since that time, this young man has not played an instrument, still brings his "projects" to work on during group therapy, but does not do anything on those "projects." He doesn't seem to mind my dancing eyebrows anymore, but still makes comments about them. He initiates interaction with me everywhere we see each other. He smiles, he laughs, he gets involved in singing and composition TMEs. Others notice that he interacts with me in a way that he doesn't interact with any of his other staff members. When he is struggling, all I have to do to interrupt the struggle and start him back into a positive interaction is to put my hand over my eyebrows and look at him.

He starts to laugh, and we start again.

Never underestimate the power of laughter. 

Victor Borge. (2015, December 13). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 5:14am, December 24, 2015, from

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Introducing Music Therapy Works on Facebook

I have a secret - it's a business page on Facebook.

I am the first to admit that I know very little about running a business, but I am constantly learning about it. I go into business-type things hesitantly and often learn from my mistakes... my many mistakes. I've started to increase my business presence in this music therapy world. I have a business page on Facebook - here it is

Navigating the world of social media is something that I don't feel that I can do effectively yet. I am starting to use Twitter to communicate and now I am plunging into the Facebook pool. I am a semi-serious Pinterest pinner, but I reserve my pinning for things that are really important to me and only have five boards. I am working on growing a brand.

I have a logo. I have a mission statement. I have an idea. I just take my own sweet time in getting there.

I envy those who have a great online presence as part of their music therapy lives. I constantly feel that I am catching up with others, but that's part of who I am and how I move into different roles as a therapist. I move into business-type things thinking that I don't really know what I'm doing, but I then start to learn what to do.

I firmly believe that every music therapy student should have to take and pass at least three business classes during their education. I know that educators are sitting here, thinking "Where in the world could we put MORE classes into our already jampacked curriculum?" but the way that music therapy seems to be going is into private practice and contracting. Business courses might help out lots of new therapists in getting practices off the ground and succeed.

2016 is going to be the year that I expand my brand, business, and online presence. I'm starting by letting people know that I have a business page on Facebook. Here's the link:

Hope to "see" you there.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

TME Tuesday: Song Challenge

My brain is atrophied and overwhelmed by the difficult situation that is Worker's Compensation, so I do not have a new TME to share today.

Instead, I have a creativity challenge for you, readers! I would like to know what you would do with this song...

Winter Song by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson - here's the challenge...

Leave a comment below about how you would use this piece of music in your clinical area. Give us a brief description of your clientele and the type of therapy you do. I'm looking for ideas about goals you would address with this piece, how you would lead your clients into working on their goals, and what you want as an outcome to using this song.

(I already have my own ideas about how to use this song with my group of clients, but I would love to hear from others!!)

At the end of this next week, I'll compile things into a TME for all of us to use.

See you next Tuesday!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Monday Music - at 4:56am

Today I am doing something I rarely do. I'm sitting in my bed, writing this blog (that's not the unusual part of all of this), listening to the Muppets channel on Pandora (that's the unusual part).

I rarely listen to music just to listen. This was one of the things that significantly changed in my life once I became a full-time music therapist. Music became something that was always present, so I needed different types of stimulation in my life. When I am finished with a work day, I often go for talk radio and television shows rather than music. Lately, however, I have been away from my music therapy routine and am finding that music is starting to fill me up again.

Isn't that a strange thought? 

The music is starting to fill me up again.

I am singing to the cat. She has her own songs (Soft Kitty for one), and I am singing to her more than I usually do. Her responses are not really the types of responses I usually get with my voice - not many of my clients point their ears back or spring off the bed in an attempt to get away from me or even purr (occasionally) - but there is a response.

I am singing random pieces of songs. I just feel the need to be singing at random times of day and at random places. So I find myself humming while shopping at the grocery store. I wait until I get back to my car before launching into full out song. Not everyone understands the need to be singing.

I went to church yesterday and led our service of Lessons and Carols. It was wonderful to be sitting with a group of people (some of whom sang, some who did not) and be surrounded by music - voices, organ, piano. I was able to spend time involved in musicking - active music making - in a community. We sang lots of the familiar Christmas Carols yesterday, and my Christmas spirit started. That's one of the things that music can do for me - start specific feelings to happen. I am person who has strong extramusical associations to specific songs. The act of singing those familiar songs in church yesterday reminded me of years past and the stories of the season in my particular belief system. This was a good thing as I have been disconnected from most of my traditions this year. I may even decorate my tree this week...

I am enjoying my Pandora station this morning. I will eventually saturate on the music in my environment and switch to something else, but for the moment, I am enjoying the combination of children's songs that are being played. I am not really listening just to listen any more. My brain is moving into the "How can I use this song" mode.
My proof-reader and biggest critic!
I think that all music therapists go through periods of time where they crave musical stimulation and other times when music is the last thing that they want to be around. This is an appropriate response to being surrounded by any type of stimulus. Our brains want and need a change from one stimulus to another - brains like novelty. Sometimes that means a complete withdrawal from the stimulus; sometimes it means changing the stimulus.

I set out, during this time of enforced rest and silence, to have a break from the music of my life. I did some composition, but I haven't touched my guitar since Thanksgiving. I've listened to music for my own enjoyment and motivation. I haven't had to think about the therapeutic benefit or use of any particular piece of music for about a month now. I think my brain is getting ready to move back into therapy mode again, because I am sitting here, listening to music, and thinking, "Ooh, Client D would like this song, and we could do this and this and this with it!" I'm relieved to have these thoughts and will be writing them down in my thought book for development into TMEs.

I guess, at the end of all of this, I want other music therapists to know that my experience has shown me that my relationship with my therapeutic medium of choice, music, changes all the time. There are times when I want and need to be surrounded by music, and there are times when I cannot stand any type of musical stimulus around me. I used to think that the times when I couldn't stand to be around music made me a bad therapist, but I now know that's not the case. It's just how my brain is wired...and that's okay. I have to take breaks from music at times. My brain tells me when it's time to start again - and it becomes very evident that I am a musical being, one who is able to not just make music, but also one who can help others make their own music.
Must be doing fine - she's sleeping.
Find your way. If you are someone who needs to listen to your own music for a certain amount of time, do it. If you are someone who needs silence after a day of singing and playing music for others, find your silence. If you are someone who needs to make music all the time, do it. Find your way and know that your way is what you need as a human being. Be happy, fellow therapists. Happy Monday!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Supplemental Sunday: Look What I Got!

I got my second mailing from Music Therapy Mailings on Thursday. Here's a photo essay of the loot!!

Note the festive mailing envelope. There's tons of stuff packed into these envelopes, and I look forward to its arrival each time!

I wish I had had this idea.

Thanks, Tracy! I get so much fun out of finding out what it is each envelope that I think I will continue!! 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Mission Statement

I have a self-imposed task to do by this Sunday. It came out of one of the two presentations I was able to attend at the American Music Therapy Association's annual conference back in November, and it's a good one to engage my brain and make it do some dreaming.

I need to update my mission statement.

"What is a mission statement?" you may ask? Well, according to Wikipedia (I know, I know, but you have to admit that Wikipedia is a great place to START looking for information!), "a mission statement is a statement which is used as a way of communicating the purpose of the organization" (, retrieved 12/18/15). The article goes on to state that a mission statement also serves to direct the actions of the organization and provides a touchstone for decisions, goals, and desired outcomes.

I've written and debated mission statements before, but I find that it is not that easy to write one for your own personal and professional use. So, what do I do? I go to the internet and find some resources. Here's one that looks promising - How to Write a Mission Statement by Tim Berry. Apparently, Mr. Berry thinks that a mission statement should a) describe your company; b) state what you do, stand for, and why you bother to do it; c) are you in it for a profit or just because; d) what markets do you serve; e) what problem do you offer to solve for your markets; and f) the internal work space for employees. Interesting.  This is a place for me to start.

Time to move into the brainstorming process. My business is simply targeted towards music therapists and music therapy students. I feel strongly that music therapists should have a deep understanding of music and musical elements. I feel that music therapists should be able to create and compose music for their clients. I feel that some people are very good at making things and composing music but others are not. At this point, a bit of profit would be nice, but it is not my only income source (thank goodness!).

So, start to refine - music therapists and music therapy students and interns; compositions; education; materials; reasonable price...

How does that transform into a mission statement?

I am someone who does well with examples, so this website: seems to be a good place to find models for mission statements. Most of the statements on this page are short and concise. This site recommends that a mission statement be around 20 words long. My current statement is 32 words long. I can certainly refine that.

Current statement: The mission of is to provide quality products, continuing education, and opportunities for music therapists, music therapy students and interns, and others interested in the use of music as a therapeutic medium.

Time to prune this down a bit. I'll be posting a new mission statement on the website on Monday at sometime. Check it out on the website. Happy Friday, reader!!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Thoughtful Thursday: A Year From Now

On my desk, I have a small box that is filled with cards. The box came last month in my packet from Music Therapy Mailings, and I am enjoying the inspiration I get from that little box. (I cannot wait until I get the next packet!!) I have decided to choose a card per week to think and write about. On each card is a quotation, and these quotations make me think more deeply about things.

I have rules for how to choose an inspiration card - basically, I randomly choose a card and place it at the front of the box where I can see it from my computer every day. I cannot switch or change the card until Thursdays after I have written about the thought.

Today's thought comes from Karen Lamb.

A year from now you will wish you had started today.
-- Karen Lamb

This quote leads me into many questions. What should I be starting today? Is it okay that I don't really have anything to start? Do I need to be looking for something to start? Is the pressure and demands worth it right now?

When I start to think about these questions, I feel that there is a certain amount of pressure to grow, both as a human and as a professional music therapist. I also feel that that pressure is something that is just part of being a responsible music therapist - growth is essential in order to continue to be a therapist. How we grow is up to us.

I made an admission to a friend of mine this week. I haven't taken the last several editions of the music therapy journals that are part of AMTA membership out of their protective baggies. I haven't been interested in reading them, so I haven't even opened them up. This is something that I feel a bit guilty about, but not enough to start opening them up yet. Maybe this thought leads me into reading my journals. I know that the research that others are doing out there in the world enriches my understanding of how music works with people, but I have this reluctance to read it.

A year from now, what will I wish I had started today?

Who knows, but I am hoping that, a year from today, I am released from care from my ACL injury, that I have full function in my left knee, and can sit cross-legged on the floor again. That's my hope for December 18, 2016.

What will you start today?