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Showing posts from April, 2016

4 Textbooks Music Therapists Need to Own

This is an opinionated blog post. Be warned now. I am writing from my very own, very biased opinions about what types of texts you, fellow music therapist, should have on your reference book shelf. Feel free to add, subtract, or argue with my statements here. I'd love to hear what you think about this post... I am a music therapist with almost 24 years of professional experience. I have been working with a variety of populations for many years, but most of my music therapy life has been spent working with children and adolescents with developmental disabilities and concurrent psychiatric concerns. I have been a teacher, a clinical supervisor, and an internship director, so I think I have a pretty good idea about the types of textbooks that are important for music therapists to have at their fingertips. Here's my list of the textbooks that I think we all need to own... A Good Music Theory Book - A time ago, I asked interns what advice they would offer to music therapy stud

Tardy. Not Good For Me.

Yesterday, I awoke at 5:50am - two hours later than I usually awaken. Needless to say, I started the day in panic mode and had to get going in a rush to get to work when I wanted to get to work. I am usually leaving for work at 5:50 am, not just waking up. I made it to work when I wanted to get there and was able to go through the rest of the day without feeling that panic that usually sticks around me when I am late for something...anything... For me, tardiness is an unforgivable curse in myself. I am not as insisting about it in others as I am in myself. I cannot abide being late. That one guest that shows up at the time on the invitation when you are still getting ready for the party? Yep. That's me. I have learned over the years that it is better for the hostess if I stay in the car and wait until I can see another guest than to ring the doorbell at 6:59 by myself. Isn't it interesting how some ideas and expectations are difficult to tolerate in yourself? I can't ab

Starting to Run

I am in a strange place in my rehabilitation process. If you don't know by now, (welcome, reader!) I had a complete tear of my left Anterior Cruciate Ligament last July. It was in a work-related incident where a client became very destructive towards my $1200 keyboard. I got pushed, I twisted, and the knee just popped. I had surgery to replace the ACL in December, and I started physical therapy in January. I've been in PT almost every week since that time. (I had to skip one week when my PT was completely booked - not my fault and the only "break" I've had since my injury.) I am currently feeling both accomplished and depressed about my injury as well as my recovery. I think I've hit the "But I Should Be Completely Better By Now" wall in my recovery process. I can recognize how far I've progressed in my recovery. After all, I can now bend my knee almost as much as I can bend the other knee. I walk without support (except at work where I still

TME Tuesday: We Like To Eat, Eat, Eat, Eat, Eat!

I had a moment last week when I had five minutes left in a session, and I asked my students what they wanted to sing about. They chose food, and I rapidly flipped through my mental file of food-based songs and wasn't satisfied with any of them. So, I made one up on the spot. It seemed to be pretty popular - kids started singing right away, which is usually my indication that they are attending and interested in what is happening. After the session, I jotted down the melody and the words so it wouldn't get away! Here is it, in its roughest form - solfege and lyrics. I haven't done the rhythm yet - that will take some time with the composition software that I just don't have at the moment - but here it is. I sing it with lots of syncopation (which I love when I am composing songs). To read this format, please note that all words are one syllable and each word has its own note (except for the last one which can be anything - change the rhythm to fit the word, but do

Reinventing Myself as Therapist

I spend quite a bit of time thinking (more these days since I am STILL on light duty due to my recovering knee) and have found that I am in a state of flux as a therapist. This happens to me every so often during my career and is never a bad thing. I believe that every music therapist (actually, every therapist - music or other) has to go through periods of self-examination and change in order to survive the rigors of the job. I also think that these times can either make or break a career. How I progress will help me to determine if and where I want to go as a music therapist. Here are the questions I ask myself during these times... Where do I want to be? What do I want to do? What gives me joy right now? What makes me stressed right now? Am I being effective as a therapist? How am I defining "effectiveness?" Do I like my job? Why or why not? What intrigues me in music therapy right now? What is my creativity level? What is my current philosophy of music, ther

Supplemental Sunday: I Got A Package!!

For the past six months, I have been a subscriber of Music Therapy Mailings , a fun service offered to music therapists by Tracy Reif, MT-BC. For $25 per month, I get an envelope around about the 15th that has a medley of things to use with clients. I never know what I'm going to get, so the arrival of the envelope is always a thrill! This month's envelope included several things that will supplement therapeutic music experiences for my clients. There is a book-in-progress for What A Wonderful World - the lyrics are printed on blank sheets, waiting for decoration and lamination. There is a full book for Earth Day - Help Our Earth - a piggy-back song. There is a lyric/melody sheet for Pick A Bale of Cotton , some cotton shapes for use as recommended by thte song sheet, a highlighter (because, who doesn't need another highlighter?) and teo sets of Dr. Seuss cards - numbers and letters. The best thing about this is the mystery. Sometimes I get lots of little things. So

Session Contour or "How to Arrange Your Sessions So Your Fellow Teachers Don't Hate You When You Send Your Students to Them"

I had to apologize to several teachers this week. I am going to take about 55% of the responsibility for these apologies, and I am going to blame the full moon for the 45%. (I love when I can blame SOMETHING on moon phases!) My session contour was really poor this week. I tried to find an arc to my sessions, but my students went up and up and up and did not come down again, no matter what I tried with them! I first heard the concept of "session contour" from one of my music therapy professors. If I wanted to do so, I could probably figure out who first used the term, but I don't really want to delve into layers and layers of research at 5:14 in the morning, so I am just going to stop with the person who first told me about the concept. "Session contour" refers to how a therapist organizes the musical elements of his/her therapeutic music experiences (TMEs) to move clients from one emotional/behavioral/energy/arousal level to others during the session time. 

Eras are Ending

It's true. With the death of Prince yesterday, it is becoming evident that youth and adolescence is over. While I can't say I was ever a real big fan of Prince's, his music was prevalent and somewhat controversial when I was growing up.  I think most of the controversy came from his persona rather than his music, but he was one of those artists who combined the persona with his music. As complaints about who he was happened, more and more of my friends found him to be a role model. I think that may have been more a response to what their parents were saying than anything else, but the music was sound and demanding listening to, strengthening that bond and recognition. My parents were not really all that hip to music trends when I was growing up. Dad likes classical music and classic rock that reminds him of his nostalgia days. Mom likes Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, and the Kingston Trio and never really listens to music. She prefers singing herself to listening to some


The title of today's post is brought to you courtesy of Bella-cat who feels an urge to stand on the keyboard on a regular basis. I'm not sure what it means, but I bet you didn't either and that's why you are here, looking at this blog right now. So, now I have to figure out how to write a post that is worthy of this title. It is Thoughtful Thursday. I'm not thinking very much right now except for how much my body hurts after physical therapy yesterday and whether I will walk or shuffle into the music therapy room at work - probably shuffle. I have a quotation sitting on my desk within my gaze right now, but I haven't been with it long enough to have a coherent thought about it yet. You'll have to wait until next week for that one. So, shifting topics now... I was asked to sing at a wedding two Saturdays from now. The bride and groom are friends of mine. I've known them for a long time and have had the pleasure of watching their romance grow. The mi

The Man In Black

This week is Musician of the Month week. This is the week that I reveal the musician that has been posted on the wall for the last four weeks. I add a clue every week and refuse to confirm or deny any and all guesses during the month before. This month's musician is Johnny Cash, the Man in Black. I use my Musician of the Month idea to introduce my clients to music that they might not ever experience otherwise. My clients often have one genre that they identify with and don't ever waver from their belief that they like only that genre, but often find that they do enjoy a variety of music once they hear other things. They may say that they only listen to rap, but they can all sing along to many other types of songs. I try to find a variety of musicians to be my featured performer. We've found out information about John Williams, Beyonce, Beethoven, and we will be learning about the BeeGees, Adele, and others as I find them. I try to cover a variety of musical genres a

TME Tuesday:

Here's an idea from a recent edition of sing about travel . Please enjoy!   Therapeutic Music Experience Lonesome Traveler Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC  Purpose : To stimulate discussion about traveling, being alone, and other topics; to encourage entrainment to an external stimulus; social interaction Source : Hays, L. (1950). Lonesome Traveler . TME development and procedure © 2015 by Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC Materials : OPTIONAL: accompanying instrument; rhythm instruments for group members Environment : Group members where they can hear the song leader. Song/Chant/Words : This song has been covered by many different groups. Here is a link to the performance by The Weavers: Gm I am a weary and lonesome traveler, C                             Gm I am a weary and lonesome traveler, Gm I am a weary and lonesome traveler, C          D              Gm I been a travelin'

Session Planning - My Way

Today, I have three music therapy groups - two short duration groups and one long duration group. I know that we are going to have our Musician of the Month reveal this week and two themes to incorporate, but that is all that I have planned at this point. It is my plan to arrive at work, arrange the room the way I like it, and then plan the rest of my sessions for the week. Here's how I do this - please keep in mind that this is just how I do things. It is not a requirement for others to do it this way or even to like what I do. This works for me, and that's what's important for me. I do not write large, detailed session plans. I do write detailed Therapeutic Music Experience (TME) plans and could use those to write more detailed session plans, but I've found that to be a waste of my clinical time. My session planning consists of writing down one or two targeted TMEs for every group session that I'll run during the week. These tend to be the same across all gro

Supplemental Sunday: Dry Erase Sleeves

Oriental Trading Company has these things that I absolutely love - dry erase sleeves. Basically, the premise is that you put your visual aids (lyric sheets, pictures, etc.) into these clear folders and, voila, you've got dry erase materials. I love these things because I can make some unfinished materials, try them out with my clients, and then make new ones that I can laminate for durability later. My clients seem to like them as well. There is something about being able to use a dry erase marker that makes my clients happy. I like it, too! This is one of those things that makes my therapy life easier - working smarter, not harder! It's a supplemental for the supplementals and it works!!                                                                                                                         

You Have Two Days Left... come up with a presentation proposal for the American Music Therapy Association's National Conference. I have a music therapy friend who is relatively new to the profession (for me, that means anyone who hasn't had to recertify through the Certification Board for Music Therapy yet - just so you can have a reference point) who has caught the presentation bug. At first, this person felt the way I felt as a relative newbie - "Why would ANYONE want to hear what I have to say?" It took lots of persuading, but this person took the chance and sent in a presentation proposal for the regional conference that was not only accepted, but well-attended as well. When I was a newbie, I felt the same way about presenting for music therapists. "How could I think that I had anything to contribute to the lives of other therapists with more practice experience?" A friend of mine asked me to co-present and the experience was a good thing. Lots of people came to listen

The Follies of Friday

I woke up this morning with a really good idea for a blog post that made me think, "I need to get this down as soon as possible." Of course, by the time I actually got myself to the computer to write, the idea had just... gone. So, you are stuck with this blog post instead. Maybe the other one will eventually materialize, but that's just the breaks. (That's why I have super sticky post-it notes on my desk and in the car. You never know when good ideas will strike - don't let them go away!!) I have today off. We get a random day off in the middle of April just because. Today is that day. I have an early morning Skype date with a friend of mine (we're working on a project, but just like to talk to each other as well) and then I think I'll go grocery shopping. It's also payday, so I can afford to buy ANYTHING I WANT! Speaking of that, I should probably eat before I go shopping - otherwise I will buy ANYTHING I WANT - that's never a good thing. The

Thoughtful Thursday: Dare to be Ourselves

Oh, Shirley Briggs. What a quotation I have here on my desk. It's simultaneously something that should (goblin) evident and is still challenging. Be ourselves. Personally, this is a lesson that I've learned over and over again. It brings back thoughts about junior high school when I was truly a tagalong. It brings back thoughts about high school where some of the folks that I knew at church pitied me and my "lack of friends." They really didn't know me at all, and my mother leaped to my defense and then supported my decision not to participate in their delusions and activities. She also pointed out to the one person who was insistent that I was socially inept that when my name was announced during the Senior award banquet, the entire auditorium erupted. When that person's daughter was announced, there was polite clapping. (Gotta love a mom who waits for her moment to prove her point!!) Professionally, I think this is a lesson that we are still learning

TME Tuesday: An Old-Favorite Repurposed

I love it when ideas pop into my head fully formed. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does, it is almost magical. Some of my most popular TMEs with my students are those types of ideas - almost meant to be, if you know what I mean. So, yesterday I was sitting in my spot at work. During the morning transition period, I am in that place to be "spy" on the older students who now have "independence" to transition from the breakfast room to their classrooms without walking in a straight line. No one has realized that my function in the morning is to be hall monitor. They be-bop past me saying things like, "Mary Jane, I get to walk down the hallway BY MYSELF!" Anyway... I was sitting in the sunshine, keeping myself occupied through making origami fortune tellers (or some know them as cootie catchers), and the idea popped into my head. I struggle with teaching my students about notation. I've figured out how to teach rhythm and rhythm not