Monthly Archives: May 2010

Music Therapy: It’s all the rage!

As requested this post will cover some general ideas and definitions of what Music Therapy is, as well as how and where it is used.  I can’t pretend everyone is familiar with music therapy as much as they are with say… physical therapy… however, I am never hesitant to fill in interested folks on what’s going on in the music therapy world.  For example, I was sitting waiting for a table at the Olive Garden a few months ago, and this wonderful woman and her daughter wanted to do nothing more than chat about my future career vowing to look up information on music therapy when they returned home to Toronto, CA.  Reactions to my response “I am going for music therapy” typically go one of two ways: “Oh that’s nice” or “What is that??”  Regardless, I am always thrilled to share any knowledge I have, and a little advocacy never hurts!

What is music therapy?

Compliments of the AMTA website (thats’s American Music Therapy Association)…Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.

In other words, music therapy uses music as a medium in therapy not to teach music exclusively, but to address non-musical goals and objectives.

Music reaches people on a deep level, and is often successful (as shown through research) in pain management,  expressive and receptivecommunication,  memory, physical rehabilitation, emotional rehabilitation, and health.

Who do music therapists work with?

  • Infants, Children
  • Adolescents
  • Adults
  • Elderly
  • Substance Abuse
  • Eating Disorders
  • Brain Injured
  • Acute and Chronic pain
  • Developmental and Learning disabilities
  • Substance Abuse
  • Stroke patients
  • Oncology
  • The list goes on and on….

Where do they work?

  • psychiatric hospitals
  • rehabilitative facilities
  • medical hospitals, outpatient clinics, day care treatment centers
  • agencies serving developmentally disabled persons
  • community mental health centers
  • drug and alcohol programs
  • senior centers, nursing homes
  • hospice programs
  • correctional facilities, halfway houses
  • schools
  • private practice

Persons qualified to practice music therapy must be MT-BC which is board certified.  Masters degrees programs are also offerred, and in NY state a music therapist must obtain their LCAT- licence Creative Arts Therapy.

Music Therapists are excellent musicians, typically well learned on social instruments such as guitar, piano and voice, as well as knowledge in percussion studies and other instruments.  Music Therapists have a heavy course load in psychology, music, and therapy.

Any additional information can be found on the National Music Therapy Association website and


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Homemade Instruments: Great Summer Activity!

The summer is a great time to be inspired.  There’s nothing better than working towards a fun project and seeing it’s success.  I’ve been inspired this summer to be as “green” as possible, which has sprung up some cool projects that incorporate this! Homemade instruments can be way cooler than just a simple egg shaker.  The possibilities can be endless- especially with some innovative thinking.  Homemade instruments are nothing new, however, in my class: “Instrumental Methods and Repertoire” this past semester, under the instruction of Chris Gold, a guest speaker, Tim Austin shared some of his way-neat homemade collections including a tub-wash bass, spoons and a personal favorite of mine: The “Can-jo.”

The Can-jo:

  • Get a coffee can! Smaller one’s work best, especially if it will be used by small hands such as a client.
  • Anchor a piece of long wood (like a half-size guitar neck) to the bottom/side of the can with glue or anything else.  It should stick out of the can like a guitar neck.
  • Get a single string (guitar string or fishing line) and attach it to the bottom and top of the neck with screws, washers, nuts etc.
  • You can also get a tuning peg fairly cheap to attach to the top of the neck.  Wrap the string around it like you were stringing a guitar.  This way the can-jo is tunable.

I attended a session at National Conference in San Diego that discussed how to make a homemade Rim Drum.  This is a great community/group building activity and it’s easy!

  • Find something circle! A Rim head works best or even a knitting/quilting rim.  Just make sure it’s fairly solid.
  • Packing tape! You can get it in clear or any other color.  Have one person hold the rim while the other uses the tape.  It’s important to go around the rim first with the tape.  Next, start putting TIGHTLY pulled strips of tape from side to side of the rim.  Then repeat going the opposite way forming a tight seal.
  • Make mallets by wrapping tape around the top of sticks.
  • Add any colorful decorations!

Jingle Bracelets:

  • Get some elastic ponytail holders in different colors.
  • Get some jingle bells!
  • Either cut the elastic bands and thread though the bells, making a knot after each one, or glue or sew bells onto band. Either way works!

Thanks everyone! I hope your inspired to go out and try these on your own or with your clients! Happy Summer!


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Interesting Instruments- Bird Whistle!

Getting swept up in summer is easy to do.  My time away from “hitting the books,” going to classes and studying is relieving and giving me a lot of opportunity for professional exploration, summertime activities and personal projects! This past weekend I took a quick trip out to the big city- NewYork! I pleasantly stumbled upon a huge festival running down 6th avenue that was swarming with fun vendors and “eclectic” cultural instruments.  Tents filled with kalimba’s and djembe’s and blaring traditional jamaican music were just the tip of the iceberg! I was attracted to my favorite stand first and foremost by the sounds that were coming from it! It was a asian gentleman and his posse of bird whistlers! It was wonderful.  Everyone had a bird whistle- each one unique and different and they were making the most interesting noises. Not only was the man “way cool” even though he barley spoke english, but he genuinely wanted to tell me about the instruments and show me how to get the best sounds out of them.  It was so insightful.  This man was just so happy to sell me his bird whistles, and to demonstrate them for me.  It was such a neat “musical experience” standing on the streets of New York playing a hand carved bird whistle with a man i had never met, and still we had this experience together.  Here’s a short clip of the bird whistle, what it looks like, and the sounds it makes.  Some ways to use it you ask?

  • A group bird call with the elderly or with children!
  • In a small group (2 clients) have them have a conversation using the bird whistles to practice non-verbal communication.
  • A bird chorus/play- acting out a beautiful bird chorus.  Some clients can even take a solo when directed.

Thanks for checking back!

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How To Have a Productive Summer!

I just took my last exam! RELIEF! I’m all freed up for the summer. However, I can’t help but shake this feeling of emptiness.  I KNOW every student feels it… the “what do I do now?” feeling.  As students, we’re so used to running ragged for 8 months out of the year, and when we’re all done, we’re not sure how to appreciate the time off.  Word of advice: don’t waste your time staying up until 5 am and sleeping until 2 in the afternoon like I have a tendency to do during vacations.  I’ve made a vow to myself that I will make a goal list… and finish it! Here are a few of my goals for this summer… feel free to take some of mine, and don’t be afraid to add your own!

  • Catch up on personal reading!- We are constantly reading stuff for our classes but we never, ever have time during the school year to read things we really want to.  Here our a few suggestions from myself and other students:

–       “The Curious Case of the Dog in the NIght” by Mark Haddon

–       “This is your brain on music” by Daniel Levitan

–       “Musicophilia” by Oliver Sacks

  • Research internships- This is my biggest goal! I’m heading into my senior year and the time to start applying is going to sneak up sooner than I’m ready.  Research populations, sites, site phiosophies, and gather applications.
  • Find a population your interested in and see if there is a music therapist working with that population in your area.  Shoot them a professional email and ask if you could shadow them and/or volunteer.  It’s a great thing for your resume, and gives you excellent experience!
  • Learn a cool new instrument thats not to intense.  I want to learn harmonica and maybe recorder this summer.  It will just add to the list of cool skills you have, and it will really come in handy when your a professional or in your practicums as a student if you can bust on different instruments.
  • Network and work on your resume.  Not always fun, but it pays off in the end.
  • Relax! By all means!!! Do things you really enjoy that your normally to busy to do.  I’m hitting up the public market tomorrow because buying local is something i’m really passionate about.  Re-connect with yourself because during the school year it’s easy to put that on the back burner!

Have a great summer everyone!!


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Techie Tuesday! Garage Band!

There’s nothing more great to leave a client with then a CD with tracks of all the most successful songs worked on during your time together.  This is true for any population.  This past semester, I left my client with all 4 of the songs that addressed his goals, motivated him to work toward them, and most importantly, function as a tool for him to use long after our time together.  There are many ways to record your voice and instrument, however, my personal favorite is Garage Band.  It’s getting used more and more in therapy sessions for recording and personal client projects, and it’s becoming one of the music therapists best tools.

  • Like I said, Garage Band is great for recording and burning CD’s for your client.  This is great for closure and provides your client with a resource to continue working on what you were in the session.
  • Having that recording may in fact be a way for clients to work through the same things they worked through with the live version. It’s not as good… but it serves the same purpose by coming pretty close.
  • Leslie Hunter MT-BC in Rochester NY for Boces uses Garage Band with her students to create personal projects that are very rewarding for the kids.  Garage Band allows you to choose your instruments,”draw” to beat patterns and overlay them on top of each other.  I don’t have all the details on what she does… I recommend getting in touch with her if you’re interested.
  • It’s super techie!- I have a new Macbook model, and it allows me to select the kind of recording i’m going to do: songwriting, solo vocals, acoustic, piano etc.  Then you have the option of adding whatever instrument tracks you want.  Just like in the recoding studio, you can record each component separately, then fuse them all together in the end.

Here’s a recording of a song I did for my client this semester.  It’s to the song “Goodnight Irene” but he would insert his wife’s name during the chorus.

Thanks for checking back!

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