Monthly Archives: June 2010

The Baltic Street Band

This past March, at the Mid-Atltantic Region Conference in Pittsburgh, PA, many music therapy students, including myself, were inspired by a presentation about Peter Jampbel and the Baltic Street Band.  What does a band have to do with music therapy you ask? Let me tell you.

Peter Jampbel leads the program through the Baltic Street Mental Health Center located in Brooklyn, NY.  He uses music therapy with clients suffering from a wide range of mental disorders and some dual diagnoses to improve their social skills, communication skills and most importantly, improving their self esteem. The group plays “out” together in front of audiences, each client, therapist or intern taking on a different role in the band (vocals, rhythm, guitar, bass, tech).  He uses a real progressive approach to music therapy, and uses the therapeutic expereince of playing together, playing out, and having the self esteem to play as the therapy.

–       what can you bring out in the moment?

–       Therapeutic band experience

–       Use music to meet client where they are, but also tailors music experience and creative vision by supporting each other (switch instruments, backing vocals)

  • Where does the music come from?

-Various backgrounds and cultures: jazz standards, modern rock, traditional Irish, Broadway —> wide range! Tie it together thematically.

-Musical Techniques: Music Education concepts

The Challenges? According to the presentation, being part of the band as well as the therapist creates a juggling act.  You have to “work on the big picture stuff with the band, while still focusing on small details like hitting correct notes, rhythms and intervals. However,  being able to be the “glue” of the performance allows the therapist to make interventions during the performance and in the moment on stage.”  Walking over to one of the clients and interacting with them musically one-on-one creates special moments.

The Baltic Street with also put on benefit concerts such as “Boo The Shoe” which benefitted problems with persons with mental illnesses incarcerated in prison .

An article about the Baltic Street Band can be found at

To find out  more about the Baltic Street Mental Health Center, visit



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Kristen Muldoon speaks about the Jamaican Field Service Project

“Guest writer, Kristen Muldoon, is a junior music therapy major at Nazareth College of Rochester.  She recently came back from her trip to Jamaica as part of the Jamaican Field Service Project where she worked with 3 different populations, having the experience of a lifetime…” -Sarah

Wow, where to begin. Without a doubt, the ten days I spent in Jamaica will always be one of the best experiences of my life. I think I can speak for our entire group when I say the things we saw, the friends we made, and the work we did with the people at the sites will remain in our minds and hearts forever.

After flying into Montego Bay Airport, we made our way to Great Huts. Check out the website! Staying in huts, tents and tree houses, with outdoor showers and a pen full of rabbits and roosters, we were certainly roughing it… but it made the experience that much more authentic and exciting! Our food and drink was always freshly made – jerk chicken and pork, rice and beans, and tons of fruits and veggies.

Just at the bottom of the guest house was Boston Bay Beach where we could swim, take a surf lesson, lounge in a hammock, or jump off a cliff!

We had a great time taking hikes, going to other local beaches and getting to know each other. Every night the whole group would get together; we’d talk about our days and things coming up. But most exciting, we’d drum! Our supervisor, Eric, taught us a ton of authentic Jamaican and African beats. We practiced together every night, and on our last day there we had a big performance in town with the locals.

Of course the most remarkable portion of the trip was the music therapy work we were able to do at three different sites. We split the therapy students into groups and alternated working at each site. First was the School of Hope. The children here had a variety of cognitive and learning disabilities and deafness. They responded unbelievably well to the music and interventions. We brought bags of small drums and accessory percussion to use with them. You could tell from the smiles on their faces that music definitely resonated with them – and fittingly, they really loved the resonator bells 🙂

We also went to a homeless shelter and an infirmary. Despite the initial shock of the sad and disturbing things we witnessed there, we were able to really connect with these people. Traditional Jamaican songs and gospel melodies became our staple set-list from room to room. Several if not all of these people had not had a visitor since the last JAFSP group visited. We brought tears to their eyes with the music, and they brought tears to ours when we had to say goodbye. I personally connected with the people in the infirmary in such a way that made me never feel surer of my passion for music therapy.

My experience in Jamaica was absolutely life-changing. I experienced a completely different culture and lifestyle, which made a huge impact on how I look at things today. I made many new friends, and connected with fellow music therapists who could very well be my colleagues one day. Without a doubt, I enjoyed doing the therapy at the sites, but being able to work together with the other students made  it that much more rewarding. In such a short amount of time, we were able to make such a lasting impression on the people who received the therapy.  I will never forget this experience, as it was probably the most rewarding trip of my life.

Kristen Muldoon MTS

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iPhone Drum Kit

In honor of the iphone 4 coming out today… as well as the update available for the iphone 3G a few days ago, I decided to talk a little about an cool app that I came across when I first got my phone.

Budget got you down? Sometimes as music therapists we don’t have all the resources we would like readily available to us… sometimes we do (which is great!) A drum kit not in the budget? It’s ok! Although nothing can replace the motor planning and movement that a real drum kit provides, as well as the coordination required to play anything, there is an app that is pretty much the next best thing.  It works for either the iphone, or if you want an even better experience, an iPad has a much larger screen and more capabilities.  The app on my phone is called “drum kit lite,” and it is complete with a 10-piece virtual drum kit that responds to touch or tapping.  You can even play more than one drum at the same time! Just like real drums are very success oriented, so is this app- it always works, and it almost never sounds bad.  It’s a great tool to have- and clients can play along with you, and any generation would find it neat and get enjoyment out of playing these virtual drums.  The full version has even more to offer for just a dollar or two.  The drum kit app is great to work on fine motor within the arms, fingers, and palms- and you can control the volume!

Thanks for checking back!


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Children’s Books Adapted!

There are a plethora of children’s stories out there… and what’s so great is that most are easily adapted to music.  This is awesome for music therapists because setting a story to music will typically allow a child to stay focused longer, be engaged, increase their recall, and improve rhythmic skills.

One children’s book that i’ve had experience with is “Animal Boogie” by Debbie Harter.  First introduced to me in a music therapy class, it seemed like a great tool to use during a session.  However, when my first practicum assignment came… a movement activity… I quickly regretted my decision.  I’m sure it was my lack of inexperience, my client being unfamiliar with me, combined with the extreme overstimulation the book and CD presented him with that led this activity into the swirling vortex of doom and embarrassment (for me of course).  My client, a child with Autism, shut down and did anything but “active movement.”  The book is very colorful (which is great), but combined with me holding the book, and the CD recording which modulates every other verse on top of being very very fast and quick moving was a recipe for disaster.  It was a learning experience, and once I took a step back and looked at it again, I realized there are ways to adapt this CD/book set and make it more manageable and user friendly for music therapists.

Here is a recording of the actual CD that comes with the book.

It jumps very fast from creature to creature, and you have no control of the speed of the recording.  Using a different instrument to accompany you, like a simple shaker or hand drum allows the therapist to regain control of the activity.  You now have to power to slow down, speed up, and add little extra cue to trigger certain movement such as a shaking sound (for bear).  You can also repeat certain verses or lines, and emphasize the words since you are no longer competing with the recording.  The recording may be great for a group of high functioning children, however it’s great to know that it’s easily adaptable and I can add it back into my repertoire with no regrets!  Comments and suggestions are welcome.  Thanks for checking back!

Watch out for a guest writer post by junior Kristen Muldoon at Nazareth College of Rochester, who just returned from Jamaica as part of the Jamaican Field Service Project. She will be talking about her experience and recommendations!


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Finding Your Balance

Jobs, school, household chores, everything breaking at once , money and relationships.  Did I miss something? Oh you mean my “self?” Ha. Who has time for that.

Life can get overwhelming.  What? You can’t juggle a billion things at once..? It’s clearly you. But it’s not! Finding and maintaining some balance in your life as a working professional or as a hard working student is extremely challenging.  Keeping good mental and physical health are part of our job.  The healthier you are all around, the more positive your client relationships will be.

Finding your balance and rhythm are things that we as music therapy students and professionals try to maintain in our sessions with clients.  Practicing what we preach in our work lives and to our clients is important to remember.

  1. Find a schedule that works for you.  Use routines as anchors throughout your day.
  2. Organization is key to happiness! Even if it takes an extra second to do it right the first time… it makes your day much smoother and you don’t have to worry about it anymore!
  3. Express yourself if your growing stressed or frustrated.  Know your limit and know when it’s time to step aside.
  4. Focus your energy and attentions to your clients throughout the day, but don’t forget about yourself.  Your clients will benefit more if you are in check.
  5. Find a groove that works for you and take time out for yourself during off hours and weekends.
  6. Life is a balancing act.  Pinpoint the items you need to balance, and focus on those.  Your life will soar once it’s in order.  It only gets easier.

Easier said than done? Right. But putting a little extra effort into maintaining your balance results in a happier you- both during and after sessions.  Optimism is the key!


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Need some closure?

Ever get stumped for some closing song ideas? Here are two songs that can be great for any populations.

The first was a song I wrote for my first practicum.  The children loved it because it’s easy to sing along to, it’s catchy and it gives them an opportunity to fill in some blanks.

Goodbye, Goodbye, Goodbye.

So long. Farewell. Goodbye.

Everybody stretch up high.  Everybody say “Goodbye.”

We had so much fun today, but now it’s time to wave (wave) and say.

Goodbye, Goodbye.  Music is all done.

The second is a song I used for my second practicum. I picked the song up from National Conference in a session about the Jamaican Field Service Project.  It is called “Buddhist Blessing”, and it’s great for adults and older populations. It can be used and adapted to fit the needs for most clients.  For my client with Primary Progressive Aphasia, the song was used as a building block.  In our first session, my client chose his own specific words that would be put in the song.  They were wrote out for him on index cards and at the close of every session we would sing the song, and he would use the cards to fill in the blanks at the appropriate time.  The song was recorded for him at the end of our sessions.

May you be filled with (blank) and (blank)

May you be well

May you be (blank) and (blank)

May you be happy. May you be happy.

Thanks for checking back.  Comment with questions, comments, or suggestions!



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Internships: The Great Hunt

As I move into my senior year as a music therapy major, many questions and uncertainties are beginning to arise.  It’s a transitional part of my life, and for other classmates all across the U.S.  Most student’s about to graduate are applying for jobs, and looking into what direction they want to take their major and education in.  Music Therapy majors, like myself, are doing something a little different. It’s all about the “great hunt,” for internships! I can only speak for myself and my experience thus far with the hunt.  Many students have different situations than mine, and are restricted to where they may or want to apply.  I consider this time VERY scary, but also VERY exciting! The sky is the limit! Questions run through my head everyday: Where do I want to live…Will I like the location… What population do I want to specialize in…. East Coast or West Coast…..Private Practice, Hospital, or other…. The questions are endless.  It’s very exciting to get to choose where you want to spend 6 months (or maybe more!) and also decide what direction you want to go in with music therapy since there are so many options.  For those just beginning the hunt, you can find internship listenings on the American Music Therapy Association Website, or if you are a member of AMTA you will be sent the National Roster of approved internships.


  • There are ALOT of internships
  • It lists them by city and state
  • There are a lot of populations and locations
  • It’s VERY overwhelming

Here’s what you can do to make it easier:

  1. Narrow down your preferred populations in your head.  List pros and cons.  The hunt will be a lot easier if you have a focus in mind
  2. Narrow down locations.  Research cities and states, average temperatures, culture etc.  You need to be comfortable if you are moving far away, or out of state.  Your internship should be a positive experience so don’t let the homesick blues be the reason you don’t enjoy it.
  3. Run through the national roster and make an initial list of possible internships.  I copy and pasted them from the website onto a word document to make it more manageable.
  4. If your initial list is to lengthy, go through it again.  Carefully read information about each internship including location, stipend, what’s included (or not) and population.
  5. Make a final list.  Try your best to rank your top internship choices.  I again, copy and pasted the basic information of each internship into a another document along with the contact information of the internship supervisor and the website if included.
  6. Research your top internships! This includes population, and the the facility.  Look for websites and internship descriptions.  Mark under each internship on your word document if the application for applying is “On the Web,” “Online Download,” or if you need to “Email for information.”
  7. Send out appropriate emails.
  8. Start filling out those applications!

Organization is key to the application process and making sure your on top of things coming in and items going out.  Make sure your resume and essays reflect who you are as a person, professional and music therapist in training.

I’m sure it’ll all work out! Keep your head up and be positive! Feel free to leave a comment with any questions about this or any other topics.

Thanks for checking back!


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