Tuesday, September 29, 2009

*NSYNC With Music Therapy!

I wanted to bring some attention to a nice story in the news. Now that I am in Florida, this endorsement hit much closer to home! Joey Fatone, formerly of NSYNC just donated funding for a music therapy program at the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando. Palmer Hospital is exclusively dedicated to children and has a long history of exemplary care. I think it is terrific that a big name in the music industry is recognizing the value and power of music therapy and putting their money to good use. Way to go Joey!

Click here for original story

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Schoolhouse Rock! Jam Studio.


I saw this website mentioned by some of the local music therapists and played around on it today. What a cool application! This is a really easy to use music factory set up to play loops. The key factors that make this studio so fantastic is the easy way you can enter chords and then save the song for future use. The real bonus is that it sounds great! If you have an internet connection for your classroom or music therapy session with a client this website has great potential!

If you are used to playing guitar, then the music is very easy to input into the site. You just put the chords in the slots and then choose your guitar style and drum rhythm and push the play button. I can see this site being a big hit for clients in junior high and high school. This age group likes to sound like the music being played on the radio and sometimes gets turned off by acoustic guitar and rhythm instruments. They can be part of the song writing process and choose the style of playing for each instrument. The kids or clients can even choose some of their favorite artists and have the song play automatically in that style. If the song comes out in the wrong key and is too high or low for easy singing, just hit the button and change the key! The sound of a completed song is very nice.

Give it a try! Take a break from Facebook and I guarantee you won't be disappointed! Let's jam!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Adapted Song Series: Pop the Bubble!

Pop the Bubble.wav

Click on the radio to hear the song!

I wrote this song in order to take advantage of the power of bubbles. I often see special education teachers using bubbles as a motivation tool or sensory-motor experience. I had a client who needed to work on "P" and "B" sounds, so writing a song just made sense. I wrote the song so that children in a group could practice taking turns blowing the bubbles while clapping to the beat. Once there were bubbles airborne this naturally flowed into trying to pop the bubbles. I encourage my clients to say, "POP!" every time they clap their hands. For some of the children, they can approximate by saying the sound for the letter P or B. I like the fact that in this song the kids are clapping for their peer in support, but also practicing important motor and communication skills by trying to pop the bubbles. I just made a quick recording so that you can hear the song, but I often sing it without the guitar since I am facilitating the bubble blowing. The kids always love this song! Have fun!

Pop the Bubble!

D                        G        D

Watch ______ blow the bubble,

                        G            D    

Watch ______ blow the bubble!


Clap your hands and pop the bubble,

C                            D

Clap your hands and pop the bubble!


Clap your hands and pop the bubble,

        E7                A7

Say, p-p-p-p-pop.......Pop!


(and - POP)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Music and Sensory Stories: Sensory Integration 101

My experience working with children who have autism has impressed upon me that we need to explore avenues for sensory integration. It seems to me that children with autism are often overwhelmed by the environment or become too focused on details in the environment so that they are too preoccupied to interact with another person or task. I found a website with a very good description of sensory integration therapy: Healing Thresholds. I like their presentation about what sensory integration therapy looks like in a therapeutic setting. They also provide a good explanation about why sensory integration might be required: to improve the ability of the mind to process sensory input and use the knowledge to function in the regular world.

They discuss several examples of sensory integration activities including, "Sensory stories." Sensory stories are similar to social stories in that they strive to present common social situations in a simplified manner with easy to remember verbal and social protocols to follow. The sensory stories present situations where multiple sensory inputs may occur simultaneously and require a strategy to cope with the input. I have been able to use music by placing some social stories into a song. This motivates the child to participate and enhances memory of the instructions given in the story. Music can also be used as a cue to use the rules outlined in the story. A teacher or therapist only has to start singing the song and a child will often complete the song and follow through on the instructions.

Successful use of music with social stories leads me to believe that similar results may be obtained by using music with sensory stories. In addition to music facilitating motivation and memory of a story, music is itself a sensory input. Singing about coping strategies for auditory, visual and tactile sensory experiences automatically helps a child to practice synthesizing music and hearing or reading. Many musical instruments can provide additional sensory input to reflect events in a sensory story. Music can be a fun and creative way to augment sensory stories!

Here are some of my favorite instruments that could be used with sensory stories:

Friday, September 18, 2009

Side Notes: Florida State University

I have now been at Florida State University for one month! So far it has been a fantastic experience to be pursuing the doctoral degree in music therapy. Tallahassee is a pretty town and the university atmosphere is very friendly and supportive. I have the privilege of studying with some of the most published researchers in the music therapy/music education field and I look forward every day to gaining new insight into research and treatment in the world of music therapy.

I am sure that I will be able to share many new ideas and explore aspects of music therapy that I had not thought of before. My current focus in school is learning how to write a course curriculum for a music therapy drumming class that I will be teaching next semester. I will also be brushing up on my knowledge about research and statistics in preparation for my own experimental designs. I would like to conduct some new studies about music assisted relaxation to improve mood in cardiac rehabilitation patients. I may also look at some new techniques for addressing sensory integration through music therapy with children who have autism.

I love sharing what I learn. Just today I found out that there is a very impressive museum about Thomas Edison in Ft. Myers, Florida! This museum has a large collection of early recording and player devices from the turn of the century. Find it here. Stay tuned for much more to come!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tony Melendez: Guitarist Extraordinaire!

Wow! I am currently teaching three sections of beginning class guitar so this kind of video really hits home. I love inspirational stories like this!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Research: Review: The Use of Music with Young Children to Improve Sustained Attention

The Spring issue of the Journal of Music Therapy had some interesting research about music and attention for school children. This research was nice because it helps in confirming common sense thinking that information provided during a song is more memorable. The abstract for the research can be found here.

The study presented the same educational material in different conditions: music without distractions, music with distractions, spoken without distractions and spoken with distractions. The most important thing that the researchers found was that there was a significant difference between music with distractions and spoken with distractions. This finding has positive implications for teaching and therapy in the classroom. The distractions were the sound of sirens, people talking or a phone ringing. Unfortunately, these are all common distractions that occur everyday in the classroom, so trying to teach through these distractions is very important.

This study was done with 76 well children who were not classified with disabilities or illness. The sample is relatively small and the study will have to be repeated across multiple sites or with a much larger population sample to increase robustness of the findings. The study will also have to be recreated using different populations with disabilities to see if the significant results are maintained. The subjects in this experiment were wearing headphones that precisely controlled the music and verbal instruction as well as the distracting noises. It will be interesting to discover if the significant findings in this research can be maintained under free field testing conditions or when the music is live and not recorded. This study is a great milestone and foundational resource for further investigation!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Broadcast Live! Recorded for Future Programming.

Music therapists can often get into a lively discussion about the appropriate use of recorded music in therapy. I know many music therapists who prefer only to use live music when working with clients. Live music is powerful because of the subtle changes in pitch, dynamics, tempo, etc., that make a truly unique product each time a song is played or sung. Live music can also be rapidly changed to fit a situation to meet a client's needs. The music therapist also offers live music because that is usually one of the special tools they bring to a situation that at teacher or health care provider cannot provide. In general, this is a good standard, but I think there are compelling situations where recorded music may be used very successfully.

One of the most important ways recorded music can facilitate therapy is to provide musical accompaniment so that the therapist can have hands free of playing the guitar or piano. I like to provide a recorded song that has accompanying motions so that I can use some hand over hand prompts with certain clients to help them do the motions. This is also the case in dancing or movement to music activities where the therapist needs to demonstrate the gross motor movements. I often use recorded music to facilitate relaxation. Modeling deep breathing, stretching and relaxed posture are much easier when I am not playing the piano or guitar!

Another great possibility for recorded music is using it for lyric analysis. It is possible to play a song on the guitar and discuss the lyrics, but sometimes it is more effective to listen to the original song and then have a discussion about what the song is saying. The recorded music usually has more emotional connection with individuals and prompts more verbal participation. I have successfully used music in this way to facilitate art activities where the music and lyrics inspire drawing and coloring in a group setting.

Overall, I think recorded music should be used sparingly by music therapists. If recorded music will help meet the needs of the client, then its use is warranted. The therapeutic application of recorded music is preceded by careful selection of the music to present the proper tempo, style, lyric content, timbre and focus for a specific activity. The knowledgeable music therapist uses their musical and therapeutic expertise in choosing the music and implementing its use for a stated objective.

These thoughts brought to you live by Music Makes Sense!

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