Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Wheels on the Bus!

WARNING! This is not your typical book review!

This semester I have been in Dr. C. Madsen's class on the Modification of Behavior. The textbook for the class is:

Teaching/Discipline: A Positive Approach for Educational Development

I could choose any book to review by taking ideas we learned in class and explaining how they applied to the book. I chose, The Wheels on the Bus, because I thought if I could apply the theories of behavior modification to a children's book, then I should have a good grasp of the concepts! (I also happen to love this book!) If you get lost with some of the behavior "mod" jargon, then go read Teaching/Discipline. That book is the basis for every successful behavior management program out there. Every therapist should have a thorough understanding of the ideas Dr. Madsen presents.

Zelinsky has created a wonderful book that I frequently use in therapy and with my own daughter, Darby. The book is colorful and has pop-ups and moving parts that are visually appealing to young children. Zelinsky has remained faithful to the song for his inspiration and kept the traditional lyrics as text for the book. On the surface, Zelinsky’s book tells a simple story, but it also contains many examples regarding the principles of behavior modification.

The story centers around a city bus opening its doors to a myriad of townspeople on their way to various destinations. Any city bus system is part of an overall strategy of government to promote mass transit as a preferred mode of transportation. In essence, the city is running a government sponsored behavior modification program. The pinpoint is that there are too many cars on the roads causing traffic and congestion. A city usually has several parts of a highly developed consequent in order to increase bus ridership. Taxes are levied on automobiles, gas and parking. Parking restrictions are enforced so that there are fewer spaces for cars and more room for bus stops. Positive reinforcement includes the city subsidizing payment for bus fare and creating special bus lanes to allow buses freedom of movement. Public awareness advertising emphasizes the value of using the bus system. Evaluation of these programs indicated that bus ridership increased, but only for people who did not also have a car.

The people on the bus often must contend with noisy distractions like the windows going up and down and the window wipers swishing back and forth. Another nuisance is the crying babies. In the story, the mamas on the bus just tell the babies, “Shush, shush, shush!” The babies do not necessarily respond to this plea because it is not a sufficiently powerful disapproval and there are not contingent consequences. One possible solution to the crying babies could be a program that includes rewards for quiet behavior. Pacifiers, food and toys would be good motivators. The mothers may also want to approach bus riding in steps of successive approximation by taking their babies on the bus for short rides at first and increasing the time on the bus as the babies increase their tolerance and time of quiet behavior. In extreme cases, some mothers may have to practice systematic desensitization by exposing their babies to progressively louder noises as they are relaxed and happy until they are able to be on the bus without crying. Evaluation of these strategies has indicated that babies on the bus were able to sleep, sleep, sleep.

Zelinsky tells the story of the bus as it makes several stops throughout the city. The bus maintains a schedule on a variable interval, so some people miss the bus and others have to wait. Each time the bus picks up a rider, the bus driver provides verbal reinforcement by saying, “Move on back!” Some of the riders accept this as verbal approval, while others feel that it is disapproval, but they all respond to the reinforcement by following through on the directions. The narrative also relates that there is sometimes traffic and bad weather. The driver on the bus frequently hits the horn, “Honk, honk, honk!” This behavior usually does not solve the traffic problem since the bus driver is unable to follow through with contingent rewards or punishments and must continue to drive the bus to the next stop.
Overall, Zelinsky offers a colorful tale of life in the city. The characters in the story lead a life of repetition and generally allow their environment to dictate their actions. In reality, who decides what kind of bus system a city will have and who decides who will decide? Children love to read this book over and over until they have developed conditioned responses to many different phrases such as, “The wheels on the bus,” go, “round and round!” This has been a favorite book in my house and for road trips as we travel all through the town.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Book Review: The Science and Psychology of Music Performance

Parncutt and McPherson have collected a wide range of articles regarding music research as it relates to learning and performance. Each chapter is authored by two clinicians or researchers so that there is always one scientist and one musician representing a chapter. The book is meant to be multidisciplinary and cross cultural so that views from music psychology, education and acoustics are all represented, but not any one country within the music of Western Civilization is dominant. The main thrust of the book is to help teachers and performers apply research findings to the actions of creating and making music. The book is divided into three parts: the developing musician, sub skills of music performance, and instrument and ensembles.

The first part of the book describes issues that may impact a performer from early childhood all the way through professional musicianship. Research is discussed about identifying musical potential in young children and how to nurture and build on early musical skills that are discovered. Key ideas in this section include the finding that musical preference for the type of instrument and musical style are much more important as an indicator for future success as a performer than technical skill. The phenomenon of performance anxiety can also be increased or attenuated early on through performance experiences by the young musician. The authors of the chapter on performance anxiety urge teachers to carefully screen young performers who seem to be equating self-esteem with their identity as a performer.

The first section of the book also emphasizes the role of environment on musical learning by presenting research that the brain is most flexible early in life. The authors recommend that teachers look for opportunities to involve as many aspects of music as they can during childhood in order to capitalize on the brain’s power to network and make associations among its different parts. They recommend, for example, that singing and moving should accompany all instrument playing lessons. The idea that the brain is linked together is a common theme throughout the book and is referred to during discussions of memory, sight reading, improvisation, and instrument-specific technique recommendations.

The second section of the book covers the individual skills that are necessary for music performance. This ranges from sight reading to memory and improvisation skills to the structural elements of expression. The chapter on sight reading admits that sight reading is not emphasized in contemporary music education, but argues that professional musicians could benefit from better sight reading skills because they could learn music faster and potentially find more frequent paying jobs. The authors of the chapter on sight reading and improvisation both agree that performers can increase their skill by combining theory, analysis and memorizing of rules and patterns. They also espouse a need for more research into the idea of group creativity.

Memory is a central feature to many sub skills of performance and figures prominently in the book. Several chapters recommend, either directly or indirectly, that teachers should explore methods of memorizing based on understanding of the material and not just through rote learning. The research reviewed in the book reveals that most students tend to compartmentalize theory from playing and ultimately end up memorizing by rote, but that most successful solo artists use a thorough analysis of a musical work to help them memorize the notes.

The final section of the book examines the individual disciplines of music performance. The editors have included almost every genre of performance except for percussion and dance. Each chapter, whether on the solo voice, piano performance, or choir singing, tries to explain how new research in acoustics and physiology may be helpful for the teacher and student in each setting. The chapter on solo voice, for example, examines the anatomical design of the voice and its function in singing. It provides pedagogical implications for teachers and singers based on new research made possible by advances in medical technology, particularly the MRI and X-ray. Many of the authors in this section lament the fact that much of current teaching methods rely on anecdotal or experiential evidence for their instruction rather than on empirical findings.

Overall, the book is well presented and easy to read. The editors have included all the bibliographic information at the end of each chapter for easy reference while reading. The authors and editors seem to have a strong desire to bridge the gap between research and practice. Many of the chapters offer intriguing insights that can be immediately integrated into private lessons in almost any performance area. There is definitely something for everybody in this book. Violinists to pianists to singers will all find research-based knowledge that can be transferred into practice during rehearsal.

Friday, April 16, 2010

What's with all this drumming anyway?

Here is a short reference list for some articles and books that support the idea of drumming for therapeutic benefit. These documents form the core of knowledge regarding using drumming in therapy. Much of the research for using drumming protocols for stress reduction or wellness has been conducted by Dr. Barry Bittman. I have also listed several books that talk about drum circles, drum circle facilitation and other ways to use drumming for different types of groups. Christine Steven's and Bill Matney's books provide the most information about adaptations related to music therapy. I have placed links to source materials where possible.

Bittman, B., Bruhn, K. T., Stevens, C., Westengard, J., & Umbach, P. O. (2003). Recreational music-making: A cost-effective group interdisciplinary strategy for reducing burnout and improving mood states in long-term care workers. Advances, 19, 3/4.

Bittman, B., Snyder, C., Bruhn, K., Liebfreid, F., Stevens, C. K., & Westengard, B. S. (2004). Recreational music-making: An integrative group intervention for reducing burnout and improving mood states in first year associate degree nursing students: Insight and economic impact. International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, 1,

Bittman, M. D., Berk, L. S., Felten, D. L., Westengard, J., Simonton, O. D., Peppas, J., & Ninehouse, M. (2001). Composite effects of group drumming music therapy on modulation of neuroendocrine-immune parameters in normal subjects. Alternative Therapy Health Medicine, 7, 38-47.

Bittman, B., Berk, L., Shannon, M., Sharaf, M., Westengard, J, Guegler, K., & Ruff, D. (2005). Recreational music-making modulates the human stress response: A preliminary individualized gene expression strategy. Medical Science Monitor, 11, 31-41.

Friedman, R. L. (2000). The Healing Power of the Drum
Reno, NV: White Cliffs Media.

Kalani (2004). Together in Rhythm: A Facilitator's Guide to Drum Circle Music (Book & DVD)
Los Angeles, CA: Alfred Publishing.

Matney, B. B. (2007). Tataku: The Use of Percussion in Music Therapy
Denton, TX: Sarsen Publishing.

Stevens, C. (2003). The Art and Heart of Drum Circles Book+CD Package
Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

When the Thought Counts!

There are several more cards with a musical theme now available through Lydia's Handmade Cards. She also has cards for birthdays, thank you and much more. She has even worked with customers to create custom cards for weddings, baby announcements and school-themed thank you cards. If you want to send someone something special and unique, please consider ordering some cards. She is happy to put text inside the cards or change the color scheme if you would like. Please e-mail her if you have questions or want to discuss a custom card. All of the cards are handmade with great care and I have even seen people frame them as art after receiving them!

Check her website often as there are always new designs being added, but here are some new choices for music cards.

It only makes sense to send something special when the thought counts!

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