Sunday, December 1, 2013

More fun with Remo Drums! The Aroma Drum!

Okay, you caught me!  I spent a lot of time at the Remo booth at the national conference for the American Music Therapy Association last week in Jacksonville!

The Aroma Drum is not new.  It has actually been around for several years.  But, recently, I began investigating essential oils like the ones used in the Aroma Drum.  The Aroma Drum comes with four different essential oil diffuser packs:  lavender, pink grapefruit, patchouli and eucalyptus.  You can see the drum up close in this video.  Although the video is a bit contrived, it does get the point across!

I used to think that the aromatherapy component of the drum was just a nice gimmick, but I have discovered that some of the essential oils may have statistically provable anxiolytic effects. My investigation so far has revealed that the lavender essential oil may be the most widely and historically used oil for stress relief. 

One randomized controlled study, by Sultani et al. (2013), found that post-tonsillectomy pediatric patients used significantly less acetaminophen (Tylenol) than a control group. In another study, dental patients spent time inhaling lavender while waiting for treatment (Kritsidima, Newton, & Asimakopoulou, 2010). The patients who waited under the influence of lavender aromatherapy had significantly lower state anxiety levels. 

These are just two of many studies relative to lavender essential oil. In light of the growing research base that confirms historical and anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of essential oils, I find the combination of essential oils and drumming a wonderful partnership! 

Unlike the lady in the video,however, I think the Aroma Drum used in a drum circle setting might be more effective, especially inside, where the scent could be more concentrated. A drum circle setting where a drum leader or facilitator would be walking around and waving the drum might more easily diffuse the lavender aroma. 

In any case, I think this drum is worth checking out! It is sold by itself or as a set with an accompanying CD and stress management guide. You can also purchase refill packs of the essential oils. Let me know if anyone out there has used one for yourself or in therapy. I am interested to know your thoughts! 

Happy drumming!


Kritsidima, M., Newton, T., and Asimakopoulou, K. (2010).  The effects of lavender scent on dental patient anxiety levels: A cluster randomised-control trial.  Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, 38, 83-87.

Soltani, R., Soheilipour, S., Hajhashemi V., Asghari, G., Bagheri, M., and Molavi, M. (2013).  Evaluation of the effect of aromatherapy with lavender essential oil on post-tonsillectomy pain in pediatric patients: A randomized controlled trial.  International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, 77, 1579-1581.

*Music Makes Sense is now part of the Blogdash network.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

More conference fun! Remo Artbeat drums!

Did any of you attending the national conference for the America Music Therapy Association in Jacksonville see the new Artbeat line of Remo drums??  These drums have actually been around since 2010, but now they will be on sale for the public starting in January!

These drums have special textured canvas heads that allow several different kinds of permanent art medium like paints, chalk and more.  Here is a short video that shows the drum being used for art: 


I was impressed by the resonance and overall good sound that came from the drums when I played them at the conference! I don't have any links for the new drums yet, but I did play one of the buffalo drums similar to this one at Amazon, just with the new canvas head:

I was informed that the drums would soon be available in different sizes and will include frame drums, djembes and even rainsticks or paddle drums! My first idea is to use a large frame drum during a group session to create a large mandala! I have proposed to my students that will be seniors next year to think about doing a fund raiser to purchase a large frame drum and then create a group mandala on the drum as a senior project. This drum can then be donated to the music therapy program as a senior gift! They seem to like the idea and I am very exited about this idea as well as other therapeutic applications. You can find other ideas about combining music and mandala art in one of my other posts here

Happy Thanksgiving and happy drumming!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Remo's New Versa Drums!

I had a chance to try out the new Remo line of Versa drums at the American Music Therapy Association national conference.  I was really impressed!  

They were amazingly light, but still had the good sound of a Remo tubano or djembe.  In addition, the ability to stack them and use the heads as hand drums makes them extremely versatile!  I think the name fits!

These drums are definitely worth checking out!  And great for the mobile music therapist!


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Robin Spielberg: Celebrity Spokesartist for the American Music Therapy Association

Robin Spielberg performed at the opening session of the AMTA national conference in Jacksonville, FL this year. She has been a spokesperson for music therapy since 2000.  She was a wonderful performer and wove her stories in between the playing of some of her favorite original piano compositions.  Her new book is:

My wife and I particularly love this album:

Thank you, Robin, for all you do for music therapy!!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

21st Century Tools for Educators and Supervisors: There's an App for That!

Here is the handout for our presentation at the 2013 AMTA national conference!  This outline will basically serve as a place to take notes and follow along.  Since we will be demonstrating most of the websites and apps live, there will not be a powerpoint or prezi with the details.  You will just have to attend to find out the details! 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Deciphering the Affordable Care Act: Its Effect on Music Therapy

  • Here is the Prezi from our presentation at the 2013 American Music Therapy Association national conference in Jacksonville! This is just an outline, so please let me know if you have questions. 
  • You can also join in the conversation at our Obamacare and Music Therapy Discussion Forum by clicking here or by clicking on the tab at the top of the page. Let's keep the discussion going! It is very important for music therapists to get and stay informed regarding the Affordable Care Act!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Affordable Care Act: Effect on Women and Children and Access to Music Therapy

This is a copy of the powerpoint slide presentation from my part of the Institute session November 20, 2013 at the American Music Therapy Association National Conference: Medical Music Therapy for Infants and Children. After a brief review of the timeline, my focus was on parts of the new law that may impact women's and children's access to insurance or medical care, and in effect, their possible access to music therapy. Since this is just an outline, please let me know if you have any questions!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Adding my Voice to the Voices of the Sea

American Music Therapy Association National Conference

Jacksonville, FL

November 20-24, 2014

I will have the opportunity to speak three times at this year's national conference for music therapy. 

Here is a sneak preview:

November 20, 2013 
12:30 pm - 6:30 pm
Institute: Medical Music Therapy for Infants & Children
*Chair: Jayne M. Standley, PhD, MT-BC

This session will feature prominent clinicians and researchers who specialize in medical music therapy for infants and children. It will include presentations on NICU MT research and innovations, music therapy for soothing infants with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, music therapy for burn treatment and other serious illnesses, pediatric and pediatric intensive care music therapy, use of music therapy in the Emergency Room with children, outpatient pediatric rehabilitation and early intervention, music therapy in physician offices, clinics, and/or day-care for medically fragile children. Counselling methods for stressed parents and teens with serious illnesses will be included. Program development and reimbursement issues for medical music therapy services will be reviewed. 

* I will participate in this institute by explaining some of the effects of the Affordable Care Act on healthcare for Women and Children. 

Friday, November 22, 2013  
7:30 AM to 9:00 AM
Deciphering the Affordable Care Act: Implications, Perceptions, and Current Knowledge within Music Therapy 
Elisa Aven, MT-BC; Daniel Tague, PhD, MT-BC

Saturday, November 23, 2013 
10:45 AM to 12:15 PM
21st Century Tools for Educators and Supervisors: There's an App for That!
Abbey Dvorak, PhD, MT-BC; Daniel Tague, PhD, MT-BC

I hope to see you there!


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Countdown to AMTA 2013! Obamacare and Music Therapy Updates

Sunset or Sunrise for Obamacare?

Here we are on "Government Shutdown Eve."  I thought it appropriate that I get back to my task of outlining not only the pros and cons of the Affordable Care Act, but also its potential impacts on music therapy.  I will be presenting regarding different aspects of Obamacare at two different sessions of the 2013 National Conference of the American Music Therapy Association this November in Jacksonville, Florida.  I will continue to post on various developments over the next few weeks in the run up to our national conference.  I hope you will join in the reading and the discussion!

Let's start with one of the most important ways I think the new law could impact music therapy services.  Music therapy in the last decade has made huge strides in becoming part of the wellness industry.  Music assisted relaxation, community drum circles and music-based team-building for corporate programs are now common across the country.

In June 2013, new rules and guidelines were released regarding wellness programs in the workplace.  Basically, Obamacare is promoting employer-based wellness programs by providing guidelines for discounts and punishments for employee participation in wellness programs.

Beginning in January 2014, employers will be able to increase insurance premiums for certain employee groups such as smokers, but will be able to offer up to a 30% discount for employees who decrease their cholesterol or participate in health seminars or exercise programs.

This is a huge change for employers!  Most of the wellness programs already in existence were voluntary programs set up by large corporations to decrease company-wide medical costs.  Now these programs will be part of the law.  This is a potentially huge new market for music therapy!  Since music therapy is already well-positioned in the wellness market, we should look for more companies to start wellness programs in order to take advantage of the money-saving incentive contained in the new law.

Although music therapy is not specifically mentioned in some of the approved wellness incentive programs, the regulations do allow for rewards for participation in exercise programs and "educational seminars."  Music therapy based activities and instruction will fit perfectly into these roles!  In addition, music therapy in corporate wellness programs can easily be done in cost-effective group settings.

Here are two places you can find additional readings regarding the effect of Obamacare on wellness programs: and CNBC

And here is a link to the actual government regulations regarding wellness programs (dry reading, but just in case you want the details!):

Incentives for Nondiscriminatory Wellness Programs in Group Health Plans

In addition, here are the links to my primer lessons regarding Obamacare:

Part I
Part IA
Part II


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Music as a "Cure" for Depression

It is my pleasure to feature a guest blogger from

Music is an unspoken language of love, hurt, healing, pain, and a thousand other emotions that can sometimes only be expressed in notes and melodies. Music has been proven to help people heal from all kinds of mental, emotional, and even physical problems. Depression is one of these problems.

Depression can feel like an insurmountable disorder to those suffering from it. However, there are many coping devices that these individuals can implement to aid them in overcoming their mental shortcomings. Some of these tools include writing, reading, exercise, and counseling. However, one of the most prominent things suggested for coping with depression is the use of music.

Music can work wonders for people of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. The reason is because music does not require actual words to express feelings.  There are several ways in which music can be used to help with depression.

Writing Music

Some people like to write music as a way to escape from their problems. Writing down one’s feelings can provide an outlet for pent up anger, aggression, sadness, and other overwhelming emotions that people tend to keep bottled up inside of them. By writing, whether it is in the form of rap, hip-hop, country, or any other genre, people suffering from depression are able to express their true inner selves and begin the process of healing from this life-consuming disorder.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Essentially Important Music Therapy

In the fall 2012 students at Shenandoah University began doing student music therapy services at a practicum assignment with the Essential Pieces program.  Two of the students continued to work at the center as volunteers this semester.  The program offers parents of children with autism an evening every week where they can network with other parents and learn more about autism spectrum disorders through lecture and discussion.  Meanwhile, the children are able to participate in music and recreational therapy offered by students from Shenandoah University.  On February 21st music therapy students were invited to give a presentation to the parents regarding the use of music for children with spectrum disorders.  ABC 3 Winchester has the story:
  TV3 Winchester Streaming Video - Congratulations to Ceara and Kerry on a job well done!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Effect of the Affordable Care Act on Music Therapy: A Call for Advocacy

A call for Advocacy

Advocacy --> Recognition --> Access

Since 2005, the American Music Therapy Association and the Certification Board for Music Therapists have collaborated on a State Recognition Operational Plan. The primary purpose of this plan is to get music therapy and our MT-BC credential recognized by individual states so that citizens can more easily access our services. The AMTA Government Relations staff and CBMT Regulatory Affairs staff provide guidance and technical support to state task forces throughout the country as they work towards state recognition. To date, their work has resulted in over 35 active state task forces, 2 licensure bills passed in 2011, 1 licensure bill passed in 2012, and an estimated 7 bills being filed in 2013 that seek to create either title protection or a licensure for music therapy. This month, our focus is on YOU and on getting you excited about advocacy.

For the last three months, I have been focused on the Affordable Care Act and how it might affect music therapy. In order to humanize our discussion I want to relate an experience about music therapy advocacy in our area.  

There is an agency in our town in Virginia which has a weekly program that invites families with children on the autism spectrum to come together for networking, sharing and learning.  This program employs a respite care model where the children who have ASD are involved in recreational therapy, physical therapy and music therapy while the parents gather to learn and network with one another.  In the fall, two music therapy students doing their practicum assignments were part of the music therapy services offered to the children.

The music therapy was so effective and popular that the music therapy students were asked to be the highlight of a presentation for a media event sponsored by a future US Senator and his wife.  This event put a spotlight on the music therapy groups offered by the program and was widely hailed as a superb success!  In fact, the two music therapy students who demonstrated music therapy services at the event were so well received that they were offered future jobs at the agency after they graduated! Currently, these same students volunteer their time at the same program so that this agency can continue to offer some level of music therapy type activities.  

This was a great success story, but how can we make it easier for agencies to employ music therapists?  Everyone at this agency was pleased with music therapy and wants to continue offering the service, but how can we make funding programs like this easier and more accessible.  Will the Affordable Care Act impact opportunities for music therapy?  How can music therapy receive more reimbursement through health care dollars?     

Let's dig in...

Please catch up on the background stories if you have missed Part I and Part Ia of this series.

Part II is a look at what the effects of Obamacare (Full text version of law is here.) might be on access to music therapy services.  I hope that you will contribute to this post and the discussion as we explore this together.  Before I go any further, I should warn you that many of the opinions linked to in this post, as well as my own conclusions, are educated guesses about what might occur.  As we discussed in Part I, many parts of Obamacare have yet to be implemented, and to further muddy the waters, the Department of Health and Human Services has only recently begun releasing detailed regulations regarding the plan.  I also remind you that the ACA as conceived by President Obama and the congress at the time is not the same plan being implemented as result of the Supreme Court ruling in 2012.  (I will discuss the ramifications of all this in Part III.)  

Music therapy is not specifically mentioned in the ACA, but access to music therapy through insurance and medical facilities may be affected as a result to changes in funding and coverage.  While there have been some isolated success stories in obtaining third party coverage through private insurance companies for music therapy services, music therapy is generally paid for through private pay or as an included service during in-patient care, rehabilitation or hospice services.  Reimbursement through private insurance companies varies by state, company, and even by case manager.  Some people don't see an improvement in this situation and the ACA may even make things worse.  Perhaps you have a different perspective? 

At least in the beginning, Obamacare will establish state or federal run insurance exchanges or companies that will provide insurance for those who cannot obtain insurance through their employment.  (Note:  As of today, only 18 states have said they will set up insurance exchanges.  The other states have left it up to the federal government or have asked only to be a partner in the process.  These exchanges are supposed to be up and running by October 2013.)  More people will gain coverage, but for the person trying to file for third party reimbursement, it means learning about one more of 50 new state sponsored programs and new kinds of bureaucracy!  So the lack of standardization may be a real hindrance to improving reimbursement rates for music therapy.  

Sometimes music therapy has been included in billing to Medicare as part of an array of services offered in skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities.  This money is usually a fringe benefit for facilities that include music therapy and is not used to pay outright for the music therapy personnel.  There will not be a boost to this funding, and in fact, Medicare payments to facilities and physicians may face cuts since the ACA cuts $716 billion from Medicare.  There is an Independant Advisory Payment Board (IPAB) tasked with finding ways to make these cuts.  We will just have to wait and see what happens with this.        

Obamacare also attempts to significantly increase funding for low-income  individuals and families through Medicaid.  (Again, the Supreme court ruling has left this provision in flux because it allows states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion.)  Since Medicaid coverage is a "bare-bones" type program, it has not traditionally paid for services like music therapy except through state agencies that receive block grants of Medicaid money to use as they see fit.  So the increase in people getting healthcare through Medicaid will probably not directly increase access to music therapy services except possibly via mental health treatment that involves a music therapist in a facility.

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