Thursday, August 30, 2012

Movie Night

Just wanted to quickly post a piece for my fellow music therapists. In case you need any inspiration, here is a piece I put together last night. Originally intended for my senior groups, this could really be done with a lot of big groups. Players will take turns picking popcorn pieces at random. Each piece will have a song title from a familiar movie. To make it more interesting, find interesting facts about some of the movies to share with your clients.

Note: Popcorn pieces are not attached to the board. You should be able to take the pieces on and off easily using velcro. To save supplies, I cut my velcro squares in half. Also, did you know Office Depot and similar places will laminate these? Enjoy! And please, tell me if you use the idea... I would love to hear how it works for you!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Join the growing MT advocacy movement

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 35 active state task forces, 2 licensure bills passed in 2011, and an estimated 10 bills being filed in 2012 that seek to create either a music therapy registry or license for music therapy. This month, our focus is on YOU and on getting you excited about advocacy.

Over the past year, my understanding of advocacy has evolved. In fact, it appears to me like a snowball rolling downhill: growing bigger and picking up speed. Never in my life has the time been more important than now to be an advocate of music therapy. At this point, I am about to leave grad school and merge into the real world. In a few months, I will no longer have student loans to help me put food on the table and hold a roof over my head. In fact, I will be facing down a pile of debt in addition to trying to make ends meet. As I see it, the only way to make it happen is to become a self-promoter.

There are many times in our lives when we must be self-promoters: when we want to get into college, when we want to defend a thesis or dissertation, when we want to get a job or an internship. In developing a career, we must sell what we do. What we do is music therapy. What is music therapy? Why should a person want music therapy? These are questions that we must answer to promote not only our profession, but also ourselves.

Advocacy can happen on a local or global scale. In your community, you alone can spread awareness of music therapy simply by seeing clients and meeting new people. On a global scale, an entire movement has to happen to get the attention of the nation and the world. Luckily, in music therapy, that movement is happening. Last year, I talked about several events that introduced some people to music therapy for the first time. And through the effort of many music therapists, progress has been made to spread the word even further throughout government in hopes to make life a little easier for music therapists. After all, the reason we advocate for music therapy is to create a lasting profession that will improve the quality of people’s lives for all time.

To add to the movement, contact your local and state representatives, read up on what others are saying about advocacy, and use this quiz to help you realize your advocacy style.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Social media experiment

My fellow MTs! There is a social media experiment going on right now. The question is: how many people we can reach using social media. Follow the link below to a quick question... it literally takes 60 seconds or less.

Social media experiment

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cheat sheets

I don't think I've ever had such a long stretch with no blog posts! Since my last Friday Five, my life has picked up so that I have not truly gotten to relax the way a student in summertime expects. I've had a series of unfortunate events, though not too serious, that has kept me on my toes nearly every day: a road trip abruptly ended by an overheated car; an overheated car that needs a new radiator, motor, and hoses; and an embarrassing dental emergency that required four trips to the dentist. In the thick of it all, I've been trying to memorize music.

I've never been great at memorizing music, which inspires the topic of this post: music cheat sheets. As music therapists, we hold an amazing amount of melodies, lyrics, and chords in our head that are ready for use whenever we call on them. However, it is difficult to coordinate melody, lyrics, and chords all at once on the spot with no point of reference. That is why music therapists carry folders and folders of sheet music. We organize and bring what we assume most appropriate to the session, judging the age, interests, and goals of our client.

But problems exist with the folder method. We begin accumulating more music than we can carry, we can't flip to find pieces quickly enough, and we sometimes deal with issues of where to put the heavy folder during a session. Also, it makes us immobile. We can never stray too far from the music if it is all that we have to go by. Certainly not every situation requires music to be memorized, but in the cases when it does matter, therapists can find ways to adapt. If you are at all like me, you might find some of the methods below useful:

Post-its. This was a trick of the trade I learned early in my undergraduate years. On the side of the guitar that faces up while it is strapped to you, tape a post-it note or other piece of paper with whatever information you need. You might put the order of music for a session, song keys, chords, or lyrics. You can take a quick glance and then return eye contact with the client. Tip: typing in small font (rather than writing) may help you fit more information on the sheet.

Cheat-sheets. I began one of these myself while memorizing this past week. I've included an example of it at this link. You can put whatever information is most helpful to you. I included song title, key, roman numeral chords, and beginning lyrics. If you choose this method, you may organize in the same way you might organize a folder: by music genre and age.

Technology. I don't consider this cheating, but more and more people have turned to iPads to hold their sheet music. Flipping through music is much simpler when it requires a touch. While I've never worked with an iPad, I understand its possible to arrange music in a certain order. This can be planned before your session.

Let me know: are there any other "cheats" you use in your session? If you have an iPad, are there certain apps that are helpful for reading music?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Five: Arts & crafts

As music therapists, we use a lot of props. Instruments, puppets, scarves, books, and parachutes are ready-made tools that are often very useful in sessions. But what about the props we make at home? Trivia, music bingo, and bean bag toss are a few examples of the homemade props that can be used in MT sessions.

Today's Friday Five is all about the art tools I could not live without.

1) Posterboards You can find several in my home tucked away in corners, closets, and trunks. Posterboards are often the base for my props because they are big and easy to see from across the room.
2) Velcro Whenever I take a trip to the store for a MT prop, I come away with velcro. I've found it extremely handy to use on posterboards. Find examples for its use on previous posts (Halloween costume game and poker).
3) Laminating paper Really, you don't even need a bulky machine to laminate! I use Scotch self-laminating sheets. Everything comes out looking professional and durable and 1000x better than papers that have not been laminated.
4) Color printer A quality print will catch a lot of attention in your session. If it is beautiful and colorful, clients will be a lot more exited about your activity.
5) Sharpies Not only is it necessary to have the basic sharpie colors for use on posterboard, but I've recently found the silver sharpies show beautifully on black.

What are some homemade creations of your own and what tools have you found most important?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Jason Mraz group handbell activity

This handbell activity is similar to one I posted over one year ago. I adapted this song for use in a class, which was large (18 people!). And I had to teach all of this nonverbally! so it can definitely be done. I even dare say it might be easier to teach without words than to try to explain this whole procedure...

8-Note Rhythm Band handbells or deskbells
Lucky (for handbells).doc (adapted sheet music)
Lucky handbell colors.doc
"Lucky" by Jason Mraz ft. Colbie Callait mp3
Shakers or other small instruments (optional, see Adaptations)
4 paper plates/markers (optional, see Adaptations)

1. Hand out bells, telling clients not to play until you instruct them.
2. Assign them the numbers that correspond with the document provided above (Lucky handbell colors.doc).
3. Have clients memorize the number(s) that go with their color. For example, the red bell (note C) must remember that he or she plays on numbers 1, 2, and 3. Meanwhile, the green bell needs only remember to play on 3. These numbers correspond with the chords of the song. So when all bells assigned the number 1 play, a beautiful C chord will ring.
4. Provide the sheet music, also found above (Lucky for handbells.doc). It is preferable to have a projector screen so that all clients may read off of the same page.
5. Begin music and, if necessary, conduct the piece by holding up finger-numbers or pointing to the numbers on the projector.

1. If your group is larger than 8 people, consider adding shaker eggs (playing every eighth-note) or a wood block on the downbeats.
2. If your group is much larger (like mine was-18 people total), assign 4 people that are not playing bells to conduct the band. This is where the paper plates and markers come in. Each plate has a number, 1 through 4. The bells must watch the "conductors" for their cue: the conductor holds up their plate and the bells ring. You will probably need to teach your group how to give a good cue with large gestures and an intro breath.

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT if you have any questions at all.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday Five: Hap Palmer songs you should know

So I'm going to take you back a couple decades to the Hap Palmer era. Hap Palmer earned a Master's degree in dance education in the early 80s, but was writing children's songs years before that, in the late 60s. The songs were written to enhance a number of developmental skills in young children. Below are five videos I found when conducting a youtube search, though you'll find he composed hundreds more.

The videos below can be used as is in session. But if you find these dated, I encourage you to let them inspire your own creativity! If you have any Hap Palmer songs of your own that you love, or any other ideas for that matter, please share!

Weekly Rap

Tap Your Sticks

Bean Bag Alphabet Rag

Let's All Clap Our Hands Together

The Mice Go Marching

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Five: Books to sing

Many books written for young children can be adapted for your music therapy sessions to meet a wide range of objectives. Many books are already written in rhyme. Simply add a melody or chant rhythm to make it musical.

The most important to remember when singing a book is that kids' attention spans are usually very short. Choose a book that is also short in length (or skip the repetitive pages if possible). Engage the child by using a variety of facial expressions or voices, turning the page, pointing to something in the book, acting out a character in the story, etc.

Below is a list to get you started:

Five Little Moneys Jumping on the Bed
Already a popular tune, this book can add a visual to something the child is already familiar with. There are other books in this series as well, like FLM Bake a Birthday Cake, FLM Wash a Car, and FLM Play Hide and Seek. Rachel Rambach has offered some helpful advice for FLM Play Hide and Seek on her blog.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
Another wildly popular book, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom teaches the alphabet through a cute story. It is great for singing because the story rhymes and frequently repeats, "chicka chicka boom boom." In fact, the songs already has a melody out there that some kids may be familiar with. Watch it on youtube.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

This is a beautiful picture book that was very popular in my own elementary school days. Great for teaching colors and animals. As you sing, ask "What sound does a bear (or bird, frog, horse, dog) make?" As an added bonus, if you google Brown Bear, Brown Bear lesson plans, you will find some great ideas that have already been used in the classroom that could potentially be adapted to fit your MT session. Here is an example of one of those pages. I especially love the idea of just showing the tail of the animal as you turn the page, letting the child guess what comes next.

Down By the Bay
This song was one that I remember singing in preschool to practice rhyming. It is super silly and with a little help, kids can easily improv the next line of the song. Raffi has a number of other songs to read, of course. Some examples are Baby Beluga, If You're Happy and You Know It, and Five Little Ducks. See the top ten here on Amazon.

The Seals on the Bus
I really like this silly, mixed up version of wheels on the bus. If you're not ready to sing about seals, rabbits, lions, and monkeys, then the regular old version of Wheels On the Bus will also work just fine in your session!

Of course, there are many more singable stories out there. A google search will bring up many more ideas, like the page I found here. Or else go to your local bookstore and search the racks of books for something similar.

For those of you that have favorite singable stories of your own, please post them here!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Poker game for older adults

This music activity is a variation on poker that is probably best for groups of adults or geriatric patients. Of course, unlike the real game, there is no betting or cash prize at the end.

Materials needed for preparation:

Standard 52-card deck with the jokers removed
Permanent marker
Poster board
Velcro strips
Winning hands pdf

1) On each playing card, write a song that is appropriate to your group of patients. It doesn't matter whether you prefer to write on the front or back of it, just don't write where the velcro strips are going to be attached.
2) Attach velcro strips to the center of the back of the card. When the card is stuck to the poster board, the number and suit of the card should face toward the patient. I prefer to attach the softer side of the velcro to the cards because the patients will be grabbing these and it is easier to the touch.
3) Draw a line down the center of the poster board and label the left side "Team A" and the right side "Team B."
4) Under each team side, attach five velcro pieces in a vertical line. Leave enough room for the height of a playing card between each strip. Remember that you are attaching whatever side of the velcro piece is OPPOSITE to that attached to the card. You should have 10 velcro pieces on your board altogether.
5) Attach the Winning Poker Hands pdf print-out to the back of the board as a reminder to you which hand wins. On the sheet, the possibilities are listed in rank order, with the highest hand (best combination) to the lowest hand (worst combination).

Materials needed in session:
Pre-made poster board
Pre-made playing cards
Bag/basket to place the cards in
Sheet music, if necessary

1) Briefly explain the poker game. No need to get technical, just help them understand that each card a patient draws has a song printed on it that the whole group will sing.
2) Split the group into two teams. Decide which team goes first.
3) Offer a patient the bag full of cards. Instruct them to reach in and grab one without peeking.
4) Read the song printed on the card aloud. To increase cognitive functioning, have the patients guess the song or artist by offering clues.
5) Stick the song on the board under that team's name.
6) Sing the song printed on the card.
7) Next move to the second team. Repeat steps 3-6, alternating teams until all 10 velcro pieces on the board are filled.
8) Have a conversation about who won the game (refer to the Winning hands print-out). Discuss how the patients enjoyed the experience of playing this game.

This game is great for increasing cognitive functioning and social interaction. After each song, you might talk with the patients about past memories or song meanings.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

BTM changes for Summer

Summer may not come until June 21 this year, but it sure feels like the seasons have already changed here in Florida. To welcome the change in weather, the look of BTM is all new!

And just for fun, here is a look at this blog's pictures of the past:

January 2011

Fall 2010

April 2010