Happy 3rd Birthday

Happy birthday, Raising Harmony!

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The idea,

                that became the dream,

                                                  that became the reality is three years old today.

Raising Harmony co-founders Meredith Pizzi and Elizabeth Schwartz are more committed than ever to the profession of music therapy and to the clients and families that are served through music therapy.

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They are proud to support the American Music Therapy Association, the Certification Board for Music Therapists and  international music therapists through training, 0n-line courses, publications, advocacy and career opportunities.

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Hey, Siri. You’re Wrong.

I took a long road trip several weekends ago to spend time with very dear friends. As you can imagine, there was talk, walks, laughter, and tears along with a little bit of whine and a little bit of wine. It was a great time of introspection and much needed rejuvenation.

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Then came the trip home. Yuck! More for company than anything else, I turned on the GPS and listened as the female voice guided my route. I should have turned it off when I was back in familiar territory, but for some perverse reason I didn’t. So for fifty miles I listened to her shouting at me to follow her commands (or so it seemed).  Of course she had all the latest satellite information on distance and traffic. On the surface, her way should have been the right way. But since this was my home turf, I knew that the way she was directing me would have lots of lights. And with my luck, they would be all red. She also didn’t recognize that her way took me by a large shopping mall. It was a Sunday and of course everyone would be out shopping. She didn’t care.  It would be much more relaxing for me to stay on the highway with no lights and no traffic even if it meant a few extra miles. She kept insisting on taking me the way that fit with her programmed plans.

All this annoyance got me thinking about my work in music therapy and the continuing conversations about Evidence Based Practice (EBP).  What’s the connection there, you might ask? Well Siri, or that disembodied voice in the machine, is a little bit like one part of EBP – the best available research.  She has empirical data to back up her choices. Our best available research has empirical data to back up recommended clinical choices.

But there are two other critical components of EBP – clinical expertise and individual differences.  In my drive home, I had the expert knowledge of the local roads with information that the data would not know or measure such as a blow-out sale at the mall. In our clinical work, we have local information from our sessions that make rigid following of research protocols ineffective.  One instance comes to my mind – the use of minor keys or modes for very young children with autism. Some research I have read seems to indicate that simple melodies in diatonic keys are best. Well that might have been accurate for the limited confines of the research protocol, but every week in my sessions when I sing those songs in minor I see and hear young children with autism turn their faces toward mine and begin to vocalize in a way that I had not heard before.  The clinical outcomes support the validity of my clinical expertise.

Siri also could not observe or measure my individual needs on that long, long trip home. I really just wanted to keep my foot on the gas rather than the brake pedal. For me, that would make for a better quality trip than shaving seven minutes off my drive time. That’s an individual difference. There is a considerable amount of written evidence used to select a treatment plan for young children with autism (ABA, Floortime, TEEACH). I know this one little boy in particular who does not and will not respond to any demanded outcome, external reward or not. But come and watch him in a music therapy session. Given some freedom in musical expression, he not only says but sings words. And furthermore he sings them with understanding and intent. His individual differences, especially his unique response to music, are just as important as that large research study that says that kids like him should have better outcomes with an M & M or other external reward system.

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So just like ignoring or talking back to Siri, we need to value our own experiences and respect the differences of our young clients and be confident in our choices as clinicians.  This means knowing and understanding our best research, but also knowing and understanding our clinical effectiveness and our client’s unique strengths.

Here at Raising Harmony, we try and bring you quality research in both music therapy and early childhood. But we also appreciate your clinical skills and your intimate knowledge of your clients, your families and your communities.

Now, back to re-programming that machine!

Beth

 

Early Bird ends February 15. Register now!

Hurry and get your Valentine’s gift from Raising Harmony!

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This brand new e-book with over 30 blogs on music and early childhood is FREE with your Early Bird registration for the March 2014 Sprouting Melodies Training Course. Everything from using minor keys and modes to the ‘do’s and don’ts’ in early childhood settings are covered in this inspirational yet practical book.

Early Bird ends February 15, so register now.

https://raisingharmony.com/training/sprouting-melodies-training-info/

A Chants for Change

Did the words in the title throw you a little bit?

Chances are, since you are reading this, you kept going because you were caught off guard by the mixed up words.  You might not have paid attention otherwise, except that something jumped out as odd.  Catching this tiny, weird change speaks to the reliance we put on our prediction about how we generally use words and what those words should mean.

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When I think about words and music,

I admit that in my early childhood work, words always have a musical quality and my music generally includes words. The line that separates the two is very slippery. I often used ‘motherese’ when talking with infants and toddlers. As the children get older, I put lots of rhythm and rhyme into every interaction. I easily move from singing to speaking to singing. The children I work with love it (although my own children roll their eyes when I speak that way with them)! So while I am a huge proponent of music based practice, I respect the spoken word and work to strike a balance between talk and song.  I am finding a number of times when my new ‘songs’ are really ‘chants’.  I thought it might be useful to outline some ideas about chant in early childhood work.  Hope this helps you to both define, as well as blur, the line between the language of words and the language of music.

  • Chant and song share many common musical elements such as rhythm, tempo, meter, structure and timbre.
  • The primary musical elements of chant are often rhythm and meter, which is created through word rhyming and articulation of word sounds.
  • Chant relies less on defined pitch and formed key structure. Chant, however, does have pitch elements. The pitch (or frequency) is non-specific and relational in terms of inflection rather than fixed as in melody. This means that each person can use their personal voice to create a unique pitch or intonation pattern.

I know in my work that the musical elements that seem to scare non-musicians the most are the use of pitch and melody. So one thing I’ve tried to do is to take out the fixed pitch and melody and use the more non-specific inflections of chants. This often helps parents and early childhood educators to feel more confident to make music.  Everybody can use their own vocal patterns.  The musical interest comes with the use of rhyme, rhythm patterns, structure and repetition.

Here’s how I write a chant.

Just as with songs, the motivation always has to be driven by the children and their needs, so I identify that first.  I then think of words to describe or comment on that need which the children might be able to use outside of the music setting. I find little phrases or snippets of sentences that they can use to communicate, to request, or to comment.  I say the words again and again and again until they begin to fall into a rhythm or pattern.  Once I hear the language or word pattern, I create a complimentary rhythmic pattern that can be repeated. I next look for a rhyme or rhymes and then begin to put all the rhyming words together in a way that makes cognitive sense and has meaning. Next I form it into a structure so that there’s overall predictability.  Then I always add a little bit of surprise (rhythm, words, or sounds) usually in the third stanza or sometimes even the fourth stanza to catch the children’s attention just as I caught yours in this title.

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So why use chants for change?
  • Because chants give the chance to engage all grownups in in the musical world of their children by removing the focus on use of specified pitch or key structure.
  • Because chants give the chance to focus in on words and language the children might need to know or use to communicate.
  • Because chants are easily remembered and generally short with lots and lots of repetition.

To hear for yourself how some of these ideas sound, you can find two brand new chants that I just wrote at:  http://sproutingmelodies.com/2015/01/18/hows-weather-today/

Enjoy, and keep chanting!

Beth

Five Things I’ll Change in 2015

I happened to see this amazing video this morning while wasting time in cyber space. It is a very short story about new research into very tiny Pygmy seahorses. What does that have to do with early childhood music therapy? Well it turns out that the new-born babies adjust their color to fit their environment rather than sticking with their genetic coloration. Our little children also are very adept at adjusting to the environment we create for them in music.

So, for 2015, here are five things that I will do to change the music environment I create for the children that I work with:

1)  Sing less, so that the child can sing more.

2)  Change the key or tempo of the music to fit the child, not me.

3)  Repeat music experiences more so the child can become master of the music.

4) Expect and respect the music of the child.

5) Share music more with all the grownups in the child’s environment: Dad, Mom. sibling, teacher, bus driver, friend.

Best wishes for the New Year to you and yours.

Thanks for being part of Raising Harmony and Sprouting Melodies!

Beth

Making Merry When Joy is Elusive

Earlier in December I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the National Training Institute of Zero to Three – an amazing organization that “provides parents, professionals and policymakers the knowledge and know-how to nurture early development” (www.zerotothree.org). There was an incredible display of expertise and action and it was so invigorating to be a part of it. Speaker after speaker drove home the point that good developmental outcomes are built on good, solid early relationships. Most interesting to me were the reports by neuroscientists about the biological and neurological underpinnings supporting the critical need for bonding and nurturing in the early years.
The one thing that rattled me though, was to walk outside of the conference center to blue skies, ocean swells and palm trees covered with Christmas lights. Being from the North, I never could rectify the idea of Christmas and summer-like weather. How could everyone be so nonchalant about Santa in a bathing suit while I felt so weird and out-of-touch? How come nobody else noticed that something was just not right?

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Fast forward to the next week, going back to the therapeutic preschool where I work as a music therapist. The school had made plans for a ‘Holiday Party’ and invited families to come in for the day to celebrate with their little ones. The hustle and bustle of the holidays is often a whirlwind for typical children, but can be totally overwhelming for our kids with developmental disabilities and autism. Partying within the safe confines of our school gives them a chance within the familiar structure to experience some of the holiday without too much stress. Of course, one of the biggest parts of the day is the family sing-a-long. We do songs and instruments that the children already know and we invite the parents, grandparents and siblings to join along. The children seem so excited to share their music with Mom or Dad, and they look toward them with the spoken or unspoken command to ‘sing along’.
As I sat up front, though, and looked at the sea of little and grownup faces, I couldn’t help but linger on those few grownups (mostly Moms) that had that same look that I must have had on my face when seeing the Christmas displays on the beach. The look said ‘Why do I feel so weird and out of touch? Why is everyone else so joyful and merry when I am just not feeling it?’ These are just the parents and caregivers that I had been learning about at the Zero to Three conference. The ones that wanted to be a good Mom or Dad, but just couldn’t find the energy or resolve to respond to their child with joy and happiness. Those are the grownups I know I need to reach out to if I really want to help their child.

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So my resolve for the New Year is to work harder at including the entire family system into my work with young children. Here are some thoughts that I hope will guide me and perhaps will help you in your practice.

Understanding the Disconnect

There are many reasons why a disconnect happens between parents and children, especially those with disabilities. Here are a few:

Depression

Maternal depression is more common than you might realize and makes it difficult or maybe impossible for Moms to pick up on and respond to the signals of their child.

Denial

Diagnosis of developmental disabilities is often a long, drawn-out process. Many of the signature symptoms don’t manifest until later. Some parents deny that a problem exists. Holding on to that denial is often exhausting and the work it takes to keep it up prevents parents from responding to their child.

Disappointment

We live in a society that values achievement and success. Sometimes having a child with a disability feels like a failure. The feeling of failure can become overwhelming and can block a parent from being able to respond to their child’s strengths and positive personality.

What Can I Do to Help?

Again there is much that we can do to help parents. A few things to keep in mind:

Recognize

Learn to recognize the signs of depression. Understand from a parent’s perspective the challenges that they face every day. Know how those struggles impact how they respond to their child or to you.

Relate

Although my job is to help the child, I can go a long way in helping the child by creating a relationship with the child’s parent. Reach out to parents as people and work to show respect and understanding.

Refer

As professionals, we have access to information about available services in the community that can help parents. Once you have created a relationship with a parent who might be struggling, share information on resources.




What does any of this have to do with music? Well, within music we can give parents an opportunity to be in a safe environment; to learn simple ways to play with their child in a way that all can respond to; and we can use music to create a respectful and mutual relationship.
Thanks for taking to time to think about being ‘ in’ and ‘out’ of touch in this holiday season.
Beth

Fall Freebies

Here in the Northeast where I live, Fall is the time when the leaves are coming down off the trees, the sky opens up and the sunshine becomes brighter than ever.  Just like this natural phenomenon, we would like to offer you, as our Raising Harmony friend, some falling prices, some new discoveries and some music to brighten up your practice.

  • Here is a brand new song written just for you that will bring children and grownups together in the joy of music making. Just visit the link below and sing along.

 

  • Our next Sprouting Melodies on-line course will begin right after the holidays in January. But you can wrap up a really great deal by registering now for the early bird discount.  Visit the link for details     https://raisingharmony.com/training/

  • Get an extra, extra bonus for the next course by visiting and liking our Face Book page. Check out the postings and find the Face Book code for extra discounts.

So curl up on the couch and spend some time looking at all the great information we have for you on www.RaisingHarmony.com and www.SproutingMelodies.com.

Beth

Seven Stress-Busting Strategies for Music Therapists

My family doesn’t get why I am so wrapped up in my music therapy work.  At the end of a long day of sessions and team meetings and log notes, they just don’t understand why I don’t just let it all go and live like normal people do in the evening. After all, they have jobs where their work decisions really are a matter of life of death.  And they come home to sitcom re-runs and exercise machines at the gym while I am still ruminating over the best music to reach Jake or Jamie or Justin.

Stress Blog

So why do I feel so stressed?  Why do many music therapists feel so stressed?  Three reasons jump out for me.  One is that we care so, so much.  Our clients and their families are fully present to us in all their heartbreaking or beautiful or messy dimensions.  We care because we are caring people. Second, we have a hard time turning our ‘therapy’ selves off. My mentor, Dr. Clive Robbins, used to say that music therapy is not what you do – it is who you are.  So true! And third, we are always in a state of anticipation for the questions that inevitably come about our profession. Music therapy – what is that?  Is that really a job? Do people really pay for that? Phew!

If music therapy stress is hard for me, I can imagine how hard it must be for young music therapists or interns.  Since I have been doing this work for longer than many of them have been alive, I thought this might be a good time to offer some suggestions for how to change a few common practices that add to the level of anxiety and pressure at work.  Although written for the music therapist working with children, some of the ideas just might work for all music therapists. Check them out.

GET EVERYONE INVOLVED.

Most music therapists in early childhood or school based work have family or staff members in the session with them. When I visit programs, I so often see the other adults sitting in the back of the room or behind the children.  What good do they do there for you and especially for the children? Not much. Ask your family members or staff to sit in the circle or with the child. Ask them to sing and play. Bringing everyone into the music creates a rich, motivating auditory environment.  The grownups become models for the children. Sharing the music experience with everyone will make your job easier and provide for greater carry-over for the children.

RESPECT THE VALUE OF REPETITION.

I see so many young professionals and students who drive themselves crazy with the idea that they must bring in new songs each session. When I ask them why, the answer rarely has anything to do with what is best for the children. It usually reflects the fear that the adults in the room will be bored or dismissive with repeated material.  In my experience, most non-musical adults are no different from the children. They need lots of time to learn and master and integrate music.

PLAY WITH THE MUSIC.

As music therapists, we all play music. But playing WITH the music gives you a chance, within the needed repetition, to create engaging and exciting moments of therapeutic opportunity that can reach each individual child. Play with pitch, or key. Play with tempo or meter or structure. Play with dynamics or timbre.  Stretch your musical self and share the freedom of musical expression.

STOP TALKING.

We all do it. The session starts to get lost. Chaos is about to break out.  We get tense or scared.  What is the default response? Talking.  In these moments of panic, we forget to use the most valuable intervention of all – music!  If you are not used to using the music as the first response, it might be a bit unnerving. Rhythm is particularly powerful in organizing and gathering people.  Try it…you will be amazed at how well music really works!

HAVE A CHEAT SHEET.

How do you explain what you are doing at any given moment in a session? Why do particular music interventions work? What are your expectations of the children? What are your expectations of the adults? Take the time to write yourself out a cheat sheet answering the most common questions you get. Re-write it so that you can quickly get the message out without interrupting the flow of the session. Here at Raising Harmony, we give our providers pages and pages of Sprouting Melodies Sayings – simple sentences that quickly and concisely explain the work.

PREVENT HEALTH ISSUES.

Have you ever blown out your voice and then tried to go to work? Twisted your back out and then try and carry your equipment? The best way to lessen the stress of health issues that impact your work is to prevent them in the first place. Learn and practice proper posture for singing and playing.   Wash your hands.  Think before you lift equipment or a child. Spending time on prevention is way better than having to spend time recuperating.

STEP OUT.

Give yourself permission to step out of your role as music therapist. Enjoy all your other roles – spouse, parent, friend, or child. Immerse yourself in something that has nothing to do with your job. It’s really okay.

So will I follow all my advice in the coming week?  Well, I will let you know. Meanwhile, I welcome other stress-busting ideas that will help our entire community of music therapists become less stressed and more satisfied.

Enjoy the music!

Beth

Are You Passionate about your Work? We are!

Sprouting Melodies® Training is Coming to You!

Next On-Line Course Begins September 10, 2104

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Whether you are from a big city, small town or rural village Sprouting Melodies can be a chance for you to grow your music therapy practice and provide a valuable service to the families of your community. 23 CMTEs in the comfort of your own home.

For More Information or to Register Now!

https://raisingharmony.com/training/

The Sprouting Melodies® Provider Training provides comprehensive, research-based and clinically relevant information and resources on:

  • Early childhood development
  • Early music development
  • Treatment planning for early childhood music therapy
  • Creating and adapting developmentally appropriate music
  • Theoretical and practical guidelines for music therapy based parent/child groups in     the community
  • Specific strategies for successful business practices in providing early childhood community groups

Completion of the Training will allow the participant to be eligible to become a Sprouting Melodies Provider™.

Here’s what our course participants have to say about the training.

“…the Sprouting Melodies training has given me a strong base to stand on as my base of young clients grows. I definitely recommend it!!”

“The material and information was so well organized.”

“I really enjoyed seeing how Sprouting Melodies™ can benefit my community and my music therapy practice.”

“All of it was wonderful! I loved the discussion the most –brainstorming and discussing these ideas with Music Therapists is so valuable.”

 Please join us in this exciting new program designed by music therapists, for music therapists!

Register Now!

https://raisingharmony.com/training/

 

I Told You So!

Maybe it is because I grew up as the second child. Maybe is it because I chose to devote my life to a profession, music therapy, that requires constant explanation and promotion. Maybe I am really just obnoxious. But I love it when respected scientists report findings that support the things that I have known for years. So I am particularly crowing this summer with new research out of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. The study finds significant correlation between synchronous musical movement and social skill development in young infants. In other words, when we bounce to music with our babies, we are opening a world of connections that go way beyond keeping the baby entertained.blog (940x300)

In my early childhood groups and in the Sprouting Melodies program we have seen this connection develop week by week. The children that move and sing and play along with their grownups to developmentally responsive music show huge growth in their interest in others and their engagement in being part of the social group. They watch their peers more closely and choose to play with them or near them. The relationship with their grownup becomes one of joy and togetherness rather than stress and conflict.

Why is this important? Because we are primarily social creatures who live and work and play and learn in groups. Those early social connections are the foundation for later success in our families, our schools and our communities.  We know this and now hard science is giving us a strong backup.

As early childhood music therapists, we often feel the need to justify our value. But with science like this behind us, we can confidently articulate to parents, educators, administrators and funding sources why good quality, developmentally focused early childhood music programs are essential.

To help you out, the article citation and abstract is below. Thanks to the researchers and McMaster University, there is also a video explanation of the findings that you can share.  As an added bonus, I have also included a link to a Sprouting Melodies Sing at Home video with a brand new song using music and synchronous movement that I wrote for little ones just about the same age as the babies in the research. Sing it, move with it and share it with your families and your colleagues.

And maybe, just for now, it okay for all of us in early childhood music therapy to put on a bit of attitude and say loud and clear – “I told you so!”

 

Enjoy!

Beth

 

Cirelli, L. K., Einarson, K. M. and Trainor, L. J. (2014), Interpersonal synchrony increases prosocial behavior in infants. Developmental Science. doi: 10.1111/desc.12193

 

Abstract:

Adults who move together to a shared musical beat synchronously as opposed to asynchronously are subsequently more likely to display prosocial behaviors toward each other. The development of musical behaviors during infancy has been described previously, but the social implications of such behaviors in infancy have been little studied. In Experiment 1, each of 48 14-month-old infants was held by an assistant and gently bounced to music while facing the experimenter, who bounced either in-synchrony or out-of-synchrony with the way the infant was bounced. The infants were then placed in a situation in which they had the opportunity to help the experimenter by handing objects to her that she had ‘accidently’ dropped. We found that 14-month-old infants were more likely to engage in altruistic behavior and help the experimenter after having been bounced to music in synchrony with her, compared to infants who were bounced to music asynchronously with her. The results of Experiment 2, using anti-phase bouncing, suggest that this is due to the contingency of the synchronous movements as opposed to movement symmetry. These findings support the hypothesis that interpersonal motor synchrony might be one key component of musical engagement that encourages social bonds among group members, and suggest that this motor synchrony to music may promote the very early development of altruistic behavior.

A video abstract of this article can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaqWehfDm7c&feature=youtu.be

 

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