Joy to the World!

Joy to the World - Copy

Are you ready to bring this kind of Joy to the World?

Come join us for Sprouting Melodies Training to learn how. Our next on-line course begins January 13, 2016.

Register Now! @ www.RaisingHarmony.com/training

The Sprouting Melodies® program offers music therapists a chance to use your education, skills and experience to bring the best possible early childhood music experience to families in your community. Learn how to recognize early childhood musical responses and how responses function in the overall development of the child.

*Earn 23 Continuing Education Credits
*Journey with an intimate group of Board Certified Music Therapists
*Become a member of the Raising Harmony™ Community

Sprouting Melodies® training will give you an extensive background in planning for, creating and presenting music that is developmentally appropriate as well as engaging and motivating for children as well as families. A core repertoire of quality interventions and songs will be available through Sprouting Melodies® in order to help you design session plans. There will also be support and guidance if you choose to create unique musical material.

The weekly trainings are accessed via the Community Login from the Raising Harmony™ website. Each weekly session includes recorded presentations and self-guided assignments, supported with student and teacher forums. A participants will also be invited to  Live Conference Calls with Meredith and Beth to complement all that you are learning in the course!

Our Next Online Course Begins January 13, 2016!

The fee for this 10 week course is $395  and includes all course materials, web-based learning forums with the instructors and other music therapist participants and includes a copy of Elizabeth’s Schwartz’s book, Music, Therapy and Early Childhood: A Developmental Approach.

Visit the Sprouting Melodies Training link on www.RaisingHarmony.com to register today!

 

Wedding Wisdom or Learning to Say No

There is a temptation at every stage of parenting to think that you have finally reached the end of the textbook. You feel sure that you now know all the wisdom that a parent would ever need. Well, I am here to tell you that that is simply not true! Those of you who read these blogs know that I am in the ‘grown-child- not fully out of the nest’ stage.  This summer we celebrated a new rite of passage- the wedding (and marriage!) of one of our children.  Looking wistfully at the pictures reminds me that it was glorious, joyous, amazing and all those adjectives that you could hope for.  But the days and weeks leading up to the wedding gave me plenty of opportunity to think back on the challenges of parenting in contemporary society and all the pressures that bombard young children and their parents.

20150807_171632

It all started with the first phone call looking for all the things a wedding seems to need – food, flowers and of course the dress.  As soon as I said the word ‘wedding’, the sales pitch started, telling me in no uncertain terms that we needed to….well you can fill in the blank, but the lists went on and on and the costs got bigger and bigger.

Fortunately, I learned from my parents (and hopefully instilled in my kids) that making thoughtful decisions and staying true to self is more important than frilly drink straws or monogrammed coasters.  The bridal couple worked hard to keep their thinking and decisions clear and grounded in reality. So while we worked to have a beautiful ceremony for my daughter to say ‘yes’ to her new husband, here are some thoughts I had about helping parents and children learn to say ‘no’.  These ideas can work in your early childhood music groups, but will probably work just as well for parents in the store, at daycare or at home.  Share them!

Set the stage for ‘yes’ more than ‘no’

Give children an environment which is safe and sturdy.  Use instruments or toys that can be picked up and explored and tested.  Set up the room or space so that children can use the entire space securely.  If this is not possible, use mats or rugs or dividers to create a clear boundary. Look critically at everything in the environment. Ask yourself, ‘Can children play with this? Can children go there?’ Make sure the answer is ‘yes’ more than ‘no’.

Here is a little chant to use music to set the boundaries. “Inside the mats! That’s where it’s at!”

Make sure you know why you are saying ‘no’

Think long and hard before saying ‘no’.  Is it for you or for the child? Try to use ‘no’ when it will help the child learn and grow in a healthy way.  Issues of safety or the safety of another child might be a time to use the word ‘no’.  If you find yourself saying (or thinking) ‘no’ because the child’s actions don’t fit your plan or your concept of how things should go, you might need to refocus the experiences you provide to be more developmental than task specific.

If the music experience is making shaking sounds, does it really matter if the child is shaking a maraca? Or a jingle bell? Or their toe?

Say ‘no’, then let it go

Adults often feel an emotional undercurrent when using the word ‘no’.  We might be re-living moments when the word ‘no’ made us feel bad about ourselves.  We might feel ambivalent or lack trust in our decisions for children. The best way to avoid this is to make ‘no’ a simple, clear signal without further repercussions. If saying ‘no’ is in the best interest of the child, then state it simply and clearly.  This is the time to not use music or a musical, sing-song voice.

Stop the music, say ’no’ and then let it go. Get right back into the music to let the child know that ‘yes’ is usually a lot more fun than ‘no’.

DSC_0163

So did I follow my own advice on ‘yes’ and ‘no’ for this wedding? Well, for the most part! And the Monday after, we looked back and were grateful that we were able to say ‘no’ to outside wedding pressures and thankful that we said ‘yes’ to the things that really mattered.

Enjoy the music!

Beth

Oh, No! Don’t Miss Out on Back to School Savings!

091312CC049

Oh, No! Don’t miss out on back to school savings.

Save now for the Fall 2015 Sprouting Melodies Training.

Early Bird Discount ends August 29th.

Registration and information at https://raisingharmony.com/training/sprouting-melodies-training-info/.

Birds, Bats, and Babies: Perfect Pitch Play

There was such a beautiful bird song outside the bedroom window the other day! Too bad it was 5 am in the morning. The initially sweet melody was very loud and went on and on and on.  Since I couldn’t get back to sleep, I wrapped my mind around figuring out the intervals and the exact pitch of each sound.  I tried to visualize the song as notation. This is not the easiest thing to do, especially at 5 am. Next came the inevitable question of why. What was the bird’s message? Was anything or anybody going to answer it so that I could go back to sleep? Why did the melody never waiver? What was that bird trying to say!?

IMG_0198

Later in the day, and fortified with a number of cups of coffee, I surprised myself by going out of my way to listen to a similar pitched melody sung over and over and over again by the young babies in our school’s day care room.  It too was difficult to pin down in terms of exact pitch, but the contour was unwavering.  This time I worked hard to put aside my analytical mind, and tried to just enjoy the sounds. It was obvious that the babies were enjoying making these songs.  They sang them again and again and again. Each time brought a fresh round of smiles, as if they were just discovering something new and exciting.

First birds, then babies, and later in the day I came across an article about the study of bats. (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/baby-bats-babble-through-childhood-like-we-do/). It seems that baby bats begin life babbling away using pitched sounds and fragments of melody. The melodious babble is the way the bats begin to communicate. It isn’t until later, after learning from adults, that they develop a more sophisticated sequence of sounds that have precise meaning (to other bats anyway).

Pitch – both processing pitch and producing pitch – is a very early human achievement.

Before words, or concepts or gestures, there is pitch. Infants can process and match pitch within their first few months of life.  Like bats, young babies begin to form meaning of their world through repeated and learned connection of pitch to context. But do we need to always view baby’s use of pitch as a means to an end? Is early pitch use only valuable when it leads to language?

Why do birds, and bats, and babies sing? Well, there are many, many scientists studying these questions looking to uncover meaning and purpose behind this behavior. But after trying to listen to the birds and babies the other day, I began to tell myself…they sing because they can. They sing because they do. They sing because it is in their nature to sing.

This led to a bit of an ‘aha’ moment.  Pitch, and the use of pitch, by babies or children should be valued just because it is a natural part of development.

Although adults can begin to shape pitch into communication with external meaning, we can also celebrate the child’s natural motivation and ability to create pitch.  We can and should view pitch as an important part of the child, separate from language or other meaning and unique in its communicative qualities.

blog (940x300)

Try and wrap your head around it as you go through your day. Here are some tips for listening for and valuing pure pitch play.

  • Think about a smell or scent that you love. Remember how you savor that delicious smell as you take a long sniff? Now think about a pitch that you love. Hard to do? Scent and pitch are sensory experiences that can be valued in the same way. Try to find a pitch that feels especially good to you. Enjoy it just as you enjoy a favorite smell.
  • Practice listening for and imitating pitch. Close your eyes and pick out a sound in your environment. Use your voice to try and replicate the pitch that you hear. This might not be entirely specific, since each person might assign a different frequency as being the most prominent in any pitch sound that is not precisely pure.
  • Play with pitch in your own voice. Try not to connect it to any song or familiar musical structure. This might seem silly at first, but keep in mind that this was one of the earliest ways that you let the world know that you existed.
  • Sit down with the babies or children that you work with as they play. Listen to their use of pitch and try and imitate it. Work hard not to place adult thinking about meaning on the sounds, but try and enjoy the act of making these sounds.
  • Join in this pitch play, and let the babies and children teach YOU about this very natural way of being!

 

Enjoy the music!

Beth

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Soup and the Musical Mechanisms of Change

I just came back from an amazing international conference on current research in music therapy.  It is always refreshing to hear truly great minds present their ideas with a passion that is backed up by charts and graphs and big name journal citations. A thread that ran through many of the presentations was the call for further research focusing on the ‘mechanisms of change’ that allows for music therapy to work.

I guess that I am pretty naïve,  because when I am making music with little children and their families, I think that I know what those ‘mechanisms of change’ are.  The search for validation through research just seeks to precisely explain human nature and the place of music in humans, even though this phenomenon has existed throughout time.  It is kind of like my mother-in-law’s chicken soup.  It tasted awesome every time.  When I asked her for the recipe, she looked at me quizzically as if to say “Why?” She then proceeded to throw in a little bit of this and a little bit of that and set it to simmer on the stove for hours. It was undoubtedly just the way she learned from her mother, and her mother learned from her mother. It was within the ‘doing’ that the ‘understanding’ became clear.

20150412_153957

But this making of the chicken soup did not exist in a vacuum. There are really four critical mechanisms in the know-how of chicken soup:  The Ingredients; The Cook; The Cooking; and The Eater (that would be me!). Each of these parts needs to be present in order to complete the chicken soup experience.

So here are some of my ‘throw in a little of this’ thoughts from chicken soup on how music and music therapy works.

The Ingredients of Music

It is the unique variation in the elements, or ingredients of music, in each music experience that creates one mechanism of change.  Research has pinpointed the physiological and psychological changes created by some of these ingredients such as rhythm or harmony.  Much more needs to be done in the less studied ingredients such as timbre or pitch. With careful observation in my sessions, I can see how each tiny change in any of these elements creates changes in me and my music and in the music makers who join me.  Effective music therapy means knowing how to include, exclude, vary or expand each of these ingredients.

 The Music Cook

No matter how precise a person might be, there is always an individual imprint on everything we do. Research itself really struggles with this uniqueness of humans.  Each and every one of us, thankfully, is an independent variable! The cook then, becomes a critical mechanism of change, no matter how much we try and control the ingredients.  Music as we know it is created by humans (yes, even humans program the music generating programs).  So the music cook, or the music maker, cannot and should not be left out of the equation when figuring out how music and music therapy works.  As a composer, I know that even though others re-create my music with young children, it never is an exact replica of my musicing. The cook matters.

Cooking the Music

I might be out on a limb here, but I believe that music only exists as a process. Because music (we are not talking notation) only happens across time and within experience, the process of musicing is the third mechanism of change.  It is within the process of making the music (whether receptive or expressive) that the music becomes a human experience.  Research has given us a lot of background on the process of the human music experience including sensory and emotional progressions. However, I think that music process is the mechanism that is the least understood and studied by music therapists. We often look to other disciplines and professions to help us understand changes within our clients when we should be immersed in understanding the process of music making. Our real soup is bubbling right beneath our nose!

Eating the Music

I might have taken this analogy a little too far, but visualizing music making the same way we visualize eating might help to understand the ‘eater’ as being vital as the final mechanism of change.  I love parsnips in my chicken soup. My husband hates them.  It doesn’t matter that he knows that they are really healthy, or that they add to the flavor, or that they make the soup look more like his mother’s. He still hates them.  Without a music ‘eater’ who wants the soup, or the music, the way it is made, there is no way that the chicken soup experience will happen.  He just won’t eat it.  In my music therapy groups, there are kids who love melody and kids who seem to care less. There are kids who only get excited or calmed through rhythm. As music therapists, I think we have given far too little attention to the individual’s personal proclivity for music ingredients and the music process. Yes, we do ask about musical preferences, but this often becomes more about a list of songs or a specific genre than a thorough understanding of the very individual nature of musicing.

20150412_154509

There you have it. So as I go to work every day as a clinician, I look toward the day when the graphs and charts and journal citations will empirically recognize what I think is already happening in my practice. I will not stop reading the cook books, but I will continue to make the soup in the way I learned from my music and music therapy ancestors.  And I will make sure that the soup is one that all of my children and families will want to eat.  And if I am asked for a recipe….I’ll  tell them to first read the cookbooks, but then take what they learned and just put in ‘a little bit of this, and a little bit of that’.

Oh… always remember that if you are having guests, you need to make sure you ask them how they like their soup. That way you can all sit down together for a satisfying meal.

Enjoy the soup and the music!

Beth

The Power and Persuasion of Musical Scales

20140308_090705

Yesterday was tax filing day here at my house.

Actually, it has been tax filing week.  Each year I seem to get more and more bogged down with finding and filling out forms.  I like to think I’m organized, but every spring proves me wrong.  The stress builds as I frantically search for Box 3 (B) subsection A, Item 1 on small pieces of paper that I can hardly read. If only there was a reliable system that I could trust would be the same from year to year. As I drifted off to daydream about numbers jumping off the page to taunt me, I began to think about how much stress is caused in our everyday lives by the demands of having to understand things that make no sense.  And of course this led to thinking about how this kind of stress impacts my young students with disabilities all day, every day. That same wide-eyed panic that I feel when faced with a clutter of torn bits of paper and crumpled receipts is the same look I see in the eyes of my little ones when they face new or novel situations.

But new experiences, just like taxes, are a fact of life.

Being able to absorb and integrate novelty is critical for young children as they develop.  Luckily, as music therapists, we do have a system that can give even the newest idea or experience a context and a familiar reference – musical scales.  All of the children that I work with not only seem to ‘get’ scales, but they can demonstrate on a daily basis that they ‘get it’.  Music cognition research fully supports this innate ability to ‘get’ familiar scale patterns.  One of the music researchers that I often go to for information on music and patterns is Dr. Aniruddh D. Patel.  You can read his comprehensive 2007 compendium- Music, Language, and the Brain – or access some of his lectures on YouTube or at http://nihrecord.nih.gov/newsletters/2013/06_21_2013/story2.htm.

Here are two suggestions of how I use the power and persuasion of scales to help my kids feel safe and able to understand what is happening, even when though don’t understand language.

key of g

Sol – La – Ti – Do:  Moving  Up and Forward

This upward scale sequence is so familiar to us that we might take it for granted in our work with children.  I use it to introduce a new experience or to get us ready to start something.  Often I will just sing or play the single tones with no other harmony and wait with an extended pause before finally moving to the ‘Do’.  The silent anticipation of the children as they wait makes the air almost crackle with expectation.  Those focused seconds of listening and regulating are followed by such excitement as they break into music making. They get it.

Sol – Fa – Mi – Re – Do: Moving Down To Completion

Descending down these five tones to the fundamental ‘Do’ gives the children a clear signal that things are coming to an end. I often pair the tones with words that explain such as “I sure had some fun”.   Hearing this sequence again and again at the end of a session or end of an experience will help the children internalize the patterns of completion. Most of the students I work with will vocalize this descending scale along with me. And then I hear them using the same sequence independently helping to make the world a more understandable place.

Whew, I feel calmer already! Okay, now back to making sense of those tax forms.

Enjoy the music!

Beth

Time’s Running Out

Quick! before it disappears! Get in on the magic of early childhood music therapy.

e-book-cover-final (1)

The next Sprouting Melodies Training On-line course begins January 13, 2016.

Register today.  www.RaisingHarmony.com/training

Happy 3rd Birthday

Happy birthday, Raising Harmony!

IMG_0069

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.

IMG_0065

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.

IMG_0074

 

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.

IMG_0057

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.

IMG_0063

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!

e-book-cover-final

 

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/