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

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

 

The Moods of Major and Minor and other Myths

Girls like pink. Boy like blue. Dads always roughhouse. Moms always cuddle. Childhood is happy. Adulthood is serious. These stereotypes still seem to stick despite the truth that none of these qualities apply to all people all the time.  It struck me this week that this same way of trying to make generalizations about the very complex human condition is what makes many people still believe the myth of major and minor.  Major is always happy. Minor is always sad.  Kids are happy so they must only like major music. Minor music is not happy, so kids won’t like it.

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Well the reality is much, much more complex.  In our everyday life, there are hundreds (or maybe thousands) of shades of emotions.  It is no different for young children. Yes, there is happy. But there is also content, or pleased, or excited or exuberant.  There is sad, or somber, or thoughtful, or quiet. There is mad, or angry, or frustrated, or confused. In the old days, I would have said that the emotions in early childhood are like boxes of crayons. (Do children still use crayons?) If we limit the number of crayons that we give children, we will only ever see the colors that are in the box. We then might make the assumption that those are the only colors a child likes or will use.  But if we give a child a large choice of colors (Crayola 64 was my favorite) than we can begin to see all the subtle variations that splash across the paper as the child draws us a bit of themselves.

Back to the myth of major and minor.  Major music and minor music absolutely is connected to human emotion. But there are many shades of major and many shades of minor.  By respecting and playing that shading we can choose to support an expansive view of how children feel by giving them a full range of musical experiences including major and minor.  This is often jarring for music therapy students or professionals who come to visit my sessions or listen to me present. They have a hard time letting go of the myth of major in early childhood work.  The parents I work with are sometimes taken aback when I begin to sing in minor or in another mode. I have heard them say “Kids won’t like that” or “That doesn’t sound like kid’s music”.  But after a lifetime of sharing all kinds of music with all kinds of kids, I know that young children will respond to major and minor and modes.  And once they are caught up in the music experience, they seem grateful to have a place where they are free to choose and express all the shades of themselves. Try it!

Take a listen to this new song I wrote for very little ones and their grownup that explores the movement between major and minor. Sing it with your own little one or the little ones you work with. Teach it to Mom or Dad or Grandpa or Grandma. And then let me know if you too think that there is a mood of major and minor myth.

Enjoy singing!

Beth

Curiosity, Questions and Quality Time

How do we teach young children to think? to be creative? to ask questions? to be curious? Come watch this Sprouting Melodies Sing at Home video for some thoughts and of course another brand new song for you to sing with your child.

There’s Something New About Me     E.K. Schwartz 2014

There’s something new about me.  Just look and you will see. There’s something new about me.  I’m learning to be me!

My hands are clapping;  My feet are tapping; And I can tell you  ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

My hands are clapping; My feet are tapping; And I am ready to go!

There’s something new about me. It happens every day.There’s something new about me. And I have lots to say.

My hands are clapping;  My feet are tapping; And I can tell you  ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

My hands are clapping; My feet are tapping; And I am ready to go!

There’s something new about me. Just look from head to toe. There’s something new about me. Come watch me as I grow.

My hands are clapping;  My feet are tapping; And I can tell you  ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

My hands are clapping; My feet are tapping; And I am ready to go!

There’s something new about me.  Just look and you will see. There’s something new about me.  I’m learning to be me!

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!

This month Raising Harmony turns 2! It was a crisp, sunny February day in Boston when Meredith and I shook hands and signed the documents that began the journey of creating a place to support, share and celebrate early childhood music therapy.

Like any two-year-old, Raising Harmony is growing and moving fast.

Who has nurtured this growth? You!

It is through your backing and encouragement that we have been able to train almost 100 board-certified music therapists in understanding and serving the children and families of their communities. The seeds that these trainings have planted are coming into bloom with a growing number of Sprouting Melodies Providers all around the country. Read about your colleagues who have already launched a program on Sprouting Melodies Find a Class Page.

Here is a Birthday gift for you!

You Play A Little Download

This has been one of my most popular song interventions. Some of you may have heard me present it at conferences. It is one of the songs from “You and Me Makes…We: A Growing Together Songbook”.  I am so happy to be able to share it with you a birthday present and I hope that you will pass it along to your children and their families. 

And make sure you visit www.RaisingHarmony.com and click the link on the right to get five free song downloads.  Each song comes with full notation and some ideas on how to get the most meaningful interactions as you sing them with young children and families/

Here’s to another great year of transformation and growth!

Beth

 
 

 

Going After Gold – What the Olympics Tell Me Not to Do

I have never been a big fan of watching sports, especially not on television. (Well, I did watch the Super Bowl commercials!)  It was a little easier for me in person, but at my son’s early baseball games I remember that I would watch the other parents from the team and shout and clap when they did. Peter Jumping

The Winter Olympics, though, is an exception.  The pictures that you see with this article are not of some random athlete. They are of my nephew who is a ski jumper on Team USA. This is his second time at the Olympic Games. The event is only one of the many competitions he enters each year as he travels around the world in search of that elusive top spot.

As my sister and other family members were leaving for Sochi Russia, the rest of the family were sending along their “Best wishes” and “Good Luck” as well as the signature phrase “Fly long.” For some reason I asked my sister what she would say to her grown son right before the first jump.  She quietly told me that her final word of encouragement to him is always “Relax”.

Jennie and Peter

Later on as I watched the talking head commentators weigh in on the merits of each contestant, I heard the same sentiment echoed again and again. “She wants it too much. She needs to just relax.” “He is not focusing on what he needs to do. He should just relax and keep his head in the moment.” What a contradiction! In order to go after the gold, you need to let go of thinking about going after the gold.

I began to mull over this conundrum in terms of my own work as a music therapist and as a provider of developmental music experiences for young children and their families. My responsibility in this work is to help children meet individual goals or gain developmental milestones. I feel the burden of ‘making progress’ or ‘meeting benchmarks’ all the time.

But what I have found is that if I go into a session rigidly determined to have the child meet a certain goal it almost always backfires.  I get too involved in one little response and how “I can make that happen”.  Neither the child nor I get fully involved in the music. The harder I try, the less seems to occur. Conversely when the session is fun and engaging and satisfying musically for everyone, the child intrinsically responds in the way I had hoped for when designing the experience.

You would think that after almost twenty-five years in the field, I would remember this. But I know that I frequently slip and slide down the slope toward checking off items on a list rather than being present and responsive to the child in the musical moment.

Olympic Flag

So, here is what watching the Olympic Games has taught me to ‘do’ and’ not to do’ that I hope to take into my early childhood music work.

1. Go for the Gold

Go for the gold, don’t go after the gold. Envision the moments of pure musical joy in which each child and grownup is fully engaged. See in your mind the ‘fist-pump’ of elation when everyone is making meaningful music together.  Know what each child needs with a clear picture of how that music will look, sound and feel.

2. Create a Training Plan

Figure out the steps and elements needed to get to those great musical moments. Find a coach or mentor to help you. This could be a real person or a book, article or blog. Make sure the steps, or the music experiences, you create will lead to the ultimate goal.

3. Practice, Practice, Practice

This means you as the music therapist or music leader, more than the child, need to practice before each session. The music experiences become part of your musical self. The music is not something that you place ‘on’ the child. It is something that becomes second-nature and free that you share with the child.

4. Relax and Fly Long

Finally you are at the top of the mountain or on the oval of ice or in the circle of children. All of the work preparing for the music now needs to be put aside. Relax! Trust yourself and trust the music. Most importantly, trust that within the music experience, the child will be able to pull out all the stops and rise up to their potential.

Sochi Russia

So even with all the talk about gold medals, the Olympic athletes tell me that to be successful you need to let go of the medal and focus on the moment.

Go team!

Beth

Time Marches On…And So Do Young Kids

20140106_101540Happy New Year!

Once again, I watched the Times Square festivities from a comfortable, warm couch. The television showed thousands of people dancing the minutes away until midnight. The music was pumping loud and rhythmic. The crowds looked energized and focused toward the deadline separating old from new. As excited as everyone seemed, though, the music at the stroke of midnight turned nostalgic and almost wistful. While I drifted off to sleep (the first activity to bring in the new year for me) I started thinking about the mixed emotions that surround wanting to move forward and wanting things to stay the same. [Read more…]

Spin Around. Fall Down. Musical Structure and Sensory Challenges.

Have you ever played the Dreidel game?

Or used the Dreidel song in your early childhood music groups? It is a well-known and popular children’s song and game sung during the Jewish holiday of Chanukah.

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                I have a little Dreidel

                I made it out of clay [Read more…]

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