Big Savings this Spring – Hurry!

Spring already? How does the time go so quickly?

Get a jump start TODAY by signing up for the Spring Sprouting Melodies Training course

Refresh your knowledge, renew your passion, rejuvenate your work and career.

Because we procrastinate too, we wanted to give you an extra chance to register at the Early Bird Discount cost of $349. That’s 23 continuing education credits, tons of new music, and a vibrant engaging community.

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

Course starts Wednesday, April 4, 2018. Early Bird Discount deadline, March 31st.

 

What are you waiting for?

What’s the Deal with Dorian?

Well, I’ve done it again! There is something about the Dorian mode during the winter season that really draws me in. And what I’ve noticed again and again is that it also draws young children into the music in a way that is unique.

I think that it is the ambiguity which the Dorian mode creates that fits so well with my style of music therapy. I want children to explore and express and examine. I don’t always want to box children in to a certain harmonic structure that will lead them to a foregone conclusion. The Dorian starts out with the flatted third that tricks the ear into thinking it has a specific path. But then, along comes the raised sixth. It surprises me every time. It no longer feels minor, but it doesn’t feel major either. That is another reason that Dorian is perfect for young children as they explore all types of pitched and melodic sounds. Anything they contribute musically seems to have a place in Dorian.

I also like to add the Dorian mix into the pot during the holidays. By the time December is nearing its end, many of us are ready for a break. We sometimes get stuck in the stress of season and keep our jingle bells on constant loop. Dorian digs me out.

Maybe this song in Dorian will help you find a little bit of novelty and newness in these last few days before the New Year. Give it a try this week. “Look and See” invites you and your children to take a break from the normal and find some creative play time. Let me know if you, like me, find a big deal in Dorian.

Enjoy the Music!
Beth

Look and See!
E. K. Schwartz 2017

1, 2, 3. Look and see!
1, 2, 3. Look at me.
1, 2, 3. Look and see!
We can play together. We can play together.

Come and play with me.
Come and play with me.
Come with me and you’ll see, we can play together.

AMTA 2017 – What a Year!

Meredith and I not only love our careers. We love our profession! Both of us are committed to giving back to the American Music Therapy through service and sharing our expertise.  But AMTA 2017 might be our busiest year yet!

Here is the line up. If you are traveling to the AMTA conference in St. Louis, please stop us for a chat. If you would like to know more about any of the presentations, send us an email next week. We would love to know all about how YOU support the profession.

AMTA Leadership Academy*

Nov 15, 2017 12:30 pm – 05:30 pm

Presenter(s): Meredith Pizzi, MPA, MT-BC; Alicia Ann Clair, PhD, MT-BC, Anthony Meadows, PhD, LPC, MT-BC, Deanna Bush, MM, MT-BC; Kamica King, MT-BC

CMTE F. Developing and Expanding Supervision Skills*

November 16, 2017

Presenter(s): Meredith Pizzi, MPA, MT-BC; Annette Whitehead-Pleaux, MA, MT-BC; Katie Bagley, MT-BC; Laetitia Brundage, MT-BC

A Preventive Model of Music Therapy for Children in Limited Resource Communities

November 17, 2017 8:00 am-9:15 am

Presenter(s): Varvara Pasiali, PhD, MT-BC; Elizabeth K. Schwartz, MA, LCAT, MT-BC

The Music Therapy Pyramid Model: From Theory to Practice

November 17, 2017 2:15 pm-3:30 pm

Presenter(s): Meredith R. Pizzi, MPA, MT-BC; Ronna Kaplan, MA, MT-BC

Community Engagement in Music Therapy Practice

November 18, 2017 3:15 pm-4:30 pm

Presenter(s): Helen Dolas, MS, MT-BC; Ellary Draper, PhD, MT-BC; Grant Hales, MT-BC; Meredith Pizzi, MPA, MT-BC; Tom Sweitzer, MA, MT-BC

The Music is Enough – Stepping Up Your Interventions and Repertoire for Children

November 19, 2017 9:30 am-10:45 am

Presenter(s): Meredith R. Pizzi, MPA, MT-BC; Elizabeth K. Schwartz, MA, LCAT, MT-BC

To Maria, Irma and Harvey….From Sandy

It was five years ago today that Hurricane Sandy upended the lives of so many people in my community. October 29, 2012. Looking back, the way we helped young children through those early days stills rings true today. To all the children and families affected by Maria, Irma and Harvey – our hearts are with you.

Go Away, Hurricane Sandy!

Routine, Reassurance, Recognition and Resilience

Dark. Noisy. Confusing. Mom and Dad upset. No TV.  Cold. The hurricane that roared through our area was really scary for so many little children.  And scary for grownups, many of whom felt powerless both literally and figuratively.  My friend Christine, shared these thoughts in an e-mail after returning to work at her pre-school – “So many staff members and family have lost everything at my site! People were crying in the halls in each other’s arms. A 4 year old girl told me there were fish and crabs swimming though her house.” 

How can we help our children feel safe in a situation like this? How can we help our children feel safe if we don’t feel safe ourselves?  This is a question for all grownups, including music therapists, who care for the young.  I have been thinking about how music could be one answer in this situation and in other crises that children face.  My music therapy colleague continued in the e-mail – “I spent a few hours considering how to structure my sessions. I decided not to start things I had planned on starting and focused on providing a sense of the familiar by doing the same gathering songs and music from two weeks ago. In some sessions we talked about the lights being out and being in a different house and how I’m still me. “Routine, reassurance and resilience.

Here at Raising Harmony we believe that making music is a natural part of development and that making music can help children develop. This includes a trait as important but as elusive as resilience.  Resilience means that we support the little child in feeling, expressing, understanding, coping and creating solutions.  In early childhood music therapy practice around the world, clinicians speak about the importance of prevention and early intervening in helping the child gain strength and health.  We can give the child and family the opportunity to prevent long term difficulties from the emotional upheaval of a crisis through music and music making.

What does developing resilience sound like in music? Christine gave us some good ideas. Here are a few more thoughts.

Repetition, Routine and Rhythm

Rhythm unifies and brings people together. The day I returned to work after the storm, I invited all the children and staff into one room.  Sitting on the floor, I began to pat knees in a very matter-of –fact way. The children joined in first, followed by the staff.  Slowly we began to sing a very familiar gathering song. The tempo was just as matter of fact, neither slow nor fast, but just right. The melody was fairly narrow in range.  We kept the structure very predictable, just like we had always done. You could feel the children begin to relax and give into the compelling patterns.  The message sent through the music was of trust and confidence. For just that musical moment, everything was going to be okay.

Recognition and Respect

One little guy I work with struggles with any change in routine and reacts to any loud or sudden sounds with terror. Can you imagine what this storm meant to him? His family shared with me that it had been a terrible week after the storm.  How could this child begin to express and begin to understand when I knew he couldn’t find the words to talk about fear? Well, we began at the piano with a favorite song- consonant harmony and triadic melody.  Since we know each other well musically, I then took the musical risk of introducing a flatted sixth chord into the harmonic progression.  We both jumped back from the piano and I sang “Scary”.  The flatted six chord resolved to the flatted third, and finally the V7 and back to the tonic chord.  The stage was set musically to feel the panic, then give a word and sound to describe the feeling, and then a resolution back to an area of comfort.  He and I played this game again and again and again until he showed he was anticipating the unusual chord. This musical experience recognized and respected that something really traumatic had happened.  But the pattern also allowed for the ‘scary’ to be resolved into something that this child could control.

Response and Resolution

To develop resilience for both this young boy and the group the music had one more job- to give voice to how to cope with problems and create solutions.  That’s where songs came into play. Songs can be created that are specific to the child’s needs. Songs can be remembered and re-created by the child at times of stress.  For this terrible storm, we adapted an old folk song:

“Shoo fly, don’t bother me. Shoo fly, don’t bother me. Shoo fly, don’t bother me. I want you to go away.”  “Go away, cold, dark house. Go away, trees falling down. Go away noisy wind. Go away Hurricane  Sandy.”

The melody is strong and the rhythm is crisp. The structure is clear and decisive.  And like the music after the storm, so are the kids.

Have you worked through crisis with young children? Share some of your ideas and thoughts, because we all need to be ready for what life brings. Thanks, Christine for getting the conversation started!

I look forward to hearing from you.

Beth

Need a Summer Boost? Try Mixing Meters!

I always looked forward to the change of seasons.  Fall to winter. Winter to spring.  Especially spring to summer when school let out and everything seemed more relaxed and care-free. But as a music therapist, I have learned that the children and families that I work with do not get a break from the challenges that they face. The preschool program in which I work runs year round so that the children will have the consistent support that they require.

Even though I know that this is often best for the children, I get sad when the children or families tell me that they don’t have the time or energy for normal fun. Fun, like going to the beach to swim.  So if the children can’t get to the beach, how about bringing the beach to them? We don’t need actual sand and water, we just need music that gives the feeling of the waves and surf.

Here is a new song you can use this summer. It relies on mixing the meters of 2 and 3 to give the sense of momentum and flow that we feel in the cool water. Give it a try with instruments or lovely flowing scarves. I use one that I picked up on a vacation a long time ago.

 

Come With Me and Swim…E.K. Schwartz 2017

Come with me and swim. Come hold hands and jump right in.

Come with me and swim. Come hold hands and jump right in.

The water is cool, the weather is fine. So take a deep breath, it’s almost time.

Bend your knees. Curl your toes. Take a breath. Hold your nose.

Ready. Set. Go! OH!!

Enjoy!

Beth

Clapping – Containment, Communication, Celebration and Community

I can’t believe that I was so sloppy in researching just how important clapping is to children and to all people!  Just recently, I was trying to explain to a new intern how and why children clap. Of course I told her that I would send her some links to literature on early clapping from my previous writing. Guess what? There was nothing there! Yes, there were some references about when it should happen and lots of ideas of clapping interventions, but I glossed over clapping as if it were just another on the list of markers of early childhood development. Whoa! The children and families I work with use clapping as the ‘go-to’ musical response –way before they are willing or able to sing or play an instrument.  How could I have been so blind to how important clapping is?

I felt a little better after doing a search of scholarly articles on clapping. Although my exploration was certainly not thorough, I couldn’t find the comprehensive neurological, physical, cognitive, emotional and social overview of clapping that I was hoping to find.  So here are some thoughts about clapping as a vital human response.  While I think about clapping within a musical context, clapping is about so much more- it is about  the development of ‘self’.  It helps me to think in categories so here are the four areas of clapping that I think of most with small children- Containment, Communication, Celebration and Community.091312CC128 (533x800)

Containment

Infants come into the world wired to absorb. From the first, they take in sounds and smells and sights. The problem is that early on babies have few mechanisms to shut off the flow of experiences. When babies fuss or cry, it is often because they don’t have a way to understand or change the stuff that is thrown their way, whether it is a wet diaper or a great Aunt who comes just a little too close. It takes much of the infant’s first year for their body and mind to begin to gel into one operating system.  A signal that they are starting to understand the boundaries of their body comes when the infant brings their palms together, and then begins to practice the movement which is the precursor of clapping. The sensitivity of the palms touching provides a way for the body to connect with itself.  The baby starts to sense the line that defines themselves. Try really focusing while putting your palms together and see how it feels.  It is no wonder that many of the world’s spiritual or religious movements use the palm-together gesture as a way to concentrate on deeper thoughts.  I see many children with special needs use hand wringing or clapping in a way that makes me think that they are trying to find or define themselves. Independently using clapping as a way to contain can be very important in developing a healthy ‘self’.

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Communication

Clapping is an outward gesture that we can see and feel and hear. So while clapping might start as helping a child with containment, it soon begins to take on meaning that other people can recognize. Spend time with a new family and you will hear the oohs and aahs when the new baby first smiles and first claps their hands. It is almost as if we need to see and hear these gestures to really believe that there is a ‘person’ inside.  Babies soon begin to recognize that grownups respond when they bring their hands together.  As the child grows and starts to make sounds with clapping they use the gesture to show pleasure or to get attention.

Adults also use clapping to communicate with children.  A little one takes a first step, the grownup claps. They finish the food on their plate, and the grownup claps. The sound of clapping can also communicate a different message very clearly. I remember my mother who raised eight children without ever raising her voice. How did she let us know when she was displeased? A very loud sharp clapping sound that could be heard above the din of even the noisiest of days.

Celebration

How did clapping become the way we celebrate? We clap to show appreciation, we clap at important events, we clap at concerts, and we clap at the end of movies. Why? In trying to answer that question, I found very little in the literature except to say that that is what humans do.  When I observe young children, though, I think I can see where it comes from.  When something excites us or moves us, our brain signals our bodies to express that excitement or stimulation. I think that clapping started as a way to let the energy out when our brains can no longer keep it in. Similar to dancing or jumping, clapping is a way to expel and dissipate energy.

For very young children, clapping can be a physical indication of intense emotions that they are not ready to express in other ways such as using words.  Clapping as a unique gesture generally begins in the second half of the child’s first year.  For the next few years, the child will clap sporadically and often non-rhythmically. It feels very spontaneous and seems to me to support that gesture as being a physical release.  However, when I see little ones bringing their hands together in carefree and joyous movements, I can’t but help celebrate life!

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Community

Of the studies on clapping that I found, the use of clapping to support a sense of community and belonging was the most researched.  I think I can now safely say that there is strong scientific evidence that synchronous movement is directly connected to social bonding. Clapping, along with dancing, might be the most ubiquitous synchronous movement in our current culture.  Try ‘googling’ clapping and you will see page after page linking clapping to social, artistic, religious and sports gatherings.

For young children, the instinctual clap that starts as bringing the palms together gradually grows by about age four or five into the ability to clap in unison with others.  They can control their gestures to make a musical sound and regulate the tempo to join in with everyone else. Through the clapping they become part of a community.

So I will go back to work with a renewed respect for all the stages and meanings of clapping for my young music makers and their families. And yes, I will probably clap for myself that I finally woke up to a better understanding of the seemingly simple gesture of clapping.

Enjoy clapping to the music!

Beth

 P.S. Visit http://sproutingmelodies.com/2016/07/14/im-so-glad-to-be-me/ for a brand new song I wrote about the joy of clapping.

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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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