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

 

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

 

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

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

Sprouting Melodies® Training is Coming to the Great Lakes Region!

GLR 2014Early Bird Registration for the Conference is open now until February 26th.

2014 GLR Conference Registration

Whether you are from a big city, small town or rural area in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio or Wisconsin, 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.

 

Pre-Conference Institute: Sprouting Melodies Training

22 CMTEs      $440

Wednesday, March 26,2014    8:30am -12:30pm & 1:30pm-6:00pm

Thursday, March 27, 2014      8:30am -12:30pm & 1:30pm-6:00pm

 Friday, March 28, 2014      7:00pm-9:00pm  

What is Sprouting Melodies®?

Sprouting Melodies® is a unique, award-winning early childhood music program in which young children and their grownup sing, play, and move to music that is specially designed to promote healthy early development.

Who runs Sprouting Melodies® classes?

Every Sprouting Melodies Provider™ is a Board-Certified Music Therapist who has received specialized training in early childhood development and early childhood music. As a qualified professional, the Sprouting Melodies Provider™ is skilled at making the early music experience a successful one for all children and families. At Sprouting Melodies® we have the extensive training and experience to create and lead musical adventures that meet every child’s needs and move the whole group forward developmentally on a weekly basis. We also have the clinical training and judgment to modify classes to meet unique individual needs.

Why Sprouting Melodies®?

The Sprouting Melodies® program offers music therapists a chance to use all their education, skills and experience to bring the best possible early childhood music experience to families in the community. Sprouting Melodies® also offers you, the Board-Certified Music Therapist, with an opportunity to expand your practice and enhance your career.

AZ Scarves Cropped

 

 

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 Institute 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.”

SM Logo with RH

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

for music therapists!

 Register Now!

2014 GLR Conference Registration

Early Music Experiences: Do We Need Plastic Trophies?

As a parent, I had to make a lot of choices about what experiences I would give my kids as they grew up.  Maybe it wasn’t really as much of a choice as I thought, since I had grown up in a family where three things counted: Family; hard work; and music.  So those were the things that I most wanted to pass down to my kids. [Read more…]

‘Come Gather Together’ The Importance of Synchrony in Early Childhood Music Groups

Maybe it is because I have either been in school or worked in school settings for most of my life that I think of fall, and especially September, as the real beginning of the New Year.  Here where I live, the air becomes crisp and the leaves fall from the trees making room for a particular brightness and clarity in the sky.leaves 1

[Read more…]

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