Breathe, before fall mayhem

Here’s a little reminder originally held in a class with the fabulous Kim Wade of Inner Gaze Yoga. It was a Mother’s Day tribute, but I think it is appropriate for the mayhem of the return of the school year. For those parents reading this, breathe in and breathe out. You are doing your best. Your calendar is your friend, not your boss. Notice the beauty in front of you, and remember to breathe. Breathe In Breathe Out singing meditation

Alert: Rant Ahead. Words from the wise. 

Cathy Knoll, music therapist extraordinaire, tells it like it is. Behind her words you can also see the difference between music education, therapeutic music listening, and music therapy. It’s the customization that makes this such powerful work. There are no set lists, no cookie cutters, no routines. Every patient experience is unique. We assess, assess, assess, and respond to the needs in the moment. Want something REALLY SPECIAL for your loved one? Call a music therapist. 

ALERT: RANT AHEAD! The time has arrived for me to share some very strong opinions with my music therapy colleagues and other professionals who provide services for the elderly. Because I was born in 1951, I am now officially a “senior citizen” or “older person” or whatever term is socially appropriate these days. This status allows me to go on record in a public forum of formally protesting the habit of music therapists and others to casually lump all “older people” in one giant category. (As an aside, we tend to do the same thing by lumping together all “adolescents” and all “preschoolers” and all “people with autism” and more.) So, all you professionals write this down in your notes: Every individual is just that, an individual. Our job as music therapists is to provide services to an individual, not to a generation or a diagnosis. If you are MY music therapist- whether in the near future or 30 years from now – remember these points:

(1) When you come into my home or room for a music therapy session, DO NOT open a “senior citizens” music book filled with songs popular for my Grandmother’s generation, i.e., teens in 1910-20s. As an aside, my mother, an active occupational therapist and avid supporter of music therapy, always thought is a bit ironic and humorous to find music therapists used out-of-date music even for HER generation (teens in 1930s). My mom liked Johnny Cash, Andrews Sisters, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, Mozart, Elvis, Beatles, Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Broadway musicals, Tchaikovsky, John Denver, Michael W. Smith, Santana, and, of course, her favorite percussionist, grandson Dwight Knoll and her favorite singer/songwriter, grandson Thomas Knoll.

(2) When you come into my home or room for a music therapy session, DO get to know me as a person and learn about my unique musical tastes and preferences, keeping in mind that I am an individual, not a generation. If I cannot let you know my preferences, ask around – my family, friends, music-making friends, and music therapy buddies would be happy to share their opinions about my opinion 🙂

(3) DO introduce lots of variety, and DO introduce me to new music you like. And DO share some of my Grandmother’s music in the mix – I happen to actually LIKE “You Are My Sunshine!” 

(4) Unless I indicate clearly I want you to stop, DO assume I like things – e.g., songs, instruments, you, therapy, life in general – even when I cannot express that interest or like. 

(5) When you come to my home or room for a music therapy session, DO find ways to give me opportunities to make music, no matter the depth of my limitations. Because of significant hearing loss resulting from my Meniere’s (which I’ve had since 1983), I’m not a big fan of music listening. But I love making music with others and watching live performances, so make it happen if you can.

(6) DO allow me to play a real guitar, piano, violin, or whatever rather than the latest technical gadget or a cheap “dime-store” instrument.

(7) When you come to my home or room for a music therapy session, DO come prepared, filled with enthusiasm and a spirit of adventure, and ready to engage and interact with ME – as an individual. 

(8) If limitations of my body, brain, sense of reality, or spirit keep me from engaging with you, then interact with me anyway – talk, sing, help me strum a guitar, tell me about your family or world events or what birds you’ve spotted lately. 

(9) DO NOT talk to other folks in the room as if I were not there. Got that?!?
Okey dokey. Rant to my fellow music therapists and other professional colleagues is over. Although I’m not able to observe all of you in music therapy sessions, my experiences with and observations of music therapy since 1969 assure me your work is making a huge difference in the lives of a huge number of individuals every single day. So keep up the good work. Oh, and be on guard if I’m ever added to your music therapy case load 🙂 Cathy Knoll

Studio Virtual Recital

At long last – our virtual concert!  Not unlike a concert hall where you might go to hear your loved one play, I’ve put together a program of a few students and clients interested in sharing their developing talents. I am so proud of each of them for a variety of things.  I’m proud also of the parents and dedicated grandparents for keeping their kiddos moving forward by bringing them for lessons/sessions.

In addition to the children you see “performing” today, we also engage in music making with clients and students in early childhood education settings, hospitals, schools, and in community settings.  Those programs are not featured here, just a few of our one to one studio students/clients.


Victoria Storm, MM, MT-BC


NAMI Nation

NAMIMy colleagues at the National Alliance on Mental Illness here in Oak Park contacted me a few months ago to assist in a project they are affectionately calling NAMI Nation.  It’s an arts based approach to support and advocacy where the NAMI members have a chance to work together in performance situations to share their love of music, and use the arts for sustained wellness.  Charles Torpe and his colleagues offer open mics, a songwriting group, karaoke, free-style, and poetry slams, and art studio events.  Take a look at this video and you will learn a lot more.  I enter around 4:35 minutes so enjoy the full presentation and offer your support to this super cool program.

In the continuum of care, you can consider this program not a music therapy program, but a wellness program, or therapeutic arts program.  The goals are to embrace the performance opportunities offered to their members as a way to maintain mental health and help members create/express in a supportive environment.  As a music therapist working in community mental health, I am grateful to be able to point to this program as an example of how music is used in a wellness model serving our community members and neighbors.

Go NAMInation!

Summer, Sing Coo Coo

Whenever I think about summer and get excited about the change of pace, the opportunity for added fun and flexibility, an ancient song that I learned of in my Music History 101 class in college always pops in my mind.  Something like, “soomer is incoomin in, sing coo coo” (spelled somewhat phonetically here), has a lilting and playful quality. It dances and bounces in my mind’s ear, reminding me that something wonderful is just around the corner.  20121117-152112.jpg

In getting the summer classes and individual sessions solidly on the calendar, it is a time for me to reflect with intention for how to spend the precious summer moments.  It is once again my intention to spend my days immersed in music making and sharing as much as possible, whether that is with clients, students, their families, in my own community circles, with band mates, and my own family.  What a joy it is to live a musical life.

How can you make yours a musical life and embrace the passions that live within you??

Purple Rain

Shocked and saddened I was yesterday to hear the news about Prince.  I think I was in 7th or 8th grade when Purple Rain came out.  I have distinct memories of dancing around in my room, singing songs from his albums, and truly using his music as an avenue for growing up.  The movie was nothing less than a window into the adult world.  The prayerful tunes spoke to me.  The provocative songs intrigued me.  The rhythm and energy always moved me.  I loved Prince and although I did not closely follow his work, I always remained respectful his artistic choices and unswervable self-expression.    

Here’s to you Prince.  Thanks for being a part of the soundtrack of my life.

Who are some of the important voices in your life’s soundtrack?

Victoria Storm, MM, MT-BC