Music Therapy, Speaking

My work in hospice music therapy

I was glad to be a guest on the Hospice Chaplaincy Show. If you’d like to take some time (it’s 49 minutes long) and hear about my journey leading up to and including my work in hospice, take a listen. I included a lot of personal information – talking about music therapy really opens me up. Thanks to Dr. Saul Edema and Dr. Joe Newton for inviting me to share some insights from the field, and from my heart.

Magical Moments, Speaking

TEDx Oak Park Women – Sing it Loud, Sing it Proud

Well, the day is almost here. My appearance offering a TedX talk is just days away. I’d be happy to share more information about the process of getting, writing, rehearsing, and delivering this but for now, I’m headed to go run through it a few more dozen times. Rehearsal is the key to any performance, and wow, this will be a big one for me. Thanks in advance for your support. I am so excited to be a part of this and remind people of the benefits of music in our everyday lives to help us THRIVE. Links to the video are anticipated in January 2020. More information about the event is available here. Scroll down to the bottom to where you see my headshot and bio. Be sure to check out the other speakers – it will be a fascinating night. Here we go!

Media Reviews

CD Review for Relaxation

A new pursuit we have here at Oak Park Music Therapy is to provide you with some valuable resources for healthy living through music.  I figured one way to do so is by writing reviews of projects done by other music therapists and musicians whose work I think is worth adding to your personal libraries.  So without further delay, I’m today sharing my impressions of the CD collection for relaxation created by fellow music therapist, Ryan Judd, MA, MT-BC.

Ryan Judd Relax series

Ryan Judd’s “Rest and Relaxation 4 CD Set – Perfect for Meditation, Relaxation, and Sleep” is just that, perfect.  Beginning with the packaging, the images accompanying the CD really gives you a sense of what to expect with beautiful photos that elicit the imagination. It includes 3 CDs of uninterrupted water sounds (ocean, stream, and rain) and restful guitar over ocean sounds.

If you are looking for a continuous play of over 60 minutes of “Calming Mountain Stream” sounds, this is the right recording for you. The high ends with the tinkling splashing sounds paired with the mid-range tones and subtle bounces of the stream gave me a lot to listen to while I fell asleep.  Listening to the mid and high tones made me feel like I was right there taking a snooze in the sun by the river bank.  The white noise of the stream in the background filled the space nicely.  It’s a lovely consistent recording that will not surprise or give you a jolt.

The “Calming Rain” recording immediately made me feel like I was resting in a welcome shelter, maybe a rocking chair on the back porch of a cabin, waiting out the showers before continuing my hike.  The raindrops were persistent but not foreboding.  A few thunder rumbles in the distance told me my visit was going to be extended, that I would be resting here for a while.  The lower tones made my listening a whole body experience – full and enveloping.  The 60 plus minutes were welcome without interruption.

“Calming Ocean Waves” also did not disappoint.  The wind and the waves were continuous for 60 minutes.  Some swoops and bends in the tone elicited images of sun and waves, and the fun of rushing up the beach to avoid getting your shoes soggy.  More active with volume swells and crashes of the surf than the others in the collection, this recording might be just what is needed for a crying baby to attend to, or when you are sick or uncomfortable. It may also be helpful in quieting an over-active mind.

My favorite disc in the collection is Ryan Judd’s “Tranquil Guitar”.  He has masterfully created pieces eight acoustic guitar selections, gentle enough to not require a lot of attention from the listener.  The melodies invite you to lean back and explore deep relaxation.  These are not songs per se, no verse/chorus/bridge formats, just lovely melodic phrases repeating over and over in sections.  The eight selections are similar in flavor so create a nice flow of one tune into the other, and each piece is about 7 1/2  minutes long with continuous ocean surf sounds in the background, tying one piece to the next.

Track one, “Close Your Eyes” plays for 7 minutes 34 seconds and there is no interruption in the surf sounds as track two, “Seaside Dreaming” begins with another soothing acoustic guitar melody for almost 8 minutes.   The deeper tones and more engaging chord structure gives a greater sense of several verses lovingly constructed with open spaces for resting. As track two blends seamlessly into track three, Judd shows his versatility by adding a plaintive melody in “Beneath the Stars.”  Somehow this one is more melancholy than the others though no less relaxing.  This then blends into “Without You”, and “Take Me Away”, which may be the most cheerful of the collection with its strong grounding in a major key and use of the familiar chord progressions.  “Crescent Moon” continues with open chords arpeggiated and returning to the familiar one chord to create a sense of safety and holding. “Soaring” continues the themes we have heard in the album with a different melody, and finally “My Wish” closes the album with another gentle tune fitting with the flow of the previous 7 tracks. The ocean waves throughout are a lovely accompaniment to Ryan’s composition and acoustic guitar meditations.

With either headphones or on stereo speakers, this selection of CDs is a great addition to your collection for moments when you feel the need to invite nature indoors and explore deep peace.  I would recommend you use this anytime when you want to reduce your stress level and enhance your body’s relaxation response.  Do not listen to this while driving of course.  I congratulate Ryan Judd on sharing this worthwhile project. Check it out here:

Oak Park Music Therapy is a Chicagoland music therapy service dedicated to bringing quality group and individual music therapy services to your loved ones, you clients, and your colleagues.  Follow us here or contact us directly to schedule an appointment or workshop.

Magical Moments

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.

Magical Moments

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

Magical Moments, Making Music, Music Therapy

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


Making Music, Media Reviews

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!

Magical Moments, Making Music

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??