Making Music, Music Therapy

Breathe In, Breathe Out

I have the honor of guiding some wonderful women singers in a performance the end of this month. I am sharing with them a favorite music meditation of mine in the morning. It is written by Sarah Dan Jones. You may be familiar with it. Surprisingly I could not find a YouTube recording. Maybe that will be my next post. Regardless, the words are inspiring spoken in quiet meditation or sung. They are,

Breath in, breathe out.
When I breathe in I breathe in peace.
When I breathe out I breathe out love.

Here’s a beautiful video by Greenpeace that I found goes along with this well.

Enjoy, and Happy New Year.


Making Music

Music for Young Children

It’s been my great joy to start a new contract working with toddlers and preschoolers to explore music together.  We are working on pro-social behaviors through a curriculum I’ve developed called “Musical Mornings”.  I am always amazed how music can captivate young learners and shape expectations for what’s next.  These young ones are free and open with their feelings, ready to express whatever comes to mind. I’m excited to be a part of their growth and budding maturity, using the musical environment to exercise sharing, turn taking, self awareness, celebrating others’ successes and exploring creativity.

Making Music, Media Reviews, Music Therapy

Improvising with Feeling

My PianoOne of my favorite clinical improvisation techniques in guiding my clients through music making by breaking down the elements of music, and making subtle changes to get to where we collectively want to go. Different combinations of tempo, dynamics, pitch, texture, melody and harmony create different moods or feelings. Communicating on this non-verbal level is a powerful experience for both my clients and for me as a musician, music therapist, and container for the experience. From this place, we can discuss and explore changes in feeling states.

Several weeks ago I heard a report on a study about how music communicates feeling in other cultures.  Essentially, music that we westerners typically describe as sad, is also perceived the same way in other cultures.  This is fascinating, and speaks to the universality of our experience as listeners. 

Check out this nice post called “Musical Minds” by Steven B. Jackson in Psychology Today for a little more information about culture and musical perception. 

When you or a loved one is struggling with shifting moods, remember that listening to music and actively playing music can be a catalyst for change.  Finding and listening to the music that feels great to you can be a really good place to start.      

Making Music

Summer Heat

I’d like to share a few tunes that caused me and my groups opportunity for great reflection during the heat wave of last week.

Two songs — similar themes – very different takes on the content.

Song #1 — Hard Sun by Eddie Veder

  • Chorus:  “There’s a big, a big hard sun, beating on the big people, in a big hard world.”

The verses are filled with second guessing oneself, making surprising and upsetting discoveries, turning for comfort and finding disappointment.

How often do we feel this way?  The sun in all of its glory, when we have too much of that good thing, it becomes oppressive and painful.  What is it like to live with something we know we need, but fear that it can become dangerous at any second?

Song #2 — Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles

  • Chorus: “Here comes the sun, And I say it’s alright”

The sun is restorative, warming us after a cold winter, returning smiles to faces, melting the ice.  It is that which brings life, relief, joy.  

So here’s the question.  How can we view the sun, even the sun that becomes intense at times, as restorative and life bringing.  It is of course, the same sun as always.  What is it about our environment that makes it feel so different?  What is it about our perceptions, that make the intensity bearable or not?

How do you find a way to live your life in a healthy, well regulated, emotionally safe place?  How do you live in the sun of The Beatles, as opposed to the hard sun so eloquently described by Eddie Veder?

I love both of these songs — I can turn to one, and hear the lyrics repeating in my mind’s ear and feel comforted by the shared experience, the shared discomfort, the validation of feeling understood.    Life is after all, a big hard sun at times.  Then I can be with that for a while, before moving on to the other experience of welcoming the warmth – being thankful even.  Sitting in a space of appreciation.

What are you experiencing in your life that you might be able to view in a different light – a light of gratitude?  What can you see differently that will better serve you and the people in your life?

Enjoy the musical moments — they are rich and worth taking a moment to listen fully.

Magical Moments, Making Music

Moments of beauty and meaning

Since my last post many weeks ago, I have been blessed to be a part of so many incredible moments of transformation and healing. As a music therapist, I have held moments of connection with the clients I serve. As a musician and performer, I have been transformed by the act of sharing music with audiences. It has been an incredibly rich spring, where the buds turned into huge musical blossoms.

In April and May I performed the music of one of my favorite songwriters/composers for intimate gatherings in incredible halls that held the sound so gracefully. I also revisited the art of playing in a hand bell ensemble. Somehow I could feel my brain working in different patterns, isolating the tones, coordinating my movements, and striking the bells at the right time along with my bell-mates. I had forgotten how much fun this was. In May and June I met and guided some incredible children along their journey of discovering their abilities through the experience of making music together. Folk music and campfires have been joyful visits, and the adolescents in my life continue to turn me on to new artists with new inspirations to explore. The women and men in the groups I lead continue to inspire me with their perseverance and desire for greater health.

I am anticipating this summer will spark growth in my one to one work with clients in my studio. A few weeks from now will be marked with a stream of performances, so these days are filled with rehearsals. In the fall I have several speaking engagements, so am excited about the preparation for these exciting events.

At moments of thanks and reflection I wonder, how did this come to be?

By always saying yes to music. Always allowing my love for music to be the guiding force in making decisions about how to spend my time, where to share my energies, how to not over commit myself.

I was not always so diligent, in fact, this is a bit of a new focus for me. I have resolved myself of the guilt of not being involved in every committee that I think is interesting or worth the investment. I found a focus that allows for all of my activities to revolve – it’s music. My work, my private practice, my hobby, my spirituality, my reading, and even my family life — so much of it revolves around being a musician and music appreciator and consumer. What a joyful decision.

What is your passion? What is your focus? How do you choose to spend the precious days we spend on this planet together? What guides you in how you spend you time?

Until next time – enjoy this musical world.

Making Music

You want ME to be the conductor?!

I’ve been invited to work with a group of women singers and instrumentalists to lead an ensemble in a performance for a large audience – an audience used to a very high quality musical experience.  Not only am I deeply honored and excited to participate in this ensemble, I have taken on the responsibility of selecting and arranging the pieces from recordings as well.  And let me clarify, this is not a music therapy project, instead a grand artistic leap for me as a musician and music-based storyteller working with “typical” adult music lovers.

To say the least, I am pushing my musical boundaries.  Within my comfort zone is playing gigs with a few friends where we rehearse the tunes to death via relaxed and fun rehearsal processes.  Within my comfort zone is encouraging whatever music to come out of people, and celebrate that small victory.  That’s my job, essentially, as a music therapist.  Being responsible for the product to be consumed for aesthetic quality and artistic presentation with a group is a new challenge that I have upheld with the bands I’ve performed with, but not larger groups.  It is exciting to say the least, and intensely invigorating.  I come home from rehearsal needing at least an hour or two to cool down for sleep.

Not only am I helping people to access music to transform their lives in music therapy, I am being transformed personally by meeting and facing this new artistic challenge.  This growth process is fascinating, and feels a lot like being strapped to a train.  Maybe more like swimming in a lake at night for the first time — you know it is going to be great, and still, a bit scary!

Ohward ho to new musical adventures – it is fodder for a great life.  That, I know for sure.

So, my question for you…   How have you stretched yourself, artistically or otherwise?  After all, isn’t getting through this life an act of faith and creativity in itself?

May you have sweet lullabies to send you off to sleep each night.