Media Reviews, Music Therapy

Parenting Styles for Children with Disabilities

Check out this nice article in Disabilty Scoop addressing how parenting style has a big impact on children with disabilities.

The researchers found that even though it may seem natural to allow behaviors, or eradicate behaviors, finding the sweet spot somewhere in between is the key to teaching independence and skills for the future. It’s wonderful to see how this is so in line with parenting typically developing kids.

As a music therapist, I balance in this place as a clinician at the piano, guitar, djembe, or other music experience. It’s in that space of gently guiding my clients towards free self expression and also creating aesthetic beauty in sound. It’s in that space, in that relationship we develop together, that the learning and insight happens.

Keep singing!


Media Reviews, Music Therapy

Clinical Research on Depression and Anxiety

A few days ago I shared with you a video of pop star Katy Perry singing with and being accompanied by a young girl with autism.

Today I wanted to share something that appeals also to my analytical side. Don’t want to read the whole abstract? Here’s the upshot — Researchers in Finland found that with 79 participants after three months of treatment, their depressed and anxious patients improved in their symptom management through music therapy. More specifically, “Verbal reflection and improvising on emotions in MT may induce neural reorganization in fronto-temporal areas. Alpha and theta changes in fronto-temporal and temporoparietal areas indicate MT action and treatment effects on cortical activity in depression, suggesting an impact of MT on anxiety reduction.” Here’s a link to the whole she-bang if you are interested.

Here’s my take on this. The fronto-temporal regions are where our everyday thinking and reasoning skills come from; as well as some music and speech skills. Music also taps into a part of the brain that is “older” or develops in us earlier, and connects quickly to our emotion centers. So verbal therapy is great for these fronto-temporal decision making skills and areas of reason, for gaining insights — adding music making to the mix and getting to the deeper levels where emotion is accessed sometimes quickly, is a great pairing for verbal therapies.

I hope you enjoy the scholarly article. As Michelle Shocked said, keep on rockin’. Thanks for visiting.


Media Reviews

Dream comes true for girl with autism

  If you haven’t seen this clip from last night’s Comedy Central fundraiser for autism programs, now is your chance.  It shares the story of how Jodi DiPiazza’s natural interest in music became a tool for her self expression beyond her learning struggles due to autism.  Her mother says that music is how she “makes herself known”.  What a wonderful tool to communicate who we are – through music.  Watch Jodi accompanying and singing “Firework” with Katy Perry herself.  Whether you are a fan of Katy Perry or not, I think you’ll be moved by watching them perform together.

“Firework” has been a regular song in my list of tunes for therapy for a couple of years now.   It speaks of resilience in the face of struggle, and celebrating one’s uniqueness and finding one’s strength.  We could all use a reminder of our inner power now and again.

Now, I know nothing about this particular girl except that she has made great strides in defying the limitations imposed by her autism.  When we give our children the tools, the opportunities, and the loving environment to succeed, sometimes they can really surprise us.  The same is certainly true in music therapy.  

I’m always excited to share what I know about music.  The way we can to get to the heart of a feeling with or without words is profound.  My connection with my clients who have emotional struggles, intellectual limitations, or disorders in communication show me every day how music is indeed a bridge to the heart.  And my heart says that being connected to another human being, even in moments of being musical together, can make the difference between a good day and a difficult one.

Congrats little Jodi on a job well done, and to you Ms. Perry for sharing a really great tune with all of us.

For the rest of us, let’s keep singing.

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.      

Media Reviews, Music Therapy

What music does in the brain

I love the overview this CNN article provides. Check out the info on all levels of health and function that music offers via intervention. Oh yeah, it is often pleasurable/fun too.

Check out music therapy the next time a loved one is in need of rehabilitation, habilitation, insight, or mood stabilizing.

Media Reviews, Music Therapy

Music therapy and Alzheimer’s disease

How does music therapy help in developing connections for patients with Alzheimer’s disease? Here’s a nice quick piece in the Huffington Post with video of sessions happening.  Interviewed is Connie Tomaino, an expert in our field, sharing a bit about why music is effective with her patients.

Whenever I witness these kinds of responses to music is sessions, and even on these videos, I tend to take for granted how transforming the music can be for an individual.  I often think, “Of course he is up and dancing!  She’s playing his song!”, and then I remember what a huge deal this is. 

Find the music for your loved ones, and dance, clap, or sing!



Media Reviews

Ben Folds joining up with Americans for the Arts for Advocacy Day 2012

Coming up in a few short weeks is Arts Advocacy Day on capitol hill on April 16 and 17. One of my personal favorites, Ben Folds, is speaking up for the need to support the arts in education and also advocating for music therapy.  Check out this brief piece, Ben Folds to Perform During Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy on April 16 in Washington, D.C, to get a sense of what’s happening. 

I have been a fan of Ben Folds for a long time now.  In fact I remember when my close friend Sean Hickey, composer and classical music exec, played Ben Folds Five for me the first time.  He noticed how this little ensemble rocked harder with an acoustic piano and fuzzy bass sound than anyone we had heard in a long time.  I couldn’t have agreed more.  Then I started to listen to his lyrics.  I heard the cutting wit, self depreciating candor, true to life story-telling, mixed in with the sometimes mesmerizing and often rocking, always no-nonscence musical lines and melodies.  To be clear, I do not know Ben Folds – what a day that would be – but through his intensely personal music making, I feel I have a connection to him the way that I know many people do.  This is a beautiful thing, when you connect to your audience in such an authentic way.  I can only assume that making music for Mr. Folds has been a process of discovery and self exploration.  What a gift.

Discover and self exploration.  Hmmm.  Sounds pretty good for a music therapy session. 

Until next time, may you be surrounded by the loveliness of the world.

Media Reviews, Music Therapy

Music therapy in early childhood classrooms

I wanted to share with you an article published in January on the Huffington Post.  Ronna Kaplan, recent Past President of the American Music Therapy Association, opens a door for us and gives readers a view inside the classroom for young students with different abilities.  In her article, “Music Therapy in Early Childhood Classrooms” she does a nice job of describing what you might see in a classroom session, and why. 

When I read the article, I reflected upon how music can be shaped to be the carrier of information for learners of different sensory needs and skill levels.  Often kids with “special needs” have disparities in levels of functioning.  This means they might struggle intensely with one thing, and be really quite talented at another.  Using music to help kids learn essential academic concepts, as well as therapeutic concepts for communication, psychosocial health, and motor planning are an often non-threatening and fun ways to approach learning and goal achievement.  Through music therapy, music can be the tool to access strengths to illucidate the lesson or task being taught. 

So when kids have challenges in getting something accomplished, wrapping the content in music might just be the thing that will help get the concept understood and integrated.


Media Reviews, Music Therapy

PBS Newshour spotlight on music therapy

Welcome to another piece on one of my favorite subjects – music therapy.  Take a few minutes to check out this great overview “The Healing Power of Music” aired on February 27th on PBS’s Newshour with Jim Lehrer.

The video captures a snapshot of treating persons with brain injuries and medical complexities through music therapy.  This includes a bit about Gabrielle Giffords’ music therapy treatment, a bit about brain science and the neuropathways developed by engaging in active music therapy, and some nice case examples.  Meet a young man with muscular dystrophy whose music therapist is using music to enhance his mood and help him cope with hospitalization, a group of children drumming together in the hospital, a group of stroke survivors, and a view of a music therapist addressing veteran’s health and rehabilitation.  They have also included soothing patients enduring cancer therapies, and how music can aid in alleviating depression in the elderly.  Musicians reflected how participating in music and enjoying being in the moment through dancing or singing can be therapeutic.  When coupled with the skill of a music therapist, the therapeutic relationship and addressing non-musical goals can be transformative.

When I watched the videos and considered the commentary, I, of course, reflected on my own work as a music therapist.  Music recreation, music appreciation — these are all imperatives for all persons, “healthy” or otherwise.  What seems to make my work so different from music education and music appreciation with persons with a variety of needs, is that I look to uncover moments of transformation.  It is not about me, it is not about the music that is coming out of my heart, hands, and voice.  It is about what my client is going to do with it, and how I can support that client in being changed somehow.    In this liminal space, that moment of insight, that moment when the hand reaches out to interact, that moment when the smile is undeniably connected to what I am offering, is when that relationship is solidified and goals are addressed.  I and my fellow music therapists often don’t care what the client’s music sounds like — it is what the music brings to them that makes those moments of transformation possible.

Enjoy the news story.  I look forward to hearing from you and reading your comments.