Media Reviews

Illinois Association for Music Therapy – Member Spotlight

Illinois Association for Music Therapy – Member Spotlight

Thanks to the folks at the Illinois Association for Music Therapy for inviting me to be the  spotlighted member for the month.  Click here to hear my story of what brought me to being a music therapist, and why I stay.  Check it out at


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.      

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.

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.