A Therapeutic Note

Every year I go through the phase of “What if I had continued on with my music education degree?” I have no regrets really, because in the end I wanted something that really wasn’t being a band director. I wanted to work with bands without administrative red tape. There are jobs within most band programs that fill that idea, but not many, and not full time.

I love music in most forms, and I feel it’s a bit of a “cause” for me because of how important it has been in my life, and how I believe it truly helps people. Which is why I was really excited to find that a good friend had taken a route with music that not enough people think about – music therapy. There’s a feeling as you approach college as a music student that your options are either to teach music or play music, but that’s just not the case. So I’d like to shed a little light on the work done by Metro Music Therapy and while they may not be in your area, perhaps you or someone you know could benefit from the services offered by groups like them to people of all ages.

Music therapy has been around about as long as instruments have. Through the centuries it’s been said that music could rid a person of demons, delay madness in mental patients, purify the soul, or even aid with healing of diseases. Modern music therapy really began with veterans from World War I and II. Musicians, some quite famous, were sent to hospitals to play for soldiers suffering from mental and physical trauma as the result of battle. The results of these musical interactions were discussed for years. William Congreve wrote that now famous (often misquoted) line, “Music hath charms to soothe a savage beast…” but did you know it goes on to say, “…to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” Congreve was on to something there, music takes hold of people in an almost indescribable way.

So what is modern music therapy? From the website, “Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. It is an established health service similar to occupational therapy and physical therapy and consists of using music therapeutically to address physical, psychological, cognitive and/or social functioning for clients of all ages.” In short, music therapists work with people who have any number of disabilities and use music to help in the way they live. If you are a mother who had a special “labor mix” on your iPod, you have used music therapeutically. So this is an idea that many people have used in their life while perhaps not knowing it. I took this opportunity to ask my friend, Mallory Even – who owns and operates Metro Music Therapy, a few questions that go outside the realm of the information provided on the website.

My first question was the one I was most interested to hear the answer. As a former music education major, I’m well aware that music therapy is not an obvious choice to most people. It’s something Mallory aims to change for other students.

With so many career choices involving music, what made you choose music therapy?
“I actually thought I wanted to be a band director throughout my time in high school, so I started out as a music education major my freshman year at Florida State. During one of our general music courses, Dr. Jayne Standley came to speak to our class about her work as a music therapist in the NICU. I had never heard of music therapy before,which I now think is sad and have made it a mission of mine to educate high school students about music therapy as a career choice. I was completely amazed that there was a field that combined my love for music and my passion for helping people. That same day, I walked into Dr. Standley’s office and told her I wanted to change my major.”

Dr. Standley has done some amazing work with pre-mature babies. Her research and efforts with The Florida State University has found them third in the nation for music therapy programs. You can learn more about Dr. Standley and her work right here.

How would people find out about music therapy groups in their area? Would it be doctor referral, internet/word of mouth searching, little of both? 
“If searching for a music therapist in your area, I would start with either The American Music Therapy Association or the Certification Board for Music Therapists – both have databases to help people find music therapists throughout the United States. A doctor’s referral is always a plus (especially if you are hoping to have insurance coverage for music therapy services), and even speech, occupational or physical therapists in your area can be great resources since a lot of music therapists network with those other therapeutic disciplines. (Of course, the internet/word of mouth is always a good option, too!)”

An important thing to reinforce there is that many insurance companies cover some or all of the costs of these therapy sessions.

I’m sure there are tough days (right?), tell me a story about a good moment that keeps you going.
“Definitely tough days … not only while working with challenging clients, but also as a small business owner in a field that can still be considered “new” or “different” by the general population. But, the work that we do is so rewarding that it makes it all worth it. One of my favorite moments as a music therapist could have been easily overlooked by an outsider – as a lot of our “it” moments can be – but, luckily my five-year-old client’s mother was in the room during our session that day. This little girl, we’ll call her “Bella”, was hearing impaired and had recently undergone surgery for bilateral cochlear implants – a surgery that is decided upon by a lot of families only after much thought and consideration for their child’s future. As usual, I started our session with the “hello” song (a simple song I had sung so many times before while Bella would look at me and smile, but usually never make a sound) … “Hello Bella, Hello Bella, Hello Bella, it’s time to say hello!” That morning Bella waved and smiled, but didn’t vocalize anything with me. I told Bella I wanted to sing the song again, and this time I wanted her to try really hard and sing her name with me. “Hello Bella, Hello Bella, Hello Bella, it’s time to say hello!” After I was finished singing that phrase, she looked me straight in the eye and said, “Bel-la.”

“Yea, Bella! That was wonderful!! Let’s do it again!!” And we did. We must have sung the “hello” song ten times that day. Bella’s mother remained very quiet and got very teary-eyed as we continued to sing, and finally looked at me and said, “That is the first time she has ever said her name.”

There are so many touching moments that make up a music therapist’s career. The elderly dementia patient that can’t remember their name, where they live, or who their family members are, but who can sing every word to the song, “You Are My Sunshine,” and who smile for the first time in days because you brought that musical memory to them; the child with Autism who remains isolated and withdrawn in their usual daily activities, but engages in eye contact, close proximity to peers, and appropriate social skills during the instrument-play activity in their weekly music therapy group. The changes evoked through music can sometimes appear to be subtle, but as a whole, music therapists are doing some big things.”

Ya know, it’s easy to dismiss a profession that traces back to ideas of tribes performing rituals of song and dance to cure illness. Yet, we live in a world that has blamed death and tragedy on music time and time again. It’s clear that people know that music is a powerful thing, but I’m not sure people know how beautifully powerful it can become when channeled in the right way. We all have a song that brings a smile to our face, ones that makes us feel calm or remind us of a perfect moment, and using that idea to help people is pretty special. These amazing people design programs for each individual person which can even include instrument lessons. It’s clearly rewarding and an industry that deserves a little spotlight.

If you know of someone who might benefit from music therapy. Look into it, please!

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I just want to like the stuff I like!

Melissa and I read several books leading up to the birth of our first son. We sort of, glanced, at them again prior to the birth of our second. I would encourage any to-be parent to read up on the process, but there’s just things that no book or even person is going to tell you. Now, while I highly suspect that anyone reading this knows me personally, I secretly want to believe that on some occasion you’ve told a friend that you know a guy who started a blog, and it’s funny (or kinda sad)…check it out! So for those theoretical friends of friends who didn’t get this bit of highly personal information…I used to be a baker.

The reason I mention this, is for a bit of perspective.

I may have accidentally been in the perfect profession as a lead in to being a stay at home Dad. The hours were generally long, and always started early in the morning. I was often ignored or given little respect. I was constantly expected to clean up another person’s mess. I would get stuff on my hands that I couldn’t wait to clean off. I was always indoors, with lots of noise, and almost always on the move. Lunch was always a test of speed, and most of the time…I kinda needed a hug.

The more thought I put into it, I realize that there seems to be only one thing my former job did not prepare me for when I made the jump to Admiral Von Homedad: TV.

BE WARNED! I will at some point do a posting of my over analysis of the shows on the Disney Channel. You people need to understand that in the almost 3 years now that I’ve been at home with the kids, I’ve spent a highly disproportionate amount of time with the characters on these shows versus people in real life. I suspect that all stay at home parents get that problem.

But no, when I say “TV” I’m not talking about the kid shows that try to throw in the clever “adult joke” from time to time. “huh huh, get it? Jimmy Moo? It’s like Jimmy Choo? Remember Sex in the City? That Clairabelle Cow is such a Samantha!” Furthermore, I’d like to ensure everyone that we don’t just watch TV here all day, neither my kids (who have much more pressing matters in the form of play destruction…hmm…playstrution? plastroy?) nor myself (aftermath containment unit) have time for that. I do though, get TV going as background noise for cleaning/mental unwind time.

Specifically I’m talking about the commercials. I’m sure there have always been bad commercials, and probably the idea of a line of commercials for a particular product. However, I’ve noticed that being in drastically more contact with certain ones have caused me to not only loathe those commercials, but to swear off those products altogether.

My biggest issue is with the current onslaught of Kit Kat commercials where everyone is just sound eating the already annoying theme song. Know those? I have a huge problem with overly loud eating. I used to go upstairs when my wife would eat chips or,oddly enough, cereal. I love my wife more then I could ever put into words, and I respect her right the eat however the hell she wants. So I didn’t do it in a mean way, I’d just disappear and come back when the carnage was over. My wife, who loves me an amazing amount for reasons I cannot seem to grasp, has made huge steps to bring down the volume. It’s when you’re able to make these types of compromises that you’ve got a strong marriage. Anyway, while it is mostly for that reason that the Kit Kat commercials make me want to live inside Kenny G’s saxophone for a year. The other thing that gets me is the locations. Offices, libraries, whatever the hell else; in every situation I would have been screaming at people to stop eating rocks and old chunks of metal. No one should ever make that much noise while eating, and NO ONE should be that self involved so as to completely zone out to the fact that, “Oh hey, look at all these people around me trying to work, read, or pay their respects at a funeral. Oh well, it’s time for me to have my barrel of bolts and roofing tiles!”

There’s like 4 of these commercials, and while I know that people are still buying Kit Kats, I have to believe it’s because people like Kit Kats and not because of the sound of a cement mixer going through a wood chipper. Much the way I don’t think women switch tampon brands because of a lady jogging.

The books just never said I’d slowly go crazy from commercial exposure.

Also I think they should bring back 3D Doritos.

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Art to Adorable

In a long list of things we needed to finalize in Florida before we moved to Idaho, I was told very sternly to get into my father’s attic and clean out several boxes of random items that had been kept from my childhood. There was an endless pile of drawings from all throughout my life. Melissa insisted I keep a few from my high school art classes, but did not object to getting rid of my detailed blueprints for a spaceship. One unfortunate side effect of divorce, something the psychiatrists won’t tell you, is that your childhood scribbles and memorabilia tends to split up as well. While that’s all perfectly sensible, parents seem to go through a stage in life where hanging on to a picture of an unidentifiable blue mass is no longer important. So after feeling I’d seen the last odd box containing an MC Hammer concert ticket at my dad’s house, I was a little frustrated to start the process over with a steady line of packages sent from my mom.

There was some element of fun in looking through all the drawings and school projects, most of which I had long forgotten. Still, I was not compelled at all to keep any of it and most ended up in the trash. I meant no offense to my parents by it, I’m sure at some point those things held meaning, but I couldn’t help but think how long that stuff sat around waiting to be thrown away. I just barely want to show the boys the stuff Melissa made me keep, let alone proclaim, “Yes! Daddy was the one who drew…that.”

We have one art project that William did adorning our refrigerator door. He wanted to decorate a cake like daddy does, isn’t that sweet? So we found a cake picture from a coloring book and he went nuts with it. Outside of that, the boys are not at an age yet where they’ve attempted to actually draw anything.

I got to thinking a little bit, and I don’t want this to come across as insensitive. I was wondering how long you need to keep something on the fridge before it’s acceptable to take it down. Not that I’m saying parents ever get bored with seeing the artistic stages of their children displayed, but seriously, you have to run out of space eventually right? I’m sure not everyone is like us, but we keep a great deal of information on our refrigerator because it is a major focal point. Keeping things like important phone numbers, any number of reminders, or just a nice simple family photo takes up valuable real estate. Of course there’s the technology to consider as well. Undoubtedly Apple will come out with the iFridge because we’ve all been there in the moment when you realize that you can’t check facebook while opening the door and getting all the breakfast necessities out for the kiddos. I’m pretty excited. Likely we’ll be able to store billions of their pictures in some kind of app, but there’s nothing quite as personal as seeing the drawing in real life.

That’s what I thought anyway…

Till I saw a feature on one of my favorite websites promoting a company called “Child’s Own Studio” and if you’re like me, you’ll be blown away at what they do. Clearly companies like this have been around for some time, which is sad because I have plenty of friends with kids but I’ve never seen them mention this type of service. I think this is the type of thing parents love! I looked through a mountain of drawings I had done over my life and felt no spark of attachment, but I think having the one stuffed toy based on a drawing by me, that was special to my parents, would certainly be a bit of a treasured item. Needless to say it would be one of those items that the boys are not allowed to touch until they understand how to not destroy everything.

I became very excited by the prospect of turning artwork into something the boys could hold, sleep next to, and find comfort with. Sadly, with the amazing gallery must have come popularity as described on the studio’s contact page saying they are working their way through a backlog of orders and are therefore not accepting new orders at this time. So perhaps even more awesome of Child’s Own, they have provided a list of alternative places where you can find this type of service. That’s if you’re not willing to wait I assume.

I am so very fascinated with this so please, if you have used a place like this before or you, like me, are intrigued and go forth to have a toy made, leave a comment! Let myself and all the readers know how your experience was, and by all means send me a picture of the finished product!

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