The Music of the Field

Music has always been a major part of my life. Now that I’m a dad it’s funny to think that had it not been for the actions of several parents, I would likely be working as a band director. What might have been.

Now, this post is not to rehash points I have made before but more to highlight a specific event that not only needs support, but showcases the talent that youth of this and many countries possess.

It’s no secret that I was in marching band for a long time. I began in high school, attending band camp before school had even started. All tired “American Pie” flute jokes aside, I signed up for band the same way I signed up for any other class, so going to school before any of my friends had even thought about setting their alarms for the first time could have been a real rocky start to high school…had I not loved it so much. I continued marching in college and even instructed for a period of time. I even moved up to the big leagues. Marching band big leagues? Yep, because what the majority of the population doesn’t know is that every summer since 1972 marching groups have competed all over the country under the title: Drum Corps.

The competition, known as the World Summer Music Games, operates under the governing body of Drum Corps International. Ask anyone who has marched what “drum corps” is, and you’ll get a wide variety of rehearsed answers. Truthfully, it’s not that difficult to explain. It’s marching band. Though woodwind instruments (clarinet, flute, saxophone, etc.) are not used and it is much more on a professional level. That’s it really. An extremely well rehearsed marching band. The problem is…it’s so much more than that, so people who have given their time and body to one of the almost 50 current marching groups, don’t want to give such a simple answer. In addition, people have a general stigma regarding marching bands which generally stems from underwhelming performances from high school bands during half-time at a football game. So people within the drum corps community try to avoid the marching band label.

I should mention, the people you’ll see in a drum corps show are the absolute best of the best within their ages (kids start as young as 10 in some groups and you become ineligible after 21). How so? These people go through rigorous audition processes, which from the start includes an audition fee. As there are not drum corps groups in every state, and people often want to march for a specific group, they pay extensive travel bills just for a chance  to maybe get one of 150 coveted spots. Should you be offered a spot, it comes with a very hefty bill (more on that in a moment) and once a month practices for which you pay more travel bills. After several months, you give up your life for the summer to tour from June to August, culminating in a week of finals competitions.

Why the major bills? Two reasons really. The first is fairly simple to understand. It takes an enormous amount of money to do what these groups do. Once you move in with your group, everything is taken care of for you. You are fed three meals a day, with additional snacks. You are given a place to sleep, which by and large means sleeping on a gym floor of a local high school at whatever city you happen to be in that night. You are provided with world class instructors to help you be the best you can possibly be through countless hours of practicing. You are given a uniform, which is altered for you and cleaned for you. Lastly, they transport you everywhere. If at any point over your summer you notice a large number of charter buses in your area, this could be why. Most performing groups make a little bit of money at every show, but it’s nowhere near enough. So in order to march, you pay “dues” which today almost always means a couple thousand dollars. Drink that in. The second reason, is interest. Which is why I’ll be asking you all for a favor shortly. The kids who march in these groups are mostly from America, and the tour itself stays within American borders (in past years there was a single stop in Canada), but while groups play throughout the country all summer long, most people who are not tied to marching bands in some way, never hear about it. Advertising is expensive, food for these kids is expensive, this is an expensive activity. So getting the word out, and proving that this is an exciting event to anyone who gives it a chance has proven difficult. However, technology has allowed us a very cool opportunity.

Live on the big screen, this is the quarter finals for the drum corps community and will showcase the top 12 groups based on scores leading up to the event. This is a chance to see these groups at their peak, and if you’re a fan of marching band or even if you just want to support music education and the arts, you’ll walk away happy. Check the site, it’s almost a guarantee you’ll find something in your direct area. With our rough economy and the rising price of keeping these kids safe while on the road, four groups have needed to pull off tour during the season this year due to financial issues. Keep this great organization that has been a dream for many kids, up and running.

Support music!

If you have further questions, leave comments below!

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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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Some days, you gotta dance

Some of my favorite blogs are written in a way that allows a ton of information to come across with very little effort into the words. It might be more work than I understand, but either way, I tend to be a bit wordy. However! This is a short one, I hope you folks enjoy the break from my normal novel style of posting.

Sugar – Flo Rida
Nuttin but Love – Heavy D and the Boyz
Heroes of Our Time – Dragonforce
I Would Do Anything for You – Foster the People
Life’s a Happy Song – Muppet Soundtrack

To the best of my knowledge, this is the list of songs that William has loved at some point in time. It’s an odd mix, yes, but I like music and tend to be all over the place with things I listen to. Every so often William just latches on to something.

After lunch today I decided to get a little head start on some cleaning, so while William and Carter were watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, I got youtube up and going. My system for selecting songs on youtube is a very poor one. I start with something that I specifically type in and then I almost always click on the links to the right and just see where things take me.

Today it took me to “Love on Top” by Beyoncè. By the end of the song, William was on the stairs watching the video and was attempting to (I think) dance along. When it ended, I was greeted with the familiar “Play song!” from William which means…I want that again or I will scream all the screams.

 

 

So now that’s on the list…..

(I’m secretly okay with that)

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