Music Moves

Perspectives & Insights from a Local Music Therapist

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The return of (a very “Happy”) Loopy Stanley!

Hello all!

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on the blog (long for me at least) but it’s been necessary time.  Family, Health, and my general Work/Life balance has benefited because of it.

But I’m back now with the return of one of my favorite annual projects …LOOPY STANLEY!!

And this year he’s very, how shall I put it? Well, Happy :-)

Now, if you’re proficient in American Sign Language, you might notice that the signing and the lyrics aren’t an exact match.  The reason for that is that metaphorical concepts (feeling like a hot air balloon, for example, as the verse to this song suggests) can be tricky to make sense of in as literal a language as ASL, especially with young learners like the students I’m working with in this video.  So I chose in my translation of the lyrics to break these concepts down a little bit.  Here is my literal ASL translation of Pharell Williams’ original lyrics below:

ORIGINAL LYRICS (Translation in Parenthesis) Words in italics are those I chose to sign exactly as they were

It might seem crazy what I’m about to say (I want to tell you something, maybe crazy)

Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break (Sunshine’s here, relax!)

I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space (I’m like a hot air balloon floating up up up, feeling good, feeling fine)

In the air, like I don’t care, baby by the way (Floating up, nothing bothers me, I feel fine, I’ll tell you why)

*Because I’m happy* clap along if you feel like a room without a roof

*Because I’m happy* clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth (happiness, when it happens, is true)

*Because I’m happy* clap along if you know what happiness is to you

*Because I’m happy* clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do!

And that’s it!

We’re very excited about this year’s project and hope that you’ll join us in making our third Loopy Stanley the happiest year ever!  Just email me at natasha.mtbc@gmail.com for copies of the audio clips used in our arrangement, then add your own flair (whatever instruments, additional vocals, or even dance clips :-) ) that you see fit and send back the results (audio AND video if possible!) by May 15th! We’ll put it all together and upload the final master cut by May 30th!

Happy Looping! And here’s to many more Happy days ahead :-)

Shimmying up Funds for AMTA: a Reflection

As I type this post, I’m enjoying my first ever hour long lunch break in…well let’s not say how long.  My life tends to feature a lot of running around like a chicken with my head cut off, occasionally done while carrying a guitar or wearing a hip scarf.  It also features lots of eating in my car.  So, during this one hour of not having to eat in my car or chase the minute hand around the clock, I thought I’d reflect back on a little something I did this month that merged my two worlds of Bellydance and Music Therapy into one cosmic day of Awesome.

At last year’s American Music Therapy Association Conference, the Music Therapy “Frundraiser” group that I’m a part of was featured in a little video depicting all the ways in which they had raised money for the Association, including running marathons, hosting 31 Bag parties, and even a cooking contest.  I had been part of the group on Facebook forever, since back when I started running.

But I didn’t feel like running a marathon.

And I sure as heck haven’t ever been that big of a cook.

I did buy a 31 Bag though. Cause those things are awesome.

When it came to how to host a fundraiser of my own, though, I was stumped.  I wanted to do something that was meaningful to me, but inclusive to others.  But I didn’t really know how to start, until, while surfing the internet for local Bellydance conferences, I stumbled upon the concept of the Shimmython, and the Lovely Dozen Bellydance Troupe that I’m part of (we became an LLC last year, woot! Check out our website :-) agreed to help me put one together.

So what did we do, you may ask?  Well, first we put together an event on FB announcing we were going to be doing something awesome (details TBA, but date Feb 8th, we’ll keep you posted, that kinda thing), and then I hit the web googling more Shimmythons to see what their rules were, asking friends on the Frundraiser page how they went about getting sponsors for their events, and what came out in the end was:

An event where members of the Lovely Dozen Troupe competed in teams and as soloists to see who could Shimmy (essentially wiggling your hips as fast as you can) for the longest time, or raise the most money while doing it.

Something that sponsors everywhere from my parents and inlaws to coworkers and total strangers felt they could contribute to financially, or with “Swag” donations like free memberships to our local YMCA, or hair flowers from an online costuming store.

An occasion where Drummers and Dancers were able to commune together for a great cause, helping to raise money and awareness for an organization that has been responsible in large part for the passing of Licensure Laws like the one in North Dakota, and providing fact sheets that do things like help Board Certified MT’s across the country get Music Therapy on their clients’ IEPS (Individualized Education Plans).  There’s no way I’d be where I am today if it weren’t for AMTA.  And it was my pleasure to give back.

3 of the 4 Lovely Dozen Shimmython Dancers

Attendance was small, but all in all with 4 dancers on the floor over the span of 2 hours (I personally shimmied for an hour and 1 minute as a solo competitor), we raised $627 for AMTA.  I collected the last of the conditional sponsorship checks Monday (I had one guy bet me I couldn’t shimmy more than an hour – 61 minutes later, we earned an extra $100 from winning that bet :-) , and will be making a donation in the Lovely Dozen’s name as soon as I’m able to get to the bank with them.  I couldn’t be more grateful to everyone who helped make this fantastic event happen!

We are… Music Therapists! (and we are VITAL!)

Another Social Media Advocacy Month is drawing to a close! This Music Therapist has been so busy she almost missed it, but I couldn’t let the month end without sharing 2 things – FIRST, a fabulous guest post from the American Music Therapy Association’s Director of Government Relations, Judy Simpson celebrating this month and all that Music Therapy represents, and SECOND, a little video my North Dakota School for the Blind students created as a cover of the song Pompeii by Bastille, which seemed fitting to add to this month’s post.  In the midst of challenges and disabilities that might lead one to believe some peoples’ lives are less capable of being “full,” it’s always valuable to remind ourselves that Music Therapy is out there helping individuals across circumstances and abilities to see the “Bright Side” of their lives, something so simple and yet VITAL to any human’s general well being. So without further ado, take it away Judy!

 

A Guest Post from Judy Simpson, MT-BC

Director of Government Relations, American Music Therapy Association

When I started my career as a music therapist in 1983, it was not uncommon for me to describe my profession by comparing it to other professions which were more well-known. If people gave me a puzzled look after I proudly stated, “I use music to change behaviors,” I would add, “Music therapy is like physical therapy and occupational therapy, but we use music as the tool to help our patients.” Over the years as I gained more knowledge and experience, I obviously made changes and improvements to my response when asked, “What is music therapy?” My enhanced explanations took into consideration not only the audience but also growth of the profession and progress made in a variety of research and clinical practice areas.

The best revisions to my description of music therapy, however, have grown out of government relations and advocacy work. The need to clearly define the profession for state legislators and state agency officials as part of the AMTA and CBMT State Recognition Operational Plan has forced a serious review of the language we use to describe music therapy. The process of seeking legislative and regulatory recognition of the profession and national credential provides an exceptional opportunity to finally be specific about who we are and what we do as music therapists.

For far too long we have tried to fit music therapy into a pre-existing description of professions that address similar treatment needs. What we need to do is provide a clear, distinct, and very specific narrative of music therapy so that all stakeholders and decision-makers “get it.” Included below are a few initial examples that support our efforts in defining music therapy separate from our peers that work in other healthcare and education professions.

  •  Music therapist’s qualifications are unique due to the requirements to be a professionally trained musician in addition to training and clinical experience in practical applications of biology, anatomy, psychology, and the social and behavioral sciences.
  • Music therapists actively create, apply, and manipulate various music elements through live, improvised, adapted, individualized, or recorded music to address physical, emotional, cognitive,and social needs of individuals of all ages.
  • Music therapists structure the use of both instrumental and vocal music strategies to facilitatechange and to assist clients achieve functional outcomes related to health and education needs.
  • In contrast, when OTs, Audiologists, and SLPs report using music as a part of treatment, itinvolves specific, isolated techniques within a pre-determined protocol, using one pre-arranged aspect of music to address specific and limited issues. This differs from music therapists’ qualifications to provide interventions that utilize all music elements in real-time to address issues across multiple developmental domains concurrently.

As we “celebrate” 2014’sSocial Media Advocacy Month, I invite you to join us in the acknowledgement of music therapy as a unique profession. Focused on the ultimate goal of improved state recognition with increased awareness of benefits and increased access to services, we have an exciting adventure ahead of us. Please join us on this advocacy journey as we proudly declare, “We are Music Therapists!”

About the Author: Judy Simpson is the Director of Government Relations for the American Music Therapy Association. She can be reached at simpson@musictherapy.org

 

Video Cover of Pompeii by Bastille from the Students of North Dakota School for the Blind

(adapted lyrics both in the video and in the description, all of which will load in a separate window).

Cover of Pompeii by Bastille, performed by Students of NDSB

This cover was done by using SONAR, a music editing software program which was taken up and altered by the creators of Dancing Dots (a company specializing in Adapted Music Resources for the Blind) to work with the Screen Reader JAWS, which many Blind users utilize to do things like access the internet and create Word documents, among other things.  Using this program and a simple audio interface, students were able to create something they didn’t have to leave to me to edit. ALL of the audio comes from real instruments they were able to play or sing into a microphone with and then manipulate through keyboard shortcuts with their own hands.  This was a first for all of my students and myself, as we usually record into Garage band, which I love to use, but sadly isn’t accessible for someone with a Visual Impairment, so in the past we would record through a microphone into my Ipad, then I would spend the time afterwards editing all the individual tracks down into one audio file from which I could make a lyric video.  With this song, I got to facilitate that editing process with my students, and then all I had make on my own was the video (though I hope to find accessible means to do that someday soon too!)

So as Judy says above, the music we MT-BCs use & create is more than just a tool wielded to meet our clients’ needs.  In this case, many of my students are just learning how to use JAWS, so creating a piece of music using JAWS accessible software was part of helping them learn to utilize a tool that they’ll benefit from the rest of their lives, but just as I added above as well, our tool of music is not just superficial, for many individuals it is VITAL – my students don’t just need JAWS to access the internet so they can surf Facebook.  They need it, and other valuable tools and skills, to further their education, to find jobs and other means to enhance the quality of their lives.  So creating a piece of music with accessible software has multiple benefits – learning to use an accessible tool, interpreting a piece of art and literature to draw from it elements that have personal meaning, then re-inserting into it pieces of yourself that you can share with the world.  THAT’s the VITAL stuff of life right there – learning, interpreting, sharing – THAT’s Music Therapy!

One conference. 2 theatrical productions. The creation of a new business that included my participation in 6 bellydance workshops (and countless more performances!) .  Journeys with my family through cancer diagnoses and treatments, mental health scares and issues of race and ethics galore.  It’s been an eventful year to be sure! As one of my HOH (Hard of Hearing) clients put it best: “this doesn’t taste like raspberry!”

You may be looking at that sentence and thinking “say what?”  To explain it, I’ll tell you a story:

When I visit the North Dakota School for the Deaf, I have two primary goals I address with my clients there: to improve their impulse control and strengthen their language skills.  Within those two goals are countless objectives. Following directions, increasing positive social interaction, and using articles like “a” “an,” and “the” in their sentences, the sky is really the limit!  This particular student has been one of the most tentative speakers we’ve ever had. By the time of our Holiday party in December, it was a victory just to hear her say “I want that” at the same time as pointing to a raspberry flavored piece of candy: in past months this student would’ve just pointed.  So imagine our excitement at hearing her exclaim upon tasting the candy “this doesn’t taste like raspberry!”  Not only had our student put together yet another sentence using a demonstrative pronoun, she had demonstrated that she had a concept of what raspberry was supposed to taste like and drawn a conclusion that what she was tasting was different – she had made a verbal comparison.  Her mother, teachers and I could hardly contain our amazed excitement as we exclaimed “it DOESN’T?! Oh my goodness, THANK YOU for telling us, I’ll have to try one too! You’re RIGHT! That doesn’t taste like raspberry at all!”

So when I say that sentence (“this doesn’t taste like raspberry!”) as one that is indicative of my year, I mean it in two ways: first, that it’s been a year full of twists and turns I never saw coming, but also, that it’s been a year full of wonder, I hope as much for those around me as it has been for me personally.

Friends with me on Facebook? You can check out details of my year here

“Like” this blog on Facebook? You may have seen some photos there that I posted recently of a client of mine from the School for the Blind deep in the process of achieving her goals.  It was a series of moments I will be forever grateful to her Grandmother for capturing.  I encourage you to hop on over to the Music Moves Facebook page and check them out!

Coming up soon will be another Music Therapy Advocacy Monthin which I hope to take part for the second year.  Even though I don’t post on this site as regularly as I used to, it is wonderful to reflect on the things that still leave me in awe of the profession I’ve dedicated myself to and all the amazing branches that have sprung from the seeds my education and career have given me.  And don’t even get me started on the people I’ve met (and continue to meet! :-) )  As my social circle grows, so is my life enriched. As always, no matter how far away I am from this blog, I am constantly posting on Twitter, where you can “follow” me @MusicMovesND - so whether it’s here, there, or somewhere I haven’t even thought of or heard of yet, I’m sure we’ll see you around soon!

ps: Happy New Year!

“There is something you should understand about the way I work. When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go. It’s rather sad, really, but there it is. ” ~ Nanny McPhee

I remember the first time I saw that movie (which was first a book I still have yet to read :-) ), a few years back, and I thought – that’s a good quote, I’ll have to remember that.  I then of course promptly forgot it.  It wasn’t until about two years ago that I found myself recalling that quote as I was describing to someone what I needed out of my Assessment process at the North Dakota School for the Blind, a process that enters full swing for the first two months of fall – so right now! Welcome fall! – every year: “I need a tool that determines not just if what I do is effective, but if what I do is MORE effective than services the client is already receiving, so I can determine how much they NEED me.”  Ding ding ding!

In the end, I wasn’t able to find a tool like that, so I created one.  And thus, the Nanny McPhee quote re-entered my world.  The way my job at NDSB is set up, I see upwards of 40 students around the state, some of whom live 5+ hours away from me, so seeing everyone on a weekly, or even monthly basis isn’t possible.  It didn’t feel right for me to say “You live too far away, I can’t see you,” and yet until Nanny McPhee popped back into my head I didn’t have the tools to give any other reason for limiting how often I provided services, let alone terminating them, and so I bottlenecked – I was seeing more clients than I had hours to document, my data collection suffered, and ultimately the quality of my clients’ services did too.  But not anymore.

This fall marks the 2nd year since the creation of my own Assessment tool – which I’ll be sharing as part of the Clinical Practice Forum at this year’s American Music Therapy Association (AMTA)’s conference in Jacksonville this November! – and every year I find new ways to make the tool stronger and more effective to do the following three things:

1. Assigning a numerical ratio to the students’ needs between my services and other disciplines: no longer do I just document what the student needs from me, I can note what percentage of their needs specifically depend on me, and which of their needs can be left to other capable professionals.

2. Determining how often a student receives services: as I mentioned before, in my rural state, the students I serve get seen once a month, if their needs call for it (and if the weather cooperates, though we’re looking into teletherapy options for the future, but that’s a whole other ballgame!).  My assessment is set up in such a way that one percentage range of need equals a certain number of visits per year, and another range equals a higher or lesser number, thus all my services become consultative and not fully direct.  Yes, I still work with my student, and they remain the center of my goals and priorities, but their education team becomes an equally crucial part of therapy, receiving adaptations and tools from me to utilize between my visits, with the eventual goal being that, sometime in the future, the student won’t need me anymore.  Which leads me to…

3.  Termination of services.  This is a criteria that took me the longest to not only develop, but to work into the language of my assessment.  Students qualifying for the lowest level of service multiple years in a row will be terminated, no if’s and’s or but’s.  I know they want my services, I know they enjoy them, and I enjoy providing them.  I love all of my students and would love to work with all of them 24 hours a day if sleep, nutrition, hygiene, and a general sense of sanity weren’t requirements for me to keep functioning.  I want more than anything to be able to serve every student that wants me.  But that’s when I have to go.

“It’s rather sad, but there it is…”

This is the first fall where I’ve had to tell families their child won’t be receiving services anymore after this school year ends, and it is very sad, but by and large I’m finding that people understand.  All good things must come to an end.  And that isn’t me honking my own horn as the “good thing.”  It’s the music and therapy tools my training has given me, that are the “good” I know must move on to serve other students.  But, I always know they leave traces.  It’s like another of Nanny McPhee’s quotes: “You are the story.”  Nothing really ends because I leave, life goes on, and my students grow up to do great things.  I’m now in that point of my career where I’m starting to see students I worked with as infants transitioning to preschool, preschoolers transitioning to kindergarten, highschoolers graduating.  And as sad as I always am to see them go, I am fascinated by watching them grow.  And that’s a pretty fantastic feeling to take off into the sunset as I disappear into the snow…

 

Good news everyone! Music Moves is back!

As I mentioned in my last blog post, this summer has shaped up to be quite the busy one – the two months of May and June have just flown by and it occurs to me I have a lot of catching up to do before I post on any of the numerous things that I’ve been up to these past several weeks.  So here’s a list of the cool things I’ve been doing that you can expect to see me posting about in July and August:

Wrapping up the School Year at my Educational placements, and jumping into my Summer roles as Coordinator of the English Language Learners Summer Performing Arts Company (ELL SPA): I was super proud of all my students and staff this school year – even now, halfway through the summer, I am STILL steeped in paperwork recording all the milestones we saw our students blow away!  Awesome to be part of those kinds of positive changes.  This summer we had a record number of students and a number of other “firsts” for this our 3rd go-around with the ELL SPA program.  I look forward to being able to share more here about the populations we worked with there and all that we accomplished.  Until then, however, here’s a cool article that hit the local papers just recently about our group and the MySPA program (our group’s section starts at 5:40 in the video connected with the article).

Renewing my 5 year Board Certification Cycle in Music Therapy: it’s hard to believe I’ve now been practicing for 5 years!  It was a lot of fun to look back over the continuing education documents I’ve accumulated over the years – many great experiences summed up in those little pieces of paper – lots of memories and valuable tools I know I’ll carry with me throughout my practice!

Bellydancing ALL over the State of North Dakota (and beyond!): it has been a monumental year for the Troupe I work with – we hosted our first ever World Bellydance Day workshops, flying in an instructor from Atlanta to teach a series on Turkish style and props like Double Veil and Zills.  We also participated in a national Domestic Violence Awareness Campaign called “Shimmy Mob,” where dancers from around the world all learn the same choreography and perform it on the same predetermined day to raise funds for a local women’s charity of their choice.  Our troupe (which you can see dance in this video), raised funds for the Community Violence Intervention Center, donating proceeds both from the workshops we conducted that same weekend, and the show that night.  Worth ever drop of sweat from that choreography to help keep women in our community safe!  Beyond our World Bellydance Day workshops and performances, the Troupe has been hard at work performing at other events around the state, like the Grand Cities Arts Fest and Sleepy Hollow Summer Theatre Festival, and preparing for more awesome guests to be flying in from Arizona in October and L.A., in July.  It’s gonna be a great year for Bellydance in North Dakota and I’m excited to be part of it all!

Judging a Beauty Pageant in the Southwest corner of the State: It’s from here that I’m actually typing this blog post (or a draft of it at least, cell & internet service in the building where I’m typing is almost non-existent – I like to joke it’s because of how legit this pageant is, but I really just think it’s because we’re pretty far out in the boonies :-)   This is something I’ve never done before and would be unlikely to have the opportunity to do again (this state’s pretty small and you’re not allowed to judge the same contestant twice anywhere, who knew?) so I’m glad I snatched up the opportunity while I could! So far I’ve been very well treated, and it’s exciting to see these young women as emerging professionals on a mission to change the world (or at least their county =p)  Look out, Miss America, we’ve got some smart beauties up here in the tundra!

And last but not least, what else have I been doing this summer?

Preparing for the Role of a Lifetime as Gary Coleman in the Empire Theatre Company’s production of Avenue Q. For any of you who know the show and know me well, it goes without saying that I’m having a blast playing the role of a child star as written for a bootylicious woman of color like myself J For those of you who don’t know the show, think “Sesame Street,” but for grown-ups.  There are some pretty awesome puppets involved, and while I don’t get to be one of them (Gary is played sort of like the “Real People” on Sesame Street, he interacts with the puppets, but isn’t one of them), it is a blast to step outside my usual “therapy repertoire” and sing songs with titles like “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” and “Schadenfruede.”  Who knows how our little community will react to such a production, but all I ever need for an act like this to be worth my time is a great cast and material that’s enjoyable and challenging to me both as an artist, and as a person, and this production has plenty of all the above! If you’re in the area, the show runs July 30th through August 10th – it’s sure to be a good ol’ rowdy time!

And that about wraps what I’ve been up to (and will likely *be* up to) this summer.  As we cycle back towards the School Year I’ll finish end of year reports from the last academic period and prepare for Kids Camp at the School for the Blind, then my husband and I will be off to see Paul McCartney in Winnepeg for one last vacation before the School Year kicks back into session.  All in all it’s been a good summer, relatively drama and medical-emergency free (knock on wood!) and I look forward to all that the School Year will bring.  Thanks to all of you readers and Twitter friends who’ve kept up with my shenanigans on Twitter or Facebook while waiting for a new blog post – not a day goes by that I’m not thankful for those platforms helping me at least put something new to look at on this page even in the busiest of times!

Wishing you all a merry, musical end to your summers, wherever and whatever that may mean for you!

It’s been a long time coming, with glitches and scheduling delays galore, but Loopy Stanley is finally here!  We had participants this year from two cities in North Dakota (though if you counted the towns each individual student came from, we really had more like 9 towns in the state represented) PLUS participants from Melbourne Australia!! My students were SO excited to be able to share Loopy Stanley internationally, so we’re very proud to be able to finally present to you… Loopy Stanley 2013!

Loopy Stanley 2013 – World Premiere!! (Clicking will Open Video in New Tab)

You may notice some of the same visual “timing” glitches as the promotional video – this was my first year crossing over with Apple and PC products (while last year’s Loopy Stanley began on the Ipad, everything else was done on PC, this year I became the owner of an Iphone and the iMovie app, and everything changed, including how videos were shot and edited!) so there’s lots to learn for next year, but it was a pleasure being able to improvise around this well-known melody to form such a positive association for my Deaf students between music and socialization, and for my Blind students to be able to explore their own musicality in a fun and engaging way.  We hope that you enjoyed the video and will consider joining us in 2014 – the more the merrier!

Coming up soon on the blog there may well be another hiatus, as World Bellydance Day and my first ever Board Re-Certification Cycle approaches (eek!) but you better believe I’ll have plenty to share when those two events come to pass – LOTS of cool things going on in this busy Music Therapist’s life – wouldn’t have it any other way!

Happy Spring!!

This week began like any other week (or any other week in North Dakota, at least):  Sunday took us into what looked like it might be a snow day, but we forged ahead safely into programming at the School for the Blind with a group of 7 to 10 year olds whose parents managed the drive from their home towns across the state to stay with us for the week and work on goals like strengthening their literacy and social skills.  The energy of those little bodies and minds was quite a contrast to the mood my psych groups have had lately – they’ve been rather somber in general (I’m certain the weather has something to do with it).  In fact, it was actually my original intent to write about that population this week, and the sensitivity it often requires to address their needs musically.  When the news from the Boston Marathon and then the West Texas plant came trickling down through social media and word of mouth at my sessions, I thought for sure the week would take on an additional air of “somber-ness” in the wake of what had happened, and that writing such a post might be too unpleasant and heavy, and in some respects it has become that way (particularly after the West story broke, two tragedies back to back seemed enough to make you want to never check the news again), but not with so much weight as I anticipated. Part of this was due to “let’s not bring it up unless it’s brought to us” becoming the unspoken rule of the week at most of my placements (and with many of my clients not having access to TVs, it did take some time before these events found their way to our sessions), but ultimately the theme that seemed to carry from the events in Boston and from West were those little acts of heroism and solidarity across the country: Boston runners continuing on from the race track to donate blood, groups across the country uniting to help in any way that they can, even if its just to pause for a moment and pray.  My psych clients seem inspired by it all.  And I’ve felt inspired too – inspired to still write about the needs of those clients I see in psychiatric facilities, inspired by seeing that little bit of light return to their faces, despite all the terror, when so often this time of year, and in light of such events, everything may seem to be dark and cold.

Now, none of this diminishes the tragedy of what has happened – the deaths and injuries of these two events are going to be on the minds of many for many a day to come, and right that they should be – they were immense and terrible.  But one of the biggest things I work on with my psych clients is expanding their perspective: the importance of looking beyond how you feel in the immediate moment outward to how others around you might be feeling, and ultimately, how all those feelings can work together to bring about peace and productivity.  And rarely is that kind of empathetic perspective more of a necessity than in a tragedy.  Perspective that is clear and open helps us to see what we need, not just what we want, and it helps us move forward rather than stay frozen in place. It’s how we survive, how we move on, stronger, and more united than before.

So how do you use music to help someone who is frozen and locked in a limited perspective? One of my favorite tools as a Music Therapist is lyric analysis. With this tool I can look at a song with my clients, any song, and use it as a catalyst for talking about specific scenarios, without necessarily having to reference the scenario itself. For example, the song “Hold On” by the Alabama Shakes came up this week, and in talking about the title phrase in which the singer sustains one note over the beat of the music (“Hooooooold on…….”) one client mentioned how that rhythmic choice seemed to intentionally mirror the definition of the words in the phrase, seeing as the singer literally “held on” to that one note for so long. We then discussed how that musical phrasing could become a mantra, or “catch phrase” for our own stressful or difficult times, to take a deep breath in and exhale for the same amount of time as that phrase. Hooooooold on……. This sort of concept may seem so simple, and yet it’s easy to forget in times of stress. Having a mantra or phrase that comes out of a calm mindset that you can practice recalling with minimal effort can invoke near instant calm when you need it, and with calmness comes clarity, and with clarity, openness…perspective… if you can tell yourself to just “hold on,” and keep breathing, you can tell someone else to hold on, and keep breathing, and so we all keep breathing together.  We all hold on.

So, all that said, I hope you’re holding on, wherever you are!  In my kids sessions this week we’ve been singing the song “Green Grass Grows All Around.”  The song isn’t true for us in North Dakota just yet (plenty of snow on the ground still!), but we’re positive it will be soon, both emotionally and physically.  Rain or shine I’ll be running in my second 5k soon, this time for Autism Awareness at UND’s Autism Speaks fundraiser, then it’s off to the Hands On Learning Fair to share a table with some of my fabulous Music Therapy colleagues.  Soon after I hope to release Loopy Stanley 2013 to share with you all too! Brighter days are around the bend, to be sure.  Until then…Hooooooold on…

We’re Baaaack! A Music Moves Update

Hard to believe it’s been 2 months since my last post here – yikes!!  There’s been a lot been going down in my world lately – plenty to keep me busy for the last 60 days (and plenty more to come over the next 60 and beyond)! I’ve shared in previous posts that I’ve been trying to break the habit of apologizing all the time whenever I have to miss or come late to something due to my schedule, so know that it isn’t my intent for this to be a top 10 list of excuses for not blogging lately, BUT there have been lots of things keeping me busy that I actually consider quite exciting and worth sharing, so without further ado, here are the top 4 reasons why Natasha’s blog has been silent so long (the excited, “non-apologetic” edition =p):

4. Loopy Stanley: this will mark Stanley’s 2nd year in the Loop-o-sphere, and his reappearance after last year’s debut has been thus far what I would call a mixed success.  We had fewer Music Therapists contributing this year (2 compared to last year’s 3) but almost DOUBLE the number of video & audio submissions (13 compared to last year’s 7) so I’m very excited to start delving through the submissions and putting together our 2013 Loopy Stanley video very soon!

3. Preparations to run my Second 5k: April is Autism Awareness Month, and a colleague and friend of mine (whose own family’s journey with Autism you can read about here) is hosting an Autism Speaks 5k Fundraiser for Autism Research on April 20th.  Now, illness, weather, and a general lack of daylight hours has made it tough for me to do much, let alone train outdoors since my last 5k in January, but now that the sun is out longer, I’m feeling (relatively) healthier, and the weather is (knock on wood!) improving, I look forward to joining friends and family in supporting a cause that is near and dear to my own heart and affects 1 in 88 children every year.

2. Putting 1800 miles on a State Vehicle making up missed visits from bad weather in January and February.  I’ve mentioned before that many of my students with the ND School for the Blind only get sessions from me once a month, primarily due to the ratio of students to Music Therapists working in our agency (41:1, woohoo!), but also due to the rural nature of our state and how many miles have to be traveled to get to some of them.  So, when those roads get ugly, many of my students don’t get music therapy, and this winter has definitely made that a challenge! I spent a good deal of February trying (and failing) to make up missed January visits, then having to cancel February visits, and then March came along and I snatched up every good weather day we had driving from place to place to make up visits,  going to some locations 3 and 4 hours out from my home town twice in the past month.  So, with a little bit of math it looks like I traveled an average of 58 miles a day.  Not at all uncommon for some Music Therapists, but man it was out of the ordinary for me! Hats of to my itinerant MT-BC’s out there.  Whew!

And the #1 reason why it’s been so quiet here at Music Moves….

1. World Bellydance Day is coming!  I’ve been working tirelessly with members of my Lovely Dozen Bellydance Troupe to set up a weekend long event to occur May 10-12 featuring Saroya of Atlanta, my first Bellydance Instructor from when I was doing my internship in Georgia.  We’ll be hosting workshops with Saroya, a stage show featuring dancers from all over the state in addition to our special guest, and we’ll be participating in an International Domestic Violence Awareness campaign called ShimmyMob on May 11th.  It’s going to be a jampacked weekend, and it’s been quite the adventure setting up Paypal to receive registrations, a Troupe bank account for managing our income and expenses, and increased rehearsals and meetings with the Troupe to plan for all the amazing dancers, vendors, and everyday people that will be coming together for this fantastic event.

After all, isn’t that what it’s all about? Coming together, making connections, wherever you’re doing it, is meaningful.  Most of my connections lately have been offline, or away from this blog, but they’re never far away!  Months like these last few are where I relish in social media, because it allows me to stay connected with my fellow Music Therapists, and subscribers to this blog can always hop onto our homepage and see my Twitter Feed to know that I’m still ticking out there, even if I’m not doing it here :-) So, keep connecting my friends, and know that I’ll be connecting back here again soon!

Hello and welcome February!

It is a blustery one here in North Dakota.  As  I type I am enjoying an impromptu Snow Day after we got a healthy dumping of snow and wind, enough to close down two major interstates (which in ND, is a pretty big deal).  Looking out my window everything is clear now, just lots of work to do if I should get the urge to attempt vacating my driveway anytime today!

This month is also showing up to be a blustery one for health too – lots of colds and flu bugs whirling around.  I myself caught one such bug that rendered me unable to get my last two posts of MT Advocacy Month out  in time for the end of January (as did, sadly the little client whose mother was going to write a guest post too – we may have to wait on that recovery a little longer).  But, weather and illness aside, I am excited to present to you all at least one of those posts: announcing the return of Loopy Stanley this year!

What is Loopy Stanley?

Last year, I began a project based on Flat Stanley, like you see in elementary schools around the world.  Children color in a little paper doll named Stanley, and send him via snail mail on “adventures” to their friends and family, all of whom photograph Stanley in their environments so that when he returns to his creators, they all have a photo collection of where he’s been.  Combine that idea with this great series of videos calledSong around the World,” and you have the basis of the concept for Loopy Stanley: have one group of people create a musical loop, and then send it out into the world to have recorded “adventures” with other people, so that eventually you can have a musical collection of where the loop has been.  Last year’s Loopy Stanley was an original loop created in the Ipad app Loopseque, and two MT-BCs contributed a total of 3 video and audio recordings that transformed the song from a simple series of beats and chords to an awesome melodic jam between my Ipad, a tambourine, a saxaphone, and an oboe – very cool stuff!  This year’s Loopy Stanley is based on a song you may find familiar, recorded by the students of the North Dakota School for the Deaf on Garage Band.  We’re hoping that using an already established song, and giving folks more time to contribute (last year I think we only gave folks a month, this year you’ve got two extra weeks!) will make Loopy Stanley a little more accessible this year.

So… check it out! And let us know what you think

This was my first time using iMovie on my Ipad to create the video, and I will admit to using some Quantization in Garageband, so you may notice some patches of video & audio are out of sync – no need to adjust your screen resolution or anything :-)

Promo Video for Loopy Stanley 2013 – link will open in new tab

If you think you’d like to contribute to Loopy Stanley, here’s all you’d have to do:

1. Like what you hear :-)

2. Email natasha.mtbc@gmail.com for me to send you audio or Garage band versions of the loops used in this video.

3. Record yourself or a client (audio & video) playing or singing along to one or all of the loops (wear headphones so we don’t hear the loops in the background)

4. Send your loops back to me by March 31st to compile with any others we receive to make one master track and video to be released in April of this year!

5. Check back in April of 2013 and like what you hear (again :-)

*Remember, please have recording permission for any client material you plan to submit as the final video will be made public!”

My kids at NDSD were very excited about sharing this song with the world this year!  They had a blast seeing and listening to the contributions from last year, and we look forward to hearing from folks again this time around – maybe one of those folks could be YOU!!