Music Moves

Perspectives & Insights from a Local Music Therapist

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Transitioning through Music

Another busy month is underway for this Music Therapist, culminating (already! Seems so early this year) in the American Music Therapy Association’s National Conference in Chicago Oct 11-14.  I’ll be presenting this year on the topic of defining the role Music Therapy can play in the State School model of serving students who are Blind or Deaf (if you’re someone attending that concurrent session and are looking for the handout, click here – make sure you have the password handy!)

Also making this month busy are the transitions I’ve been making, resuming elements of my old routine after my vocal rest, and building new routines to better manage my time and vocal health.  Transitions are a natural part of our everyday life, moving from one environment or state of being to the next, so as I prepare myself for the transitions I myself am making, I also look towards the changes coming to my students as I do this (less live singing from me, for example) and work to prepare them for all that’s in store – i.e., the new instruments and activities I’m bringing to replace those activities I used to lead primarily by singing.

So, how do I do all this without seeing major meltdowns from my students? Here are some little things I like to keep in mind whenever I’m transitioning clients from one thing to another – you might find these little tips are helpful to you in general as well!

1. Remember that transitions are all around you, and recognize each moment as a teaching opportunity.  This is something I’ve especially learned working with students who have sensory disorders.  You never know what someone may not be realizing is happening, or what the value might be in them knowing that.  Little things like taking the time to let students really touch or look at an instrument before you start playing it can be so valuable.

2. Transitions can be complicated, but keep your explanations simple.  As many opportunities as there are to teach, you don’t want to lose yourself in every one of them.  Take advantage of the most valuable times to teach, but do it as efficiently as possible, so you can still manage a few core activities in between those transitions!

3. Lastly, meet your students where they are – in Music Therapy we call this the iso-principle.  For example, if what you want is for your students to sit down on the floor and wait quietly for your directions, but what they’re doing is jumping up and down and yelling loudly, you will see more success in getting them to comply with your wishes by joining them jumping up and down to gradually bring their energy down to the floor with a song or a chant that slowly decreases in volume and speed, rather than insisting they join you on the floor without transition time.

So, with that, it’s time for me to transition from this blog post into the rest of my workweek – sadly, part of this week for me involves attending the funeral of my husband’s grandfather, who I am proud to have had the honor to know, but will greatly miss seeing at family gatherings and holidays. After the funeral, I’ll be flying out to Chicago for the AMTA conference, and I look forward to sharing with the many amazing individuals who come to present and learn from their peers, as I do.  From there, who knows what will come next! Conference is always an amazing time of year for me, with so much to learn and share with my clients – there will be much transitioning to be had, for sure, so check back soon for a recap of all the amazing things to come!


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