A Quote To Change Your Life
A quote from Oprah Winfrey, “The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.”
This is my post for Week #3 of the #MusicTherapyBlogger Challenge hosted by Julie Palmieri at Serenade Designs. Thank you Julie for encouraging me to keep going with these posts.
What does this quote mean to me? It defines the decision that I made to become a music therapist. The adventure was direct. It was one decision to make a difference. Becoming a music therapist was an adventure. After working in dead-end and unsatisfying jobs in my 20’s, I decided to go to college to be a violinist. I thought being a violinist would be a glamorous, successful job, and it would have been. But, I was 27 years old, a parent of two babies, and wife. I had played the violin at church for 10 years on and off since high school, and I really didn’t have the chops to be a professional violinst. I had completed a clerical certificate program in 1996 at the community college. It was a good accomplishment, although it left my soul unsatisfied. On a daily basis, I came home crying. I desperately needed something meaningful in my work life.
When I began to take music classes at Augsburg College, I found music therapy through my violin instructor, Mary. She told me about music therapy, and I was sold. After my coursework, internship and my first position as music therapist in Minneapolis, I continued on to develop a position in Duluth, MN. This was my dream job! Hospice work is very meaningful. It is always an honor to be in the presence of someone in their last days, hours, or minutes of their life. Wonderful moments happen when facilitating families into a gathering that focuses on the patient, what’s important to him or her, and tying it all together with music. I had truly found my calling in music therapy. I went on to work in hospice care for 10 years.
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Since 2008, I’ve owned Access Music Therapy, llc. While working in hospice care, I had been requested by families in the community to provide music therapy for their children with developmental disabilities which was the beginning of my private practice. I never thought I’d be comfortable working with children, except that God had a different plan for me. Currently, my caseload is 80% children with varying challenges. The adventures I’ve had as a music therapist have been so amazing. Over a year ago I resigned from hospice care. I still love it and eventually hope to contract with a program. It’s been over a year now operating my private practice full-time as Access Music Therapy, llc. My future plan is to open a music therapy studio/clinic to increase the services in the Duluth and Superior communities. This is certainly an adventure that my heart was longing for from the beginning. I just needed to say “yes” when I heard the call
“Sit beside me, please.” People with dementia and Alzheimer’s still want someone to sit beside them. They want us to talk to them, pay attention, spend time, and remind them of who they are and use to be. When we are with them, there are things to keep in mind. We need to be patient so that when they remember those moments, we experience it with them, and help them through the emotions that come alive.
If we just give them iPods and playlists, they can enjoy the time listening to music alone.
But, imagine this…a music therapist and a family member are sitting beside an elderly woman with dementia. There is no emotion on the patient’s face, her head is down, and she can’t speak a full sentence to save her life. Then, the music therapist begins to play the patient’s favorite song from the 1940’s, “A Bushel and a Peck”. Slowly, the patient lift’s her head, she has a huge smile on her face, and her shoulders begin to dance. She starts to sing along, except she is verbally slower than the tempo the music therapist is playing. Music therapist notices her response and slows the musical tempo a bit so that the woman can sing along. The woman continues to sing every single word along with facial expressions and blowing kisses to her family member. This, by far, is an amazing response for the family member to witness and be a part of. The experience awakened the patient and transitioned her to a much better emotional state which can contribute to decreased negative behaviors. It made a wonderful memory for the family member who was able to see a beautiful glimmer of who the older woman use to be.
“Alive Inside” is a film created by Michael Rossato-Bennett – Writer, Director and Producer. The film accompanies Dan Cohen, founder of a non-profit, Music and Memory as he visits elderly folks with dementia and Alzheimer’s who live in nursing homes. In giving the patients headphones and iPods with personal playlists, they film the positive responses. The film gives the impression that it is music therapy because of the research quoted, and the individuals in the music therapy profession who were interviewed. It has created some confusion in the public as to what music therapy really is. I haven’t had the privilege of viewing the film yet, but Rachelle from Soundscaping Source has seen it. You can read her “Alive Inside” film review here. In another article, Rachelle offered her thoughts about the Music and Memory Program with some concern,
“The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) supports music for all and applauds the efforts of individuals who share their music-making and time; we say the more music the better! But clinical music therapy is the only professional, research-based discipline that actively applies supportive science to the creative, emotional, and energizing experiences of music for health treatment and educational goals.” (American Music Therapy Association, 2014,
According to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), the film is not clinical music therapy. The movie trailer is emotionally moving. It shares positive, exciting moments of individuals reacting to the recorded music. However, keep in mind, it is not the clinical use of music therapy to facilitate expressive and receptive communication, increase alertness, decrease behavioral and psychological symptoms related to Dementia, increase engagement, increase mobility and physical functioning and validate life experiences. My mission and the AMTA’s mission is to advance public awareness of the benefits of music therapy and increase ACCESS to quality music therapy services in a rapidly changing world. In consideration of the diversity of music used in healthcare, special education, and other settings, we recommend the unique knowledge and skill of board certified music therapists.
It’s “Show & Tell Tuesday!” I want to share a book with you that I think is so amazing for little kiddos going through the loss of a loved one.
Saying good-bye can be a very hard thing when a child has to say it to a loved one. Christine L. Thompson wrote a book titled, “Scarlet Says Good-Bye,” and it’s a book for children to process their thoughts and feelings about a loved one dying in hospice care. It provides a story and activities for children to do alone or with family. It helps the child to remember the person and the time spent.
The book can be purchased at Scarlet Says Good-bye
This book can be used by therapists, hospice employees, and family members to initiate talking with a child about what they are thinking and feeling. It teaches children what hospice care is, how children can talk with the dying loved one, and a place in the book for the loved one to leave a written message to the child.
As a music therapist, I love using “Scarlet Says Good-Bye,” by Christine L. Thompson because it includes many activities in the second half of the book that can be adapted and expanded upon in a music therapy session. I really like the activity that encourages the child to pretend he/she is a “reporter”. Christine offers questions that the child can ask the loved one. These pages are perfect for the music therapist to assist in developing these questions into songs with a child. For the child, developing their loved one’s answers into melodies can help him/her remember the moments and conversations with the loved one more easily. Songwriting the words into lyrics and melody can bring the “reporter’s” experience to a deeper level. In addition, a recording of the song can be a keepsake that could be treasured for years to come.
It’s just a great book! So many wonderful ways it can be used to bring about processing for a grieving child.
Thank you Christine for writing it, and signing my copy!!
Calvin & Hobbes ponders…
Many of you know that I work with some awesome children and young adults with special needs. I also work with hospice patients through Essentia St. Mary’s Hospice. I have dedicated this blog to sharing my observations, experiences, and suggestions with my readers. Over the years, I have witnessed a number of hospice deaths, attended, and performed for many funerals, including five of my family members. As a musician, it seemed natural to perform for some of those personal funerals, but I knew when it would be too difficult for me. I’ve worked in hospice care as a music therapist for nine years, and with that I’ve been involved in performing the music for many patient funerals and memorial services because of the connections made through music therapy sessions. Altogether, I’ve witnessed funerals that had much love and attention invested in them thus making them very meaningful, and others, not so much. There were times when a preacher didn’t even remember the deceased person’s name during the eulogy! Nobody wants that. Obviously, planning such an event takes a lot of preparation to make it meaningful and less burdensome on the family. For a many reasons, I am proposing that you think hard about planning ahead for your own funeral.
“When the time comes to die, make sure that all you have to do is die!” ~Jim Elliot”
The Journals of Jim Elliott
It’s never too early to plan and share your own end of life wishes with those you love. Preparing for your celebration of life allows others to make informed decisions. It gives you time to communicate your wishes to those who may be left with the responsibility of making decisions on your behalf. The funeral or memorial service alone is a huge undertaking. Would you want to leave the funeral planning to your family members who are in the midst of their sadness? (more…)