Music to spark a better life for older adults and preschoolers

Back in Session


Across the music therapy Twitterverse and blogosphere, everyone is talking about the starting school year.  Yes, the backpacks are filled, the binders are lined with fresh paper and the superhero lunch box has been packed with healthy goodies.  Students and teachers alike are all heading back to school within the next few weeks.  Everyone has positive attitudes and  bright hopes for the 2011 school year.

Even though I have been out of academia for two years now, there’s something about the end of summer that still makes me want to buy school supplies.  Who doesn’t love making the first notations with a perfect ballpoint pen in a new notebook?  It’s no surprise that I still associate this time of year with the impending school year.  After all, we spend a significant amount of our childhood and young adult lives within a classroom.

School is such a formative experience in young lives and this is clearly represented in music.  There are a surprising amount of songs that are about school and they range across the emotional spectrum.  From Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” to the repetitive childhood favorite “The Wheels on the Bus”, you can find songs celebrating or decrying the educational structure.  While I’ve been known to do an amazing (-ly loud) rendition of “I Wish I Could Go Back To College” when driving alone in my car, what strikes me most when I think about the correlation between school and music is what a fantastic teaching and binding tool it can be.

Out of all the classes I’ve sat through and all the lessons I’ve listened to (and taught!) the ones that stick with me most forecefullly are the ones that were set to music. Seriously, how could I ever misuse an interjection after hearing this little ditty?  And I can still name all 50 states in alphabetical order in about a minute, thanks to the Fifty Nifty Song.

With school so prevalent in kids lives, it can easily be a place for uncertainty, worry or even fear. What better way to maneuver these emotional minefields than with music?  It’s a non-threatening way to allow kids to express their emotions without asking them to directly reveal too much in front of their classmates.  There’s something safe about using existing art to express yourself and connect with others.

Of course, all of this is no surprise to music therapists.  Music therapists have been helping schools and teachers connect with students for years.  Have you ever taught in a school?  What are the tips that a new or experienced music therapist should hear before they ever walk into a classroom?

Thanks to stevendepolo and dynamosquito for use of their images!

~Laura, Guest Blogger

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Comments on: "Back in Session" (3)

  1. What a great post! I’ve always loved this time of year! Even though I’m not heading back with everyone else, there’s just something about the start of a new school year that makes me start to buckle down and get serious about upcoming projects. (And take advantage of the amazing back to school sales!! Who doesn’t love those?!)

    I had the wonderful opportunity of doing music therapy in a school district last year and my most successful moments always happened when the classroom teacher, staff, and I were communicating clearly about upcoming projects and sessions. Whether it’s taking a few minutes after the session to talk to the teacher, or sending a quick email, the more you can build a relationship with the teacher and staff, the better you will be able to understand and serve the students within that room.

    Thanks for sharing all the cool classroom songs!!! 🙂

    ~Megan

    • I agree, Megan. Whether you are involved in school or not, it still somewhat structures your life. Your thoughts on sharing a few minutes to build a relationship with teachers is spot on in my book.

    • I agree with you Megan! For some reason, the start of the school year is still a wake-up to me to get serious, that vacation is now over.

      Thanks for the tips! Do you find that there are certain approaches to keeping the communication open that work better than others? For example, when coordinating activities do you meet with everyone at once?

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