Music to spark a better life for older adults and preschoolers

Archive for the ‘Intergenerational’ Category

Happy Second Birthday!

Music Sparks is two years old. 

It has been a great year – both in Hays and in social media.  

Here in Hays, I have had great fun regularly providing group music therapy services at some area assisted living facilities including a very successful intergenerational group at one facility. Being invited to take part in the Family Fun Fest at the Mall was an absolute blast! The fall Saturday morning class was great fun for me and the boys who attended. I am also thankful for the opportunity to volunteer some time during the year in the Good Samaritan Alzheimer’s unit – New Horizons.

Social media wise, things are booming. Our Facebook page has reached over 100 “likes”. As of June 2011, SPARKS is now a bi-weekly newsletter providing resources for preschoolers, older adults and intergenerational programs around different themes. And, as of today, Music Sparks has a new website: music2spark. Do check out the new site!

I am so thankful I found Laura Crum who is assisting me in the process, and providing guidance. I also have a lot of people who have served as mentors in social media:

Things only look for exciting for Music Sparks this coming year. As I announced in May, there are lots of changes coming. The intergenerational program will now be known as Music Sparks: Sharing Songs. Beginning in September there will be an additional evening session. For children 18 months through age 3 I will offer Music Sparks: Discover one morning a week. And, the Saturday morning class for 5-6 year olds will reappear as Music Sparks: Exploration. (Click here to check the Preschool Class page for details.)

Older adults not in Assisted Living aren’t forgotten. I am working on some group music opportunities just for you! The best place for you to find out about upcoming sessions is the Older Adult tab.  

Thank you to all who read this blog. I’ll see you from now on at the new, improved site  – Music 2 Spark!

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School Day Memories

Unidentified Rural Schoolhouse

Image by Wisconsin Historical Images via Flickr

In my years of employment in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, I found it helpful to include discussions related to events in the community. With back to school fliers filling the paper, and children once again returning to school, this is a timely discussions to which you can tie many themed activities. And in my experience it is one that often elicited a strong response. Whether you work in a facility or visit family members or friends living in a facility, here are some conversation ideas and a few songs to spark up your visits.

Conversation starters:

  • What were our favorite subjects in school?
  • How many rooms/grades levels did you school have? (Many older adults in rural areas attended one or two room schools and maybe had 20 students in first through seventh grade.)
  • What were your favorite games at recess?
  • How far did you travel/walk to get to school?
  • Did you ever give an apple to your teacher?
  • Did you ever get picked to help clean the chalkboard erasers in your class? Was it a privilege or a punishment?

If people have memory issues try some of these props to help get conversations going: ruler, lined paper, Big Chef notebook, small chalk board with chalk, crayons,

Songs to sing together:

If children are visiting, include: The Alphabet Song, School House Rock songs (people with children currently in their 50’s or younger may remember these from Saturday morning TV.)

What would you add to these lists?

Finding My Career Path in Music Therapy

Pathway Between the Old and New Market

Image via Wikipedia

Rachel See Smith, MA, MT-BC recently posted “How I became interested in music therapy” which made me realize  that while I had shared my story on Musical Gems (My Music Therapy Aha! Moment) I hadn’t shared my story on this site. Here is the expanded version of my career path in music therapy.

Finding my path

My parents often joked I sang before I talked. While that may or may not be true, some of my earliest memories are of singing. At around age 2 I sang two settings of the liturgy at church and created my own songs while swinging. As I grew, I continued to sing.  I also studied piano and flute. One Christmas, my parents gave me a guitar which I taught myself to play.

My dad, a Lutheran pastor, chanted the liturgy and listened to opera whenever he could. My mom lead family singalongs around the piano and in the car.  They took us to concerts and played a variety of music in our home. Growing up in the parsonage afforded may opportunities for creating music at church and taking part in visits with shut-ins. All of this created a desire to work with people and to create music. Fields such as social work and elementary music education didn’t quite fit my desires. One Sunday a feature article in the Wichita Eagle-Beacon highlighted a music therapist working at St. Francis Hospital in Wichita, KS. I suddenly knew I had found my career.

Starting on the path

It took a lot of work to convince my high school counsel such a field existed and was offered at the University of Kansas. Once I was at KU, I was blessed to be surrounded by gifted students like Barry Bernstein, Brian and Lesley Hunter and wonderful professors including Dr. Alicia Clair. It was a great environment for me to learn and work with a variety of clients during my practicums. I interned at Parsons State Hospital and Training Center  in Parsons, KS with Ron Havelka. There I had the opportunity to interact with interns in many other disciplines including art, speech, and occupational therapies.

Where the path has led

Since completing my studies, I have worked with a variety of clientele in a range of settings. Other than when I have been self-employed I have carried job titles other than “music therapist”. Yet, that training has served me well. And, I have gained skills in all these positions and been able to utilize my music therapy skills in them. Most importantly, I found populations for which I have a passionate – older adults and young children. And, I developed skills leading intergenerational groups.

I still accept opportunities to work with those outside these groups. (One never knows when a new passion will develop.) Attending conferences, reading journals and books, looking for sources of information on the web are part of my continued growth as a therapist and as a person. Also, I know I am constantly learning from those I am blessed to have as clients.

What this path means for my clients

It’s a long road to freedom,

A winding steep and high,

But when you walk in love

With the wind on your wing

And cover the earth with the songs you sing

The miles fly by. ~ lyrics by Sister Miriam Therese Winter

My path to music therapy and to this point in life has been many miles and filled with many songs. For all those you have been with me and those who will cross paths in the future , thank you.

Across the Ages: Intergenerational Bonding

One of my earliest memories is of being in the kitchen with my grandmother.  Even today, whenever I am whisking eggs or folding dry ingredients, I can almost hear her humming tunelessly, just the way she did when she was happy and in the moment.  In my family, baking was an intergenerational activity that brought in age ranges from 4 to 84.  Even as a toddler whose complete lack of coordination prohibited her from handling anything more dangerous than a blunt spoon, I knew that I was always welcome in my grandma’s kitchen.

As my family continues to age and the newest generation of drooling babies and mischievous toddlers is crawling and multiplying around us, I keep an eye out for these intergenerational bonding moments.  The chance for aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, grandparents and children under the age of four to all get together in the same place is rare enough; to get all those individuals participating in and enjoying an activity together seems to be asking a lot.  With a crowd this large, cooking isn’t really a good option.  Games are difficult when the grandparents veto all calls for contact sports and the young’uns are totally oblivious to the point of Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit.  So how can we as a multi-generational unit bond together?  Well, we’ve found two big rallying points: music and water.

Music has no age gaps.  While there may be a significant difference between the Elvis oldies Grandpa plays in his car, the weird garage band music emanating from the youngest uncle’s ipod and the Veggie Tales theme song my niece has memorized, this is one activity that all of us can participate in and appreciate.  Music gets everyone laughing and moving together, whether or not the correct words (much less the correct notes!) are being sung.  Choruses of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” “There’s a hole in the bottom of the sea!” and “Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree” can be heard at random times of the day and night.  JoAnn has seen the way music can act as a binding agent during music therapy sessions, helping to smooth over uncertainties and lending words to people who otherwise find themselves with little to say to each other.

Water has also proved to be a nice convergence point.  Maybe it’s because there is an infinite number of games that can be played or that everyone can have the experience that he or she wants.  While the kiddies are splashing around in swim floaties, the older kids can be playing Marco Polo and the Vitamin-D craving adults can simply sunbathe.

While some of my earliest intergenerational moments happened in the kitchen, the ones I’m making now are happening around the pool or are set to music.  What do you think is the key to creating an environment that is good for all ages?  Are there any activities or games that you’ve found really successful for a wide age range of participants?

~Laura, Guest Blogger

Singable Stories: Take Me Home, Country Roads

John Denver's Greatest Hits

Image by thejcgerm via Flickr

Tomorrow I will be traveling back home after a wonderful family vacation. Though I will be flying, John Denver is running through my head. If you open the cover of John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads”, adapted and illustrated by Christopher Canyon you are greeted with this quote:

Music makes pictures and often tells stories, all of it magic and all of it true. And all of the pictures and all of the stories, and all of the magic, the music is you. ~John Denver

While this is a children’s book, I believe it would work well in an intergenerational group. Watch the clip to find out why.

What are your impressions of this book? Share them in the comments.

Rounds Resounding

A homemade merry-go-round.

Image via Wikipedia

Yes, there is a “Rounds Resounding Day”. In fact, it is TODAY! Let’s celebrate with a round or two! They are a musical thing to do for fun.  Rounds are great whether you are young or old to (1) use and develop listening skills (am I singing as loud as those around me, am I in tune), (2) learn to sing harmony, and (3) to develop independence in singing a part.

Here is a starter list to get you going:

  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat
  • Make New Friends
  • Dona Nobis Pacem
  • Hey, Ho, Nobody Home
  • Oh, How Lovely Is the Evening
  • Shalom Chaverim
  • Sing, Sing Together
  • I Love the Flowers
  • Hear the Lively Song of the Frogs

What is your favorite round? If it isn’t listed here, please post it in the comments!

Secrets of Creating Inspired Themes

Secret

Image by val.pearl via Flickr

In this post I am sharing some of my secrets for creating and using inspired themes.  It is my hope they are helpful in kick starting a session, a week, a month, or a year for you. They are easy to apply ideas for the home, school, and long-term care settings. So here we go!

Where do you find inspiration for a theme?

You can find it everywhere. Really, I do: books I read, calendars, resource books, dreams, ideas from clients, local events. The secret is to capture them on paper, in a file, in a voice memo. Just capture them otherwise they tend to disappear from your thoughts.

What sources can be used to kick-start ideas?

  • If the idea is triggered by a local annual event, often there are resources from this event to get you started.
  • Many on-line holiday and special event calendars have links to starter sources.
  • When it is free-floating ideas from my thoughts, clients, or dreams I often use Google as a starter point. Look into the suggested search terms that may pop up in your search

How to I build on an idea that doesn’t come with ready-made ties?

Ask questions about the theme to pull it into other events. For example, how I use a camping theme to create a cohesive week of events at an assisted living facility? The topic itself becomes something for reminiscing. Think of the images that relate to the topic. The equipment on might use can become the decorations and the physical objects that might help with the reminiscing. When you think of camping, it might help you think of smells  (pine tree, smoke, Mosquito repellent), tastes (hot dogs, smores, trail mix), movements (cutting wood, hiking, boating, horseback riding), sounds (insects at night, bird calls, wolves, songs around the campfire, and touch (rough cord, bark from trees, iron skillet, fabrics from tents). All these things can help you spread the theme into events: topics for Jeopardy, words to unscramble, movements for exercise, foods for cooking, songs to sing, just to name a few.

Hope this has helped. Recipients of the July 23, 2011 SPARKS newsletter received this and more! Join today by clicking here. Then you will be able to access this themed information in the archives.

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