Music to spark a better life for older adults and preschoolers

Posts tagged ‘learning’

Diving Back In

Arvid Spångberg winning the bronze medal.

Image via Wikipedia

My vacation with family in Florida has ended. Today I am diving back into work with a fun, new intergenerational series: A Sea Full of Fun. What an appropriate topic!

  • I’ve just left being gulf side in Florida.
  • Not home even 24 hours, I’m back to providing sessions.
  • I’m working with my favorite mix of people: older adults & preschoolers.

Returning from a vacation can be difficult yet I have found a few things that make the “dive” less scary.

  1. I clean the house before I leave.While it is extra work on the front side, it makes it one less thing to do when I return home.
  2. I plan a few breaks from the normal schedule where possible. I try to set aside time in the schedule to sort mail, pay bills, unpack, and take a nap. Sometimes it means saying no to someone or something.
  3. I am learning to ask for help. My daughter and husband aren’t mind readers (like I often wish they were) so I ask their needs and their assistance with tasks.
  4. I plan for the unexpected. Having phone numbers for possible issues helps when the flight is cancelled, a tire is flat, or someone is ill. If I plan for the potential of issues, it seems less stressful and the issue doesn’t seem as bad as I had imagined.
  5. I treat myself with something the first week home. Maybe it is a bouquet of flowers, a special meal, or a massage, having a treat that first week back seems to ease the jump back.

I haven’t perfected returning to work from vacation, but I have managed to make the first step off the “board” less frightening. What do you do to ease out of vacation? Please share it in the comments.

Hummm for your Health

Hum & Strum Along with Chet Atkins

Image via Wikipedia

I love learning things. I have learned lots of crazy things. I have learned many things that fascinate me. So it is with humming. While I was interviewed by Janis Harris, MT-BC she shared research on health benefits of humming. There is an amazing amount of research. (Check Google Scholar and see for yourself.) Research seems to indicate sustained, low-pitched humming several times a day increases the nitric oxide produced in the sinuses which seems to decrease frequency and severity of sinus infections in adults.

Maybe the Disney lyrics could be changed to:

Oh, hum while you work. Hmmmm. Oh, hum while you worked. Hmmmm. And if you do it faithfully your sinus won’t hurt.”

Maybe Chet Akins was onto something when we created “Hummm and Strum Along.” Humming can be done:

  • While completing a simple task. Hum while you wash the dishes, load the washing machine, water the plants. Get the idea?
  • While in your car.  Hum along to a songs on the radio. It will be less stressful on your vocal folds than singing can be.
  • As part of meditating. Maybe the yogis weren’t crazy using Om (or Aum).

Take a moment and share a place you can hum in the comments below. And hum while you do it.

One Song Take Away

This past weekend I had a great time learning at the AMTA Midwest Regional Conference in Overland Park, Kansas.  If you want to find out details of what I learned, see my Musical Gems blog. I always walk away with lots of information, new songs, and new ideas.  Here is a song I will most likely start using in some of my Music Sparks groups: 

Make a Musical Family History

3 Generations, 1 MacBook

Image by lyzadanger via Flickr

The other day, I found a great post titled: Maturity Matters – Relationships – Celebrate Your Family History: 10 Activities.  I strongly encourage you to look at this link and explore the activities.  Using the author’s activities list, here are some ways to add a musical twist.

Start a family Journal Include in your list of questions ones related to music stories. These might include:

  • Instruments played
  • Favorite bands
  • Memories of concerts attended or performed
  • Where and how you listened to music (live, radio, TV)

Generation Preservation Just like old photos, old recordings are fragile and cannot be replaced once lost or damaged. Consider having them saved in a digital format. Look for reel to reel and cassette recordings.  And, don’t forget home sound movies along with videos.  Musical performances are held in a variety of formats.

Their Turn While recording those stories in audio, see if you can get a song sung or an instrumental performance.  There is nothing like hearing a person’s interpretation of a song! I am blessed to have video of one of my grandma’s singing.  What a gift to share with my child!

Generation Transformations When discussing what life was like for each generation, ask about how and where they heard music.  Past generations often gathered around the piano for shared music times, listened to performances on the radio or on TV.  Famous bands made tours did performers. You never know who they met or say.

We are Family Don’t forget to record any family music traditions.  In my family there is a family hymn sung at many of our baptisms and funerals.  There are songs I was taught by my parents during long car rides.  There were times music was played during meals.  Every family is unique in how they used music.

Leave a Legacy Ask each family member to reflect upon what they would like to be their musical legacy and why. Find out how they envision their contribution to impact on future generations. Maybe they can select a recording that can be purchased/downloaded to add it to the family journal.  If they chose to compose a song, all the better!

Children can gain so much from these histories.  When my daughter was in grade school and reading the American Girl books, she would ask questions about experiences of her grandparents and great grands.  Depending on a child’s abilities, they can also help with the recording. (My daughter loves to use cameras.) While these items were listed for families, they might be appropriate in community groups, hospice, assisted living, long-term care and community service projects.  (Think teens gather histories of seniors with particular interests.) Do you have other ideas ways to leave a family legacy?  Share them under the comments.

Where are you going, my child?

Child on a Winter Road.

On Saturday, my baby girl turns 15. That and singing time songs with assisted living residents has the song “Turn Around” running through my head. I had a difficult time settling on a version to share settling on the commercial version many will remember:

It is amazing all the things motherhood has allowed me to experience – most pleasant, a few not so pleasant.  It seems that many of my Twitter and Facebook friends that are new moms have shared insights into their experiences so I thought I’d join the fray.

Through the years, the question of “where are you going?” has had many answer.  When my daughter was a baby(and it was posed in hopes of catching her attention as she moved away from us) rarely did it elicit more than a giggle out of her.  As a preschooler the answer was often “That way!”  As a teen I rarely get to ask it as she runs out the door saying “Going to ____.  See ya later.”

Watching my daughter grow has informed my work with preschoolers in the following ways:

Exploration:  So long as it is safe for her, safe for those around her, and safe for the environment, explore away.  Whether it is as simple as trying a different way to play a hand drum (a mallet vs. o hand vs an elbow) or as involved as rewriting the rules for “Chutes & Ladders”, so along as there is no harm, why not?  Offering up this opportunity supports understanding, learning, and self worth.

Boundaries: We all need boundaries.  We all test those boundaries from time to time.  Having those is important.  For example, I generally tell children to strike drum heads no harder than they would hit their head.  Knock on wood, I’ve only had to remind a few of them a hand full of times about this rule.  As my daughter as grown, she has questioned some boundaries. Sometimes that has lead to an expanding of them.  Be open, listen, and observe.

Exposure: No, I don’t try to expose people to germs.  I talking about exposing them to novelty, to other cultures, tastes, textures, smells, ways of looking at the world.  Shortly after my daughter was born, we started reading to her.   She has heard a range of musical styles and genres since before birth. Visiting art galleries, going kayaking, hiking, tasting new foods are but a few of the other activities we have shared with her.  Not only does she get exposure, but we do, too.  And, we all have developed interests along the way.

Allow for choices: This one is often difficult.  As she has aged, the definition of a sweater has gone from “something you wear when your mother is cold” to “something you take when your mother is cold.” Safe, natural consequences can be such good teachers .  It is often difficult to allow.  We may review the pros and cons of choices with our daughter but allow her to make safe choices holding her to the commitment. (For example: being in the musical means having to miss the concert you wanted to attend because the times conflict.)  In preschool groups I try to offer children options – “would you rather help me play goodbye or let mom”.

Seeing the blessings: It is easy in all the shuttling, laundry, meal prep to forget to just be present.   No matter what a child’s strengths or abilities, they still are individuals who deserve our love and attention.  In groups this is part of my greeting and sending them with song, in using their names whenever I can.  As a parent, it is the alone time.  While I was the oldest of many, it is those moments alone as a teen with my parents that stand out.

So, where are you going, Little Bit?  Where ever it is, I know I will learn and experience from and with you.  I look forward to what you next share with me about the world, yourself, and me.  Thank you for being you! – Mom

Recorders and Older Adults: Part 2

Plastic recorder

Image via Wikipedia

Thank you to all who took part in my poll regarding recorders & seniors.  86% replied they had not used recorders with adults.  14% said they had.

My reasons for considering starting a senior recorder class were simple:

  1. March is Recorder Month so it got me considering the possibility.
  2. Beginning recorders are affordable instruments.  They can be purchased from companies such as West Music for $4 – $8.
  3. Recorders take air control but not much force to play.  Playing increases your awareness of breath.
  4. Learning as a group is a social outlet. Being social is important for all of use.  For some seniors such options are limited.  I saw this class as a short-term offering to help people connect.
  5. Learning something new is important at all ages.  Research is showing the importance of using this ability especially as we age.

That said, I’m not sure at this time I will pursue offering recorders to seniors but I may at some point in the future.  I would love to kick it off with some ensembles and solo works by players at various levels at several community events to help create interest.  So more advanced planning is needed on my part.   If you have adult recorder opportunities in your community, I’d love to have you share information on them here.

For those who are interested in learning the recorder and aren’t aware of resources for learning in their communities, I found a site that provides demonstration, simple songs, and instruction for at home learning:

Musical Bridges

old and young

It is no secret that I love leading intergenerational groups of preschoolers and older adults. The interactions that often occur are beautiful to witness.  Using music with such a group makes it all the better!

For those interested in starting such a group I would recommend looking at “Musical Bridges” by Joan Shaw & Carna Manthey.  (You can locate this resource on my “Fun Things to Buy” listed under Misc.) Published in 1996, this book presents twenty-five themed events.  Benefits to participants nd preparation for sessions open the book.  Sessions include the following:

  • opening song
  • musical warm up
  • interactive songs or activities
  • movement
  • cool down
  • closing

For those who desire assistance in establishing such a program, consider contact a music therapist in your area.  For those in the Hays, KS area, please feel free to contact me if you would like to establish such a program at your facility.

Winter Weather Songs


Image by Grant MacDonald via Flickr

While winter is not officially here, cold weather has started to enter Kansas.  With it, I am preparing to start an intergenerational class centered on winter weather.  It will afford reminisce opportunities for the older adults:

  • What things did you do during the winter?
  • Have you been ice skating or sledding?  Tell us about it.
  • Share you tales of building a snowman.
  • Do you like the snow? Why or why not?

For the children many there will be many learning opportunities including:

  • Counting snowmen
  • Appropriate clothing for outdoors
  • Sounds of a Kansas winter
  • Body parts

If you would like some ideas to use on your own centered on winter weather, sign up for my newsletter.  This edition is scheduled for release on December 6th.  For parents of preschoolers in the Hays, KS area, you can learn more about this class on my “Preschool Classes” page.

Here wishing everyone a winter filled with joy & wonder.

Joy in Learning

IRIS XV • learning to fly

My parents were/are life long learners.  They set an example of reading, sharing information, taking continuing education, visiting museums, …the list goes on.  That love of learning lives on in me.  The number of books waiting on my shelf as well as on wish lists is fairly long and varied in content.  There are lots of continuing education opportunities I’d like to afford myself during the next several years.  And, next week I will be attending the American Music Therapy Conference in Cleveland, Ohio.  There are three continuing education sessions are on my list along with a few pre-picked sessions to attend.  The opportunity to walk through booths filled with instruments, resources, and books along with visiting with other music therapist excites me.  I always come away from conferences amazed by the knowledge I’ve gained and the people I’ve met.

But, it isn’t just conferences where I learn.  This fall I started taking guitar lessons for the first time since methods class in college.  Doing so increased my finger strength and taught me many new chords. The best part is the joy I have when I complete a practice session.  I had forgotten how it feels to learn something new vs. working out music for sessions or community groups.  It is a totally different feel.  The best part is having a teacher who encourages noodling (improvisation) time.

Our daughter is a freshman in high school.  She is already talking about pursuing a master’s degree.    She too loves to read.  And, she is always voicing a desire to learn to play a new instrument.  So, I think the learning bug has been passed on to her.

The fact is learning can be fun. I’ve had a few friends share memories of dinner time conversations centered around a new fact each family member learned during the day.  (Often this required running to the encyclopedia or dictionary immediately before the meal.)  The amazing part is how many of these facts those people still share while wearing a smile.

Here’s an example of my fun find of the day: using Blackbird Pie!

Challenging myself and those with whom I work is often important.  I like sharing facts about places and things as we share songs.  Learning information about events from the participants is another joy I try to include in my sessions.

Ask/complete the following items of yourself and those around you in the next few days seeing what you discover:

  • I get excited when I learn about ________.
  • What fascinating fact have you learned today?
  • What would you like to know more about?

Until next time, happy learning!

Recollection through Sound


Old man

Image via Wikipedia


Working with older adults has provided me many insights.  I plan on being a “loving life” kind of woman in my 90’s who still tries lots of new activities along with old favorites.  Surrounding myself with family, friends, and music are high on my list.  I look forward to days of laughter and enjoyment – less work but as much joy as now, still learning, still sharing.  I plan on surrounding myself with people who help me make all these connections and activities.  Wonder how many people will be singing WWII music with me along as well as all the folk songs, children’s songs, church hymns and silly favorites with which I now fill my days?

It always seems like such a gift to be allowed to work with the older adults.  Singing songs seems to bring out the stories.  Those of limited words may suddenly burst into song, drum along, or share a smile or tear.  My work as a music therapist has allowed me to peek into the lives of those with whom I work.  It is also something others have reported.  Here is a great article about just that.  Read it and enjoy!  Aging Well Magazine – Music Therapy in Dementia Treatment — Recollection Through Sound.

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