In music therapy, 4-year-old Aimee uses her body movements and her vocal sounds to express herself and to interact with the music therapist.
Physical skills are one of the goals addressed in music therapy. Aimee loves the sound of the windchimes – when she hears the windchimes, she lifts her legs up to play the instrument herself. Even when the instrument is moved higher, Aimee stretches her legs to reach and play the instrument. Aimee controls her leg movements and strength when she plays. With the therapist creating a fun and engaging musical milieu, Aimee’s varied windchime sounds become an essential part of the music we create together. Aimee kicks and sways her legs many times to create music with me, and enjoys developing her motor skill and muscle tone.
Self-expression is another goal addressed. During music making, Aimee engages with her legs, arms and voice. She can choose whether to respond by moving her legs to play the windchimes, by lifting her arms to tap the bell, or by vocalizing, and Aimee makes this choice independently. Furthermore, Aimee’s vocal sounds differ in pitch, and her instrumental playing sounds loud, soft, long and short. The different quality of sounds she makes tells that she is not just expressing her choice, but her feelings too – whatever feelings she also expresses on her face are reflected in her elaborate music making.
Music therapy has given new meaning to Aimee’s movements and vocalisations, because music has given her a means of self-expression and communication. Music making has strengthened not only her physical skills, but also the reasons underpinning her movements – her desire and motivation to make music with the therapist. In music therapy, Aimee can make choices to fulfil her own musical needs and her capacity for communication, self-expression and greater autonomy.
Ishkalla is a nine year old girl who loves playing music and singing. She was referred to music therapy by her father, who is a musician, because of her musicality and passion in music. In her session, Ishkalla makes music with her parents who provide her with musical and emotional support.
Music is a very big part of Ishkalla’s life. Improvised singing is one of the means that Ishkalla uses to express her inner feelings and thoughts or when she hopes to share her life experiences with others. Ishkalla turns every music-making experience into her opportunity to sing and express herself. Her songs reflect how she sees the world around her and often include her own values and beliefs such as “We have more to learn”, “Always trying our best” or “When I grow up I wanna be me”.
Ishkalla enjoys making music in a group as well as playing solo. Group music provides her with opportunities for turn-taking, leading and following, and of course having lots of fun playing with her parents. Playing solo is always her favourite, in which she asks everyone to pay attention and listen to her music and singing. Her confidence in being a performer and playing in her own musical style peaks while she is being a soloist. Then it becomes the highlight of the session and her audience responds with a great applause.
In July this year, one of our clients Troy agreed to share his experience and thoughts about music therapy with us.
When did you start coming to music therapy and what did you like when you were younger?
About 3 or 2 years ago. I was five. I really, really liked it. I quite liked the keyboard and my personal favourite was the drum kit.
What do you like about music therapy now?
I’m really good at playing music and I love how Jen teaches me music every week. I like quite a few things – the instruments are really good and now I like the harmonica and I have my own harmonica. I really like making up music stories with the puppets and the instruments.
How has music therapy helped you?
It really, really helped me set out my music path and I’m a little bit shy about singing so Jen helps me with that. Music is my main talent and that makes me feel quite good.
How do you feel when you make music?
I feel happy because it helps me express my music and breathe and relax because I’m very rarely relaxed in my life.
Is there anything that used to be hard that has gotten easier?
The piano before was really, really hard and it has definitely gotten easier.
What should people know about music therapy?
It’s really, really good and tons more people should do it.
What do you hope to do or learn in music therapy in the future?
I hope that one of my jobs when I grow up will be to be a music therapist.
William's love of music shines as he comes to his weekly music therapy sessions at the Centre with music therapist Yair Katz. In his two and a half years with us, William has extended his love for playing and singing, as well as his concentration skills and interpersonal relationship.
William's caregivers comment on the positive calming effect music has on him, but in our sessions the feeling is often of elevation and joy, as we share the guitar or the piano, drumming together on the floor tom and snare drum while vocalising. I have noticed the transformation in William during our sessions, when he becomes one with the music and me...William used to only sing nursery rhymes and some popular traditional songs, but has extended his ability to accept and participate in free improvisation which seems to have liberated William. William often gets up and jumps in excitement with a great smile on his face while we improvise together. At times the music can be deep and moody to reflect William's feeling at the moment.
I treasure the opportunity to work with an adult who, despite having many difficulties in life, can be so engaged and expressive in joint music making sessions, and I see the results on William's face as he leaves the room rejuvenated.