Before 2018 fades away….

UnknownNow that 2019 is already off to a roaring start, I wanted to take a minute and remember 2018 before it completely disappears in my memory. Considering I only got to one blog post in 2018, cleary I had other priorities besides contributing to this blog. But instead of beating myself up for not writing more, I’m choosing to focus on what I did accomplish in 2018, and as I brainstorm ideas, I have to say I’m proud of myself for this last year for continuing to grow and find new ways to expand my music therapy career.

So in no particular order – the highlights of 2018

~ Conference Presentation: Pop Songs for Preschoolers

In April 2018, I had the pleasure of presenting with my coworker Rachael Holmes at the annual Mid-Atlantic Regional Music Therapy conference in Pittsburgh. I’ve blogged in the past about how much I love going to conferences and I was thrilled to be able to finally attend one again. In 2016 when I attended the MAR conference, I remember sitting in a session and being inspired to put together a presentation on our work with pop music at YCCA. And now two years later, we made it happen!

Bright and early on a Saturday morning, we shared our work and ideas of how to adapt pop songs to about 100 music therapy students and professionals. We started our presentation with a demonstration and sing along of “I Got You” (otherwise know as “I Feel Good”) by James Brown. It’s one of my favorites pop song adaptations to use to work on recognizing emotions. Learning to label emotions and express what you are feeling in a healthy way is so important for this population.  Other experientials we included was Matisyahu’s “Sunshine” and Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin.” We wanted to demonstrate how music therapists can uses untraditional kids songs to work on certain goals such as improving gross motor skills, developing self confidence, or increasing self-expression.

We also stressed the importance of connecting the children we work with to their parents and grandparents as well as with the staff in the school. By incorporating pop music from a variety of decades, we bridge the divide between generations and allow parents (and grandparents!) to share the same musical culture beyond typical children’s songs. Another upside to using pop music with preschoolers? It helps us, the music therapists, to stay inspired and engaged. It’s a great challenge to take a pop song that you normally wouldn’t use in a kids setting, and try to make it appropriate and useful in terms of meeting the therapeutic goals of the kids.

Overall we had a blast, and it seemed like those who attended did as well. On a side note, I had never played the guitar in front of that many people, let alone people who also play guitar, and considering I couldn’t play at all 5 years ago, that is an accomplishment worth celebrating.

~ Reuniting with Music Together

Sort of abruptly and a bit spontaneously, I started teaching Music Together classes again in South Jersey while my friend was on maternity leave. I trained to be a Music Together instructor as part of my internship in grad school but hadn’t had the opportunity to teach classes after graduation so I jumped at the opportunity. While Music Together serves children 0-5, the same age group I already work with at YCCA, the main difference is that they are family classes so parents, grandparents, and caregivers are there making music with their children. I love to see the interactions between family members and see the joy as the children and grownups become more familiar with the music and clearly love the experience. Plus I love the Music Together curriculum! Such wonderful melodies and rhythms and a broad spectrum of styles and sounds every semester. I’m excited to continue to teach classes here and there in addition to my music therapy work as well as attend classes with Charlie as a mom.

~ New Kreative Kids classes at YCCA

Now that I’ve started my fourth year working at YCCA, I was looking for a way to expand my work and add some new challenges. Along with our executive director, we managed to rekindle the Kreative Kids program she had started years ago and offered two new music classes this fall. Music Makers is for 3-6 year olds and we had a handful of recent YCCA alumni (now kindergarteners) come join us for this 8 week class. It was so wonderful seeing these kids return to their old school, and every week they are so creative and just full of joy. Our other class, Rock-a-bye Babies, is for babies and their caregivers. After teaching Music Together and remembering how much I like to work with kids and their parents, this class was a great way to do that type of work at YCCA. Plus since a child has to be at least one year old to attend the typical YCCA daycare, this baby-oriented class allowed us to expand our reach into the community and provide music to future YCCA families. We’re now in our second session of both of these classes, and I’m thrilled to help build the program even more!

~ Just the Way You Are

On a more personal note, this was the year that I started to figure the balance of work life and mom life. Having Charlie attend YCCA is such a blessing for so many reasons, but the main one is that I love that he gets the same music therapy experience and curriculum. Although we have multiple music therapists on staff and we all have our own songs that we use in our groups, we also share common songs and work on certain songs together for larger events like Halloween, holiday concerts, and our big end of the summer event, Kidstock. One of the songs I taught all the kids this summer for the Kidstock concert was the chorus from Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are.” The 3-5 year olds loved it immediately and sang it enthusiastically all summer. The younger ones would do a movement here or there or maybe fill in a lyric, but they never seemed as engaged. Then one day at home, 20 month-old Charlie and I were reading one of his favorite books, Todd Parr’s “Be Who You Are,” and Charlie all of sudden started singing and doing movements to the Bruno Mars song. I couldn’t believe how much he had absorbed from his music groups and how he knew so many of the movements and sounds! It was such a wonderful reminder of how much little ones learn and grow so much through music.  So of course I had to get our little sing along on video. Enjoy!

So thanks 2018 for some great memories. Here’s to many more in 2019!


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