July’s Newsletter

Independence Day!  

Patriotic songs! These not only are important historical anthems, but also hold memories and feelings for individuals who have served this country. When I was working with older adults, the individuals at the facility had such a deep sense of patriotism and love for the USA. It was especially apparent through their song choices, enthusiasm, and respect when singing or engaging in this genre of music. Not only were individuals able to express themselves through the music, but we were also able to work on other goals such as motor movement when playing instruments to these songs, socialization when coming together with a group, and reminiscing about why these songs hold such importance to the individuals in the facility to create a sense of community, trust, and continuing to build relationships.

The most frequently requested and talked about songs were America the Beautiful, Take Me Home Country Roads, America, The Star Spangled Banner, and This Land is Your Land.

It seems like we hear these songs all the time, but don’t ever take the time to really understand and appreciate what the lyrics are really saying, and those lyrics say a lot about the people who have strong and deep relationships with them. Let’s take a look.

America The Beautiful  

The lyrics of this song were inspired while the author was at the top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado. I recently had the opportunity to visit Pike’s Peak and at the top there was a plaque talking about this song and the thoughts behind the lyrics. Each lyrical phrase is from something the author saw or experienced while at the top and when standing there myself, I could really see what she saw through her lyrics.

“O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain
For purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain
America, America, God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea”

Now think of why this piece might be meaningful to veterans or people who have fought to keep us free. These words describe the lands and people that the veterans were out to protect. All of us in the USA, from sea to shining sea. Protecting the land and all who inhabit it.

Star Spangled Banner

Now take a look at these lyrics:

“O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

Of course this song would mean so much to people who have fought for this country. Through all of the fighting and noise and lights and chaos, they knew that fighting something worth fighting for.

This 4th of July

So this 4th of July enjoy time outside, on the water, hiking, with friends and family, but also remember what is being celebrated and remember those who gave their lives so that we could live ours.

Contact us!

If you have any questions or thoughts about this month’s newsletter, contact us at Info@ignitemusictherapy.com.


Fun in the Sun: My Go-To Summer Interventions!

Summer Fun!

This month I wanted to share my favorite music therapy inventions for summer! Feel free to use any of these songs and change them to fit your needs!

Let’s Head to the Beach!

I love the ocean drum! It is such a cool, realistic sounding sensory instrument that can make me feel like I really am hearing the waves of the ocean roll in, and out. I have an original song that I like to use with my students called “Ocean Waves”.

The lyrics are:

“The ocean waves go in and out, In and out, In and out

The ocean waves go in and out, All day long”

This is a pretty simple song that allows students to play the instrument and experience sensory input. You can also use other songs that you know that are about water, the ocean, or even from movies like “The Little Mermaid”.


Bubbles can be a great way to help kids calm when they are really upset. It is also visually stimulating and engages core muscles to blow air in a controlled way to make a bubble. Here are some songs I like to use that I found while researching some songs and I think they are great (and super cute)!

Bubbles in the Air

“There are bubbles in the air, in the air.

There are bubbles in the air, in the air.

There are bubbles in the air, there are bubbles in your HAIR, there are bubbles in the air, in the air”

“There are bubbles on my shoe, on my shoe.

There are bubbles on my shoe, on my shoe.

There are bubbles on my shoe, and I don’t know what to do, there are bubbles on my shoe, on my shoe”

“There are bubbles way up high, way up high.

There are bubbles way up high, way up high.

There are bubbles way up high, and I’ll pop them on my thigh, there are bubbles way up high, way up high”


(tune: My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean)

The bubbles flew over the flowers.

The bubbles flew over the trees.

The bubbles flew over the grass.

So many bubbles, I see.

Five Big Bubbles

Five big bubbles floating all around.

Until one popped when it landed on the ground.

Four big bubbles floating high and free.

Until one popped when it landed in a tree.

Three big bubbles floating quite as a mouse.

Until one popped when it landed on the house.

Two big bubbles floating down to land.

Until one popped when it landed in my hand.

One big bubble still floating in the air.

Until it popped when it landed in my hair.

The Goldfish Song

This song is from the Laurie Berkner Band and is such a fun song about fish having fun adventures! It is a great motor intervention as well as works on cognitive skills like following directions! Look it up at


Using the parachute is so fun! It is visually stimulation for students who seek that type of stimulation and also physically stimulating. It also is a good cognitive intervention for following directions. I like to use another original song when I work no the parachute with my students and the lyrics go:

“It goes up And down

Up And down

Up And down

It goes fast, Fast, Fast

It goes Fast, Fast, Fast

And up and down”

Again these lyrics are very simple and when I sing them I have my voice go up in pitch when I sing “up” and have the pitch go down when I sing “down”. All of the lyrics give directions to the whole group on how to move the parachute together and work as a team. After we go through the lyrics once, I invite students one at a time to sit underneath the parachute while the rest of the students and I continue to sing the lyrics and move the parachute over top of the student sitting underneath. Again, it is a great sensory intervention as well as physical for the students who are manipulating the parachute during the song.

Want a recording of an original song?

If you would like a recording of any of the original songs described in this month’s newsletter, send me an email and I will get that to you as soon as I can!

You can reach us at info@ignitemusictherapy.com

Music Therapy and TBI’s

Traumatic Brain Injuries  
This month’s article is all about TBI’s (traumatic brain injuries) and how music therapy can help these individuals regain function that has been lost due to an injury to the brain.

According to MedScape, a TBI is the result of an injury to the brain from an outside force that can result in “permanent or temporary impairment of cognitive, physical, and psychosocial functions, with an associated diminished or altered state of consciousness.” Individuals that suffer from a TBI may suffer from loss or diminished speech, motor movements in any part of their body,  or even changes to their personality. No two TBI’s are exactly alike and vary greatly depending on the part of the brain was injured.

TBI-graphic (5)

Along with speech, physical, and occupational therapy, music therapy can be very beneficial in helping individuals regain some of the skills they had previously lost. Below are a few examples in the motor and speech domains.

Gait Training and General Motor Skills  

Gait Training is a specific motor skill and  technique to help individuals work towards a more typical gait, or walking pattern. This is done utilizing the ISO-principle, which is something I have talked about in previous newsletters. The ISO-principle basically meets the client where they are at and helps move them towards higher functioning in regards to their specific goal. In this specific instance of working towards more typical gait, it could be that the client is walking in seemingly sporadic movements. The music therapist would try to match that movement by playing sporadic music patterns in conjunction with the client’s movements. Once the therapist and client are synchronized, the therapist is trained to manipulate the music to slowly become more predictable and rhythmic to encourage the client’s movements to also be more predictable and rhythmic, thus improving gait. There are multiple YouTube videos of this that I encourage you to watch so you have a better understanding of this concept.



Music making is naturally a motor task and thus music therapy can be super beneficial to increase motor skills that might have been lost with TBI patients. I like to use drums, guitar, shakers, and tambourines to target gross motor skills. One example of gross motor skills I like to employ is utilizing familiar songs and have clients play the drums during specific phrases or with different hands depending on the structure of the song. For example, during the first verse the client will play the drum with the left hand and for the second verse it will be the right hand. Not only can we work on gross motor skills, but many of the instruments available require the use of fine motor skills. Castanets, rhythm sticks, egg shakers, xylophones, and many other instruments require fine motor manipulation and the music motivates clients to play those instruments even if those movements are difficult in other situations.


Music is a universal language in that everywhere in the world uses music and can elicit various emotions or stories through the music without using any formal language at all. When people don’t have the words to express themselves fully, we can use music to help convey those emotions through the feeling of the music. This can definitely be helpful if an individual’s ability of speech has been taken away due to a TBI. Instead of verbally communicating their feelings, they can convey them through the music.

Music therapy can also help with more concrete speech skills. We are trained to be able to manipulate the music in regards to tempo, intensity, dynamics, meter, etc. to help elicit responses that make progress towards their goals. Through preferred and familiar music, we can slow songs down and leave out words at the end of phrases for individuals to fill in. This is an especially useful therapy technique for individuals who have suffered a TBI. Slowing down a familiar predictable song helps individuals process what is happening and are better able to recall words to the songs that are such a huge part of their lives. We can also use the music to prompt verbal utterances using different vowels or sounds to increase any and all verbalizations.


There are a plethora of ways music therapy can help with speech production, but I only listed a few in this article. If you have specific questions or examples let us know at info@ignitemusictherapy.com.

Final Thoughts

Although I only mentioned a few areas in which music can benefit individuals who have suffered a TBI, there are many other areas that music therapists can help. Sometimes it is helping individuals process what happened to them and to process how it is going to affect the rest of their life. Sometimes it is to increase mood or decrease anxiety. Sometimes it is to help regain life skills. There are numerous goals and domain areas that can assist these individuals that can make such a huge difference in their lives.


YouTube Videos:




About TBI’s:


If you have any questions or would like more information about this topic email us at  info@ignitemusictherapy.com.


Music and Academics


Music and Academics  

Most of us remember learning the ABC’s in school, which ultimately helped us learn the order of the alphabet and what letters look like. Still to this day when I am alphabetizing things I sing the ABC song to make sure I put everything in the correct letter order. Songs like this are so helpful, yet many teachers (and parents!) don’t use music as much as they could to help teach academic concepts. This month I am going to provide you with a few academic songs I was asked to create or modify to teach specific academic subjects.


Some people think that they have to create their own songs to teach concepts which can seem like a big undertaking. That’s not necessarily true! There are tons of songs out in the world of the internet that teach great concepts! Just make sure you preview them first and see how hard they might be to actually learn/use. One thing I like to do (and sometimes get asked to do!) is to modify songs that teachers find online. These songs usually teach great concepts, but are super fast! (I teach primarily preschool age and slow and predictable is always the most successful) The nice thing about actively singing songs versus listening to recordings is you can slow the speed or change the words to whatever you need! Take the song “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”, for example. This song moves from body part to body part very quickly, and usually gets faster and faster! Instead try singing the same melody, but simplify the words “I am touching my head my head, I am touching my head my head, I am touching my head, I am touching my head my head.” Then go to the next verse “I am touching my shoulders my shoulders.” Etc. This slows things down so individuals who have longer processing times can understand and react to the instructions while also being successful with their peers.


When people think about songwriting and creating their own music, their hearts start to race and they immediately think “there is no way I can create a whole song”. I’m going to stop you right there and say push the pause button! Songs don’t have to be like what you hear on the radio, full of complex rhythms and cool melodies and harmonies and drums and guitar and piano and bass guitar and … and… and… you get the picture. Songs can be as simple as you need them to be, and actually when trying to teach academic concepts, the simpler the better! Here are some steps you can follow to create your own song for whatever you are going to teach!

Step 1: Think of a concept
Is the concept you are trying to teach counting, number identification, spelling, letter identification, science related, history related? Figure out what the main point is that you want to get across.

Step 2: Write the words
Figure out how you want to order the words and best describe or teach the concept. Break it down into steps and put them in order. If you want to try to rhyme the ends of your phrases, awesome! If that is too complicated for you, that’s ok too! Just write out what you want your child/student to learn.

Step 3: Sing!
Start singing the words you have written down. If you can’t remember what you sang the second time, then change the melody until you have something that is simple and that you can remember. Once you have a melody you can remember, record it (so you don’t forget later!) and sing through it three more times. This helps your memory internalize the song so you can teach it later.

Step 4: Use it!
When you are first teaching songs there is a step-by-step process on how to do that so it is as successful as possible. The first step is to sing it all the way through for the student to hear. The second is to sing it one line at a time and have the student repeat each line after you sing it. Do this a couple of times all the way through the song until they are starting to get it. Then have them sing it all the way through with you. Once you have done this initial introduction, you only have to sing it with the student all the way through. The more they practice the song, the quicker they will learn and remember it, then be able to use it.

Hopefully the process of creating your own melody, or modifying one to fit your needs will not seem out of reach with these steps. The ultimate goal is to help you utilize music for what you need!

Contact Us!I have been asked to write so many different academic songs so if you are still struggling with one, let me know and we can write one together or I can share mine with you!


If you have any questions or would like more information about this topic email us at  info@ignitemusictherapy.com.

Music Therapy and Relaxation

March Newsletter

Music and Its Many Uses  

People utilize music for a huge array of tasks. You can turn on the olympics and see any number of athletes with big headphones on trying to pump themselves up. You can also imagine how great it can feel when the radio meets your mood and you belt out a favorite tune on your drive. A college student studying will often play some music in the background to help them stay focused and many people do the same thing, but for relaxation instead of concentration. Relaxation, specifically, is what I want to focus on with today’s newsletter. When talking about how a music therapist helps clients with relaxation, a likely term to see is “iso-principle” But what is the iso-principle?


As a music therapist, we are trained to meet our clients where they are at and help take them where they want to be. What this really means, especially when we are talking about relaxation, is playing music that may be more upbeat or seemingly “loud” and gradually changing the style of playing to soothing, quiet, simple music to help the client move to this stage of relaxation and calm as well. This concept is called the Iso-Principle. Often times when I am working at the hospital, even sometimes in the schools, I will get called in and see a patient who is upset and is having a hard time calming. When I first walk into the room and get my guitar out I watch for their body language, are they moving quickly, frantically, sporadically? Are they making large movements? I then check their volume…are they screaming at the top of their lungs? Are they crying intensely? Once I take note of these things, I match the patient where they are at. If that means they are screaming and moving quickly… I will also play loudly and as quick as their movements are.

You might be thinking, “what good is that going to do? Aren’t you trying to soothe them?” The answer is yes, I am trying to soothe them. But think of it like this… Imagine you are trying to get ready for work and you have a big business meeting at 8am. You slept through your alarm and woke up 20 minutes late. In this scenario, let’s imagine that this also means that the kids are 20 minutes late. You rush through trying to get ready and get the kids ready because now you only have a half hour before you have to leave. You still need to shower, eat breakfast, feed the kids, make lunches, oh and you forgot to get all of the soccer gear ready for your childs’ after school practice. Now you have  5 minutes to leave and your partner says, “I still need to shower!” You are beyond frustrated and just want to scream. You are definitely going to be late to the meeting. Notice how you might be feeling in a moment like this. Now imagine someone coming up to you with a guitar playing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” as beautifully and quietly as possible…Yeah that’s not going to help at all. In fact it might even make you more angry!

Validating how others are feeling is a vital part of the process to help others calm and return to baseline when they are potentially screaming and hitting people out of frustration.

As a music therapist, we are trained to meet our clients where they are at, validating their emotions that they are experiencing in that moment, and gradually move into more soothing and relaxing music. Sometimes we gauge this off of looking at the heart rate monitors and synchronizing our tempo with their internal tempo, their heart beat. Sometimes we just watch their physical movements and volume. More often than not, this use of the iso-principle will help individuals move into a more calm and relaxed state of being. It can be a very useful and powerful tool for so many individuals who need it!

Contact Us!Check out these links for more information: https://soundscapemusictherapy.com/tag/iso-principle/Youtube Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fv_PcvET6SM

If you have any questions or would like more information about this topic email us at  info@ignitemusictherapy.com.

Music Therapy and Early Intervention

What is Early Intervention  

According to Center for Parent Information Resources, “Early intervention is a system of services that helps babies and toddlers with developmental delays” and focus on “skills that typically develop during the first three years of life, such as physical, cognitive, communication, social/emotional, and self-help” behaviors. Music therapy is one of these services and can address most of (if not all) of the goals described above. In this newsletter I will discuss some of the main interventions that are utilized with this population.

Music Therapy Interventions

Parent/Infant Bonding

Bonding is such a crucial part of early childhood and one of the best ways to do this is through music. Music not only is fun, but can be an emotional experience that has an impact on the bonding that takes place between a caregiver and a baby. Bonding songs can be slow, upbeat, whatever your baby responds to. When singing the song, hold your baby on your lap facing you so they can see your facial expressions as you sing. When I start talking to people and encouraging them to sing, I always hear “but I can’t sing” or “I have a terrible voice”. It doesn’t matter if you think you can’t sing! Babies have a special connection with a mother’s voice because it’s the first sound the baby can hear before entering the world! Just try it and see what happens!


Movement is a huge part of development because we do it all of the time! Gross and fine motor movements can be worked on through finger plays like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Wheels on the Bus”. Kids also love to move, and dancing can be a great way to work on gross motor movements! Turn on their favorite song at home and dance with them! One song that has been a favorite in many of my early intervention music therapy groups is used with scarves. The lyrics are:

The scarves, the scarves, Go up and down

Up and down, Up and down

The scarves, the scarves, Go up and down

Up and down today

*Not only are the kiddos moving and dancing with this song, but they are learning about the directions up and down! Again the lyrics are super simple and are paired with a fun material to interact with!


Creating songs that talk about playing instruments are great to reinforce what the child is doing and to validate their actions. It also helps to work on motor movements and understanding language in a fun and interactive way! The lyrics can be made up, as long as you sing the melody almost the same every time you sing it. Some of the lyrics I have used as I work with this population are shown below.

“Play the Instrument”

Play, play, play the shaker

Play, play, play the shaker

Play, play, play the shaker

You are shaking today!


*The lyrics don’t need to be complicated! Make up something that you can remember. The simpler the better!


Contact Us!Check out these websites for more information:

Center for Parent Information Resources – http://www.parentcenterhub.org/ei-overview/

Understood – https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/treatments-approaches/early-intervention/early-intervention-what-it-is-and-how-it-works


If you have any questions based on this month’s topic or would like to hear recordings of the songs that were mentioned email us at  info@ignitemusictherapy.com.

Music Therapy and Down Syndrome

Welcome to Ignite Music Therapy’s January newsletter edition! This month is focused on how music therapy can be beneficial for individuals  who have Down Syndrome!


Down Syndrome  

Down Syndrome is a genetic condition in which individuals have an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. “This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. A few of the common physical traits of Down syndrome are low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm – although each person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees, or not at all.” (National Down Syndrome Society)

Music Therapy Interventions

Music therapists typically work with individuals with Down Syndrome to increase cognitive skills, behavioral skills, emotional support, motor skills, and social skills. These skills are usually broken down into objectives such as turn taking for social skills, or learning the alphabet for cognitive skills. In this newsletter I am going to break it down into different interventions that I use for my clients with Down Syndrome!

Behavior Skills

There are two kiddos who I am working with right now on impulse control. Many kids struggle with this concept of waiting to do something and so I use a music mnemonic taught to me by one of my amazing music therapy professors from college and it has helped so many of my clients drastically! It’s called “Please, Wait”. I usually don’t explain this song and just start singing it and doing the actions if students are struggling with impulse control and as soon as I start it, students stop what they are doing almost immediately to see what I am doing, to hear what I am saying, and start to do the actions with me. The main focus here is that as soon as I start singing, students stop. And I mean completely STOP! Do you know why this happens? Because students, kids, and people in general are used to other people talking to or at them all day long. As soon as someone starts singing, your attention shifts to that individual because it is new, it is interesting, the music pulls you in! This month I challenge you to sing your instructions to your child, a student you work with, or anyone else to see what happens! Then, let us know how it worked out for you by emailing us at info@ignitemusictherapy.com!

Cognitive Skills

I have a lot of individuals right now who are working on identifying colors so I created a fun and easy song to work on these identification skills. It is called the “I See” song. I like to lay out instruments or scarves that vary in color so clients can really work on this skill. The lyrics are: “I see green, green, green. Find the green!” I repeat these two sentences a few times and if the individual was able to identify the color correctly, I sing “You found green!”. If the individual needs a little more time or is struggling to focus and remember the color I start to sing “find green, find green, can you find green” and finally ending with “you found green!” This song is great because it can be adapted to almost anything you are asking a kiddo to identify! If you are interested in hearing a recording of this song, send an email to info@ignitemusictherapy.com!

Motor Skills

When I am working with young kiddos on motor skills I like to utilize songs they might already be familiar with like “The Wheels on the Bus”, “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, and “If You’re Happy and You Know It”. I encourage parents, teachers, or any other caregivers to sing these songs slowly at first so that the focus is on the motor movements, whether that is fine or gross motor movements. If things are slowed down to a speed where individuals will be successful, they are more motivated and excited to engage and participate. As the kiddos start to gain more skills in this area of focus, feel free to increase the speed little by little!

Check out these websites for more information:

National Down Syndrome Society – http://www.ndss.org/about-down-syndrome/down-syndrome/

American Music Therapy Association Fact Sheet – https://www.musictherapy.org/assets/1/7/MT_Special_Ed_2006.pdf


If you have any questions based on this month’s topic, feel free to send an email to info@ignitemusictherapy.com.

Music Therapy and Autism

Welcome to Ignite Music Therapy’s December newsletter edition! This month is focused on how music therapy can be beneficial for clients who have Autism – one of my favorite populations to work with!

The Autism Spectrum  

The Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is exactly that…a spectrum. No two people with autism have the same personalities, struggles, or strengths. Just like no two people without a diagnosis are exactly alike! ASD “refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.” (Autism Speaks Website)  



Music Therapy Success Stories!

Music therapists who work with individuals on the autism spectrum can work in a variety of domains (ex. communication, social, behavioral, cognitive, emotional, etc.). The unique characteristics of each individual, as well as the variety of domains to work in is what makes this one of my favorite populations to work with! In this newsletter I am going to share a couple of clinical examples of how music was used to help these individuals achieve their goals specifically in the emotional, communication, social, and behavioral domains.

When I first started working with a boy on the spectrum, he was non-verbal, but would vocalize frequently with squeals and other sounds almost constantly. He would move around the room jumping, vocalizing, running, etc. He struggled to stay regulated so we started sessions as a form of regulation through instrument play and he responded very well to hearing, feeling, and watching the instruments be manipulated. Playing instruments that produced lots of vibration helped him move to a calm state and in turn allowed him to focus on tasks after the session. As our relationship developed, he started imitating words in his favorite songs, which progressed to initiating one word requests/responses, then moved to two word requests. In our sessions now, two years later, he is making song requests verbally, singing all of the lyrics to his favorite songs, initiating eye contact with me, following and initiating actions to songs, taking turns with me and his peers, and following directions with and without music. He has made so much progress in the communication, behavioral, and social domains and the key to it all was connecting through music!

Another student I worked with struggled to relate to his peers and would spend most of the day by himself, not interacting with others or playing. His teachers asked me if I could help address this during music therapy group sessions. During the sessions students were asked to trade, pass, and share instruments through the musical cues I gave them. This individual struggled with passing the instruments at first and would become quite upset because he didn’t understand why he had to share with others. As the weeks passed and we worked more on understanding what sharing means and utilized songs that explained sharing a little more, this student made great progress! By the end of the school year he was initiating sharing and play with his peers, not only in our music therapy groups, but also outside of music on the playground! The ultimate goal for music therapy clients is for them to be able to utilize skills they learned and worked on during music therapy, outside of the music setting. It was so great to see him grow socially and build meaningful relationships with his peers!

Individuals with autism have so much to share with us, and we have so much to learn from them! Music can be such a powerful tool in aiding communication, teaching social skills, and as a motivator for accomplishing goals. The satisfaction of being able to make progress and accomplish tasks through music makes music therapy not seem like work at all!


There are some amazing books, communities, research, and organizations that are active advocates for ASD. Some of my favorite books are:

Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism by Barry Prizant

Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin

If you like TED Talks, Temple Grandin has some good insights to individuals with Autism because she also is on the spectrum and is a great spokesperson and advocate. The link to one of her talks is here: https://www.ted.com/talks/temple_grandin_the_world_needs_all_kinds_of_minds

Check out these websites for more information:

Autism Speaks – https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism

American Music Therapy Association Fact Sheet – https://www.musictherapy.org/assets/1/7/Fact_Sheet_ASD_and_MT__8-26-15.pdf

If you have any questions based on this month’s topic, feel free to send an email to info@ignitemusictherapy.com.

November Newsletter

Music Lessons vs. Adapted Lessons

Welcome to Ignite Music Therapy’s November newsletter edition! This month is focused on the differences between traditional music lessons and adapted music lessons.


Traditional Music Lessons

When you think of signing your kids up for piano lessons, or thinking back to when you took music lessons yourself, people usually imagine sitting on a chair or bench with the teacher critiquing your technique or stylistic approach. You play from a lesson book and work through each exercise or song until it is practically (if not) perfect. Music teachers aren’t required to learn or understand different needs or abilities. They take pedagogy classes and music classes, or sometimes no classes at all and teach based off of how they learned and what they experienced…and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

Adapted Music Lessons

Think back to those typical music lessons. After you complete each assignment or lesson in the book, you move on towards the next song which continually grows more difficult to match your musical abilities, but what if you need more time? What if you need to take breaks throughout the lesson because you are struggling to focus? What if you can’t distinguish the treble clef from the bass clef, or the specific notes on the staff? That is where adapted music lessons come in. Not all music teachers are clinically trained to understand the wide variety of needs that students may have. They might not be trained to be able to adapt their teaching styles or materials to fit the needs of all students. As a board certified music therapist, you are trained not only in music, but also a variety of diagnosis and how to allow students with special needs to learn and grow to be the very best they can be.

It might be difficult to really understand the difference without seeing it in person, but I will do my best to describe some of the  lessons I currently teach with students of different abilities. One of my piano students is on the Autism spectrum. He is very musically talented and learns many of his favorite songs by ear, being able to play them on the piano without having any lessons. I bet you are thinking, then why work with him? He is able to play almost anything by ear, but doesn’t understand why they sound good, what the notes are, or play anything without hearing it multiple times first. During his lessons, we do work from a lesson book, but we work through each note and he labels it before we play a song. This demonstrates his knowledge of now understanding what each symbol means, but might not be able to process it as quickly as music plays. By labeling the notes first, he is able to be more successful when it comes time to actually playing a piece of music. Does this mean he will have to label all of his notes forever? Absolutely not. It is a tool that he uses for now and we are currently taking away the labels note by note. Since his strength is learning things by ear, we also do finger exercises that are not in the book to allow him to work on hands playing separate rhythms and notes to prepare him for songs he may play in the future.

Another student has trouble focusing for long periods of time and will start to look around the room, ask questions about things besides music, or start to become frustrated. So, we take a two minute break. During the break he can play other instruments on his own, dance, do jumping jacks, or just sit quietly if that is what he needs. As soon as the two minutes are over, he is usually ready to focus and continues to make progress on his songs.

Why does it matter?

So, why does this information really matter? What does it all mean? The importance truly comes when you are deciding what type of approach to music lessons is best for you or your child. Does your child need more support and breaks in order to stay productive? Then Adapted Music Lessons would probably be a good route. Are you able to maintain attention for an extended period of time and things come easily for you? Then you would probably be able to succeed in typical music lessons. The ultimate goal is for every person to be, and feel, successful. It doesn’t matter if that means going with a different approach. As long as every client feels as though they are improving and growing musically.


If this newsletter has sparked some new questions or thoughts, I would love to continue the conversation further. Additionally, if there are any topics that you would like more information about, feel free to send an email to info@ignitemusictherapy.com.

October Newsletter

Music Therapy Basics!

Welcome to Ignite Music Therapy’s October newsletter edition! This month is focused on Music Therapy’s 5 W’s: Who, What, When, Where, and Why Music Therapy.

What is “Music Therapy”?  

Let’s first start by talking about and understanding a little bit about what music therapy really is. Is it magic? Is it just listening to recorded music through my headphones? The answer to these questions (comments that I regularly hear) is “not quite”. According to the American Music Therapy Association, “Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.” To dive deeper into this, music therapy is a therapeutic medium to help individuals achieve non-musical goals in the physical, cognitive, social, behavioral, emotional, and spiritual domains. If people are having a hard time understanding what I really do, I like to say I am a therapist, who is trained to use music as my medium.

I think it is important to note the training music therapists have. We are required to receive a bachelor’s degree in music therapy, complete a 6-9 month internship, and then sit for and pass the boards exam to become a board certified music therapist. Our training includes courses in anatomy/physiology, psychology, music courses, music therapy specific courses, etc. It is not just training on how to create music, but how to use that music to achieve non-musical goals.

Who, Where, When?  

Music therapy can be utilized with a wide range of people because it is such an important aspect of our lives and can reach people on deeper levels. Music therapists work with newborns all the way to end of life and anywhere in between. Session can be held in schools, hospice facilities, day treatment facilities, hospitals, early intervention programs, rehab facilities, in a person’s home or studio, and the list goes on and on. There is really no limit to when and where music therapists can work, as long as the client’s can benefit from music therapy techniques and interventions.


Probably the most important question…”why music therapy”? Music therapy is a therapy unlike any other, but can help achieve similar goals that are worked on in other therapies. The only difference is, well, music. Have you ever been in a bad mood or unmotivated, you turned on your favorite music, and all of a sudden you are feeling like you can do anything and ready to conquer your tedious to do list? Do you still have the ‘ABC’s’ song fully memorized and have to sing it while alphabetizing your files? Music helps with memory recall, motivation towards tasks, mood elevation, self-expression, and even can help teach us important life lessons. If these things are true and you have experienced at least one of these examples, then imagine how helpful it could be for a person who experiences dementia and can’t remember her address or phone number. A music therapist would help create a song to increase her memory recall for these items. Imagine a person suffering from depression and struggling to communicate these feelings. A music therapist could facilitate song sharing or songwriting with this individual to encourage a positive emotional outlet and form of expression. There are so many reasons and examples of why music therapy is so powerful and encouraging during someone’s therapeutic process, but not many people realize its importance.

If you would like to read more about music therapy, check out our national association page at http://www.musictherapy.org.

If there are any topics that you as a reader would like more information about, or you have questions, thoughts, or comments about this month’s newsletter, send an email to info@ignitemusictherapy.com.