Quick Sips to Check Out

Make December More Than…

It seems many institutions (among them preschools and senior living communities) make December all about the holidays. Or more specifically, turn everything from the day after Christmas until December 26th into all things Christmas. This post is not one bashing...

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Rake in these items for great sessions

When the autumn leaves begin to fall, the rakes come out. Folks begin to pile up the leaves. You'll see children and pets jumping in and out of piles. When we rake, we are gathering, collecting or moving the leaves. We can do much the same with our session materials....

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Have a booming good time

While I have enjoyed using Boomwhackers® in my senior living sessions, I must give credit where it is due. Shares by Kat Fulton convinced me to make greater use of them. As a result, you'll find Boomwhackers® included in several session ideas on Music Sparks. Here are...

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How to Plan Sessions Around Your Breaks

When I was employed as an Activity Director in long-term care, it took a lot of effort and time to arrange my vacations. At first, I found taking a vacation more stressful than not having a break. I  had to be sure all my charting was completed, all the activities...

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Do You Make These Session Planning Mistakes?

Mistakes happen with all of us. Mistakes even happen in sessions. With experience mistakes may decrease in frequency and severity. Periodic supervision goes a long way towards our continuing to develop skills and to show areas for improvement. Challenging session can...

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Take Charge of Your Session Planning

Too little or too much planning by a music therapist working in senior living can lead to decreased outcomes for clients. It is time to take charge of your session planning. Maybe because of limited time you plan at the last-minute or put together a short sketch....

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Sun, Moon and Stars Session

The Sun, Moon and Stars are there to guide us. - Dennis Banks If you've struggled to plan a session, let the sun, moon and stars guide you into a senior living session plan (or 3). As a help, you'll find a Spotify playlist at the end of this post. Use these lists to...

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Was stopping my business a stupid mistake?

I've asked myself if stopping my business was a stupid mistake. The answer may surprise you. Why I stopped The simple answer is a double whammy of cancer. First, my father. The result was contacting my local service sites to let them know there would be some...

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Ways to spin a single song into a session plan

As mentioned in Crafting a Plan, spinning a song into a session plan is a major source of inspiration. Often the impetus is a song mentioned or sung by a senior living resident. The way it spins forth varies. Here are 6 ways to spin a single song into a session plan....

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Crafting a plan

Crafting a session plan ALWAYS starts with the person or group for whom it is being prepared. What role does the session play in their care? What goals need to be addressed? Upon what strengths am I building? With that in mind, it is time to get the creative ideas...

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Simplify your music

Making music simple can be driven from either a client or therapist side. Clients may be agitated by an instrument or by the sound level, or they may have processing issues. Maybe they request a change. Maybe a change is needed to bring them closer to a goal. As a...

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Simplify your supplies

It is time to simplify your supplies. REALLY! “Simplicity is complex. It's never simple to keep things simple. Simple solutions require the most advanced thinking.” ― Richie Norton It takes a lot of thought and advanced planning to simplify what we take into senior...

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Let’s flourish

Flourish. A word with so many means. Many of them apply to music therapy. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary (Douglas Harper, Historian. 4 Jan. 2017) , flourish can mean many thing. My favorites are: "to be in a vigorous state; thrive:" "to be in its or in...

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Key Questions: What to add to your assessment

Assessments are an important step in the therapy process. Depending upon our setting and our clients, we often look at: Musical interests and responses; Spiritual needs; Communication skills; Cognitive function; Physical mobility; and Socialization. The information...

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How I get more from a song

Learning repertoire is an ongoing process as a music therapist. Some songs you use a lot, some seasonally, and some are rare requests. Over the years, a few special requests have become personal favorites. Others I file away hoping it will be a long time until they...

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A reality check for music therapist

Reality check: an occasion when someone must consider the unpleasant truth about something rather than trying to ignore it.  - Cambridge Dictionaries Online Reality checks are not fun. But, they serve an important function. They connect us with the truth. If you are a...

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5 tools that will save you time

Time - there never seems to be enough. Putting all the sessions and the prep on the calendar quickly fills the time. Then there are all the "should-a's". I should: Read my music therapy journals Practice Learn a new song Complete a continuing education course Prep the...

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Food songs from the garden

Picking food from the garden (or the local Farmer's Market) and preparing for a meal can be a pleasure. The flavor of foods picked at the point of freshness and not being picked so they arrive at market at a point of freshness can make a big difference in flavor....

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Cool drinks – Conversations and songs

Cool drinks on a warm summer's day. Is there anything better? Many years ago, I was employed as a nursing home activity director in central Florida. The residents loved to congregate near the nurses station which was by my office. It afforded me an opportunity to join...

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My secret crush – Session Planning

I've developed a secret crush. Shhh! Don't tell anyone. No, it isn't a crush on someone.No, I'm not talking about my pulse racing or all that hormonal stuff. I'm talking smile producing joy. It's a crush on session planning. Yes, after more than 30 years as a music...

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Being Original

Being original is not always easy. It is as author Adam Grant writes: ...taking the road less traveled, championing a set of novel ideas that go against the grain but ultimately make things better. Our work as music therapists seems to be viewed as either...

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Ever have those days when you lack motivation?

The mug in the photo says: "I'm trying to be awesome today, but I'm exhausted from being so freakin awesome yesterday". Pretty good summary of how I feel some days. Yup! I have days I lack motivation. It might go something like this: Two days of cranking out a lot...

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Beauty Within

Beauty within is...well, difficult to define. It is an attainable and elusive quality. Professional and writers have pursued efforts to capture it. My reason for considering this quality is inspired by this Max De Pree quote: "We need to give each other the space to...

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Music Therapy Advocacy in Sessions

Each of your music therapy sessions is an opportunity for advocacy. What our clients experience leaves an impression about our profession. 2016 Music Therapy Advocacy looks at how we advocate as connectors, directors and reflectors. It is my belief these roles all...

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A beauty of a session plan

One can find beauty in many ways. With a few songs, you can urge your clients in senior living communities to find the beauty in and around themselves. Sing about beauty Many of my morning sessions include "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning". After singing the third verse...

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Beauty is…

What’s the first thing you think of when someone asks you to define beauty? If you’re like most people, it is likely an aspect of physical attractiveness. Do you think of yourself as beautiful? How often does someone tell you they find you beautiful? Do those living...

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A taste of new – more and less

Each year begins with a taste of new. A blank calendar waiting to be filled. A fresh set of resolutions. As I've aged, I have thought more about resolutions. Resolutions are a type of promises. As shared in Power of a Promise, the significance of keeping promises to...

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The Power of a Promise

This time of the year, probably more so than any other, is the time that we reminisce over our past, and contemplate our futures. While we are attending gatherings with friends and families, breaking bread together, sharing gifts and good times, and rolling into the...

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What’s on your never do list?

We all have to-do lists. There are likely two "never do lists" related to your to-do list. One is the items that never get done. The ones you keep putting off. The second is things you should never do. Keeping a to-do list Most time management systems encourage you to...

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Top 10 Ways to Lead by Example

Therapists lead their clients towards a goal. Therapists also set examples for other caregivers and family members. Music therapists advocate for our clients and our profession - yet another way we are leaders. Good leaders must lead by example. Through their actions,...

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Accessing the Power of Gratitude

The practice of gratitude as a tool for happiness has been in the mainstream for years. Long-term studies support gratitude’s effectiveness, suggesting that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, peak performance in...

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How Well Do You Maintain Balance?

If trying to maintain balance in your life makes you feel like a little topsy turvy , you’re not alone. Most of us have so many demands on our time and energy, life can feel like a three-ring circus. There are instruments to clean. Sessions to plan. Songs to learn....

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Treat yourself to a little art

We all need a little treat from time to time.  A specialty coffee, a piece of chocolate, going to a movie, a mani-pedi.... Be sure you treat yourself to a little art from time to time. Yes, you're a musician and that seems like the perfect treat - making music for...

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The meeting of art, nature and music

There are many ways we can express ourselves. If you forced me to narrow the choice to three, I would select art, nature and music. Your selection may be different from mine. But this Jimmy Carter quote makes me think others have similar views. Let me inspire you to...

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The art of serving up a session

Over the last few months, I've had many reminders on the art of servings a product. Recently I visit to the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City. While there, I saw the Ferran Adria exhibit "Notes on Creativity: Visualizing the Mind of a Master Chef".  When it comes to...

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Planning to end (the good-bye)

Often moments of life are clearly a start or an end. Let's be honest, sometimes there is confusion as to whether a situation is a beginning or an ending. You need only look at these songs to know the issue exists. As children, many of us learned "This is the song that...

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The first sip of the session – the hello song

Where I come from, mornings and coffee go together. That cup of coffee sets the tone for the day as it awakens the senses. The smell connects all the way back to my early childhood memories of morning. The taste can vary according to the type of coffee I've brewed....

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A trio of cool session planning resources for you

As the mercury rises with the summer heat, I've been looking for ways to stay cool. Staying inside with the AC cranked, I've been spending a little extra time online. The fall out of that is a trio of cool session planning resources for you. A website, a group to form...

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6 ways old musicals can be session worthy

Like many living in senior living communities, I remember life before central AC, the internet, cable TV, ...  Our music, when not played by us on various instruments came in the form of LPs and AM radio stations. The music played for our house cleaning hours often...

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Pick a bunch (Session Planning)

One of my weekly joys this time of year is going to my garden to pick a bunch of flowers for my desk. According to what is available and the amount, the flowers on my desk are never the same. Bright colors paired with greenery or simple whites add color to my space....

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Flowers as food

Flowers as food? Sure! From time to time I've seen images of salads with nasturtiums and other blossoms on them. This video has lots of tips. Have I tried them? Well, no. But, I have considered them once...

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Empowering others to lead drum circles

A #MusicTherapyBloggers Challenge by Julie Palmieri of Serenade Design caused me to look at my book shelf.  Her simple challenge to share a summary and take-away from a book or article made me stop and consider what it was I wanted to share. With my current series of...

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3 ways to shake loose new ideas

As music therapists, we are trained to be keen observers. We use these observation skill in many ways. This includes using them to shake loose new ideas. Here are 3 ways they support new ideas for instrumental play. #1. It did what? Let's give credit where credit is...

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Get Into the Act

May is Older American's Month. The 2015 theme is "Get Into the Act" is meant to focus on how older adults are taking charge of their health, getting engaged in their communities, and making a positive impact in the lives of others. While music therapists offer...

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Organize Your Notes with a Journal

Papers, papers, papers or if you are computer file, file, file. Finding our stuff - how we labeled it, what we used can be a challenge. Let's start with to do list. I love using Asana. That said, I still have a love of analogue systems. Maybe it is the result of when...

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How to make drum circles glow with energy

Personally, I come away from most drum circle energized by the shared rhythmic play. Some have been day time experiences so the energy carries me forth into the rest of my day. My evening drum experiences are often at music therapy conferences. They give me the energy...

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Karaoke with older adults

Karaoke is used in some older adult facilities. Personally, I've considered using it as an approach to those "low voice" days. Wanting to know more, I asked board-certified music therapist Alison Etter about her experiences using karaoke. Alison works at a state...

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The dirt on growing as a music therapist

As a young child I loved to play in the dirt. That love has developed into a LOVE for gardening. Gardening is a process. Finding colors and plants to combine ignites my creativity. Reading about square foot gardening and plant combinations informs my selections. It...

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It’s all in the timing

From the recent time change to discussions on scheduling, time is on my radar.  You know what happens when something is on your radar? You start to notice it. For me "timing" has shown in some diverse ways. One is humor in our work. The second is the timing in our...

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Eggs-actly as you like it

Whether you celebrate Passover or Easter, eggs are a part of the observance. Plastic eggs to stuff, chocolate eggs, chalk eggs, eggs to dye, egg rolls, egg tosses, eggs to eat. Eggs, eggs, eggs! With eggs all around you can add them to your sessions exeggs-actly as...

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Add freshness with these 8 spring songs

Spring has sprung, the grass has rizz. I wonder where a new song is? Sure I sing "Springtime in the Rockies" and "Tip Toe Through the Tulips", but I've sung those for over 25 years. Spring is a time of freshness. Let's add some freshness in our senior living community...

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5 things that can boost your sessions

Session planning can be a challenge. We ALL need help from time to time (including ME). Luckily, six amazing music therapists are sharing a tip to help boost your sessions. Try one, two or all five of these wonderful tips. #1. Find something new to inspire you each...

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Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

When it is warm outside, I tend to take lots of water breaks in my work day. When the weather is cold, I tend to slack off on drinking water. Add to that  I get busy with work forgetting to take water breaks. The result for me is feeling sluggish or something worse...

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Keeping your love of music fed

Our journey to the field of music therapy included being a musician. Music is part of our work life. Sometimes we get to the end of the work day our voices are tired, our fingers might be tired, the house work needs done, the children crave our attention, the bills...

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Snack on this

Whether you are employed full-time in a facility or commute between places, we need to keep up our energy and focus throughout the day. Periodic breaks along with getting up and moving can greatly help with this. Proper hydration is also important. Personally, I also...

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Sow your (wild) oats

Sowing seeds is a common idiom often with a positive spin. We sow seeds of kindness, good works, etc. But, when we talk about sowing our wild oats things take a  negative (dare I say sexual) spin. I want to encourage you to sow your oats. Whether or not they are wild...

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A big enough re:Visioning of music therapy?

The music therapy profession has received more news coverage than I could have imagined when I became a music therapist in 1983. Across the years I have seen the addition of board certification. I've witnessed drum circles being added to our sessions, the deepening of...

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Setting aside time for your own hobbies

One of my first full-time positions after completing my music therapy degree was an activity director in a nursing home.  Most traditional intake forms ask very little about a person's music interests but have a lot of space dedicated to hobbies. Most hobbies were...

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Tea Time – a Healthy Habit

Taking a break in our work day can make us more effective. One healthy thing you can do is make that time tea time. I'll be the first to admit I don't always take a break and that when I do it isn't always a tea break. The cold days of January can be a great reminder...

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Story Session – Version 1

Storytelling comes in  both fictional and experience based varieties. In many of my sessions, a story gets shared. The challenge of this is most of my contacts in senior living communities are groups. How to deal with storytelling in eldercare group settings could be...

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4 Sipping Good Reasons to Use Themes

We've tackled the session planning rut and how themes can add a dollop of freshness. Do you always need to use themes? What are some reasons to use themes? Using themes isn’t required. It isn’t even always the correct choice for meeting your client’s needs.  Then why...

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Predictable with Freshness

Part of getting our of a session planning rut is adding a little freshness. Most days I start with the predictable couple cups of black coffee. Nothing fancy - just a regular brand.  It is a wonderful way to start my day. On special occasions, I visit a coffee shop...

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Session planning ruts can be good?

Ever feel your falling into a session planning rut as you use the same songs and interventions week after week? Ever want to add something new but feel it will disrupt the predictability for the seniors in your group? I'll admit it. In my 25+ years working in senior...

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