One day I entered the doors of Music Therapy Connections as a music therapy intern, and the next (after passing my board certification), I entered as music therapist. The entire building looked and felt different. Though I was nervous and still a bit unsure, I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. It was easy for me to fall in love with what we do here.
I love that I have the opportunity to serve everyone from birth through adulthood and all of life. I have the pleasure of working with people in the lesson setting, group setting, and individual therapeutic setting.
I love that I am able to serve people of all ages and all abilities within these walls. Everyone needs a safe place to experience something meaningful, create a sense of purpose, and even just be heard. Providing that safe place is the heartbeat of what we do here.
For many of our students and clients, their Music Therapy Connections experience begins in our Listen & Learn for Little Ones class where children ages 0-3 explore music with their parents, grandparents, and loved ones. We focus on supporting their precious development and creating bonding opportunities for every family.
When our students are 3 years old and ready for the move, they often graduate to our Listen & Learn a Little More class! This class is still developmentally supportive, but we also continue to work on social skills, reading, counting and so much more! Plus, Listen & Learn a Little More is for children only. Parents can relax and listen to our preschoolers laughing and singing from the comfort of our waiting area.
And, of course, when you feel that your 4 or 5 year old is ready, they can graduate yet again to our pre-lessons class Listen and Learn Into Lessons. This course was made for our very active 4-7 year olds who want to learn a new instrument but aren’t quite ready to sit for a 30 minute lesson. Students will learn piano basics, rhythmic counting, musical genres, terms and application in a fun and interactive environment with peers.
Finally, when your young learner is ready, they can register for their very own individual lessons with one of our teachers specializing in a variety of styles and instruments. Students can learn to play ukulele, guitar, piano, or sing!
Keep in mind, our lessons are individualized. Whether you are an adult or fresh out of our Listen & Learn Into Lessons course, we will create an environment to facilitate your success, growth, and love of music.
To register for lessons, click on the link below. If you would like to learn more about Music Therapy Connections, what we do, and our various services, we welcome you to our Open House on Sunday, May 6th between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm for refreshments, fun activities, a drumming experience, and a giveaway you don’t want to miss!
I remember the first time I led a music therapy session. My hands were clammy and my fingers trembled as I delicately placed them on the neck of my guitar. With my guitar slung over my body and all eyes on me, I was ready. I lifted my right arm and started strumming my first hello song.
Years later, I don’t remember the songs we sang or instruments we played but I do remember the way that they smiled. It was almost as though making music with these older adults breathed more life into them. That was the moment when I knew that there was no turning back. I was going to be a MUSIC THERAPIST.
Currently, I work with a variety of populations. I facilitate music classes for ages birth to 5 supporting their developmental goals. I provide individual music therapy sessions to children improving their reading and spelling skills, and children and young adults with autism to improve social, emotional, behavioral, and speech goals. I also work with children and adults struggling with their mental health and we work to improve and increase their coping skills in the safe and shared environment of music.
When I give my so-called elevator speech, it often goes like this…
“I am a music therapist! I have a bachelors degree in Music Therapy, have completed extensive training, and have a national board certification. I work with people of all ages and abilities and use music to improve their quality of life and reach their clinical goals in domains such as communication, academia, cognition, social skills, and more!”
It is so difficult to give people a real sense of what it is that I do every day and why it matters. So here it is: this is what I wish I could tell everyone about music therapy. These are the stories I wish I could share with every face on the street and every voice in the hallway. This is why music therapy matters. This is why I do what I do.
I was serving a class of young adults with varying diagnoses. This was a life skills classroom and about 1/3 of the students had meaningful spontaneous speech the rest did not. That said, when these students did speak we listened! With these students I worked on a variety of life skills, but an important part of my job was to hear them. I wanted to hear them, whether or not they were considered “verbal”.
I watched for subtle smiles, dancing, eye contact and any way that they were going to communicate to me that they were having a positive experience. I learned so much about my students in that classroom and in addition to the strides they reached toward their goals, we bonded as we made music every week.
In that classroom I had one student who always began and ended music with repetitiously saying “Mrs. Alisa, I’m happy!” over and over again. I would kindly respond to him and redirect him back to music. I had dismissed it as something this student probably did all of the time until one day I asked the support staff and she said, “No, he only does that for music”. My heart leapt when I realized that this particular student spoke little, but every week he made it a point to tell me that he was happy to create music together, learn, and grow.
In another instance, I have been facilitating developmental music classes for typical children ages 0-5 at a local day care. I have been seeing one particular student since he was two years old. At that time we were concluding our last session before our summer break. We would have three months before our fall groups started, and this student was turning five and entering kindergarten.
He knew when we sang that final goodbye song that this music class might be our last together. It was right after our goodbye song, the entire walk to his classroom he stomped his feet and said “Mrs. Alisa, I’m mad! I’m so mad!!” When we arrived at his door I knelt down in front of him and asked him why he was mad. He simply responded “I want more music”.
I consoled him by telling him that there will always be more music and that I would probably see him again. He gave me one, very tight hug before saying “Mrs. Alisa, thank you for taking me for music” and closed the door to his classroom behind him.
I hope that these stories help to illustrate what a music therapist can provide. I love my job because I feel that it gives me great purpose to give others great purpose. Of course it’s easy to say that I believe in music therapy because the research supports its efficacy. But there is something else here that you can’t see until you’re in it.
There is something about singing to your precious two year old in a music class, or hearing your four year old giggling while she’s dancing her heart out. There is something in music that makes it feel like a safe place to share our struggles with mental health, and find something that feels like healing. There is something indescribable in a moment where a client who is minimally verbal pulls his head from his chest, makes eye contact, and says “thank you”.
No matter how hard I try I can’t explain to you what is different about music therapy, or our adaptive lessons, or our music classes, but I can show you!
For more information on our music classes click here, and to register for lessons, adaptive lessons, or music therapy, click the image below! If you want to talk with one of our team members about what we do, we hope you’ll come to our Open House at 1234 Centre West Drive here in Springfield, IL on Sunday, May 6th! We can’t wait to hear from you!
We are often asked, “What age do you start lessons?” — and the answer is a bit complex. We recommend that most students start with piano, because it is a very visual instrument that helps students to transfer those skills to other instruments. But even our youngest pianists need to be able to:
- Say their ABCs
- Count to five
- Sit for a 30 minute lesson
We know that it is difficult for most students under the age of 7 to sit and attend to a 30 minute one-on-one lesson, so our team here at Music Therapy Connections has created the perfect solution.
Beginning in May, we are offering a pre-lesson class called Listen & Learn Into Lessons. This is an interactive music class teaching foundational musical skills including note reading, rhythmic execution, and basic piano skills. This class is perfect for your musically passionate young child who isn’t quite ready for individual lessons.
You may be wondering, “What if my child wants to learn guitar, ukulele, or voice?” This class is a great foundational learning experience for them! We encourage all of our students to find the instrument that they enjoy playing!
We know that internal motivation to practice and attend regularly comes from doing what you love. And our teachers here at Music Therapy Connections love teaching our students in their piano, guitar, ukulele, voice lessons and more. But most of all, we are gifted with the opportunity to instill a love of music into these young hearts.
Many of you may know that we just ended the Week of the Young Child, and we want to celebrate with you by helping your young child begin his or her musical journey. Click here to learn more about Listen & Learn Into Lessons.
I don’t know about you, but all of my students are reaching a full-on, stir-crazy, please-just-give-me-some-space-to-run state. And I am right there with them.
It has been cold and dreary for months, and most little ones come into music excited to have time to play, explore, try new things, and dance. But our clients have so much pent up energy that they can’t be expected to contain themselves.
So, in an effort to recognize and empathize with those feelings, I have come up with a few ways to engage my clients under 6 in complex ways to increase positive behavior and self-expression…and I am ready to share them with you!
1. The Hallway Song – I have been using a hallway song for many years. It is short, repetitious, and helps my students to get from their classrooms to our music room successfully. Unfortunately, this time of year they start to get excited and turn into runners. These two-year-olds may be adorable, but as you well know they are very, very, fast!
In an effort to engage them significantly more, I have started using a movement song instead to get us back to class. I use “Sounds in the Woods” by Katey Kamerad. This song instructs us to walk, hop, gallop, and flap our wings like birds in the woods. This gross motor movement is a huge help in keeping my students on task through our hallway walk!
2. Use Behavior Mantras – At one facility I serve, I have heard teachers say the phrase “Walking feet, quiet mouths.” It is short, sweet, and right to the point. I use this mantra as a reminder to my students any time we stand, walk, or dance.
And what’s best is that the children already know it! So all I have to say is “In the hallway we have…” and they say “walking feet and quiet mouths” with pride beaming from their faces!
3. Movement is Your Greatest Asset – A few weeks ago, my preschool group was so excited that I could barely get all of them to follow directions at the same time. They were jumping and grabbing each other, which was bound to end in disaster. In an effort to give them what they desperately needed, we danced. We danced with minimal directives for 30 minutes. Our only rules were to keep our hands to ourselves, no screaming, and keep dancing! They loved it!
After thirty minutes we did a song with specific directions (i.e. put the beanbag on your head, etc.) and then moved into some yoga and stretching. At the end of this session, all 6 children quietly walked out to parents and told them about the fun they had. I threw out my original session plan, but everyone walked away happy and that is what really matters.
Hopefully some of my coping skills for this lingering gloomy weather will be helpful for you. I wish you all the best as we await the summer sun!
Last January, I began the journey of creating a thorough resource to take you from knowing no sign language to knowing over 100 signs, 8 songs, and practical advice for how to apply this knowledge every day in your practice. One year and two CMTE courses later, I believe that we have done it!
Functional Sign Language for Music Therapists (3 CMTE credits) was built to give you a strong foundation in sign language. We start the process of understanding cultural considerations, exploring application and signing with songs, all while diving deep into building your sign dictionary. Each participant will learn over 100 signs! These signs are what I consider the must-have, go-to, can’t-go-without signs, and they are packaged up for you in one comprehensive course.
The Functional Sign Language Song Crate (3 CMTE credits) was the natural successor to the first course. In this course, we expand on cultural considerations and offer a variety of applications, goals, and objectives for varying clinical settings. The core content of this course teaches you how to sign to 8 different songs, and walks you through a tutorial on how to break down, learn, and sign any song!
We are offering a discounted rate of 25% off when you register for both courses. The registration deadline is April 10, so register today here!
Once you register, you will have an entire year to complete the self-paced courses and receive credit, but you never lose access to the course materials! You can look to this course as a resource for years to come.