Agape Group doing Katy Perry's 'Roar'
Each Wednesday morning, 5 adults from Agape Care gather at RMTC to make music together.
Together the group members work to create songs based on their individual and group interests. They sing a variety of songs that include solo, duets, and group singing while also playing their preferred instruments. Music therapy is a place where they can share their interests and explore different concepts that come up in discussions about songs. Participants have the opportunity to express their fears, frustrations, and emotions and to be themselves all with the support of each other.
In addition to group goals each group member has also shown individual progress. Kerry’s socialisation and self-expression is increased through playing the piano and cymbal and singing with other group members. Kayla expresses herself and develops leadership skills by playing different instruments, singing solos, dancing, and helping her peers in many different aspects throughout the music session. Corrie explores his understanding of music and develops independence by sharing and teaching his favourite songs, singing solos and discussing the meaning behind them with other group members. Snehal’s self-expression and socialisation are developed through her drumming on the djembe and singing her favourite songs with her fellow group members. Maria’s independence and self-expression grows by singing duets with other participants and playing ukulele.
This group is filled with laughs and fun music-making where members can develop independence, positive friendships, and express themselves in a safe and supportive environment.
Jamie has been attending individual music therapy for about 2 years. He is a very musical young man, who finds enjoyment in life through expressing himself through singing precomposed and improvised songs and exploring instruments. The goals for Jamie’s music therapy are derived from the Te Whare Tapa Wha Maori model of Health that provides a culturally informed approach to Jamie’s music therapy by focusing on the four dimensions of Maori well-being: Taha tinana (Physical health), Taha wairua (spiritual health), Taha whanau (family health) and Taha hinengaro (mental health). Jamie’s sister, who is also his main support worker, attends sessions with him and participates fully in the music making.
It has been very useful having this framework to inform the direction that the music therapy takes from week to week. It ensures a holistic approach to the work, and keeps what we do centred on Jamie and his whanau’s Maori worldview. We sing waiata, explore taonga puoro, and have conversations about values, practices and events that are important to the whanau. These included family events, marae visits, and Jamie’s recent experiences at the tangi (funeral) of a relative. Jamie has very strong connections to people who are no longer in his life and from the perspective of Tahu whanau (family health), it was important to acknowledge and support him to reminisce in a safe way.
Jamie has explored song composition about significant people in his life, and he has done some recordings of original and pre composed music to share with his family. One of the songs that grew out of a vocal improvisation is a song he composed early on called A Song For Jamie’s Mum.
“This is a song for Jamie’s mum, This is a song for Jamie’s mum, This is a song for Jamie’s mum, without any words: La la la la la…(vocal improvisation) “
We sing this song every week at the start of the session.
Music therapy has offered a space for Jamie to explore his cultural identity and to express what is ultimately important to him - the people and relationships in his life. This echos the well-known Maori proverb:
He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!
What is the most important thing in the world? It is people! It is people! It is people!
Noah is a four year old boy who loves to interact through music. He has a vision impairment and autism spectrum disorder, which means that new situations or situations that don’t go as he expects can be challenging. His speech is limited and it can be frustrating for him when people aren’t able to understand what he is trying to communicate. However, music therapy provides a space where Noah is able to safely express himself and be supported in his expressions. He enjoys playing and singing familiar songs, as well as engaging in free improvisation which involves plenty of listening, copying, and responding.
When we first started working together Noah was quite distressed, but he settled very quickly as we built trust through music-making. Music’s non-confrontational nature allowed us to interact by listening and responding in a way that we could both understand. The use of greeting songs in each session allows Noah to follow the session structure easily and he often comes into the centre already singing hello before the session has begun. The music we make together motivates him to practice his verbal communication, and he is not shy to use his voice to express himself during our sessions.
Noah’s love for music has provided him with a way of integrating with his world in a way that is meaningful for him and those around him. His parents have shared their joy in watching him express himself through music and seeing him carry these skills through into other areas of his life.
In music therapy, four 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.