Posts Tagged "Music Classes for People with Down Syndrome"
While the title “Special Needs” does not begin to cover all the many different sorts of labels that currently exist for people, it is a very useful umbrella. Having a music therapy degree as well as thirty years of teaching experience, I have developed many ways to help these people engage in music-making that is deeply rewarding for them.
A major requirement is to suspend all the usual criteria for musical excellence, ie sings on the pitch, remembers the words and rhythm accurately, practices regularly, and is continually getting better.
I believe that we all love music, but many of us have lost that love along the way, often in very sad ways. People who have “Special Needs” have a very strong and obvious love of music, and the challenge is to find ways in which they can learn to make music themselves.
While listening to music may be fun, it is the act of making music that is the most therapeutic and therefore meaningful. It becomes something that they can do, instead of the opposite. So Christmas day 2020 was profoundly highlighted for me by two of my long time students with Special Needs wanting their music lessons because Friday is one of the two days a week that they do music.
The basis of music learning is singing, moving, and playing the drums, so every music lesson I teach includes all three activities in different proportions. As the student progresses in all of these areas, other types of musical possibilities may open up ie playing the piano.
For students with Special Needs who are able to read, I have developed special song sheets that not only have the words of the song, but also the letter names of the pitches involved in the song over the correct words. This allows the student to learn how to co-ordinate the pitch with the words.
“… music empowers them in a way that nothing else can, because music has no boundaries, has no race, no creed, nothing.” Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Detroit News, Oct 19th, 2017
Music touches us in profound ways, and while many of us enjoy listening to music, it is the activity of making music that has the most powerful effect on our wellbeing. The Sing-Play approach makes learning how to do this an easy and rewarding experience. We have so much music inside of us just waiting to come out.
Most adults currently living with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s will have grown up in a significantly more active musical environment. Many more people were engaged in music making, in their local communities, through participation in local orchestras, chorus, church choirs, as well as playing in dance bands. Despite having Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, they will possess a huge reservoir of music that they have heard which makes it very easy to develop.
While scientific studies continue to show us how making music has a positive effect on our brains, cognition, co-ordination and emotional well- being, it doesn’t really show us how much enjoyment we get out of making music ourselves. With Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, the sufferer is learning how to navigate a life that now includes diminishing life skills, and an increased need for help. Learning how to activate their creativity and make music themselves becomes a powerfull addition to their lives, both personally and for their families.
Music Wellness is an approach to music learning that has evolved over many years of my ongoing interest in different wholistic modalities. It was sparked by the instant improvement in my clarinet playing from just one lesson in the Alexander Technique. This was such a shock, as it was a radically different approach to developing excellence that I was learning at the time from my famous teacher. This led me to becoming a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique and introduced me to a whole new world.
If you think of wellness as developing a lifestyle that you can easily live on a daily basis it covers three broad areas, Body, Mind and Spirit and Music Wellness addresses the Spirit. You learn to make music with the aim of giving it out to others, regardless of whether they are in the room or far away.
While I teach this to all my music students, it was brilliantly demonstrated to me by one of my music students, only four years old. During our last music session, she was singing one of her favorite songs and playing the drums, while I was playing the piano. Then she spontaneously made up a song to all her grandmothers, (they are all in heaven), and another song for all her grandfathers, who are also in heaven. In the process of offering them her songs, she was connecting directly with them – despite the great distance between earth and heaven! – and creating wellness for herself.
Music Wellness means that every time you make music you are helping others, by playing to them and yourself by thinking outwardly. This can be part of your daily life.