Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Music and Madonna Students

Guest Blog by Music Therapist and teacher Mary Lynn Bennett

Music therapy acts as a catalyst, a motivator, or a carrier of information. Sometimes it provides a newly discovered pathway for learning and retrieving information. Music therapy makes a difference for Madonna students. Music Therapy is the use of music by a trained professional to positively effect change in non-musical behavior. Sometimes this change affects a social behavior and sometimes the change is in a skill or ability. Madonna School’s music therapy program is 3 years old and has come a long way in three short years.  

The first time the middle level classes tried a folk dance we looked more like bees swarming around a clover patch than dancers. The goals for the students were to stand in a line, listen and wait for directions, to follow the step-by step directions and to cooperate with a partner appropriately. In preparation for dancing, students clapped to the music, they played sticks to the beat, they walked to the music, they clapped hands with a friend, we made one line and then two, then walked four steps and met in the middle. We walked back 4 steps and we repeated this sequence. All hands were on deck as the teacher associates and I directed traffic like air traffic controllers and I slowly called the steps.

Four weeks later we were still dancing to a music therapist sung dance melody but the students had become dancers, listening and working together to join in the dance like so many students of their age have done before at many schools around the United States. Not with that dance, but after much more dance experience, these students acquired self-confidence, rhythmic skills for more rhythmic and graceful movement, and the ability to work together as a team.

 Music therapy has a variety of purposes and target goals depending on the student. I consult with teachers and take IEP goals into consideration. Some students learn number or letter skills through music therapy, supporting their academic classroom goals.  One group of high school age students learns to play as an ensemble in the fall semester and then becomes the writing and editing staff for the Madonna Music Beat Magazine in the spring, combining music and practice in communication, writing, and math skills.

Some students learn social skills: to wait their turn, to look at a person when they greet them, to listen for cues. I consult our speech language pathologist, Ms. Hirchert, and other students work on speech skills using drums and rhythm. Older students learn leisure skills on guitar, piano, bells, ukulele, or drums, skills they will take with them and use in their adult lives for enjoyment or to connect with others.

Music Therapy is one of the many ways the Madonna School encourages and educates the whole child - mind, body and spirit.


March is National Music Therapy Month. (I know, who knew?) And in April we look forward to music and fun at the Madonnalapalooza at Anthony's. So keep your ear to the blog, more music news will follow!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Mrs. Bennett, you are a rock star!


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