This post describes a music therapy session that is fairly common where I have to take into account the client’s cognitive comprehension (or processing) speed, i.e., through assessment, first identify how slow I need to speak to individuals for them to fully understand and then, very importantly, determine how slow I have to play the music to have them fully comprehend the experience.
I’ll discuss this concept by describing sessions I have with a music therapy client named Freda. What a blessed privilege and honor to work with her. I say a blessed privileged because Freda is 104 years old! She sings beautifully and has her mental faculties relatively intact.
When I visit Freda she welcomes me with the cutest high pitched voice and a big smile. After a number of visits I know now what songs she knows the words to, and we enjoy singing and video recording the sessions. Very fun… when I video a song on my phone and we watch it she exclaims “look, we’re on TV!”
When I play a song that I know she knows, I watch carefully how comfortable and with how much ease she is able to sing. When needed, I slow down when she has trouble getting some words out. It is common when singing with Freda (and those similar) that when a second or third verse comes up, that might not be as well known as the first verse, she slows down to remember or correctly sing the words. Being able to accompany and support her singing with precisely her needs in mind is the wonderful thing about live music and music therapy. I’ll remind us that my favorite definition of music therapy is: using music to support and achieve non-musical goals. The primary goal is not to make beautiful music. The primary goals are to provide an opportunity for positive reminiscence, to be a positive diversion from stress and worry and to support hopefulness. The fact that we are making beautiful is simply “icing on the cake.”
These kind of experiences are so precious. Again, what an honor to experience live music with Freda and witness the precious responses that she has. Wow!!
So, “Why (live) music??”… To again be in the privileged position to experience live with others, i.e., supporting them, performing with them, witnessing and recording their responses and sharing these experiences with their family and others.