Tempo Time Warp: Why Does Music Sound Slower with Exercise?

(a) Heart pounding, (b) out of breath, (c) muscles tired, (d) altered perception of time. One of these experiences is NOT what I would typically associate with exercise… until recently, that is. Any guesses which?

I’d just finished an evening run, and was driving back home from the trail with some of my favorite music playing. But whooooooaaaa, nelly, did it sound slow!

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Like, nigh unbearably slow. I’m talking goofily exaggerated slow-motion movie scene slow. Which was odd, because I was pretty certain the song in question was usually at a solid “andante” tempo. Suddenly it sounded like it was being sung by Treebeard the Ent, or Flash the DMV Sloth from Zootopia.

Full disclosure – I’m still pretty new to this whole “physical activity” thing.
So you may have noticed this strange phenomenon long ago. But this was a novel experience for me.
Why did some songs sound slower after exercising?
My only thought: “This can’t be the music. It must be my brain.”

Turns out, it probably was! A few google searches later, and I’m reading research articles about music, the brain, and exercise.
For us Music Therapists, the neurological effects of music on the brain are familiar territory – though still always exciting to learn more about!
But adding exercise into the mix? Apparently things get weird.

Here are some potential reasons for this bizarre Tempo Time Warp:

1. There is a tight link between motor activity and temporal processing.
A 2012 study (Hagura, Et al.) examined why professional ball players often experience the ball “slowing down” before hitting it. The findings – as well as other existing literature – indicate a tight link between action preparation and the areas of the brain devoted to coding the passage of time. These same areas of the brain are responsible for anticipating the amount of time an upcoming motion will take. Thus, the motor system plans accordingly. For this very reason, the Academy of Neurologic Music Therapy places an emphasis on tempo and rhythm in facilitating movement interventions, such that the brain is given a “start” and “end” point between each beat of a song to provide an efficient neural map to aid motor planning!

If our brain’s processing of time (e.g. tempo of music) can inform and invigorate our movements, it makes sense that – maybe – it can work in reverse too. Vigorous movement (e.g. exercise) could, perhaps, inform or even alter our perception of time in music.

2. The Musical “Sweet Spot”
According to an interview between Business Insider and one Dr. Costas Karageorghis – author of “Applying Music in Exercise and Sport” – “It seems that as exercise intensity increases, the human organism prefers a higher tempo […] However, there is a ceiling effect in terms of music tempo preference at around ~140 bpm and any increase in tempo beyond this does not result in correspondingly enhanced aesthetic responses or greater subjective motivation.”

Because people tend to prefer faster, more stimulating music when exercising at a high intensity, the need for more stimulation “may translate to a perception that the music tempo is decreasing.”

Essentially, this means that congruence between activity level and musical elements (especially tempo) matters. It would feel strange to watch a car chase in an action movie while listening to Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude, or to pair a lullaby with a football highlights reel. As Music Therapists, we call this the “Iso Principle” – matching the music to the current physical or emotional state of the client before gradually shifting. And apparently, if the music we listen to while exercising is incongruous with our activity level – outside of our tempo “sweet spot,” that is – it may even sound slower than normal!

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Furthermore, if our rate of movement continues to increase as we work harder in exercise (i.e. running at a faster pace), and yet the music stays at a steady tempo, it can feel as though the tempo is decreasing.



3. Think fast!
It turns out, our brains may even process things at a faster rate when we exercise, so the speed of external stimuli such as music feels as though it is decreasing. Dr. Karageorghis explains, “During low-to-moderate intensity exercise, the brain is oxygenated and so processing speeds can be increased as a consequence, especially in older adults.”

However, the reverse is true at higher intensities of exercise, such that processing of external stimuli such as music is actually limited.

4. “Everything hurts and I’m dying.”
The perception of time is also subjective, changing based on our experiences and what we’re doing. We know this as we get older, because my, how the years fly. When we’re ten years old, a full year is a significant chunk of our life, and thus time feels as though it moves more slowly than when we’re older. You’ve certainly heard the phrase “time flies when you’re having fun!” The opposite seems to hold true as well, doesn’t it? When you’re longing intensely for something, time can really slow down.

During intense exercise, then, the pain of physical exertion may cause a longing for relief, and thus a “slowing down” of time.

So it sounds like a lot of factors play into the Tempo Time Warp!
In any case, this is just another reminder of how intricate and complex – and just downright fascinating! – our brains’ responses to music in conjunction with other activities of life can be.

– Kevin Middlebrooks, LPMT, MT-BC, NMT

Read more about this topic from Lindsay Dodgson at Business Insider here: https://www.businessinsider.com/why-music-appears-to-slow-down-when-you-exercise-2017-9?r=UK&IR=T

Other Sources:
Hagura, N., Kanai, R., Orgs, G., & Haggard, P. (2012). Ready steady slow: Action preparation slows the subjective passage of time. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences,279(1746). doi:https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2012.1339

The Academy of Neurologic Music Therapy: https://nmtacademy.co/

What If Christmas Makes Me Cry?

*In accordance with HIPAA, and out of respect for our client’s privacy, the name “Ruth” will be used as an alias in this blog post.*

Happy Holidays!
Merry Christmas!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! …right?
Or, at least… it’s supposed to be?

For a great many people – maybe yourself included – this season truly is a time of good cheer, fond memories, gatherings of family and friends, bright spirits, colorful decorations, and cherished traditions. It’s a time to be grateful, to be kind and compassionate.
And I sincerely hope that the holidays bring all of this and more to you and yours!

But acknowledging, and even experiencing, all of these warm emotions and happy thoughts typically associated with the holidays certainly does not negate or invalidate those painful feelings that may also be stirred up at this time of year.
Joy may be followed by sadness. Laughter may be preceded by tears.
Maybe the gift you’re really hoping for this season is just a little bit of relief from the seemingly constant fatigue, stress, irritability, anxiety, depression, etc. Stressors like lack of time, lack of money, commercialism, pressures (whether perceived or stated) of gift-giving, and loneliness can feel all the more amplified when the rest of the world seems to be telling you to celebrate. Family gatherings can bring up difficult and painful memories, whether of childhood trauma or the loss of a loved one.

As Music Therapists, colleagues, friends, brothers, sisters, parents, neighbors – it’s important to remember that any number of painful circumstances, situations, or seemingly conflicting emotions could be the reality of the person sitting next to us this holiday season.
Our clients, our friends, our family could very well be hurting, and that pain might even be brought to surface by the very season that’s intended to bring joy, peace, and good will.

Take the phrase, “Happy Holidays!” for example.
Do you ever feel a sense of pressure when you hear that?
What if I’m not happy at all? Am I doing this wrong? Shouldn’t I be happy right now?
What’s intended as a simple expression of well-wishes can start to feel like a command.
“Have a Holly Jolly Christmas. Do it.”

Kacey Musgraves says it well in her song “Christmas Makes Me Cry.”
Let’s pause and take a listen.


So how do we respond when Christmas makes us cry?

One good rule of thumb is validation. 
It’s okay not to be okay.
It’s alright if Christmas makes you want to curl up in a ball.
And if the last thing you want to hear right now is another chestnut roasting, sugar-plum dreaming, mistletoe waiting, bell jingling, sleighing song, then so be it!

A client – let’s call her Ruth – recently said to me, “I’m dealing with a lot of holiday depression right now. Is it okay if we don’t do Christmas music? I’d rather just keep singing country songs with you, if that’s alright. That actually helps me feel better.”

Can’t you almost hear that sense of pressure?
Ruth was asking *me* if *I* would be okay with not doing Christmas songs –
and of course that’s okay, because the session is for her.
But, since it’s “the most wonderful time of the year,” Christmas songs are just expected. And maybe they don’t need to be. 
Especially if they’re a detriment to a person’s mental health.

If Alan Jackson’s “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” does more good for your soul than “Silent Night” right now, then that is okay. Really. And if you change your mind later and feel like singing “Joy to the World,” that’s okay too!

Ruth, in fact, did ask for Christmas songs the following week (“The upbeat ones, though, not the sentimental ones.”) We sang “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” and had a good laugh!

All of this to say, whatever you’re experiencing this holiday season, it’s worth respecting and acknowledging.
If you want to laugh, do it heartily. If you need to cry, then go right ahead.

It may not be a bright, shiny, sing-songy, happy good time, and that’s alright. (Though I hope it is!)
To paraphrase [or, y’know, just rewrite] the song “White Christmas:”

May your days be whatever they need to be right now,
And may all your Christmases be white.

If you’ll allow me to finish with a simple expression of goodwill – for real, though, no pressure –
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


– Written by Kevin Middlebrooks, LPMT, MT-BC


Resources:
What We Know About the Holiday Blues
The Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, 2017
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evidence-based-living/201712/what-we-know-about-the-holiday-blues

Photo: xenia_gromak / Photocase

A Star is Born: A Two-Note Love Story

*SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen the film yet, but plan to and don’t want to know the end, then DO NOT READ. But, be sure to come back and read after you have seen it! 

Ok, you’ve been fully warned.

Upon seeing the first preview for this film in the spring, I was all in. The music and acting were promising to be of a caliber that Hollywood had not seen in awhile. I was able to attend an early screening of A Star is Born and was completely ready to dive into this musical and emotional love story.

Or so I thought.

Guys – this movie wrecked me! And I brought my unsuspecting friend straight down into the depths of this emotional pit with me right there in the theater. When the credits rolled, we just sat there in silence, wiping our tears, unwilling and unable to move. Since then, we have talked over and over about the story, the music, the acting, and all of the beautiful nuances that left us and most other viewers completely bereft yet fulfilled all at the same time.

When I watch or experience something for the first time, I am typically watching with a heightened level of anticipation because of the fear of the unknown. After I know that I know what is going to happen, I want to watch again through a new set of eyes and ears; a more relaxed, tuned-in set of eyes and ears that are able to experience things at a deeper level because the anxiety of the unknown has now faded. Yes, I realize this is a hard way to experience real-life events, seeing as they can never fully be replicated, so I have to work very hard to “be in the moment” in these situations. But I digress.

The Greatest Showman? Forget it. Once I knew all turned out okay in the end, I was all-in. I lost count after seeing it in the theater 7 times. But A Star is Born has a different ending than that of The Greatest Showman. The overall feel is heavier; more raw, and much, much darker; and the ending is not neatly packaged with a bow on top. So seeing this movie in the theater again was going to leave me wrecked – again – but since it was nearly impossible to place the story and the music out of my mind and far from my thoughts, I ended up back in the theater. Again.

If you’re reading, you’ve seen the film (or you are purposefully ruining the film for yourself!). The movie was filled with intense relationships, a small look at life on the road for a touring musician, incredible original music, the reality and pain associated with alcohol abuse, substance abuse, and depression, and of course, the love story of Jack (Bradley Cooper) and Ally (Lady Gaga). Ally gets unconventionally courted by Jack as she and a friend are flown on a private jet to attend one of Jack’s concerts. That night following the concert, Jack slips into unconsciousness in a hotel room due to the excessive amount of substances used before, during, and after the show. He wakes in the middle of the night and begins to wake Ally; as this scene plays out, two single notes with no other accompaniment are played in the background as the rest of the world appears it has slipped away. A-A-B-B and then repeats again, A-A-B-B. So simple, and with so little fanfare that I did not pay much attention to this motif the first time I saw the film.

Two-Note Motif (this is a raw recording taken from a piano app – not nearly as beautiful without the sustain pedal!)

But this time it struck me as alluring, and somewhat familiar. I couldn’t put my finger on why. I continued to notice the motif throughout the movie this time, all during significant moments in the story; it was again played when Jack proposed to Ally in the home of their friend in Memphis. And once again, the entire scene melted away as Jack and Ally shared the intimate moment of a marriage proposal with the simple melodic accompaniment joining them in the background.

There are three more times that this motif is played in the film. The first of these three times is when Jack plays the love song he wrote for Ally after he gets home from his long-term inpatient rehabilitation stay. This two-note motif gets embedded into the beginning of the song that he is introducing to her, which we later find to be the foundation and groundwork of the song, “I’ll Never Love Again.”

The fourth time this motif is played, it is by Ally as she is slumped over the piano in the home that she and Jack shared. She begins playing this motif, but this time with a minor key accompaniment. This is the morning after Jack completed suicide; the minor undertones giving us a tiny glimpse into the enormity of the utter despair and pain she must be feeling.

The last time the motif is played is during the last song of the film, when Ally takes the stage at a memorial service for Jack, and performs the song that they shared together, “I’ll Never Love Again.” Besides hearing the sobbing in the theater, you can hear the A-A-B-B  A-A-B-B in the melody of the beginning of the song, and the motif continues to be woven throughout.

I left the theater after the second time viewing the film and realized that the beauty in this two-note motif could be, and probably is, very easily missed by audiences, especially during the first (and possibly only?) viewing. After all, this motif is not at all conspicuous or ornate. It probably sounds silly – there is an entire album of incredibly rich, textured music that has been the byproduct of this film (or may the film was the byproduct of the music?), and here I am focusing in on two notes – but they haunted me throughout the film and continued to even after leaving the theater.

The more I thought about these two notes, the more the motif took shape and began to apply meaning to itself right in front of me. Jack was a tortured soul; one who was complicated, with an injured past, who hurt deeply but loved on an even deeper level. Everything about him was a far cry from simple. But his love for Ally was the one facet of his life that he was able to make sense of. Yes, he hurt her – and badly, at times – but it was very apparent that, from the moment he saw her for who she truly was, his love for her was pure, and some may argue that this love was the one part of his life that remained un-tortured.

This two-note motif was Jack’s love song for Ally, told exclusively through Jack’s eyes — until the end, when this motif blossoms into Ally’s love song for Jack. It starts simple; no accompaniment and no lyrics, but was present during the most significant times of their relationship. And when Jack was gone and Ally didn’t have words, she sat at the piano and played her sadness, grief, and deep love that she felt for Jack through this motif with rich emotion and gravity. And then at the end of the film when Ally takes the stage – oh how the tears are streaming now – she echoes the love that Jack showed to her, that he curated for her by writing this song, and she performs the song in its’ entirety. This is Ally’s brave and heartfelt attempt to do their love story some semblance of justice while her heart is shattered in a million pieces on the floor.

In the aftermath of Jack’s death, his brother, Bobby, reminds Ally of Jack’s theory on music… “Jack talked about how music is essentially 12 notes between any octave. Twelve notes, and the octave repeats. It’s the same story, told over and over, forever. All any artist can offer the world is how they see those 12 notes. He loved how you see them.”

Everyone has a story; and this musician believes that if you have a story, you have a song.
How would yours sound?
Who would be your co-writer?
What might you be able to say through 12 notes that you couldn’t say with words?

Where words fail, music speaks.” – Hans Christian Andersen

 

 

2018-11-02T13:56:49+00:00November 2nd, 2018|Bereavement, Blog, Grief & Loss, Mental Health|

Summer Camp Recap!

***Photos used with Permission***

Now that school is back in full swing, many a young mind is likely pining for the days of summer past (as in, like, four weeks ago.) Here at Metro Music Therapy, we have a lot of exciting new adventures ahead – new clients, new contracts, and even our very own Music Therapy room in a private school! *Stay tuned for future blog posts.*

But for now, let’s take a moment to reflect on MMT’s music-filled summer camp experiences:

Camp Cadi
At the beginning of summer, MMT participated for the third year with Camp Cadi – a week-long camp for girls that have suffered from childhood sexual abuse trauma. Our own Camila Casaw served as the Music Therapist for the duration of the camp, staying with the girls on site and providing Music Therapy sessions. For seven days, Camila worked with the girls to provide validation, a safe space for self-expression and empowerment through the power of music and therapy! It was a privilege to be able to collaborate with Camp Cadi again and we are grateful to make some music with these brave girls!


Pictured is a portion of Camila’s musical “toolbox,” and an artistic expression created by the campers.

Stone Soup Camp
We were also excited to participate for the fifth year with Stone Soup Camp, a summer camp for kids and adolescents with autism and other special learning needs. Stone Soup held two sessions this summer, one week in June and another week in July, with the super fun themes of – wait for it – Dinosaurs and the Renaissance! Everybody loves dinosaur songs and court jesters playing recorder! While the students engaged in all kinds of amazing activities at Stone Soup, each camp also included one Music Therapy session with Kevin Middlebrooks for each age group. The students practiced their motor skills, sustained attention, auditory discrimination, teamwork, vocalization, and self-expression – all through singing, dancing, drumming, and, yes, even musical jousting! Kevin had a blast with the students. It was an honor to walk the dinosaur and fight dragons with these amazing kids.


Left: M. shows some quick response time during musical jousting to hit the target (bell) that matches the dragon. Right: Everyone uses their “dinosaur bones” to play some not-so-fossilized rhythms.


We’re grateful for our summertime experiences, and for our relationships with these two wonderful summer camps. They’re offering such valuable experiences for their campers, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have been able to add the benefits of Music Therapy to the mix.

And now school is back in session. Time to learn new things, make new friends, and create more music!

2018-08-24T21:00:54+00:00August 24th, 2018|Blog, Holidays, Mental Health, Music Therapy, Pediatric|

It Takes Two: Benefits of Interdisciplinary Co-Treatment

*In accordance with HIPAA, and out of respect for our client’s privacy, the initial A. will be used as an alias throughout this blog post.*
*Photo used with parent’s permission*

In the world of Private Practice, it’s not uncommon to spend the majority of a given week – professionally – alone. Of course, I am seeing clients, their families, and facility staff members as I drive from one location to the next. But most of these folks don’t know much about Music Therapy, apart from what I present to them. As for the sessions themselves, it’s usually just me and the client, and perhaps a parent stationed nearby. And sure, there are my wonderful colleagues at Metro Music Therapy, for whom I am immensely grateful. But we unfortunately only get to see one another in person about once or twice a week, for staff meetings and the like. Outside of those happy moments, they’re all off doing fantastic work with their own clients.

Suffice to say, I rarely have a chance to collaborate with another health professional in the midst of a session. Which is why those rare occasions are so much fun!

I recently had the privilege of working side by side with a Physical Therapist in a session with one of our mutual clients – we’ll call him A. The first thing worth mentioning is that this merging of sessions was suggested and arranged by none other than A’s parents! How cool is that? It’s always exciting when the benefits of interdisciplinary co-treatment are recognized and sought out by the client or his/her family. Let’s take a look at some of those benefits in A’s case:

1. It’s Practical – Time Efficient, Decreased Duplication of Services, More Hands!
I honestly believe that I would be a more effective therapist if I had four arms. Imagine the possibilities! Playing guitar with two hands, helping the client play another instrument with a third, and taking real-time data with a fourth – sounds like a sweet deal, right? Alas, even on my best days, I’m no Dr. Octopus. Which brings us to benefit #1: more professionals means more hands! It’s a simple, obvious benefit, but a benefit nonetheless. Live music is often preferred in a music therapy session, but that can be difficult if I need my hands to assist the client. With an extra set of hands, I’m able to incorporate all the good things that come with playing guitar (rather than a recording), such as easy fluctuation of tempo, while the client still receives physical assistance. And then there’s the time efficiency – in A’s case, his Physical Therapist and Music Therapist were able to see him simultaneously, so I imagine he was less worn out afterward!

When professionals work together, there’s less chance of the client “double-dipping” with a given service on the same day. For example, let’s say A’s Physical Therapist visits him to work on head posturing for 30 minutes, and then I show up to work on head posturing for 10 minutes, but in a different way. Sure, it’s not a bad thing to get more practice in on a given skill, but why not combine methods for a more concentrated practice session, with the combined knowledge and skills of two very different therapists? That brings us to our next major set of benefits.

2. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work – Combining Knowledge, Skills, and Experience
While I can address some physical goals through musical interventions, I am no Physical Therapist. There’s a significant difference between my knowledge and training regarding physical development and the knowledge and experience of A’s Physical Therapist. And similarly, there are skills that I possess as a Music Therapist that she does not, having never gone through my training. She may incorporate singing and music into some of her interventions, but not in the same way or with the same knowledge. Which is, again, why it’s so cool to work together! I had heard from A’s parents that he’d been working on holding his head up independently during Physical Therapy, but I did not entirely know what that looked like (or how the intervention was implemented in the safest, most beneficial way for A.) until seeing it with my own eyes.

Meanwhile, I recalled reading a research study in the Journal of Music Therapy, titled: “The Effect of Automated Interrupted Music on Head Posturing of Cerebral Palsied Individuals” (Wolfe, 1980). Participants in the study each wore a special head device, utilizing mercury switches which activated recorded music when the subject’s head was held erect, and paused the music when the subject’s head became improperly postured. Results of the study indicated that, for four of twelve participants, head control improved during the treatment condition. This essentially means that music can be a helpful contingency when it’s used to alert a client that they are holding their head properly.

We did not have a fancy head device, but with A’s Physical Therapist assisting him in initial head positioning and standing by to support him should he begin to fall, I was able to simulate the function of the device by playing guitar and singing while A. held his head upright. Whenever his head began to droop, the music would stop!
And there you have it: interdisciplinary co-treatment in action!


3. New Ideas – Next Time in Music Therapy…
What’s neat about co-treatment, even when it only happens rarely, is that it can inform individual treatment moving forward. Since that first co-treatment session, A.’s mother and I have replicated the intervention – using music as a contingency for head posturing, while she supports his head, should he start to fall – several times. And A. has been able to hold his head in place for up to about 45 seconds! I’m thankful that A’s mother brought me and his Physical Therapist together that day, for his benefit and for mine. Because, have I mentioned?
Co-treatment is just really fun!

4. It’s Fun!
Can’t really over-state this one. Other therapeutic disciplines are the coolest. There is so much we can learn from each other, and it’s such an honor to have a chance to work with another of my client’s therapists. I wish it could happen more often! In addition to the mixing of knowledge and experience, you’re mixing rapport and relationships too. My clients are awesome, and here’s someone else (namely, his Physical Therapist) who gets to work with A. and see how awesome he is every week!
And now we’re here with him together, working side by side?
That’s just… man, it’s a good time.


To quote Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock, sometimes,
“It takes two to make a thing go right.
It takes two to make it outta sight.”

– Written by Kevin Middlebrooks, LPMT, MT-BC

 

Resources:
Co-treating: What Is It and What Are the Benefits For Your Child?
Lauren Weichman – https://nspt4kids.com/therapy/co-treating-what-is-it-and-what-are-the-benefits-for-your-child/

The Effect of Automated Interrupted Music on Head Posturing of Cerebral Palsied Individuals
D. Wolfe – Journal of Music Therapy – 1980

Benefits of an Interdisciplinary Approach: A Case of Collaboration
Dana Howell-Kimberly Cleary – Physical & Occupational Therapy In Geriatrics – 2001

2018-07-03T16:58:08+00:00July 3rd, 2018|Blog, For the Music Therapist, Music Therapy, Pediatric|

Welcome to Studio PTC!

Did you hear the news?
Studio PTC is officially open for business, and we couldn’t be more excited!


With a brand new space, we’re bound for brand new experiences, and we hope to offer the same to our brand new students! A world of music, exploration, and learning awaits in an environment we’re determined to make as motivating, rewarding, and downright fun as possible.
So what might you expect to find at Studio PTC?

First Things First: Let’s Boogie.
I think it says a lot about our team – and the type of instructional space this is turning out to be – that one of the first things to happen inside Studio PTC has been affectionately dubbed the #BlueWallBoogie.

Turning an empty room into a cozy and welcoming learning environment takes a bit of imagination and – sometimes – a bit of paint. And what better color for our brand new studio than “Metro Music Therapy Blue?”

Painting day – in true MMT fashion – became a dance party as the whole crew boogied away against the backdrop of a freshly blue-ified wall. Thus the #BlueWallBoogie was born, and we highly encourage any students, family, visitors, etc. to join in the dance craze that’s sweeping the nation (or, you know, Peachtree Corners, GA).


Here at Studio PTC, we engage in only the most serious and stoic of interactions.
Clearly.

Out-of-the-Box Learning
We know that not every student fits into the “box” that general music instruction may presuppose. Our sincere goal is to adapt our teaching methods to suit the needs of any learner. So we made it a priority to draft a general music curriculum that we can easily present in a variety of ways – both “traditional” and “unorthodox.”
If a student is a “typical” learner… great! We’ll have a blast making music together!
If a student is an “out-of-the-box” learner… great!
We’ll have a blast making music together, just the same!

Because each of us here at Metro Music Therapy is a Board-Certified Music Therapist, we all have some practice in making music accessible, engaging, and fun for people of all ages and learning styles. We’ll be bringing that experience with us into every bit of music instruction at Studio PTC.
Will it always look like your typical music lesson? Probably not.
And that’s the way we like it!

Take a look at this sophisticated graph.

Here you’ll see the “box” of expectations for music lessons.
If you look closely, there is also a happy chick.
The chick is not inside the box. It’s a metaphor, see?
We are the chick. We are out of the box.
At Studio PTC, a slogan and social media hashtag of ours is as follows:
#BeTheChick

Lights… Instruments… Music!
So what kind of music lessons do we offer at Studio PTC?
We’re glad you asked!

For students as young as Kindergarten, we recommend starting with Music Fundamentals. In these lessons, we’ll focus on all the fundamental musical concepts and skills that lay a foundation for everything to come. That means rhythm, dynamics, tempo, melody, music reading, voice, and piano exploration – Fun stuff!

After Music Fundamentals, students 2nd grade and above are invited to experience more fully the wonderful world of the Piano – a personal favorite, I have to say! During Piano lessons (as in all of our lessons), we’ll combine our curriculum with the students’ favorite music. After all, the music a student already loves will be the most exciting for him/her to learn!

Once a student has reached 4th grade, they’ll likely have developed their fine and gross motor skills to a point that they’re ready to try a stringed instrument – like Guitar or Ukulele! This is also the minimum age we recommend for Voice Instruction. If you’re wondering: “Why wait until 4th Grade?
We want our students to feel successful as they begin their musical journeys, so we’d hate to jump into something too soon before they’re ready! As such, voice lessons beginning before age 12 will focus mostly on vocal exploration, choosing appropriate repertoire, and caring for the voice.

Whether it’s Music Fundamentals, Piano, Guitar, Ukulele, or Voice —
Whatever the avenue, we believe that making music is a life-giving experience that anyone can enjoy.
We want to help our students do just that!

So drop on by!
Do a #BlueWallBoogie!
Remember to #BeTheChick!
There’s good times a-plenty to be had at #StudioPTC.
We’ll see you there!

2018-04-24T04:29:00+00:00April 24th, 2018|Adaptive Lessons, Blog, For the Music Therapist, Pediatric|

MMT Spotlight: Garrett Vaughn

Did you know that Metro Music Therapy’s amazing staff includes more than just Music Therapists? Garrett Vaughn is our resident Recreational Therapist – and super Clemson fan – who serves as a Community Support Specialist with veterans through the Wounded Warrior Project. This week’s spotlight is on you, Garrett! Can you tell everyone a little about yourself?


Where did you grow up / go to school?
I grew up in a very small town in upstate South Carolina called Starr. (Population: 186 according to a quick google search) I attended Crescent High School there before heading down to Charleston, SC. I spent a semester at College of Charleston before realizing that home was the place for me. I transferred back to the upstate to finish my degree at Clemson University.

How did you decide to pursue Recreational Therapy?
I decided to pursue Recreational Therapy after my transfer to Clemson. I had originally planned on following the physical therapy path but upon arriving at Clemson found the RT major. I started the course work and really fell in love with Recreational Therapy. I began to work regularly at camps and different events for kids and adults with disabilities on campus. Then just before graduation, I completed an internship on a Traumatic Brain Injury unit at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, NC. It was there that I felt like I found my true calling, which was to work to help those with TBI/ABI. (Traumatic Brain Injury/Acquired Brain Injury)

So, what exactly is a “Community Support Specialist (CSS)?”
What sorts of things do you do with your clients?
As a CSS, I serve through the Wounded Warrior Project to help veterans with traumatic brain injuries to reintegrate into their communities. My process when being assigned to a new warrior would be to first visit in home a few times to gain a rapport with the family and the warrior. In theses visits I would learn about the warrior’s likes and dislikes, as well as what things that he/she enjoyed doing prior to his/her injury. Once I find these things out and the family is comfortable enough with me to allow me to take their warrior out of the house, we go out into the community and do things to stimulate the warriors brain, and just generally show them a good time. An example of this would be things like going to the movies, going on hikes, shooting guns, going fishing, etc. Anything that we can do to allow the warrior to participate in things that they enjoyed doing prior to their injury.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?
If I had a superpower, it would definitely be teleportation! Being able to jump from place to place instead of having to drive or to fly would help to make me extra productive! Plus, no more paying for travel sounds pretty great!

Favorite Sport? Book? Movie?
My favorite sport has always been baseball! (Braves fan since birth) My favorite book is “Fall of Giants”, by Ken Follett. Finally, my favorite movie is Good Will Hunting!

What is your life motto / slogan / mantra?
I don’t necessarily have a motto/mantra but I once saw a saying that has always stuck with me and really influences the way I try to live my life. It’s “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases from being shared.” I love this, because in my life, I really try to focus on promoting as much happiness as I can. Life is hard enough as it is sometimes, so why not try to share a little light with those who come across your path?

Thanks for all the incredible work you do with our Warriors, Garrett!
We’re so glad to have you as part of the MMT family!

2018-03-20T19:33:32+00:00March 20th, 2018|Blog, Uncategorized|

Born to Rock + A Very Merry Moving Day

Friday was a big day for the MMT Team!

Our morning was spent with a remarkably large group of bonafide rockstars – namely, the students of Simpson Elementary School! We were so excited to be there with these amazing kids to celebrate Exceptional Children’s Week. All week long, March 5 – 9, schools around the country celebrated students with exceptionalities and the families and professionals who serve, love, and support them. The theme of the week at Simpson was “Born to Rock!” and we had a chance to join in the fun with some instruments, singing, and dancing!

We were also excited to be sporting our new team “jerseys!”

First up, Bianca showed us how to “Shake It Off,” with several of the students using their brand new shakers. The whole crowd clapped, patted, and shook along, but we had to listen carefully – sometimes the instructions got tricky as they sped up!

Next, Kevin demonstrated how to get the instruments of a rock band going with some “Air Guitar” (and “Air” piano, drum, and violin) while the rest of the team provided a looping musical backdrop – all to create the song, “In the Jungle (The Lion Sleeps Tonight).” We even had some technical difficulties, like a real rock band!

Then Maria taught us how to use ASL to sign “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome” using a familiar tune from Disney’s Moana. Everyone sang and signed along to practice, and Maria even rapped for us, a la Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson (a.k.a. Maui)! So I believe what we’re trying to say to Maria is… thank you. (“You’re Welcome!”)

Camila kept us on our toes with a “freeze” dance set to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” Whenever the music paused, everyone had to give their best pose to match whichever poster was suddenly flipped over. Things got even more interesting (and hilarious) when we had to do two – or even four! – poses at the same time!

All day long, the students were practicing their “Superhero,” “Dab,” “Selfie,” and “Hippie” poses.
To be honest, we were too!

Finally, Laura led us in some echo singing to the Jackson 5’s “A-B-C.” It was a school event, so why not do a little bit of learning while we sing? The students were divided into three groups to try and outdo one another with a hearty “A-B-C,” “1-2-3,” or “DO-RE-MI!”

We had such a blast rocking out with our new friends at Simpson Elementary. They are exceptional, every one of them, and we couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity to celebrate them!

And for us, the excitement didn’t stop there!

After a team lunch at La Parilla, we had work to do, organizing, packing, and…

…wait for it…

…Moving!

In case you haven’t heard, Metro Music Therapy just moved into a new office space in Peachtree Corners, complete with a brand new Studio Room, where we’ll soon be able to offer music lessons to meet the needs of all learners! More details are on the way!

We can’t wait to welcome our students to Studio PTC!


2018-03-13T18:40:55+00:00March 13th, 2018|Adaptive Lessons, Blog, Holidays, Music Therapy, news, Pediatric|

Déjà Vu! Repetition in Music Therapy

*In accordance with HIPAA, and out of respect for our client’s privacy, the name “Kara” will be used as an alias throughout this blog post.
Photo used with permission from “Kara’s” mother.*

Being a Music Therapist requires a good amount of creativity. That includes the creativity inherent in all musical endeavors, certainly. But in therapy, there is an added element of finding creative ways to help our clients meet their non-musical goals through music. Sometimes this means rewriting familiar songs to include verbal prompting of a specific action, or actions, in the lyrics. Sometimes it means thinking outside the box when it comes to how an instrument “should” be played. And sometimes it means learning more efficient ways to play guitar, sing, manage any helpful visual aids, and physically assist the client, all at the same time (Phew!)

The growing, and often misunderstood, nature of a field such as ours tends to elicit a common desire among Music Therapists to find new, innovative, research-based ways to reach our clients. Add to that desire the aforementioned creativity, throw in a dash of high personal standards, and you get me: a Music Therapist who feels intense (almost entirely self-inflicted) pressure to continually bring new interventions and songs to my clients. Every session.
If I don’t, I’m being lazy. If I don’t, the client is missing out. If I don’t, I must not be doing this right. Right?

The problem I’ve discovered with that mindset, though, is its focus. Namely: me.
I need to be more creative. I need to do something new. I need to have fancy visual aids. I, I, I.
What about the client?
Does bringing something new into the session really help the client reach their goals?
Many times, yes! New isn’t bad. Fresh isn’t bad.
But neither is old. Neither is repetition. Especially if the client continues to enjoy it!

I began to learn this during my last semester at the University of Georgia, volunteering at an Elementary School. Those kids absolutely adored the song “Let It Go” from Frozen. If we did not use “Let It Go” during the session on any given week, their teacher would play it on YouTube as I began to pack up. “Let It Go” was going to happen, with or without me. Every time. And you know what? If those kids wanted to hear “Let It Go” until my ears bled, then by golly that’s what we were going to do. We used it with a big parachute, we used it with scarves, we used it with pinwheels, we used it with shakers and drums. We sang it, we listened to it, we marched and danced to it. Because they enjoyed it!
(We also played plenty of other songs, thank goodness.)

But repetition in Music Therapy is about more than just enjoyment. In fact, repetition is a central part of what makes music such a helpful tool for therapy! The structure of music – its established and repeated patterns – gives the brain clear cues. The client can begin to anticipate when to move their arm (for example) to strike a drum on just the right beat. If the rhythmic pattern remains the same, the client’s ability to expect and prepare for a motion or response is reinforced. Neurologically, this means that pathways are being built in the brain that become increasingly easy to travel with rehearsal. And repetition equals rehearsal. Repetition within a single song, yes, but also across several weeks using the same song.

Recently, that part of me that pressures myself into “new, new, new,” was humbled by a client we’ll call “Kara.” Kara has been practicing her cognitive and gross motor skills by playing a drum in four positions – high, low, left, and right. This requires listening to prompts from me, raising her hand above her head, and crossing the mid-line with her arm to reach the drum on the opposite side. We typically use the same song every week – a simple little tune that I sang off the top of my head a few months back. But Kara likes it! Almost without exception, her response to the song includes a smile and a laugh as she swings her mallet excitedly. And a funny thing started happening. As the weeks went on, Kara began to hear fewer and fewer prompts from me to play high, low, left, or right. She began to move her hand in those directions independently as the words were coming out of my mouth. Even more recently, she started switching the mallet to her other hand without assistance, raring to go again from the opposite side. With repetition and rehearsal, those pathways in her brain have become fully paved roads. Now practicing raising her arms and crossing to the other side is as easy as singing a song. Just the other week, we sang the song again. But this time I handed her a thinner mallet for a different instrument – a small marimba. Can you guess what happened?

The instrument was new and different, but the accompanying motor skills had been rehearsed and tied to a familiar tune. Kara knew exactly what to do! And just like always, a big smile and contagious laughter accompanied her playing.

Creativity is an important part of Music Therapy.
We want to be bringing fresh interventions and songs to our clients for their benefit!
But we can’t lose sight of the importance of repetition either.
Structure, routine, patterns, rehearsal – all of these helped us become musicians in the first place!
Now we can leverage those musical and neurological elements to help our clients achieve their goals.

– Written by Kevin Middlebrooks, LPMT, MT-BC

2018-02-13T15:09:43+00:00February 13th, 2018|Blog, For the Music Therapist, Music Therapy|

Remember Me: Music Therapy in Disney-Pixar’s “Coco”

I’ve been a huge fan of Pixar’s films for as long as I can remember. To put that in perspective, I was one of the kids going off to college just a few years after Andy did when Toy Story 3 was released. All that to say, I was more than a little excited to see Coco on the big screen back in November. While I was fully expecting to love the movie, I did not anticipate how perfectly the film would demonstrate the power of music to stimulate long-term memory. I did not expect a funny, yet touching, animated scene to portray the ability of music to reduce pain and promote relaxation at the end of life. I was not expecting a Music Therapy Movie, but boy was I thrilled to see one!

…Okay, so maybe calling Coco a “Music Therapy Movie” is a bit of an over-statement. After all, none of the characters in the movie are Board-Certified Music Therapists. And beyond just the musical elements on display, there’s a whole lot to love about Miguel’s adventure through the Land of the Dead. But as a Music Therapist, seeing two of the most powerful moments in the film so closely tied to my occupation (and so beautifully depicted) gets me excited. The healing and connecting power of music in these moments is undeniable, and there are some very important specifics about the ways that music is used that really get to the heart of Music Therapy. Let’s take a look at these two scenes.
What exactly is happening, and what makes it (close to) Music Therapy?

***SPOILER ALERT:
Remaining content contains plot points from Disney-Pixar’s Coco***

SCENE 1: “Everyone Knows Juanita”
Miguel and Héctor arrive in a town where, according to Héctor, everyone has been more or less forgotten. There is no one left in the Land of the Living to remember them. In “Land of the Dead” terms, these people are nearing the end of their afterlives. When their living descendants no longer remember who they are, they will experience what Héctor calls the “second death.” No one knows what happens to these people, but their skeletal bodies fade away, and are not seen again. In “health profession” terms, Miguel and Héctor are entering hospice and palliative territory – end-of-life care. Enter Chicharrón.

Chicharrón is a grizzled old man lying in a pile of collected treasures – one of which is the guitar that Héctor has come to borrow. Chicharrón, though initially opposed to lending Héctor anything, experiences what appears to be an intense surge of pain as he glows orange: a mark of the impending “second death.” Chicharrón, defeated, says that he could no longer play the guitar anymore if he wanted to. After all, he is nearing his end. Chicharrón agrees to give Héctor the guitar on one condition: that Héctor plays him a song.
And then he says something important: “You know my favorite.”

What we see is an established relationship between Héctor and Chicharrón. Héctor is not just some kind stranger who has come to play soothing music. He knows Chicharrón. And Chicharrón knows, and feels safe (albeit acting a little gruff) with, Héctor. Rapport has already been established between the “therapist” (Héctor) and the “client” (Chicharrón). In fact, Chicharrón does not even have to name his favorite song. Héctor already knows. He begins to play a goofy song titled “Everyone Knows Juanita.” The lyrics of the song describe what might sound like unattractive features of a woman named Juanita, before “flipping the script”, as it were, with the final line:
“And if I weren’t so ugly, she’d possibly give me a chance.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8q-pzrEIPc

Hardly a song one would expect in a Music Therapy session with a hospice patient who is actively dying. Right?
…Actually, this song is an important detail that makes this scene feel all the more like a good Music Therapy session!

A study by Laura A. Mitchell, BA (Hons.), MSc, PhD, and Raymond A.R. MacDonald, BSc, PhD –  published in the Journal of Music Therapy in December 2006 – examined the effects of “specially designed relaxation music”, as compared with “[clients’] own chosen music”, on pain perception, including tolerance time and pain intensity. And what they found seems to match what Héctor and Chicharrón knew intuitively: “While listening to their own preferred music, male and female participants tolerated the painful stimulus significantly longer than during both the relaxation music and control conditions” (Mitchell & MacDonald, 2006). And though only female participants reported significantly lower pain intensity during the “preferred music” condition, all participants reported feeling significantly more control in the “preferred music” condition. In other words, a song like “Everyone Knows Juanita”, goofy and “unusual” as it may be, is likely the best song to help Chicharrón relax and tolerate/reduce pain in this moment – because it’s his favorite!
Sure enough, Chicharrón sighs contentedly and lays back in his bed following the song – a stark contrast to the clenching pain he exhibits immediately prior. And with a “thank you”, he gently fades away.

SCENE 2: “Remember Me”
Alright, here’s the big one. The scene that will make you cry. The song “Remember Me” (Oscar Nominee for “Best Original Song”, by the way!) is present throughout the movie, but its most powerful, tender, and intimate moment appears near the end. Back home in the Land of the Living, Miguel softly sings with his great-grandmother, Mama Coco. The first thing to note in this scene is, again, Miguel’s song choice.

“Remember Me” was not merely a sweet song chosen at random.
Despite her significant cognitive decline and apparent unresponsiveness, Miguel has learned that Coco’s father (Miguel’s great-great-grandfather) wrote the song for her, and sang it with her when she was little. Thus, Miguel knew that the song was tied to an important (and emotional) memory for Mama Coco, and played it with a clear intention of sparking that memory.

And it does so in a beautiful way. First, we see her motor neurons begin to activate as she starts to tap her finger to the beat. Before long, Mama Coco, who has not spoken in quite some time, actually begins to sing with Miguel. She smiles and finally turns to look at Miguel as she sings with him. A woman who, not long prior, did not appear to recognize her own daughter, is recalling every word of a favorite childhood song. As Music Therapists, this is something we get to see a lot. Musical memory is some of the longest retained, as music activates so many parts of the brain: motor, speech and language, auditory, long-term memory, emotions, etc. By the end of the song, Coco does, in fact, recognize her daughter, and even begins to share stories about her parents. And so the Rivera family, who have chosen to hate music for generations, suddenly see it come through for them in a big way. Let’s pause here to check out this clip from “The Doctors” about music and the brain:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5QVCxg5A3o

Another important detail to examine in this touching scene is the fact that Miguel played the song live, as opposed to simply playing a recording of “Remember Me.” And using her father’s old guitar, no less! In the context of the movie, the only known recording of “Remember Me” is sung by the famous musician Ernesto de la Cruz at an upbeat tempo, complete with a full band, choir, and virtuosic guitar solo. An impressive song, but not the one Coco knows and loves. After her father left the family, and her mother vowed never to let music into their lives again, how could she have heard de la Cruz’s rendition of the song? Certainly not on the radio. No, Coco’s “Remember Me” is a quiet and tender lullaby, sung from a father to his daughter. And it’s this song, with its sweet and simple accompaniment, that Miguel plays for her. Miguel, having heard both versions, chooses to play in the style with which Coco is most familiar:
The style of her papa.

So there it is! No, technically nothing in Disney-Pixar’s Coco can be called Music Therapy, because “Music Therapy” implies the presence of a Board-Certified Music Therapist. I know.
But! The power of a therapeutic relationship, song preference, and live music to promote relaxation, reduce pain, and stimulate long-term memory is evident throughout the film.
And who knows?
Maybe Coco 2 will introduce audiences to a newly certified Miguel Rivera, MT-BC!

– Written by Kevin Middlebrooks, LPMT, MT-BC

Laura A. Mitchell, Raymond A. R. MacDonald; An Experimental Investigation of the Effects of Preferred and Relaxing Music Listening on Pain Perception, Journal of Music Therapy, Volume 43, Issue 4, 1 December 2006, Pages 295–316, https://doi.org/10.1093/jmt/43.4.295

2018-02-06T05:43:53+00:00February 6th, 2018|Blog, Hospice Music Therapy, MT Advocacy, Music Therapy|
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