Hello – I’m very interested in all aspects of implementing music in “special” populations and settings. I’m ALWAYS interested in hearing about others’ experiences in this milieu. I’m aware that the vast majority of interest on the forum here is the concert harp. Although I’ve been studying and playing music for 45 of my 54 years, I’m not a professional – I do perform music and use music in various ways most weeks. I’d like to share a bit of what I do, and would very much enjoy hearing others – I often use concepts and approaches acquired in sharing with others, so this is not only for my pleasure but edification as well. There are probably some therapists on board as well, so if you have time to chime-in, please do!
Briefly: I’ve been working professionally in health and human services for most of my adult life – now semi-retired (my wife is a clinician in the field and runs a busy private practice; and we have one child diagnosed on the autism spectrum, with another also with special cognitive and behavioral needs…so you know why I say semi-retired ;-). I started playing music for folks in nursing homes 20 or 30 years ago – long before I started on harp. This has become a ritual for me and what I spend all my free time doing. It’s wonderful to see increasingly broader recognition and understanding of the efficacy of music in human health – we (music) providers have always been aware of its potency, but everywhere I go now, administrators seem to really value it, and with at least some understanding of its function in health care.
I use a variety of instruments and approaches – every group is different and my approach is very interactive, so every performance is different: repertoire, style, amount of improvisation, etc. I use all the stringed-instruments, as well as percussion, accordians and concertina, flute, and harp is of course wonderful for this setting (I’ve always wanted to play harps – and started playing harp repertoire on hammered dulcimers decades ago until I could finally commit to harp). I bring whatever I can carry, and this typically varies depending on setting, my current interests, etc. But the harp is what I’ll typically start sessions with. I use wire harp, but have a resonant nylon lap harp that I share individually as opportunities present (I’d like to acquire a kantele for this purpose). I get practice playing backward, sideways, and upside-down – as I squat before someone and encourage them to strum; this particular approach is something I likely wouldn’t have thought to do just playing my harp proper, at home! 😉
So, that’s a long introduction. The responses we elicit are remarkable. I also enjoy playing at the parks and playgrounds while my kids play…families and kids all approach, of course, and it’s another way to share music, and integrate the ritual of music in community.