Whether you are facilitating a music and movement session for older adults, corporate team-building, or support groups (cardiac, cancer, Parkinson’s, COPD, chemical dependency, or other), these short, easy tricks will help you build rapport fast while uplifting the participants. A few of these have been influenced by Christine Stevens, Arthur Hull, and Barb Reuer, so many thanks to those who came before us!

I started with 7, and now there are 10! These were written with groups of 30 or less in mind:

1. First and foremost, listen to your clients. This means that you’ll have to create opportunities for the members to share. Whether it’s a check-in, a call for answers to a question, or a pre-group discussion, weave whatever your clients share into the session. If you honor your client, he/she will completely trust you.

2. Learn the name of every single participant in your group.

3. Position yourself as the facilitator. At the beginning of the session, make a lot of pleasant eye contact with each participant, set the intention, and give thanks.

4. Invite everyone to look at each other. After the first music-making piece, invite your group members to turn to their neighbor and say “You’re an AWESOME drummer!” After the second music-making piece, invite the members to applaud their neighbor. I guarantee immediate smiles all around.

5. Make it safe for spontaneity. Mention that in this session, participants are not only allowed, but encouraged to spontaneously burst into song.

6. Rumble for or applaud anyone who spontaneously bursts into song.

7. Set a rule. If someone makes a joke, then sing “Shave and a haircut,” respond with two big hand claps or drum beats.

8. Showcase participants. Create space for solo, duet, and trio improvisations.

9. Always reinforce this mantra: “There’s no wrong way to play.”

10. End with gratitude. Use Christine Steven’s celebration circle where each participant is invited to “stop” the music and share a word of celebration. Another helpful trick is to invite each member to share just one word, and go quickly around the circle in order.

Image courtesy of Diana Burrows Photography.

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