I gave a presentation earlier this week for the Senior Resources Association of North County on the benefits of music therapy, interacting with older adults through music, and caring for the caregiver with music. ALL THREE topics covered in 30 minutes. Wow. Needless to say, we could have stretched the presentation out into a 4-day intensive training course. But I worked within the parameters this time.

After an early morning nosh, meet, and mingle, I felt deeply touched by every member’s caring and compassion for services for seniors. This is no run-of-the-mill morning networking group. This group has members of many different backgrounds, religions, and political standpoints. But one thing brings them together: Passion for high quality senior care. Beautiful!

I started the presentation by asking how many people took piano lessons when they were growing up. About 14 people raised their hands. When I asked how many people play the piano to this day, TWO people kept their hands raised. As a classically trained pianist with my undergraduate degree in classical piano performance, I felt compelled to point out that while there are 88 keys on the piano, 87 of them are usually the “wrong” key!

Oftentimes in our early musical education, we learn that making music is difficult, unpleasant, and not fun. How many of us are familiar with a hand slap by a ruler? How many of us have been asked to lip-sync in the choir? How many of us have been made fun of by friends or family for an unplugged, spontaneous moment of free musical expression? Probably most, if not all of us have been exposed to negativity for making music at some point in our lives.

The great thing about drumming is that it is accessible, easy, primal, and there are NO WRONG NOTES! After drumming in a group, you can consider any and all negative associations with making music DEBUNKED! The research shows that drumming can help reduce stress, enhances mood, reduces burnout… It even increases our natural cancer killing cells and enhances our immune system!

In order to demonstrate the immediate effects of drumming to this group, I passed out drums to everyone. I held up my guitar and said “One hit, everybody. One hit. On your mark, get set, GO.” “On your mark, get set, GO.” “On your mark, get set, … One for the money, Two for the show…” We had already set up the beat for Elvis’s Blue Suede Shoes, so we went along with that tune. Since this tune is a standard 12-bar blues form, I provided the rhythmic and chordal framework with my guitar and voice for each table to play a solo chorus on their drums. It was a riot! People were laughing and playing and dancing and expressing – all out loud and uninhibited. I also had the perfect opportunity to point out the difference between performing and music therapy. In performance, the focus is on the performer. In therapy, the focus is on the participant(s) or clients. While we passed the rhythm from table to table, it was clear and apparent that the focus was on the participants – not me as the facilitator!

At the end, we were all concerned that the last table to play a solo might have had an anger management problem, based upon their extraordinary vigor in playing. However, after processing with them later, they reassured the group that they were passionately expressing joyful, positive energy only. Abundant laughs, eye contact, dancing, socialization, and pure fun throughout the entire presentation!

Music Makes Sense provides a few other great ideas for making music a fulfilling experience. Also, check out  Arthur Hull and  Christine Stevens, just to name a couple of my drum circle mentors.

Do you have any more ideas or experiences to share? I’d love to hear them! And as always, book me for a presentation for YOUR group!

Be well, feel good, make MUSIC!

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