September 2009

Music Education vs. Music Therapy: Should there be a line?

September 29, 2009 00:55

 I studied music therapy in college.  At the end of my four years I decided to forgo the internship necessary to become certified and took up teaching the violin.  I mention this only to make clear that I have exposure to the field but am not a certified, practicing music therapist.

What was interesting to me in my therapy classes was the emphasis placed on drawing the line between the fields of music education and music therapy.  In many ways this makes perfect sense to me.  Music therapists must define their role in order to "sell their product." They wish to work in a therapist capacity rather than be hired to direct the high school band or teach an instrument.

About three months ago I took on a special ed violin student.  He has ADHD and occasional anxiety attacks.  He's doing really well on the violin and his mom commented to me that playing the violin has improved his fine motor skills and has really helped him to organize and focus his thoughts.  That comment made me start to think.  Is the line between music education and music therapy really all that clear cut?

The way I see it, the process of learning or participating in music is therapeutic by nature.  It has been scientifically proven that musicians develop certain areas of their brain that non-musicians do not.  Even those who do not play an instrument will use music to affect their mood.  For example, people will listen to certain music to make themselves excited or to relax. 

I would be interested to see everyone's opinion on this matter.  Does anyone have any experience with music therapy?  How do you think that compares to a more traditional music lesson setting?  Do you think people take away different things from these two environments?

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That darn Suzuki CD is too fast!

September 21, 2009 16:41

Of all the Suzuki method criticisms, some of the harshest seem to be directed toward the CD that accompanies the method book.  "It's like twinkle on speed!"  One parent exclaimed to me.

This is why I think it's important to clear up what the CD is ACTUALLY for.  Most people seem to believe that Suzuki students are supposed to listen to the CD, memorize the song, and then play it along with the CD.  This is only half true.

What partially makes "the Suzuki method" different from "the traditional style" is the approach to sight reading.  When young students (3 or 4 years old) are learning the violin, it would be almost impossible for them to make any sort of progress if they were asked to play the violin (which involves a high level of fine motor skills) AND read music (most of them can't even read books yet).  Doing both of those things is even incredibly difficult for an adult beginner who can read.  So we separate the two tasks.  This allows them to focus on the technically complex task of playing their instrument.

Enter the CD.  The CD is used to help the students memorize a piece.  It's very difficult to play a piece (reading or not) when you have no idea how it goes.  The CD also serves as a reference point for intonation.  Beginners are by no means expected to play with the CD or even at CD speed.  Once they are more solid players (as in, well past twinkle), they are asked to go back and play with the CD.  Beginning students are, however, asked to do simple activities such as bowing on their shoulder along with the CD.  This is an easy way to teach them how to keep a consistent tempo. 

What I think is important to keep in mind is that the Suzuki method books are just that: method books.  Their purpose is to teach certain techniques in a pedagogical fashion.  They are NOT the method.  The actual "Suzuki method" is an approach to teaching.

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