Friday Favorites: {In the Winter…}

Raspberry_Hot_Chocolate-5Image Via

Maybe you have heard of this whole Polar Vortex phenomenon? Well, in MN we are enjoying what some are calling, Polar Vortex 2.0. Basically, this means a lot of days that never make it above 0 degrees! All of us Minnesnowtans are keeping warm with hot food and hot drink so here’s a fun song writing activity about hot yummy things to eat in the cold, cold winter.

Just like our song about what we like to eat, “In the Summer”, this song writing intervention uses the melody of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. I looked through cooking magazines, cut out photos of warm food and drink (hot chocolate, pasta, soup, etc.), and laminated them for visuals. I find that good quality visuals always go a long way in getting clients engaged and it’s worth a little bit of time spent in preparation. Clients young and old will get to make choices, recognize names, practice joint attention, interact with peers, and work on sequencing during this song.

Start singing/playing the chorus of the song…

In the winter, the cold, cold winter

We like to stay very warm

In the winter, the cold, cold winter

We like to eat lots of warm food

Now the clients get to make a choice during the verse and put their food next to their name on the board

In the winter, the cold, cold winter

__(name)__ likes to eat lots of __(food__

In the winter, the cold, cold winter

__(name)__ likes to eat lots of  __(food)__

Then everyone can join back in for the “a-wim-o-weh” part.

This intervention would also be a great opportunity to bring in more senses such as touch, smell, and taste of the different foods and discussing hot/cold as well. We hope you’re staying warm and can use this song with your clients!


Monday Music & Movement: {Valentine’s Day BINGO}


Image via Hearts in Nature

The older adults I work with never get tired of a few music therapy interventions (balloon volleyball to music anyone?). One is playing name that tune or music bingo. These music interventions never fail to get my groups of older adults clients interacting, singing, clapping, and reminiscing.

Today’s intervention addresses the same goals as the Holiday music bingo post found here. Because the goals are not simply to sing along or identify a melody, it is important to allow time for the group to share memories and encourage active listening and empathy among group members. You can discuss the different kinds of love in the songs. Romantic love, young love, love for your country, etc. This intervention will allow both the music and therapy skills that we have as music therapists to shine!

Here is a link to the Valentine’s BINGO sheet as a pdf and as a word doc if you want to change out some of the songs.

We hope you are able to use the session idea with your clients and adapt as necessary for group preferences. We will be sharing more ideas for Valentine’s Day sessions in the coming weeks so please subscribe to the right or follow our blog for the most up to date posts.

ETA: wikifonia is no longer so we hope you can find the lead sheets on your own through the wonderful internet 🙂


Friday Favorites: {5 Songs for Sit-er-cise with Older Adults}

morning chair exercise

(Photo credit: sparkle glowplug)

I don’t know about you, but I love incorporating some sit-er-cise after the hello song in music therapy groups when I work with older adults. Without fail, it doesn’t take long for my residents to stop complaining about the chilly Minnesota weather and start taking off cardigans as their bodies warm up. The group works on physical wellness by sit-er-cising, but there is also the secondary gain of social support as residents engage in friendly encouragement.

Cevasco and Grant (2003) explored the relationship between type of music and participation in exercise. They found that older adults with Alzheimer’s disease participated most readily to instrumental music followed closely by exercise to instrumental music using instruments. Songs with vocal tracks elicited less participation than the instrumental conditions. The authors speculated that the competing stimuli of the music therapist directing through verbal prompts and the vocal line were confusing to the participants.

With Cevasco and Grant’s research in mind, here are our Top 5 Big Band instrumental tracks that will get you clients or loved ones movin’ and groovin’!

Sing, Sing, Sing – Benny Goodman

In the Mood – Glenn Miller 

Stompin’ at the Savoy- Chick Webb

Hot Toddy – Ralph Flanagan & His Orchestra

Take the “A” Train – Duke Ellington


Cevasco, A. M. & Grant, R. E. (2003). Comparison of different methods for eliciting exercise-to-music for clients with Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Music Therapy, 40, 41-56.

Friday Favorites: Merry Christmas Songbook

friday favorite songbook 1

While not everyone celebrates Christmas, the Reader’s Digest Merry Christmas Songbook has a abundance of songs that anyone can enjoy. The standard Christmas hymns and carols are present (e.g. “Silent Night”) in addition to songs like “Take Me Back to Toyland” and the ever so eloquent “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”.

Christmas songbook 2

I first saw this songbook while completing a practicum in hospice. The music therapist that I was observing and working with used it all of December so when I saw this book at Sixth Chamber Used Books a couple of years ago, I had to get a copy for my own songbook collection.

sonbook 3

The songbooks has over 100 holiday songs, a CD, and a lyric booklet. There are guitar chords, so even if you don’t know the chord, you can still play a Bb7/9 chord during the Christmas song, in addition to the melody line. Some of the songs are not in the most “singable” keys so not every song will be easy to sing for parents or caregivers to use at home. However, for the music therapists that took 4+ semesters of theory and ear training, this won’t be an issue right? ^-^

Next time you’re browsing the music book section at your local used bookstore I hope you’ll keep an eye out for the Merry Christmas Songbook for your own collection. Happy Holidays!

P.s. here’s a link to the songbook on Amazon…but I paid less and shopped local at Sixth Chamber Used Books in St. Paul, MN.

Friday Favorites: Wikifonia {Lead Sheets}

Do you have trouble finding free sheet music on the internet? I was struggling to learn a lot of songs from the 1920’s and beyond during my senior year of music therapy coursework during a practicum in hospice.

Cut to the day that I found Wikifonia…it was one of those “Hallelujah” moments for me. Wikifonia is a website full of lead sheets for personal use. You can search lead sheets by song name or artist. Once you find the song that you want, you can even change the lead sheet to the key that works best for your client! Click on the key you want the song transposed to, download, and print the pdf and you’re on your way to learning new music for your next music therapy session.

I will say I have had the most luck searching for music that is older, unsure if that is because of copyright issues or the demand.

Below I have gathered links to a few holiday songs that I found on Wikifonia over the years to use with clients. Happy searching to you on Wikifonia!

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Jingle Bells

Silver Bells

Deck the Halls

Winter Wonderland 

Music & Movement Monday: Holiday Music Bingo


Photo via Peter Rimar

One of the places we serve at Toneworks Music Therapy Services is Golden Nest, a small Korean assisted living facility. I (Andrea) am fluent in Korean so all music therapy sessions are in Korean and I use mostly Korean traditional songs and instruments. That said, around the holidays we sing a lot of carols and holiday songs that have been translated into Korean over the years. Since one of the therapeutic music interventions the residents love is music bingo, we thought it would be fun to do a holiday edition.

Goals for the group that we work on during this intervention include peer interaction and auditory perception. Some of the residents are not be able to see or hear as well as others, but the group works as a team to figure out which melody  I am playing on the piano. Residents interact by speaking with each other, listening to peers share memories, cooperating by singing the same song, and helping others as needed. The way we play music bingo at Golden Nest is for all of the residents to “win” at the same time. The facility then provides small treats or prizes for the residents after music therapy is over.

The music bingo sheet can be easily adapted for use with children as well by switching out some of the holiday songs with songs from a children’s artist or from a children’s movie. Parents can also use this at home for a sing along game with children!

Goals for children may include: letter identification, phonics, visual perception, counting 1-5 with 1:1 correspondence, and directional concepts of horizontal, vertical, and diagonal on the bingo board.

I’ve made the bingo sheet available for download on scribd (in English, don’t worry…). There’s an option to download it as a DOCX for those of you that may want to leave out the religious carols or add in songs to represent Kwanzaa and Hanukkah as well. I just happened to make this for a facility where the residents all have a Protestant and/or Catholic background so that determined my song choices.

Happy Music Bingo-ing!

Music Bingo Sheet