New Year’s Resolutions

Instead of writing about Christmas or Winter this month, I’d like to look ahead to New Year’s. Most people end up on one of 2 sides regarding New Year’s Resolutions. You have the people on one side waiting eagerly with their glass of champagne for the clock to strike midnight, wistfully hoping for a snowfall and a midnight kiss to make the magic exceptional, then wake up the next morning hitting the gym and calling that sister they haven’t seen in years; checking off those New Year’s resolutions. And on the other side you have people (like my husband) who think ‘eh, one night doesn’t change anything. The calendar is just a way to organize time.’ These people feel that they see very clearly the flaws in making new goals (that will inevitably be forgotten) once a year just because of tradition.

I can definitely understand the point of view of the Realist and the Romantic in this situation. I think that I fall somewhere in between. That being said, I am a committed Resolution-Writer. And I hope I always will be.

It started when I was a teenager. I would sit down and write a list of all the fun things I wanted to do the next year, because life was still such a mystery at that time. I couldn’t see a year ahead any better than I could time travel. My list would contain things like “Take a Train Ride”, “Visit Chicago”, “Write a Song”, “figure out what I want to study in college”, etc. 10 years later, I have still never been to Chicago, and my list is more realistic than to contain vacations I know I can’t afford or don’t have time for with my 2 little boys. The purpose of my New Year’s list now functions like a mental time capsule. It gives me the opportunity to look back and see how I have changed in a year, how my hopes and fears have been challenged, how I spend my time, what sort of things get prioritized over other things. My New Year’s list is essential to my understanding of myself, helps me to stay aware of my goals when the monotonous aspects of life are rolling along. I will look at that list and remember that I wanted to read 4 books this year so I will sit down to read instead of turning on the tv one night. And then reading will become a steady and beloved hobby again, making me a better person.

Today, I look at my 2016 list and I feel proud of the way I handled this year’s curve balls. I followed through with my plan to regularly practice Yoga during my pregnancy. And even though my birth experience was not what I expected, my commitment to my health enabled a smooth recovery. There are some things on my list that i didn’t accomplish, but I see that as insight into myself rather than a failure. Last December, my husband and I were self-studying violin together so I have on my list to “Be able to play my violin etude all the way through”. Somewhere around February, I stopped working on that Etude, but it’s not because I gave up or quit. Playing the violin here and there (very poorly, I might add) gave me a different perspective on music, which in turn reignited my love and appreciation for my primary instrument, the Piano. So while I am not able to play my little beginner violin etude, I am able to play 2 more Chopin Nocturnes and I am working on a Bach Fugue as well.

The actual day of the New Year is not very magical for me. My husband marches in a parade every year, so we have not shared a New Year’s kiss on midnight since before we were married. But the start of the New Year holds a special place in my heart. I look forward to writing my expectations of myself with my little sister over Skype, then hang the list on the wall to glance at here and there throughout the year.

And since I can’t leave you without a Repertoire list, here is a short running playlist. Why running? Well in October, I started trying to reach my running goals for the year, and on Thanksgiving I ran my first 5k EVER! I’m beyond proud of myself for this one. And since I don’t have a jogging stroller, I only run once a week when my husband is home. It has become a cherished alone time I look forward to. I turn on my Spotify-generated playlist and keep myself entertained by discovering new songs. So here are a bunch of songs I wrote down after my runs that I enjoyed listening to for the first time. Enjoy!

Impossible – Lion Babe
Give Me All Your Lovin – Madonna
I’ll Fly Away – Flatfoot 56
Dirty Harry – Grace
Knock You Down – Keri Hilson
Brother (Feat. Gavin DeGraw) – NEEDTOBREATH
Still Breathing – Green Day

If you are disappointed by the lack of Christmas music on this post, check out our Winter Songs post from last winter.

Be Musical,


Song of the Week – Lord Huron/Lumineers Cover

This month on the MTRC we are covering the topic of Covers. Becky gave some great examples of different ways to Cover a song in her post last week. This week, I’m going to share a recent experience of mine with recreating a song for a specific goal.

My philosophy is that being a Music Therapist is a lifestyle, not just a job title. My training and credentials give me the tools I need to follow my natural instincts in daily life situations. I fill many roles in my life and my goals is that Music Therapist will transcend all of them.

A few months back, one of my sisters asked me to play the music for her wedding. On further discussion, we decided that live music may not be the best plan for an outdoor wedding in Ohio at the end of October (we were right, it was very cold). So we discussed themes and made playlists. But I still wanted to provide live music in some capacity, so I offered to play/sing their first dance together at the reception. And of course, I could not just play their song and let that be the end of it. I wanted to be apart of facilitating a beautiful moment that was unique to their relationship and their journey together (because, come on, I’m a Music Therapist). In order to achieve the goal, I utilized songwriting strategies I have learned in my clinical training and research. I’m going to break this down into steps and include the end result at the bottom.

  1. Client Preferred Music – the first step was to discuss particular songs that are special to the Bride:
    1. Hey Ho by the Lumineers – this has been the couple’s special song because it was very popular when they first started dating
    2. Love Like Ghosts by Lord Huron – this is a current favorite song of the Bride, but the lyrics are not all positive, so she reluctantly admitted it may not be the best for their wedding.
    3. Out Loud by Dispatch – this song holds nostalgic value for the Bride, being one of her first favorite love songs when she was a teenager, still dreaming of meeting that special someone.
  2. Songwriting – I decided to use the Bride’s current favorite song as a base because it would best depict her life now. Furthermore, since I am very familiar with the couple’s relationship and the journey they have been through to get here, I felt that some of the lyrics in this song could be slightly altered to best represent them.

In order to solidify the couple’s relationship to this new wedding song, I added the refrain of Hey Ho towards the end and changed the key to ensure a smooth melodic transition.

  1. Instrumentation – This is where I incorporated aspects of the last song on the Bride’s list (Out Loud). I mimicked the timbre of that song by using acoustic guitar picking and strumming throughout. 
  2. The End Result –

Here are the lyrics of the original song, Love Like Ghosts:

img_0830Yes I know that love is like ghosts
Oh, few have seen it, but everybody talks
Spirits follow everywhere I go
Oh they sing all day and they haunt me in the night

Yes I know that love is like ghosts
Oh, and what ain’t living can never really die
You don’t want me baby please don’t lie
Oh but if you’re leaving, I gotta know why
Oh I sing all day and I love you through the night

Yes I know that love is like ghosts
Oh and the moonlight baby shows you whats real
There ain’t a language for the things I feel
And if I can’t have you then no one ever will

I don’t feel it till it hurts sometimes
Oh go on baby, hurt me tonight
I want ours to be an endless song
Baby in my eyes you do no wrong

I don’t feel it till it hurts sometimes
So go on baby hurt me tonight
All the spirits that I know I saw
Do you see no ghost in me at all
Oh I sing all day and I love you through the night

And here is how I changed the lyrics, including the refrain of Hey Ho

img_0831Yes I know that love is like ghosts,
Few have seen it but everybody talks
Spirits follow everywhere I go
They sing all day and they
Haunt me through the night

Yes I know that love is like ghosts
What ain’t living can never really die
If you want me baby meet my eyes
When we’re leaving
Our ghosts align

Yes I know that love is like ghosts
But in the moonlight baby it shows you what’s real
There ain’t a language for the things I feel
Now I have you like No one ever will

Waiting baby it hurts sometimes
Oh come on stay with me tonight
I want ours to be an endless song
Oh in my eyes you do no wrong

I belong with you, you belong with me
You’re my sweetheart
I belong with you, you belong with me,
You’re my sweetheart

I sing all day and I love you in the night
Now I have you like no one ever will

The song was a success, and I believe it really fit with the flow of the wedding celebration and provided the newly married couple a unique and precious moment together.

Check out our Facebook Page to see the video recording of my performance.

I hope you find this story inspiring and I hope you find the songwriting exercise useful to your own clinical practice.

Happy music making!


November Theme – Cover Songs


One of the main tenants of music therapy is that of recreation.  As music therapists, often we’re mistaken as walking jukeboxes…  All jokes (and next year’s Halloween costume) aside, recreating a song or musical experience is integral to our work in music therapy.

Which leads me to “covers!”

Usually when a musical artist recreates a song that was written or performed by another musician, they call it a cover.  Covers, I feel, have been increasingly popular since YouTube came onto the scene in 2005.  It is very easy to go on YouTube and find multiple different interpretations of songs.  They could be an exact recreation of that song (down to the last instrument), or it could be a “reimagining” of the song (whether that is executed acoustically, or with a new style integrated).

This is an example of a cover that reimagines the song with a new style:
SHEL – Enter Sandman  (Metallica)

This is an example of a cover that exactly recreates the original:
mae – A Day In The Life (The Beatles)

This is an example of a cover that recreates the original with new lyric content:
Nataly Dawn & Kina Grannis – No // 90s Mashup (Meghan Trainor & various 90s artists)

As a music therapist, recreation is a vehicle (means) to a therapeutic end.  It can be empowering for anyone to insert their own words to a familiar song, as well as engaging or fun to take a preferred song, and play it on one’s own.

Although recreation is something that we employ as music therapists, there are many others who make a living off of making covers.  Weird Al, for example.  There is so much content out there to learn from, and be aware of.  This month, we will be turning to musicians and seeing how they approach recreation from an artistic standpoint: how to create a cover with limited instruments, ways to reimagine a song to lend it to easier singing, or perhaps different modifications for playing.

If this is a topic that you’d love some extra literature for, there is an excellent piano book out there by Josh Massicot (a professor at Nazareth College within their Music Therapy and Creative Arts Therapy department).  It’s titled, Functional Piano for Music Therapists and Music Educators: An Exploration of Styles and indeed provides some excellent resources for recreating styles of music.

Each week, Catherine and I will add to a running list of cover songs to gain inspiration from for this month, as there is literally an endless list of songs that this concept could be applied to!

Until next time,

Children’s Songs With Movements


As October has just about come to an end, we have just one last post for this month!  I took some time to come up with a movement song for every day of the week:

  1. Itsy Bitsy Spider
  2. This Little Piggy
  3. Round and Round the Garden (Goes the Teddy Bear)
  4. Ring Around the Rosie
  5. Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
  6. I’m a Little Teapot
  7. Tony Chestnut

Some of these songs, I’m sure we’re all familiar with.  Childhood Classics, I’d say.  But there are a few here that may be new, or perhaps you haven’t heard of.

Round and Round the Garden
“Round and Round the Garden (Goes the Teddy Bear)” was a favorite from my childhood.  I recently learned that it’s not a standard as some of my peers weren’t familiar with it.  Here’s the rhyme:

Round and round the garden
goes the teddy bear
one step, two steps,
there’s a tickle under there!

The way this song was introduced to me as a child was with a trusted family member holding me and doing fine motor motions on my hand and arm.  I can see this rhyme adapted for clinical use by hiding instruments under scarves and encouraging exploration of the space and ultimately the instruments.  The words may change to, “One step, two steps, there’s a CABASA under there!”  The individuals in the group could be prompted to sneak, or stomp, etc, while moving to the scarves.  Once an instrument is revealed from underneath the scarf, that person would continue in the “musical garden” while other group members had opportunities to find other instruments.

Tony Chestnut
This song was introduced to me by a colleague.  It’s essentially a more challenging, and abstract version of “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” that has a story with double meanings for each body part.  Tony Chestnut = toe, knee, chest, head/nut–so on, and so forth!

Tony Chestnut – The Learning Station

The link above is a video of the song with all the motions!  Of course be aware of personal space when leading this song–it may not be appropriate to have participants touch each other within a therapeutic group.

Let us know if you’ve used any of these movement songs in session!  Catherine and I would love to hear from you!

Keep a look out on November 1st for our new monthly theme!


Singable Books

Hello Readers!
This month we are focusing on repertoire used for Early Childhood settings, according to our Interviewee Kerry Devlin, MT-BC. 

Some of the powerful resources for interventions that we discussed are Singable Books. These are books that illustrate songs, or books that can be sung to familiar tunes. And in place of our Song of the Week (SOTW), I have compiled a list (in no particular order) of popular singable books and attached a link to another site which elaborates on that particular book. This post is CHALK FULL of AWESOME RESOURCES! I made it simple and to the point so you can scroll through and explore at your leisure. I hope you all find this helpful and informative, as well as inspiring in your own clinical practice. And, as always, we are interested in your input! Let us know what we should add to this list, or what your favorite ways are to address literacy goals. 

  1. Dinosaur Pet – sing to tune of Calendar Girl    
  2. Brown Bear – sing to tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star     
  3. What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong    
  4. We All Go Traveling By – comes with CD    
  5. Down by the Station
    Check out this post by Rachel Rambach about this song as well:
  6. Animal Boogie – comes with CD     
  7. Seals on the Bus    
  8. Where Has My Little Dog Gone.  
  9. Every Little Thing – Bob Marley   
  10. Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin – Tad Hills.    
  11. Pete the Cat.    
  12. Tap the Magic Tree.     

___ Here is a blog post which elaborates on a few of the songs I have listed above

___Here are a few more lists of books provided by other sites  

If you are interested in Singable Books, please check out these AMAZING blogs:
 – Music Therapy Kids: 
 – Sing Books with Emily: 



SOTW – The Swamp Song


Good Evening Friends!

Catherine and Kerry, thank you so much for such an informative interview!  It was wonderful to read through your approach to music therapy within the Early Childhood population.  I really like how instead of providing a song list, you identified 4 broad types of songs that work well with the Early Childhood population.

The song that I chose to cover for this week is one of my own composition.  I call it “The Swamp Song!”  It’s a novel song to use with a group, and does have movements that go along with it!  Click on the “Procedure” link above to be taken to a Google Doc with the lyrics.

This song provides randomized turns, these can help with goals related to self-regulation and turn taking.  Additionally, as there is a steadily increasing tempo throughout each turn, which can aid with goals associated with gross motor function.

Let me know if you end up using The Swamp Song!  And, of course, please let us know if you have any songs that you LOVE to use with this population!


Early Childhood Music Therapy – Interview with Kerry Devlin, MT-BC

Hello readers, welcome to the month of October! This is an exciting time for me because I am spending the whole month in Ohio visiting various family and friends. I am seeing the beauty of a foresty fall for the first time in 3 years, and it is nourishing to my soul! I have been looking forward to this time to take a step back from my daily life and experience some new adventures with my little boys.

So, coming to you from Ohio, I have words of wisdom from an inspiring professional on the topic of Early Childhood Music Therapy. I chose this professional for our interview this month because I was so drawn into her passion for Music Therapy when taking her FREE CMTE course on Music Therapy Ed (the West Music Professional Success Course). I reached out to her 2 years when I had the idea for this blog, and she encouraged me so emphatically, I had the confidence to start what is now the Music Therapy Repertoire Challenge. I have been following her blog and Instagram for 2 years and I am always in awe of her creatively and meticulously designed session materials. So without further ado:

kerry-devlin-mt-bc-picKerry Devlin, MT-BC obtained her BA in Vocal Performance at Telson University in 2012. She completed the Music Therapy Masters equivalency program at Shenandoah University, interned in a school setting, then achieved MT-BC certification in Feb 2014. Kerry is the Director of Programming for Annapolis Music Therapy Services (a private practice owned by C.J. Shiloh), and is currently pursuing her MM in Music Therapy at Shenandoah.

Kerry met C.J. through her internship, and once completed, they decided to start a private practice together. In only 2 years, it has grown to include multiple music therapy employees, contractors, and Interns. They cover a diverse range of populations and facilities in Central Maryland, including public schools, community programs, memory care facilities, an Early Intervention Center, and their own private clinic.Serving such a diverse range of clients, I inquired if Kerry had a favorite population to work with.“The answer to that question keeps growing and changing for me. I love working in community based settings that are a collaborative environment; where I have the opportunity to go into their culture, working with people to figure out what their role is in their community.”

Early Childhood Music Therapy
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, Early Childhood is defined as “the period from birth to eight years old. A time of remarkable brain growth, these years lay the foundation for subsequent learning and development” Music Therapists serve this population in daycare centers, Schools, Community settings, as well as Healthcare facilities, in the context of 1:1 as well as group sessions. Young children with developmental, mental, or physical challenges are often taken out of their social contexts to receive therapeutic services, however the overarching goal is to transition to inclusion settings long term. Kerry shared with me that “separated groups are not necessary, but it’s just the nature of the environments where we provide services. Our clinic’s summer programming often includes siblings, which is a great opportunity for them to learn to support each other and bond in an environment where the focus is not on their deficit but on creating something together.”

Common Goal Areas include social, emotional, and pre-academic skills. Everything you need in order to be successful in a school environment. This includes: turn taking, impulse control, interacting appropriately with peers and teachers, and follow directions. These fundamental skills are naturally embedded in the context of a music experience. Therefore, it is essential to use what we know about music as tools for our clients’ success. “My most used strategy is to use music to my advantage as a regulator. Young kids may have difficulty regulating their bodies, making it difficult to take in new academic information. Maintaining a steady beat helps them to focus and gets their bodies ready for more challenging tasks.”

I asked Kerry if she has developed a consistent pattern of interventions to use when working with this population. “The order of interventions depend on each person’s need. I like to be really flexible, which stresses my interns out. I do a lot of planning, but I try to be open and be in the moment and use my tools as a clinician to decide where to go next. A certain pacing and arc in a session can be helpful: bookend with Hello/Goodbye songs, slowly work up to high level tasks, have the most challenging intervention in the middle, then come down from that. And in all of that embedding things like playing steady beat, syncing up to music that is pace matched to where the group is, or that’s targeting where the group might need to be. If everyone is going crazy, use that iso principle to bring the energy level down.”

This is Kerry’s personality as a therapist. The setting for her internship was very structured, but she highly values being totally present in the session for her clients. “We as therapists have very big tool kits available to us. We know a lot of music and there is a lot of value in being able to make a clinical decision in the moment based on all of that knowledge and then see where the session goes.”

It is important to find your personality as a therapist and work within that to create appropriate interventions for your clients.

“A well crafted intervention considers the person you are working with, what supports they might need, and utilizes components of music that help you reach their goals. For example, young children need predictable music, involving  simple language to promote participation. But those same elements will need to change if you are working with an 18 year old. It comes down to who you are working with and what is most meaningful to that person. Then use your skills as therapist and what we know about music and how to structure music to achieve a specific goal or purpose, use all that information to create interventions; whether that is before, or while the session is unfolding.”

Literacy interventions
Combining literature and music is useful when addressing pre academic skills and basic literacy skills such as turning pages, keeping fingers on the page, and developing listening comprehension.

Kerry’s current favorite fall book is called Tap the Magic Tree  , which can be sung to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb. It is an interactive book, also containing a sensory component and addresses many seasonal concepts. Literacy interventions are also a great opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration with Speech Pathologists “It’s hard to deny the value of music when some of the qualities that make it accessible to kids make great opportunities for speech and communication. It’s important to have an open door policy with the interdisciplinary team. Invite them to work with you on a regular basis, and seek opportunities to talk about how you are addressing clinical goals.”

Instead of giving me a list of songs for this population, Kerry broke it down into categories of music:

  • Children songs with movement elements: great for family centered sessions because parents often know the music too. They promote awareness and pre academic skills, imitating body movement and sounds.
  • Developmental Music Programs, such as Sprouting Melodies created by Beth Schwartz and Meredith Pizzi (  This is an Early Childhood music program along the same lines as Kindermusic, but it is created by music therapists for music therapists. The music is robust, containing different keys and modes, and childhood development is thoughtfully considered.
  • Original compositions for specific clinical purposes
  • Improvisation: Floor time, following client’s lead


  • VOICE: often enough for little kids, allows you to have hands free. Use a lot of affect in your face and voice, using dynamic ranges and different timbre quality. This helps with emotion recognition and anticipation.
  • Percussion instruments that are safe to go in someone’s mouth if that happens. Shakers, small drums, and a gathering drum.
  • Guitar
  • Tactile instruments: cabasa, ocean drums, anything with a sensory component which helps to explore different sounds while making music

Music Therapy and Early Childhood – book by Elizabeth Schwartz
According to Kerry, this is a must read for someone working with this population. It talks about how music development parallels child development, creating a foundational understanding of working with a young child in a session. “It is advantageous to have a solid understanding of where they are and how their music making reflects that or vise versa.”

Rachel Rambach’s Listen and Learn is also a great resource for this population. Rachel is constantly writing new material for use in Early Childhood settings and she shares many useful materials on her blog.

Songs for Success – This is Kerry’s own blog which she uses to share resources and materials. Be sure to follow her on her Instagram as well!


I hope my readers have been as inspired by Kerry as I am. She has a contagious passion for her work and I am excited to follow her successes in our profession!

This month, Becky and I will be taking a look at the categories of repertoire listed in this post. Since our repertoire list a little less specific than usual, we would LOVE to hear what YOUR favorite songs are for use with Early Childhood clients, OR favorite songs from YOUR childhood. Please feel free to share in the comments of our posts, on our Facebook page, or by sending us an email.

Have a musical and colorful October!