Musical Responsiveness: Planting the Seed, Watching It Grow

I have been asked a few times “Yes, but do they (my clients) carry that (progress) outside the music room?” Sometimes, especially now that I have a private practice and contracted jobs where I don’t spend a lot of time in the facility, I only see what happens in the Music Therapy room, although I see the regular documented progress. Sometimes I do not realize the impact outside the Music Therapy room until it is reported back to me. I think the reason for this is the process orientation, responding in the here and now, moment to moment to music. Ironically, this, it seems to me, is what brings a client along without stress, with ease, and moves them from the immovable to new stages of development. This is also the source of the lack of funding.

Because I am a Music Therapist, when it came to my music and my kids when they were young, the musical approach was the same. I instructed only the very basics, but spent more time “playing” music with them. It was always a special, quiet time with them. It was relaxed and enjoyable. However, the minimal instruction always left guilt. With the years of my musical training, maybe I should have instructed more.

Two weeks ago, my husband and I went to watch my oldest son’s college band. All the members except one were engineering students, and from what my son has told me, most of them had similar childhood musical experiences. Most of them were in youth choirs and had a parent who was an active musician. As I watched these young men play, with each one of them, what went on outside the music-making was left unaware. My son’s drumsticks moved so quickly that they looked like pages turning, yet his body was completely relaxed, as his legs, arms, shoulders, and torso moved in contentment to the beat. As the group finished, an audience member made a comment to my son about how playing like that was as easy as trying to brush your teeth with your hands behind your back, but it looked like so much fun! As I watched these young men get up and switch instruments around, I wondered who else danced around the kitchen with their parents as toddlers. Which of these young men were once little boys that just “played” and danced to the music as children? I watched the effortless, comfortable, relaxed, and keen focus of these young men as they played. Did all this begin as a seed of the ease in play of responding and relating with musical play? This was the fruit of the tiny seed that had been planted and nurtured simply by responding. It has its own life now.

That same week, a client whose attendance has been irregular due to hospitalizations had come with his mother. We recently had just gotten back to a scheduled time after a lengthy hospital visit. I had been shocked when the mom told me how others outside her family, community members, had commented to her on his recent noticeable speech progress. I was shocked that just within a couple weeks of the schedule, the progress was that noticeable.

Music does not convey a specific idea as words do. However, it can reach a much deeper place inside each of us. When we are given an opportunity to respond to that moment, all we need to do is be attentive to it. The results can last a lifetime, change a life, or grow a life of its own.

Antoinette Morrison MT-BC


Liz Morgan

I practice education law, play value music and am married to a music teacher. I would love to discuss the application of music therapy to special education off-line.

All the best,


Marilyn S

Your observations fit well with mine of 30 years in special education as a speech/language pathologist. I integrate music and rhythm into my therapy all the time. It is the root of language development. If you want kids to learn, use rhythm. Keep up the good work.


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