Over the past few years, as I’ve expanded the age groups I’ve worked with and the variety of settings I’ve worked in, I’ve found more and more ways to incorporate other creative arts into my music therapy sessions.

I began my career working at United Community Options (UCO) Miami, where I collaborated with speech, occupational, and physical therapists.

This provided me with a fantastic foundation and helped me clearly see how I could use a musical experience to work on a non-musical goal – like increasing expressive language or improving fine motor skills.

But, I never had the opportunity to collaborate with other creative arts therapies until I began my private practice.

Today I’m starting a three part series on the Creative Arts.

In Part 1, I’ll start by sharing how I incorporate creative arts experiences, like dance and art, into my music therapy sessions.

I got the idea to share these creative arts ideas while pretending to surf with a group of young adults with disabilities as we listened to “Surfin’ Safari” by the Beach Boys (not a bad way to spend a morning!)

In Part 2 and 3, I’ll share how I’ve been collaborating and co-treating with artists of all disciplines in a new program for high school students with autism called Healing Arts.

Let’s get started! Here are some other ways I incorporate dance and movement into my music therapy sessions:

In the post, Summer Session Ideas for Middle Schoolers & Teens, I share two ideas for adding movement into a Hawaiian/Beach-themed session. The first is body percussion to the song “Summer Vibes” by Walk Off The Earth (this song is guaranteed to put you in the mood to go the beach!) and the second is hula dancing to traditional Hawaiian music.

Fourth of July – In our sessions based on this holiday theme, we march to all kinds of patriotic songs. Everything from your traditional instrumental versions of the songs to a metal version of “Yankee Doodle” that I found on YouTube (check it out for yourself!)

In the post, Thanksgiving Music Therapy Ideas for Middle & High Schoolers, I write about how we dance to “Cotton Eyed Joe” (you know, the one from the 90s) and “Hoedown Throwdown” by Miley Cyrus to incorporate some country line dancing into our bluegrass/harvest-themed session.

Creative Interpretations – For this musical experience, I pull up a variety of orchestral pieces and invite clients to simply move the way the music sounds, or move the way the music makes their body want to move. All interpretations welcome. I pick a variety of pieces that sound different, like “Waltz of the Flowers,” “Flight of the Bumblebee,” “Nutcracker March,” “Can Can,” “William Tell Overture” and “Swan” from Carnival of the Animals.

Here are some ways I’ve incorporated arts experiences into my music therapy sessions:

In the post, Combining Music & Art: A Hawaiian Theme for Elementary Students, I write about how I play traditional Hawaiian music while showing rotating pictures of Hawaii on a big screen. Students are invited to draw a picture of Hawaii, or what they think is being depicted in the music.

Planet/Outer Space Art – In a session based on this theme, students listen to “The Planets Suite” by Gustav Holst and are invited to draw planet/outer space artwork. We use dark blue or black paper and chalk to create the feeling of being deep in outer space.

In the post, Amp Up Your Teen Sessions: Best Day of My Life, I write about a musical experience where I sing “Best Day of My Life” by the American Authors with my teen clients and then invite them to draw a picture of the best day of their life. If they feel comfortable, they can share their artwork and about their day with the rest of the group.

What I Am – This is one of my favorites because it’s great for empowerment and self-esteem. Clients sing the song “What I Am” by Will.I.Am along with me. They’re then invited to think of at least one positive quality about themselves and create artwork around the word. They can write the word on their paper and decorate around it with colored pencils or pastels, they can cut out letters and pictures from a magazine, or they can use other artistic mediums to create artwork around the positive word that describes them.

Each of these musical experiences gives the opportunity for students to be introduced to a wide variety of music while also having the chance to express themselves artistically.

There are so many more ideas I want to share here, but I don’t want to overwhelm you!

If you haven’t done so already, I’d encourage you to see how you can incorporate dance or arts experiences into your music therapy sessions, regardless of the age or population with whom you work.

Next time on the blog, I’ll be sharing about the Healing Arts Program I facilitated for a high school autistic support classroom here in Pennsylvania.

I had the opportunity to collaborate with painters, fiber artists, yoga instructors, theatre instructors, and creative writers.

This was an amazing program that STRETCHED me creatively! I’ll be sharing many of our successful arts experiences here on the blog, so be sure to stay tuned for it.