photo of music therapy participants

1st Workshop group in the Czech Countryside

WORKSHOPS- my workshop experience has ranged from history, development and practise of MT, to MT in geriatric settings, psychiatric settings, and with children’s groups. These have been for hospital workers, physio and art therapists, activity workers, volunteers at various facilities, or organized by friends and acquaintances for their school or children’s groups.

The workshop I am currently offering in Europe is called “ Improvisation in Music- learning to improvise and express oneself with music” This is intended for musicians and non-musicians alike, who desire to experience the freedom and expression possible in improvising. It has more to do with letting go, relaxing, listening and trusting than with technique or scales. It is also very practical however, and does not focus solely on music as a cathartic means of expression, but rather explores the basic elements of various styles of rhythm, tonality and melody (such as Middle Eastern, blues, gospel, reggae, folk) and how one can begin to connect with the music and other group members, and let go of self awareness as we enter into the improvising experience. This can be a few simple notes, a complex, involved solo, or a collective improvised connection.

This is a brief description of a complex course, which ideally takes place over a few days, and may be developed further with the same group at a later date. Efforts are taken to group members of similar musical experience together, but this is not always necessary, and sometimes those with less training are able to more readily let go and jam, often at their peak potential. Once the tap of expression through music is turned on there may be very strong emotions brought up, and a deep sense of communion with other “band members”.

This workshop is more Music Therapy than education, but there are elements of basic learning as well, depending on the group facility, and how much excitement is generated from gaining concrete insight into musical “styles”, scales, rhythms, etc. I generally put the emphasis on learning HOW to improvise, not WHAT to improvise, that is to say what it feels like to connect with music and self, whether in a group context, alone, with rhythm, loud, freely, and all other possibilities. One will always gain technical facility and musical aptitude through study and practice, but whether 5 hours per month or per day is the individual’s choice, and not something that can be determined over the course of 3 days. What is more likely to be influenced is one’s sense of self expressive abilities within music, and feeling for the incredible potential. The workshop also allows for the varieties of temperament, self confidence, fear of being exposed, and the myriad other issues confronting humans, since improvising is a matter of free choice, and is at essence purely subjective- hence, no one is wrong; not too loud, too soft, too long- playing one short note may be a perfect solo, a sublime musical event, if that person is connected to it.

These workshops can be especially useful for music educators, closet musicians, other therapists who use music in their work, and trained musicians who feel they cannot “just let go and play”.