Thursday, March 21, 2019

Celebrating 35 Years of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Music Therapy: Part One

SMWC students discussing songwriting
The SMWC Music Therapy program has been celebrating 35 years’ worth of students, hard work, growth, and change, as the history of our music therapy program continues to lead us into the future. Now that it has been 35 years since this program has been established, we decided to host a special event by pairing up with the Association for Indiana Music Therapy (AIMT) to bring in some wonderful guest speakers to kick off the 2018-19 academic year.

On September 14th, 2018, Dr. Tracy Richardson, MT-BC, presented a songwriting session titled Empowering Your Clinical Songwriting. The other guest speaker this year was Nir Sadovnik, MT-BC, LCAT, who came all the way from New York to present Clinical Applications of Rap in Music Therapy on Friday morning and Keeping in Time with the Groove on Saturday, September 15th.

Dr. Tracy Richardson, Nir Sadovnik,
and Sharon Boyle
SMWC Director of Music Therapy and Chair of the Music and Theatre Department, Richardson practices music therapy on a contractual basis with a local hospital oncology unit. She has been writing songs for 30+ years and has released 2 CDs of original work. She is engaged extensively in the network of Nashville, TN songwriters. She also started a songwriting circle in Terre Haute, IN, and is passionate about supporting others in developing their own songwriting. 

Guest presenter Nir Sadovnik, MT-BC, LCAT, is a music therapy supervisor on an inpatient adult psychiatric unit at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in Brooklyn, New York. He is a faculty member in the graduate music therapy program at NYU, where he teaches piano improvisation, ‘Key Concepts in Music Therapy,’ and supervises students in the program.”

Participants received background on the clinical applications
of rap before displaying their own beats.
During Sadovnik's first presentation, he explained the genre of Rap, its history, and the potential that it has for being used in a clinical setting. Incorporating improvisation, recording technology, and creating Rap beats was central to the presentation. There was exploration of various clinical goals such as increasing self-expression, self-awareness, insights, improving relatedness, and self-esteem.

For Richardson's presentation, she focused on presenting techniques for clinical songwriting and how to use it most effectively in practice. With a  focus on developing confidence and improving skills, participants learned common chord progressions, accompaniment patterns, and worked in small groups to focus on the writing process, writing strategic songs, and using spot songs in music therapy sessions. The sessions included professional music therapists from the Indiana community and students from other music therapy students.

Afterward, new relationships were formed while also visiting with old friends and alumni who were present during an evening jam session.
Saturday's participants experimenting with grooves

On September 15th, after coffee and a light continental breakfast, Sadovnik again presented a 5-hour CMTE presentation to music therapy students and music therapists from the surrounding area with a primary focus on creating groove. He included the origins of groove and facilitated groove-based improvisations in styles such as Salsa, Reggae, Funk, and Hip-hop. 
What does ‘groove’ mean?” and “How has the vernacular term ‘groove’ evolved?” were some of the questions addressed in the beginning lecture and discussion. Participants were able to better understand and respond to the question of: "What is it about a groove and how we use the word groove that we associate with those complex rhythms that drives a musical experience and makes us want to dance?" 

After an afternoon lunch break, the participants reconvened to create music. While focusing on cultural, aesthetic, and technological considerations for the most impact, everyone in attendance jumped right in to try out instruments and get in the groove. With fascinating case vignettes and audio samples, some impromptu singing, and the breakdown of some basic grooves that all can use, everyone had a wonderful experience while exploring the meaning of groove and how it can be utilized in a therapeutic setting.

SMWC music therapy students, alums, and faculty who attended 

Blog Post Author: Autumn Wilson, Music Therapy Student Assistant and music therapy major

Blog Post Editor:  Sharon R. Boyle, MM, MT-BC, Associate Professor of Music Therapy and Coordinator of the Undergraduate Music Therapy Program. I

Photo Credits: Sharon R. Boyle

To learn more about the Music and Music Therapy programs at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, check out our website here.