Virtual Music Therapy: An Interview with Kate Lowen, MT-BC

Kate Lowen, board certified music therapist, was eager to provide virtual sessions to support her clients. In addition to her music therapy practice, she’s taught English online for almost two years and was already aware of how effective virtual work can be! Check out her interview below for more about her favorite moments and creative session ideas!

Image description: Kate Lowen, music therapist, is looking into the camera and smiling. She’s holding an acoustic guitar with her right hand resting on the strings.

What have you enjoyed most about virtual work?

My favorite moments are all about reconnecting with clients that I haven’t seen in a long time! I’m so grateful to provide them with support through a virtual medium. It’s also been exciting to explore the magic of technology together. Some of my clients are excited for extra screen time and others are impressed by how technology is bringing us together in an isolating time!

“I’m both surprised and amazed at the genuine interactions I’ve had with clients… I have witnessed true joy and felt a true connection when making music virtually.”

What creative ideas have you incorporated into your sessions?

In my sessions, I’ve been taking advantage of being at home by planning themed sessions with items I have in my house. I’ve shown clients my seashell and sand collection while we sang beach songs. Another example is that I’ve displayed my houseplants while we compose songs about planting seeds.

What would you say to someone uncertain about the virtual format?

Just give it a try! I’m both surprised and amazed at the genuine interactions I’ve had with clients, even those with little experience with technology. I have witnessed true joy and felt a true connection when making music with others virtually.

“Virtual sessions provide greater opportunities for independence for my clients… and deepen [their] connection with staff/caregivers.”

What unexpected benefits are you aware of in your virtual music therapy work?

A benefit I didn’t expect is how virtual sessions provide greater opportunities for independence for my clients. They can sit by themselves, make choices, and independently interact (or not interact if they choose!) with me onscreen. I’ve also witnessed how our sessions deepen the connection for clients with their staff/caregivers. I get a greater understanding of the clients’ larger communities and the client and caregivers get to interact with one another in music.

Virtual Music Therapy: An Interview with Maggie Johnson, MT-BC

This past month, Earthtones NW therapists began providing virtual sessions for the first time in our 24-year history! This post is the first in a series about our therapists’ favorite moments, discoveries, and creative solutions. First up: board certified music therapist Maggie Johnson! 

Image description: music therapist, Maggie Johnson, is sitting close to the camera. She is wearing all black and playing the flute with a slight smile on her face. Her backdrop is a room with white walls; to her left is a closed door and to her right is a bookshelf.

What unexpected benefits are you aware of in your virtual music therapy work?

The advantages of connecting virtually have completely blown me away! For some, we’ve evolved the caregiver’s in-session role to that similar to a co-therapist. This benefits both parties and expands their way of relating to each other. For other participants, engaging in virtual sessions seems to have equal ease as calling one’s grandchild on the phone, whether they have ever experienced a video call prior to virtual music therapy sessions or not. There’s also the obvious benefit of being able to connect virtually anyone: friends from your day program, family living across the country, or any member of our team. It can be a real party!

“The benefits of connecting virtually [with clients] have completely blown me away! … From a ‘musician’s toolbox’ point of view, I can have my full live performance set-up in my home studio.

Thinking of my clients, most of whom had never done a video call prior to our virtual music therapy sessions, increasing one’s access to virtual music therapy also increases their access to the digital world in general. A client of mine asked me the other day, “Can I call anyone on this thing?” 

From a ‘musician’s toolbox’ point of view, I can have my full live performance set-up in my home studio with amp and pedals. Having unbarred access to my keyboard, or my looping pedal with guitar has been very fun. I’m also having fun exploring all things MIDI (electronic music).

Tell us about some of your favorite session moments this past month.

 A new client and I were conducting Holst together and I could tell they had played the piece in the past by how intricately they were conducting. In one moment we laughed as we mimed our instrument parts, in the next, it was as though we were conducting a full orchestra in earnest! I’ve also really enjoyed creating musical scores to my client’s favorite story books or graphic novels with them in sessions.

‘Our drive to make music doesn’t go away just because we can’t be physically close. The joy of music is as important as ever.’

How does virtual music therapy support your clients’ well-being?

Just as ever, active music making for self-expression and creativity on the part of the participants is a prominent focus of my work. Another salient goal is one that we are all experiencing: navigating through COVID-19 related changes on our own terms.

What have you learned throughout this process?

Our drive to make music doesn’t go away just because we can’t be physically close. The joy of music is as important as ever in this time. With the right supports, anyone can benefit from virtual music and horticultural therapy sessions. They might have components that are different from an in-person session but I continue to be affirmed that it is SO worth exploring the possibility. Our clients and families, my team, and our partner agencies are making it happen! 

‘With the right supports, anyone can benefit from virtual music and horticultural therapy sessions.’

It is my mission in life to honor creativity and give it the full respect that it deserves, knowing that such a practice is what opens the door to life experiences that create meaning. I can’t help but see parallels to what developing one’s creativity in the arts does for one’s life and health. It plays out in identifiable ways for us all, including myself, right now.

  

Earthtones NW Goes Virtual!

Meeting needs for connection and creativity

Earthtones cares deeply about our clients and we are here to support you during this time of social distancing. We are excited to announce we now offer music therapy services through a virtual platform. Our professional therapists are trained to design specialized programs for individuals and groups to meet needs for connection, creativity, and emotional processing. Our virtual sessions offer a wide range of engagement opportunities, including making music with homemade instruments, movement, writing a song to send to a loved one, sensory engagement, and more! 

As we adapt to these uncertain times, we believe we can still come together as a community for support, nurturance, and care. Our therapists and administrative team will work with you to help you get set up using our simple, reliable virtual platform.

Call us to schedule your first session

We would be honored to continue to serve you, or provide new opportunities for virtual music therapy in your community. Call us at (503)-284-6794 Ext. 1 to schedule your first virtual session!

Strength and fortitude,
Jodi Winnwalker, Earthtones Owner and CEO

Happy New Year


As we begin a new decade we here at Earthtones NW are feeling grateful for you, our community. We feel honored to provide music therapy, horticultural therapy and art therapy to the Willamette Valley and beyond. Our practice is centered around building therapeutic relationships and supporting our clients. We feel such gratitude for these important relationships and want to say thank you for the opportunity to know you, and provide you with these services. If you are a case manager- we value you and are thankful for all you do. If you are someone who has chosen to receive our services we are inspired by you and overwhelmed with gratitude. If you are a family member of a client- we so appreciate getting to know you and hearing your story. If you are a facility staff member- we acknowledge your hard work and want to say thank you for supporting us and the people in your community. As we reflect on 2019 the feelings of warmth and gratitude prevail.

May your 2020 be filled with love and light!

Jodi Winnwalker, Earthtones Northwest’s CEO and owner

Earthtones NW had the honor of hosting 5 music therapy interns in 2019. Adam and Matthew graduated from our internship program in August 2019. Stephanie, Kat and Darcey are in their final month of internship and are set to graduate come end of January 2020. Chloe and Katie began their music therapy internship journey just last week. We are excited to have them as part of our team. We are grateful to work with these talented individuals and are proud of their growth and accomplishments.

We look forward to continuing to serve our community in 2020 and wish you all a year of health and wellness. For more information on Earthtones Northwest and our services explore our website at or give us a call at (503) 284-6794, we would love to hear from you.

All Classical Portland

All Classical Portland recently embarked on a month long campaign focused on music and health. As part of their efforts to highlight the incredible ways in which music heals, they invited Jodi Winnwalker, Earthtones owner and CEO, to join a panel of professionals with a live audience at the radio station.

Nancy Ive plays the Cello during the All Classical Music Heals Panel Discussion.

How music heals

On Oct 17th Jodi and Dr. Larry Sherman, Kristrun Grondal, and Nancy Ive sat down with moderator Suzanne Nance, President and CEO of All Classical, to discuss how music is utilized in therapy and medicine.

Jodi Winnwalker, Earthtones CEO and owner, Suzanne Nance, CEO of All Classical Portland, Nancy Ive, principal cellist for the Oregon Symphony, Kristen Grondal of the Maybelle Center for the Community. Not pictured: Dr. Larry Sherman professor at the Oregon Health and Science University.

“It was a privilege and delight to join a panel of well informed and dynamically engaged professionals, all committed to the use of music for health and social justice in our community.”

-Jodi Winnwalker

During the month long “Music Heals” campaign All Classical featured several local organizations whose mission supports music and health. One such feature highlighted MusicNow, a collaborative program of Earthtones Northwest and the Oregon Symphony. Maggie Johnson, Earthtones Music Therapy Program Director, was invited into the studio alongside Alicia DiDonato Paulsen, the Assistant Principal Flute for the Oregon Symphony, to talk about the unique program.

Colin Corner, principal bassist for the Oregon Symphony and Maggie Johnson, Earthtones Northwest’s Music Therapy Program Director leading a MusicNow group.

MusicNow is a one of a kind program that pairs an Oregon Symphony professional musician and a board-certified music therapist to collaborate in providing high quality music and musical experiences to groups of adults living with dementia. The result of such collaboration benefits the participants as part of a wider musical community and allows the musicians to share and witness the strength of these communities and the power of music as a way to form immediate bonds with others.

To learn more about MusicNow visit www.earthtonesnw.com or email info@earthtonesnw.com

To listen to All Classical tune into KQAC 89.9 for the Portland/Vancouver area. To see All Classical’s spotlight on Earthtones visit https://www.allclassical.org/spotlights/earthtones-northwest/ .

Senior Gardening Days

The 15th annual Senior Gardening Days was held at Portland Nursery on September 18th and October 16th 2019. Earthtones Northwest, the Portland Memory Garden, and Home Instead sponsored the lively event which provided free nature-based activities, demonstrations, and live music for older adults across the community. Despite the cooler temperatures and rain over 170 people came to immerse in the activities, shop for plants and to enjoy the lush autumn season.

Nature-based activities, music and community

Box of Chocolates, led by Reggie Houston, charmed the crowd with the sounds of jazz, blues, and old classic tunes. Community members made their way through the nursery, stopping at tables offering activities such as crocus planting, seasonal potpourii sachets, pressed leaf and flower embossing and more during the 2 hour nursery event.

Connecting with the season, self and others

Senior Gardening Days aims to provide older adults, especially those living in care facilities, a chance to get out into their community and connect with peers, plants, music, horticultural therapists and horticultural therapy students.

“this is just so wonderful, look at how beautiful it is!”

One participant said “this is just so wonderful, look at how beautiful it is!” after completing a pressed leaf arrangement. This annual event takes place every September and October. For more information on next years event, and how to RSVP please visit Portland Nurseries website.

Shake It Up! 3 Things We Love About the Tambourine

Not All Tambourines Are The Same! (1)

  1. They’re adaptable. When you put a tambourine in your hand, the jingles or “zils” practically play themselves. Most tambourines are responsive enough that they require very little movement to play and their bright sound rings through when you shake them in the music circle.
  2. They add sparkle to any song. So many great songs feature the tambourine. Check out our playlist on Spotify for some of our favorite examples. Or, we bet if you give a listen to genres such as rock or classical in your own music library, you’ll be sure to hear it!
  3. They’re easy to sanitize. Music therapists sanitize their instruments after every session.

Meet Susie Sample, Intern Horticultural Therapist

 

 

Meet Susie Sampe

 

What drew you to Horticultural Therapy?

I was drawn to the field of gerontology from helping my mom who was living with lewy body dementia. During my coursework at Portland Community College I discovered Horticultural Therapy (HT). Being a lifelong lover of plants and nature I was excited to combine these two passions. I witnessed the value of HT firsthand during an internship at an adult day center when I saw a horticultural therapy session in action. The benefits of HT were apparent and I felt like it was fulfilling a real need.

What populations do you work with?

I work with primarily older adults, many of whom have dementia. All of the adults that I work with have some form of physical or cognitive disability.

What is your favorite part about your work as a HT intern at Earthtones?

My favorite part is sharing nature and plants with people who often do not get other opportunities to engage with the outside world. Sharing these special experiences with people is so wonderful. The spark that people get in their eyes when they are directly engaging with plant material fills me with joy. Being a witness to that moment is truly an honor and I love that I get to increase this type of opportunity for them and can help to fill their basic human need of meaningful activity.

Song List Series – Songs with a Catchy Chorus

catchy-chorus

We LOVE a good chorus. It can serve many different purposes, from being a musical container while passing out/collecting instruments, to a springboard for improvisation, or even a base for songwriting! Sometimes though, you remember the chorus but not the title of the song. Well, look no further! Here is a list of 10 songs with a catchy chorus.

  1. “Kids” by MGMT
  2. “The Walker” by Fitz and the Tantrums
  3. “Hey Ya” by Outkast
  4. “Low Rider” by WAR
  5. “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin
  6. “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift
  7. “Stayin’ Alive” by the BeeGees
  8. “Land of 1000 Dances” by Wilson Pickett
  9. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”by Marvin Gaye
  10. “We Will Rock You” by Queen

Click here for this playlist on Spotify!

Earthtones Spotlight – Tonya Fisher

tonya

Tonya Fisher, MT-BC is many things. She is a genealogy enthusiast, a rock fan (both the musical and geological variety), and a karaoke champion. And if that wasn’t enough, she is a wonderful music therapist! She loaned her powerful voice and presence to Earthtones after completing her internship with us last year, and we couldn’t be happier to have her on board.

What drew you to music therapy?

I wanted to find a career that would be rewarding for me, that helped other people, and yet allowed me to make music every day. For a long time I worked in the restaurant industry and was really dissatisfied with that. It was taking a toll on my mental health AND my physical health!

How did you become a music therapist?

I was actually complaining to my therapist in a session one day about how dissatisfied I was. We were listing the qualities that other people had remarked on in regards to me, things that I had noticed, what I love to do… and she’s the one who said, “Have you ever heard of music therapy? I think you would be perfect at it!”

So then I went and did an online search for music therapy to find out what it would take to be a music therapist. I saw that, in my own backyard, there was a program at Marylhurst. I applied, and I got in!

What population do you work with?

Mostly adults with developmental disabilities and memory care.

Do you have one population in particular that resonates with you?

I love them all but I think I love memory care the most. I’m also very interest in working in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), although I’ve only completed the first tier in certification*.

*In order to work with this very fragile population, music therapists must undergo a 3-tier certification training.

Tell us about a typical day for you.

A typical day will have probably 3-4 sessions, and I will be in my car a lot. Depending on my day, I’m probably in the car from noon to 6:30 PM driving to and from clients! I try to plan for a week in advance, then review my plan in the morning to make sure it’s fresh. I usually do something in the evening for self-care, either writing, singing a song, doing research…

Me: Research  for self care?

Well in the evening sometimes I’ll look up something about a population I’m interested in. Like I said I want to keep it fresh, and not do the same things over and over.

After every session I jot down notes in the notebook I carry with me so I can remember the significant highlights and whether goals were met. Which makes it easier when you’re writing 15 quarterly reports!

What has surprised you the most about your work?

Just about every session I have I get to witness little minor miracles…some of them not so minor! I get to see clients with dementia who haven’t spoken in a length of time, suddenly open up and start singling. Or talking to me and having a conversation! Or persons with developmental disabilities who are nonverbal who suddenly starting singing the horn part to “I Feel Good!” [by James Brown] *She sings it and shimmies, before bursting out laughing*

Just, the happiness I have now. I can’t describe it. It’s not work, it’s magic!

Who has influenced you?

There is a myriad of female music therapists in the Portland that have influenced me. Jodi Winnwalker, Laura Beer, Chris Korb, Liska McNally, Emily Ross, Beth Rousseau, Jessica Western…
Another mentor of mine is [Earthtones music therapist] Ted Owen!  He’s so laid back and had such good advice for me. He takes a “Let’s just see what’s gonna happen” approach.
There are a whole bunch of people that influenced me in the field. Then other times my own family experiences will come back, like the song that I sang with grandmother or my mom. I can use my familial knowledge of their generation to connect with my clients. They influenced me too!

Favorite genre of music?

I would say probably rhythm and blues.

What about your favorite song?

Right now it’s Build Me up Buttercup!

Any advice for someone who wants to become a music therapist?

A great way to see if this might be for you is to try a job shadow. I think if I would have had a chance to do that you’ll have a good idea of what you’re getting into. Get to know your music therapy community and learn what it is that we do. Read the AMTA scope of practice. Just do your research!

Make a list of your strengths, and build on them. Know yourself: your interaction style, how you deal with stress, etc! If music is a joyful experience for you then this will probably be a joyful job for you.

If you’re someone who has had life experience and considering going back to school, it’s doable. Don’t be afraid to go back and do this if the calling is there. Don’t let age hold you back! It’s never too late to bring the joy that you deserve into your life and help others.