How Music Echoes the Hearts and Marches of Protest in the U.S.

Image description: “Songs of protest” in a semi-circle surrounding a cassette player. The words “in popular music” are below. Around the text is two blank signs (left) and a megaphone (left) with exclamations indicating sound in between.

In times of slavery, revolution, war, and economic depression, music has been a medium for communication, hope, and resistance. In the United States, these songs shared messages of change, particularly in regards to the Civil War, the abolition of slavery, and women’s suffrage. In the fight towards liberation during the late 1800s, spirituals like “Go Down, Moses” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” were used to connect protestors, share and express feelings, as well as code messages for those in the Underground Railroad. 

Protest Songs in the 20th and 21st Century

In 1939, Billie Holiday recorded “Strange Fruit,” a song that protested the lynching of Black people across the South. The song evoked such strong reactions from listeners that it was banned on the radio due to the lyrics that so graphically described images of the dead. The prominence of “Strange Fruit” elevated and focused attention on the protest song, opening doors for future musicians to explore this form of activism across genres.

Strange Fruit – Billie Holiday. Image description: the artist is singing towards a hanging mic, with a slight smile on her face.

A few years after “Strange Fruit” was released, Woody Guthrie wrote a song that encapsulated the experience of the working class in Dust Bowl America. “This Land is Your Land” (1951) included lyrics about how the beauty of the U.S. was owned by no one, a direct challenge to the narrative spun in “God Bless America” at a time when the disparity between the poor and wealthy class was so great. Guthrie’s song advocated for the working class though he did not fully acknowledge the colonization and land theft that had decimated Native populations. That said, this song was significant in being one of the first folk tunes that inspired many in the 60s and 70s. Folk music was a popular genre for these messages as it was widely appreciated by the working class, students, and others.

Civil Changes Required Changes in Tune

Sam Cooke, inspired by Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In the Wind,” wrote the soulful tune “A Change Is Gonna Come.” The lyrics expressed a hope for the future for Black people who still in 1964 were facing discrimiation across the country. His words were echoed by Barack Obama in 2008 after he was inaugurated as the first Black president of the United States when he said, “It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, change has come to America.”

A Change is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke. Image description: the song title and artist are in large bolded letters

Protest songs in the 1970’s shifted towards expressions of outrage alongside hope.. In 1970, after watching coverage of the Kent State Shootings, Neil Young wrote the lyrics to “Ohio,” spilling out lyrics that shouted outrage and shock at the injustice. Inspired by the bold and unapologetic lyrics, calling out the then president Nixon, students across the country stood together and marched against the tyrannical event, ultimately closing down some universities. 

Music for the Future

In response to current systemic racism, Black artists across the U.S. have released songs to express pain and outrage, bring joy and hope, and lift the veil of ignorance surrounding police brutality. For some of these recent works, artists are bolstering their message’s impact through the use of visual media, such as in Childish Gambino’s music video for “This is America” and Beyoncé’s visual albums “Lemonade” and “Black is King.” 

Throughout history, protest songs have unveiled and confronted oppression. They have also been a source of inspiration, solidarity, joy, and healing. Social movements require space for both and as they evolve and form, it is undoubtable that music will remain a rallying cry for justice. For these protest songs and more, check out our curated playlist below!

5 Minutes to Calm Through Breath & Music

Nurturing our physical, emotional, spiritual, and communal health is as important as ever.

And yet, many of us are finding it harder and harder to keep up with our self-care. Both deep breathing and music listening promote physiological relaxation by lowering your heart rate, cortisol levels, and blood pressure. Additionally, music listening distracts from pain or negative thought cycles, offers an aesthetic experience, and connects us to our inner world. Incorporating music with deep breathing is a simple way to relax, destress, and create space for a daily mindfulness routine.

So what kind of music should I use?

It’s widely accepted in music psychology that the best music for relaxation is your music! However, we do have a few tips and suggestions to get you started.

Stable and predictable music will help you feel safe and relax into the moment. Listen to “Sleep 2” by Sigur Ros for an example of a song with a consistent pace, volume, and energy level:

Calm, light mood: your selection doesn’t need to sound happy or upbeat, but it’s important to choose something that will leave you feeling good. J.S. Bach’s “Air in D Major” has withstood the test of time in putting people into a state of ease:

Listen to warm, soothing instruments. This varies from person to person, but many people enjoy the sound of wooden flute, harp, violin, cello, piano, or voice. Listen to the shakuhachi, a traditional Japanese flute for one example.

Again, no song is a one-size-fits-all. Find music that considers your cultural context, personal preferences, and past associations. We’ve compiled a Spotify playlist with some of our favorites to get you started!

Okay, I settled on my music. Now what should I do?

There are many ways to incorporate deep breathing with music and it’s important to find the right one for you. To start, find an uninterrupted spot, with gentle lighting, and get into a comfortable position, whether seated or lying down. Review the following instructions and consider them while listening and breathing deeply, closing your eyes if comfortable.

. . .Start by noticing the qualities of your breath, breathing in and out. . .
. . .Breathe in for four, hold for seven, and breathe out for eight. . .
(Alternately, breathe in for three, out for six 
breathe in for seven, out for eleven)
. . .Start to notice the muscles in your head–at the top of your skull, your eyes, your ears, your jaw. Breathe in to invite relaxation and breathe out to release tension. . .
. . .Repeat the above process for your neck, shoulders, arms. . .all the way down to your feet.
. . .If your mind wanders, that is okay. Notice, and come back to counting your breath.

You can practice the above exercise for whatever length of time suits you. Whether it’s one, five, or thirty minutes, you will soon begin to feel more grounded and relaxed than you started. Incorporating deep breathing and music in your daily practice is a simple way to reduce stress, distract from pain, and move into the rest of your day refreshed!

The Good and the Growth: a Music Therapy Internship during the Global Pandemic

Chloe (left) is sitting down; she is looking towards a harp (approximately 5 ft tall) is leaning against her. Both of her hands are plucking the strings. Katie (right) is sitting down and looking down at a large drum (approximately 3 ft in diameter) in front of her. She is playing it with a mallet.

Our internship journey started as expected, with both the nervousness of taking on a new role and hope about becoming a professional music therapist. We were beginning to feel grounded as intern music therapists when everything changed rapidly…by mid-March, all of our sessions were suspended and we were quarantining at home. Little by little, we were coming to terms with postponing our internship, when we were invited to continue by delivering music therapy…virtually?! We were just learning how to practice music therapy in person! Can this actually teach us how to be music therapists?!

Despite feeling uncertain, we moved forward, setting up our spaces and experimenting with sound quality. We even spent a day building our own backdrops; Katie’s was made out of posterboard and tape and Chloe’s out of PVC pipe and a curtain she found around her house!

This photograph is a screenshot of a Zoom call on two different screens. Chloe (left) is sitting in front of a polka-dotted curtain. Katie (right) is sitting in front of posterboard taped together with a flower decal. Both are smiling at the camera.

Within two weeks, we booked our first client virtually, and we weren’t sure how virtual music therapy would feel, especially with playing music with a time delay. In our first week back, we learned we could actually play music in many similar ways as to in-person sessions! We moved forward with a bit more hope, but also knew there was a long way to go. Over the next two months, we felt more comfortable with each session. Finally, we were ready to move out of survival mode and into a headspace that allowed for growth again.

One of the main highlights in our virtual music therapy internship has been the simple joy of seeing our clients and making music with them, as well as working with clients we wouldn’t have been able to in-person. Chloe’s favorite part of virtual music therapy is how authentic the music still feels, even when playing across the screen. Katie had an amazing experience singing hymns and spirituals with a client, making spiritual connections that felt wholesome even through a screen. Each Friday, we close our week out with a dance party session, where everyone is encouraged to let loose and find good energy for the weekend!

This photograph is a screenshot of a Zoom call on two different screens. Katie (left) is smiling and leaning back while playing ‘air violin.’ Chloe (right) is smiling and looking forward, with her hands pressing outwards.

Through all of the challenges of adapting to virtual sessions, we’ve experienced some exciting new benefits with using technology, and especially the screen share feature, including: more music tech compositions, Zoom chatting, musical games, and visual sharing, such as an image off of Google. One client of ours even writes songs with emojis!

This image is from the Arpeggios app on Google Chrome Music Lab (found at https://musiclab.chromeexperiments.com/Arpeggios/). There is a large circle on the screen with two layers to demonstrate the major and minor circle of fifths; the first layer is divided into 12 sections (clockwise C, G, D, A, E, B, F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, F), the second is also divided into 12 sections (clockwise a, e, b, f#, c#, g#, d#, a#, f, c, g, d). In the middle is a ‘pause’ button. There is a harp symbol in the bottom left, a metronome in the bottom right, and arrows on top. Above this image is a series of steps in different colors. It is being ‘played’ and there is a cursor in the middle of the notes (steps).

Transitioning from in-person to telehealth halfway through the internship posed many challenges and fears. One of our biggest concerns was whether we could gain the skills we needed to become professional music therapists with most of our internship occuring virtually. As we get ready to leave this internship, we will take with us a stronger sense of creativity, flexibility, adaptability, and resiliency. We are grateful to have learned within a supportive team, with great supervisors helping us along the way. While this experience didn’t turn out how we originally anticipated, we do trust that it has still provided us with what we need to enter the world as professional music therapists.

Connecting Across the Country: A Virtual Music Therapy Session Reenactment

If you’re wondering what a virtual music therapy session might entail, search no further! Just as before, our clients participate by singing, dancing, playing instruments, writing songs, relating songs back to their personal experiences, and listening to music.

For more, check out this session reenactment, designed to connect Brenda*, a 77 year old woman isolated in a memory care home in Portland, and her daughter Madison who lives on the east coast.

Image description: A Zoom call with three people calling in from their homes. Madison (top left) and Brenda (top right) are smiling . The music therapist is on the bottom of the screen, playing a guitar.

Riley, board certified music therapist, initiates the call. Brenda calls in with staff assistance and her daughter Madison joins from her home. They smile and wave at each other and jump right into “Oh! What a Beautiful Morning.” During the song, Riley asks what makes each of their mornings ‘beautiful,’ with Brenda describing ‘the flowers outside,’ and Madison sharing a picture of her garden.

The group keeps warming up by singing a few classics: “Sentimental Journey” and “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Madison grabs a tin can to ‘drum along’ while Brenda dances to her beat!

Image description: Madison (top left) appears to be creating a beat using a pen to hit a tin can. Brenda (top right) is smiling. Riley, the music therapist (bottom), is playing the guitar and singing.

They sing “Home on the Range” and Madison talks about growing up in spacious coastal Oregon. The family fondly reminisces about their vacations along the coast flying kites, swimming in the cold water, and building sand castles. With Riley’s facilitation, they compile their memories into an original song called “Sweet Days With You.”

Image description: The three participants are stacked on the side of the screen. A word document takes up the majority of the screen. The document has lyrics which state: “Such sweet songs with you, my love / Swimming along the sea / Building castles and flying kites / It was just you and me / We didn’t know who was watching us / We just kept swimming along / And oh, did we shiver once we got in / But we swam along in song.”

Madison asks for a copy of the song and Riley notes to send her the lyrics and a recording later that day. The session wraps up with a few deep breaths of gratitude. Brenda and her daughter share about their plans for the rest of the day and set up a time to listen to the recording together later on in the week.

Image description: The three participants on the Zoom call are smiling and holding their hands to their heart.

*All names and anecdotes are fictional.

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 Northwest 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.