A Golden Moment


Not long ago I had a gentleman join one of my memory care groups. We can call him “John.” For the first few weeks that I saw him, John sat on the periphery of the group and declined invitations to join in. One day he was wearing an Oregon Bach Festival t-shirt, so I naturally struck up a conversation with him. John was soft spoken and kind, and from that point on we bonded easily over our mutual love for baroque music. When I brought my flute to a session and played a sonata by Handel, he lit up. After that it took very little prompting for John to make himself comfortable in the group. He played maracas and sang along to Sinatra. One afternoon John’s wife came to visit and sat in on a music therapy session. She pulled me aside afterwards and said, “I haven’t seen him like that in a very long time. You’re the only one who can reach the real John.”


Working as music therapists gives us a special and unique perspective. We get the gift of seeing our clients in a light that is only possible through music. If you believe in magic, this is where it happens. I feel honored to be a part of it!

Song List Series – Classic Rock Songs with Vowels in the Chorus


This may seem like an oddly specific sub-genre, but music therapists often work with clients that have speech goals. Songs that have sustained or repeated vowels in the chorus can address breath control, word “shaping,” and even self-expression! Plus, in this day and age classic rock is an increasingly popular genre that reaches across generations.

“Who Are You” by The Who

“Jersey Girl” by Bruce Springsteen

“Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison

“Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi

“D’yer Mak’er” by Led Zeppelin

“Sweet Child of Mine” by Guns n Roses

“Take on Me” by a-ha

“Crocodile Rock” by Elton John

“Don’t Worry Be Happy” by  Bobby McFerrin

“Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin

“Obla Di Obla Da” by The Beatles

“Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood

“Listen to the Music” by Doobie Brothers

“Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin

“Judy Blue Eyes” by Crosby, Stills & Nash

Tune in next week for songs with great hooks!

Song List Series – Songs About Grief and Loss

Every so often a repertoire-related question pops up in a music therapy forum online. What follows is usually a flood of fantastic song suggestions. We thought, why not compile them? This week our theme is “Songs About Grief and Loss.”

  1. “Work Song” by Hozier
  2. “If I Ever Leave This World Alive” by Flogging Molly
  3. “St. Jude” by Florence + the Machine
  4. “Wanting Memories” by Sweet Honey in the Rock
  5. “Beam Me Up” by Pink
  6.  “Mark’s Song” by EastMountainSouth
  7. “When I See You Again” by Charlie Puth
  8. “Parting Glass” by Wailing Jennys
  9. “To Where You Are” by Josh Groban
  10. “Temporary” by John Bucchino
  11. “Brief Eternity” by Bobby McFerrin
  12. “Hey Kind Friend” by Indigo Girls
  13. “Through My Prayers” by Avett Brothers
  14. “In My Life” by The Beatles
  15. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Harold Arlen (Or Israel Kamakawiwo’ole)

We also highly recommend “Heart Strings Vol. 1”, which is an album written and performed by  Willamette Valley Hospice music therapists Jillian Hicks MA MT-BC, Jessica Western MT-BC & Ivan Caluya (Music Therapy intern). It features original music by the music therapists AND songs that were written and co-written by hospice patients. You can find more info –> HERE<–

Check back next week for another list! The theme is “Classic Rock.”


Earthtones Spotlight – Patricia Chang


Earthtones Intern Patricia Chang is the kind of person who you know is passionate about music therapy. Whether she’s sharing her latest awesome iPad app discovery or learning a boatload of new chords for a song, Patricia puts care into everything she does. She is always ready with an easy smile! We were glad to learn more about Patricia and her journey through her internship.

What drew you to music therapy?

Music therapy just sounds so wonderful. How can you not! Originally, I was studying psychology, but it was just not enough. I heard about music therapy when I was 16, and later learned more about the scientific aspects in one of my classes. But our school didn’t have the program. I had never heard of any school that had a music therapy program, until one day I was doing research on something that had nothing to do with music therapy. That led me to the AMTA roster of schools that offered a program.

What population do you work with? 

During my practicum and internship I have worked with babies 0-18 months, 3-5 year olds, teenagers with learning disabilities, adults with mental health needs, older adults with dementia, an individual with autism, assisted living facilities, an eight-year-old with Down Syndrome, adults with developmental disabilities, and an adult oncology unit.

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

[She laughs and frowns at me] All of them! I feel like it’s not so much about working with one population as it is working with these wonderful individuals.

Tell us about a typical day for you.

Wake up, check work email and my schedule, prep time, driving, session, driving, meeting, driving, session [laughs]. And maybe some practice here and there. After work, it would be session planning, progress notes, and learning new songs, learning sign language, customizing Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices.

What has surprised you the most about your internship?

My clients are full of surprises. No matter how much time I spend with them they can always bring, not just surprises but joy. One client is an example: We have 2 sessions a week and he’s surprising me every session! My client today waited so patiently while I tuned his guitar. Before he wasn’t okay with waiting, but now he really listens to the quality of the music. You could see how he was really listening, not just with guitar, but with autoharp, and recorder. He knew I was tuning his guitar so he could make beautiful music, so he was willing to wait. And the whole time he was still smiling! It’s just… I feel like I can never stop when I talk about him.

Who has influenced you?

Everyone has inspired me in some ways. My instructors, supervisors, peers, clients. In the music therapy world they taught me how to be a compassionate, mindful, patient, loving person. But outside of the music therapy world, there are always new perspectives to teach me to see things differently. For example, I went to a laughter yoga class. I asked the instructor about how her leadership has shaped her as an instructor. I learned from her that everybody has their own styles. I came to the realization that you change and find yourself overtime. You become like water and embrace your environment.

Or the other day I met this lady, just randomly on the road, and we started to talk. She was wearing a name tag from one of my sites. I’d never met her but I felt like I knew her. I felt like there was so much in her. She was very insightful and full of genuine wisdom and life experience. Just being around her I felt like there was so much to learn from her.

I’m also inspired by little humans! They are so joyful, genuine, and expressive. If they like you, they’ll tell you they like you. At the same time they’re so creative, and they help me see things differently. They have no limitations or fear.

Favorite genre of music? What’s your favorite song?

CHINESE POP! And New Age music. One of my favorite songs is Evolution Era by V.K.

Any advice for future interns?

Learn like a sponge! Soak in everything you can and have FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Words That Have Completely Different Meanings When You’re A Music Therapist

Words That Have Completely Different Meanings

Grounded – Growing up, being grounded used to be a bad thing. It was a punishment that meant you weren’t going anywhere any time soon. Now, being grounded means feeling centered, at ease, and present. If we tell you you’re grounded, take it as a compliment!

Positive*- In everyday speech, if something is positive it means it is a good thing. In therapy, “positive” just means something is added.

Negative*- On a similar note, negative does not necessarily mean bad, it just means something is taken away.

Affect- In our world, this word is a noun and not a verb. It doesn’t rhyme with effect and is pronounced “ah-ffect” (with the “ah” sounding like it does in the word “apple.”) It means someone’s outward demeanor.

Engagement- When we talk about someone’s engagement, we definitely don’t mean that they’ll be tying the knot any time soon! Instead, we mean that they are actively involved.

TBI, DD, AMTA, AAC, GIM etc etc – Part of being a music therapist is getting used to seeing and hearing acronyms everywhere. For the record, the above listed acronyms mean: Traumatic Brain Injury, Developmental Disability, American Music Therapy Association, Augmented & Alternative Communication, and Guided Imagery and Music.


*An extra note on “positive” and “negative” – In general we work to phrase things to be as objective as possible.  A smile does not always mean joy, and a frown does not always mean sadness. Unless a client tells us “I feel ___” directly, we use words to describe their actions rather than assuming we know their state of mind!

Springtime Fill-In-The-Blank

fill in the blank spring (1)

It’s a rainy day here in Portland, Oregon but we’re getting more and more days filled with sunshine and blooming flowers. Springtime is in full swing and summer is just around the corner! With that in mind, here are four spring/summer themed fill-in-the-blank songwriting activities that you can use in sessions:


1. Down in the Valley  – Addresses self-expression, creative musicking. Use the song “Down in the Valley” as a template. First invite clients to make the sound of the wind blowing. The way to do that can be open to interpretation, but I usually model blowing loudly or whistling. Once they are familiar with the format, invite clients to share what kind of things they hear in nature (Or present choices from a field of two), then cue them to make the sounds.
Down in the valley, the valley so low,
Hang your head over, hear ____________
Hear ________, dear, hear ______________.
Hang your head over, hear ____________.
I                                            V7
Down in the valley, the valley so low,
Hang your head over, hear the winds blow.
Hear the winds blow, dear, hear the winds blow.
Hang your head over, hear the winds blow.


2. What a Wonderful World – Addresses orientation to environment, encourages positive thinking. This song is beautiful all on its own, and it makes a lovely template for songwriting. Invite clients to share what they see around them, or to share what kinds of things they see during springtime.

I see _______, _________ too
I see _________ and ________
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

C             Em      F
I see trees of green, red roses too
Dm                C                 E7           Am
I see them bloom, for me and you
G#                         G7                                C
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
link to whole song here



3. When the Saints Go Marching In – addresses naming leisure activities, self-expression. This one comes to us from one of our interns. She says: “I like how it’s a familiar tune, so all populations can benefit from it.” Clients can either give spontaneous responses OR chose from a field of two (ex. fly a kite, have a picnic, grow a flower, skip a stone, go to the beach, go fishing). This song is versatile and can be adapted for any season! The lyrics, sung to the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In” are as follows:

Oh when it’s time, to ________
Oh when it’s time to _________
I         I7                IV                                                     iv (optional)
That’s how I know it’s [spring/summer/fall/winter]
I          V               I
When it’s time to ________

Oh when the saints, go marching in
Oh when the saints go marching in
I                                 I7                              IV               iv (optional)
Oh how I want to be in that number
I                                      V               I
When the saints go marching in

4. Down by the Riverside – addresses naming leisure activities; prompts reminiscence. This is another tune that usually works across populations. I have great memories of sitting around a fire with a few friends who are music therapists and having a ridiculously good time making up lyrics for this song. The prompt I like to use for my clients is, “If you went down to the river today, what would you be doing?”

I’m gonna _________________, down by the riverside
Down by the riverside, down by the riverside
I’m gonna __________________, down by the riverside
Studyin’ war no more

I’m gonna lay down my burden, down by the riverside
V7                                         I
Down by the riverside, down by the riverside
I’m gonna lay down my burden, down by the riverside
V7                            I
Studyin’ war no more



Hello and welcome to the official blog of Earthtones Music Therapy Services, LLC! We are a music therapy agency based out of Portland, Oregon. Our team includes music therapists, horticultural therapists, and art therapists. We serve populations in the Portland metro area, Vancouver WA, Salem, and Wilsonville.