The coolest thing about being a music therapy major at Naz is how early we get to start clinical experience! While we don’t actually start hands-on clinical work until junior year, as a first semester sophomore I began my PreClinic Experience which involved song-leading in a preschool and at a nursing home. This experience taught me so much about altering repertoire to fit different populations and how to interact with clients! Here I my top 5 education takeaways from this experience:
1. Don’t underestimate preschoolers: They’re smarter than they look, and they can and will mess with you. When you ask them to suggest animals for Old MacDonald, they will say things like “butt.” If you don’t call on them during a song, some of them WILL cry, keep singing and ignore them, they have like a five second rebound time. They are not afraid to touch you–at one point a small child crawled across the floor to where I was sitting to play with my leg hair that was sticking out of the bottom of my dress pants. You can’t make this stuff up folks!
2. Don’t save learning your repertoire for the last minute: Why yes, you’re right…preschool and folk songs DO all use the same four chords. This does not mean they all happen in the same order, this does not mean you won’t have to sing a thousand different words over those four chords, and this does not in any way mean you will be able to learn all your rep the night before your sing along. I’ve been there, and I don’t plan on going back. Don’t do it folks, for real!
3. Elderly people are still people: Shocking, I know. Their life switch is still pretty securely in the “on” position. We had this one woman in our group who sang like super loud, and when I say sang…I mean SANG. Harmonies, adding suspensions, the whole shebang. After one of our sessions, a girl in my preclinic group asked her, “Did you used to be a singer?” The woman’s reaction could have inspired fear in a Spartan warrior. “I’m still a singer.” This was a really poignant moment in my preclinic experience because it really highlighted the weird stigma surrounding nursing homes in our society. (Go watch the documentary Alive Inside, you’ll see what I’m talking about.)
4. Learn to love the music: Yes, I know, singing You Are My Sunshine, and Down By The Bay every week over and over can get really monotonous, but if you don’t enjoy your work, the kids won’t enjoy it either. Be animated, be caring, and connect with the kids. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing how much the kids love seeing you come back every week.
5. The elderly REALLY know their music: If you play a misplaced chord, or sing a different word than what they know, they will notice, and they will call you out on it. Your Get America Singing Book is your best friend, and your Bible. Memorize! Memorize! Memorize! And do not disappoint those old folks because the last think you want is an 85 year old singer telling you you sang the melody wrong in Over the Rainbow in front of a room full of people, trust me, I speak from experience.