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Sing! Sing! Sing! Voice Saving Tips
By Emilia, MT-BC
7/2/2015 2:30:00 PM  

save singing voice“You mean a professional singer has to take voice lessons?” This was a question asked of me not long ago. My response to that question is this, “Even a major leaguer has to go to batting practice.” Just because I get paid to do something, does not mean I am perfect at it. In fact, I think that because I am paid to do something is all the more reason to make sure I am as accomplished at it as possible.

I have been singing as long as I can remember. It started off on long car trips with my family when my mom taught my brother and I how to sing and harmonize with such songs as “Zum Gali Gali” and “Down By the Old Mill Stream”. It then progressed to singing in church and at nursing homes around town. Then came choir in middle school and high school. Of course, singing continued to be my passion as I pursued a degree in music therapy. If ever I needed to re-center myself, I’d sit down with my guitar and sing my heart out for hours on end until I felt like me again.

I have been practicing music therapy for almost 8 years now. I have been here at West Music Company practicing for over 6 years. In my music therapy practice, I work with kids every day. I LOVE working with kids, but I find that my singing repertoire is not quite what it used to be. Instead of Broadway and folk tunes that I used to get solace from, I sing children’s songs. Don’t get me wrong, children’s songs are lovely, they are what get us inspired in music to begin with. But all day, every day, the same 3 chords, and the same 5 note range, and your voice gets a bit bored, even lazy.

I began noticing that I could not quite sing like I wanted when I would be asked to sing in front of people. That is, unless I had a guitar and a group of children. So, I decided that I needed some help before I lost all ability to really sing. I began with an amazing instructor at the beginning of the year. I immediately noticed a difference in my voice. I not only was starting to sound like the old me, I was sounding better than the old me. I was amazed at what relearning proper techniques, and even some new ones, was able to do for my voice after nearly a decade of not taking lessons.

I have learned to love singing again!

Some voice saving tips:

  • Drink plenty of water and avoid things such as caffeine and alcohol (or at least limit intake)
  • Relax. If you feel strain in your throat while singing/speaking, you are probably doing some damage
  • Do not yell/scream. You can control the volume of your voice through the amount and speed of the air you use. If you are at a sporting event and need to make noise, learn to whistle or bring along a cowbell!
  • Don't force it. If you are feeling sick or overly-tired, do not force the sound out. We all have days that we need to just rest our voices. Use written communication when possible.
  • Stretch. If you are giving a speech or going to sing, warm up first!
  • Do not gasp. You do not need to take a breath as though it were your last. Your body will naturally get air to replenish its supply, and if you stand with correct posture, it will get enough to last you.
  • Rest up. Getting enough sleep will not only help your voice, but your overall health. Turn off the TV an extra 30 minutes each night to get that full 8 hours of sleep you deserve!

Tags: Voice Tips, Music Therapy Tips, Voice Saving Tips
Categories: Music Therapy
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Emilia's Recommendations - Music Therapy Awareness Week
By Emilia, MT-BC
2/27/2012 10:39:00 AM  

We're proud to announce our participation in Music Therapy Awareness Week February 27 to March 2, 2012.  Music Therapy Awareness Week is intended to help educate the public how music therapy can benefit individuals in a wide variety of circumstances or settings.

We'll be celebrating the week by:

  • Offering community presentations about the benefits and value of music therapy
  • Highlighting the 12 full-time music therapists on staff at West Music locations
  • Showcasing products designed for music therapists and the therapy setting
  • Sharing daily blog posts from the staff therapists
  • Offering special sales opportunities on music therapy products at West Music locations and on www.westmusic.com

In this installment, Emilia Deem--music therapist at West Music Quad Cities--lets us in on her favorite instruments and products for her music therapy curriculum:

Remo Pre-Tuned Ocean Drums, Fish Graphic 

Remo Pre-Tuned Ocean Drums, Fish Graphic

  • From Emilia: "I love this drum because it's “cool”. It gets peoples’ attention and I like to spark a conversation talking about why it is called an ocean drum. Kids especially are very motivated to play this drum."

    • 2.5" depth
    • Pre-tuned
    • Includes mallet
    • Fish Graphic


     Latin Percussion LP234-BK Black Mini Cabasa

    Latin Percussion LP234-BK Black Mini Cabasa

    • From Emilia: "I like this cabasa because it is different than what many clients have seen before, so it’s more interesting to them. The beads on this are a perfect size and distance from the lip so that you get wonderful sensory input from this instrument without having to push too hard."

      • Small cabasa - metal beads, with black plastic handle & sides
      • Designed to create rhythmic scraping sounds and patterns
      • Small size & light weight make this perfect for children
      • Approx. 6" long (handle - 3-3/4") x 2-5/8" wide
      • Weight not quite 1/2 pound.



      We believe in the therapeutic value and benefits of music for all people. We're dedicated to enhancing the lives of all clients through successful musical experiences that address specific needs with respect and dignity. Our music therapy services currently provide support and services to more than 500 clients weekly in a wide variety of settings including West Music studios, school systems, hospice, and private homes. Music Therapy Services available through us include one to one individual therapy, small group therapy (3-6 people), large group therapy (6-12 people), recreational music classes and adaptive music lessons.

      For more information about our music therapy services, please contact Kelly Carlson, MA, MT-BC, Director of Music Therapy Services at West Music, at 563-940-9567.

      Tags: Music Therapy Awareness Week, music therapy instruments, music therapy products
      Categories: Music Therapy
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      Thinking On Your Feet
      By Emilia, MT-BC
      7/18/2011 9:19:00 AM  

      Recently I arrived to a session my usual 10 minutes early.  I like to be early not only to have set up time, but to have allowed myself time in case of traffic jams or any other unforeseeable hang-ups that might cause me to be late to a session.  As I unloaded my trunk I realized I had my guitar, my documentation sheets, an ocean drum that I had brought along with me for the day.  That was it.  Where was my instrument bag?  How was I going to survive three sessions with no instruments?

      I got back into my car to check the time; it was now 5 minutes before my session was to begin.  My office was a 5 minute drive from my session, plus parking time, plus time to go down to the office, back up, and another 5 minutes back.  Let’s see, that would put me at 10 minutes behind schedule.  If you know me at all, you know that I am a pretty relaxed person until it comes to arriving on time.  I actually have pretty bad anxiety when I am running late. 

      I realized that in order to not have an anxiety attack by starting 10 minutes late with all of my gear, I was going to have to be an experienced music therapist and do the session on time, on the fly, and without my instruments.  My mind immediately went into “emergency session planning” mode and I did a mental inventory of what I had on me. Guitar, a few visuals for song choices, conversation cards, and an ocean drum.  This had to last me two 15-minute sessions and one 30-minute group session.  I thought to myself “I can do this.

      My first session went off without a hitch.  That particular client uses a communication device to request songs/instruments.  Luckily for me he prefers to sit and just listen, so he only picked songs.  Good enough, he satisfied his goal to make requests using his communication device.  One down, two to go.  The second session went fairly well.  I gave her my picture cards that have songs on them to work on her goal for requesting.  Five requests later and I realized that we needed to work on following directions.  We did the song “If You’re Happy And You Know It” (she’s young enough) and I told her what actions I wanted her to do to have her “practice” before each verse.  OK, four of four directions met.  Session two done.  One more.  The group.

      I got my clients seated and finished the “Hello Song” (thankfully since it was a group, this took longer).  I then said that it was going to be Client A’s turn to pick a song.  Thank goodness he picked a long one! After we all sang the song we got out my conversation cards that I luckily had with me.  We did “The Conversation Song” by Coleman/Dacus  by placing the conversation cards face down and making a game out of it.  After we finished several rounds of that we moved on to some body percussion.  The kids really got into that and even took a few turns creating their own body percussion patterns.  We then moved on to the only instrument I happened to bring, the ocean drum.  Hooray for an instrument so captivating that kids don’t mind waiting for their turn to play! Client B then got to pick a song for the group to sing.  Another long song and we had filled 30 minutes!

      It was nice having a day to challenge my improvisation skills as a therapist, but I think next time I’ll try to plan for that rather than surprising myself like I did.

      Tags: Improvisation, Thinking on Your Feet, Music Therapy
      Categories: Music Therapy
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      Music During Childbirth
      By Emilia, MT-BC
      5/10/2011 11:18:00 AM  

      I recently gave birth to our first child.  As a music therapist I of course I had music going in the background during labor and delivery.  In fact, I had just finished my labor playlist for my iPod earlier in the week.

      Though I have no training in formal Music Assisted Childbirth (for more information on SoundBirthing please contact Mary DiCamillo, Ed.D., MT-BC at 949-459-0805 or mpd@cox.net) I used my knowledge as a music therapist to guess what kinds of music and what songs in particular that I would want to hear while in pain, while tired, and while needing extra motivation.

      When I got checked into the hospital, one of the first things I did was set up the iPod.  The playlist was completely set to random, so keep that in mind later in the story that I had not planned which songs I would hear at specific moments. 

      Throughout early labor and into active labor the music I had going provided both a relaxing environment as well as some good distraction.  Such songs as Calico Skies (Paul McCartney), Three Little Birds (Bob Marley), and a variety of songs from our wedding played, just as nice reminders as to why we were there.  As I was in VERY active labor, and the pain was getting to be a bit more than one wants to feel, I was in the big tub soaking in warm water with my 3 wonderful assistants.  I was tired and just wanted a break.  At that moment, I once again heard the music playing in the background and the Dixie Chicks song "Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)" came on.  It's such a pretty lullaby, but at that point I was in too much pain to sing along, but ever the music therapist I was able to mouth the words along and found comfort in that.

      As the moment that we would meet our daughter (of course we didn't know at that point that she was a girl) got closer I literally thought I was going to die from the pain.  At one point I even said, "I don't care, hit me over the head with a hammer."  Just a few pushes before she made her arrival, I once again heard the music playing.  At this point, I hadn't heard the music in a long time, I thought that the playlist must have ended.  There was just so much chaos in the room and I was in so much pain that I just hadn't heard it or something (next time I will make sure I turn the volume up higher).  But moments before she was born the music made its way back to me.  This time it was one of my very favorite songs in the world, one that my brother introduced me to years ago before it became "popular".  The song was "Hallelujah" and it was my favorite recording of it by Jeff Buckley.  I felt this incredible sense of peace come over me and it was the most religious/spiritual moment I've had in my entire life.  I got lost in the peace of the song and the beauty of its melody and lyrics and momentarily forgot about all the pain.  I was about to meet my child.  Let me just add that the name of the CD this particular recording is on is "Grace".  Remember, at that point I had no idea that it was going to be a girl coming to meet us as we had chosen to be surprised by the gender, but we did have the names picked out, and her middle name that we had chosen happened to be Grace.

      Moments later, my beautiful baby girl entered this world through her Daddy's strong and gentle hands and we were a family.  

      In the end, the pain was worth it, and I had the support of people far and near, with me physically and spiritually, those who are still with us hear on earth and those who have gone on before us.  And yet again the music played such a powerful role that day, just as it had played a powerful role on the day of our wedding.

      Tags: Music Therapy, Child Birth, Music Therapist, Importance of Music, Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley, iPod, Paul McCartney
      Categories: Music Therapy
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