Monday, July 11, 2011

Be Well, Feel Good, and Make MUSIC!

The coolest thing about music is the people you meet through it and thanks to social networks (in this case Twitter), cool people are more accessible, 'closer',and  easier to learn about than ever.

Meet Kat Fulton.  She is a music therapist, drum circle facilitator, and the primary manager and therapist for Sound Health Music.  She's also the author of the blog 'Rhythm for Good' where she writes about music therapy, drumming, and wellness.  She also makes cool DVD's and fun videos and her motto is 'Be well, feel good, and make MUSIC!'

How could we not contact her?

We asked Kat to shed some light on her history, her daily activities, and some of the ways she uses technology in her field. Enjoy!

What instruments do you play?   My primary instrument is piano. I have a Bachelors degree in piano performance and music theory. But since grad school I've learned how to play the guitar and how to sing confidently in front of people. (I actually surprised myself with the latter, apparently, I can carry a tune!)

When did you start music training? I started banging on a piano when I was 5. My mother and sister tried to tame me into playing duets and listening. I began 'proper lessons' at age 8.

What is education background? I have a Bachelors degree in piano performance and music theory. I also have a Masters degree in music therapy.

Were you always interested in the medical use of music? My interest was piqued when I attended Florida State University for grad school. My professor there is an expert researcher in using music therapy for infants in an intensive care unit. When I first took on clinical hours at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, and I swaddled a tiny little baby for the first time, I knew that music therapy was my destiny and path for life. 

And now you work with children as well as adults and seniors, how receptive are these groups to music therapy?  The Sound Health Music therapists work with children at camps, early intervention programs, and corporate team-building. In fact, we are working with a team of 60 engineers this week!

Older adults do respond very well to music therapy. Every day something jaw-dropping happens. A resident with Alzheimer's may not be able to say their own name, but they can sing all the words or dance to 'Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue'. When a family member is comforted by watching their loved one become animated and engaged, or soothed and relaxed, it simply fills my soul with happiness.

I was working with a large group of 30 residents at a skilled nursing home. There was one resident Betty who had severe arthritis and very limited mobility in her entire body. She never clapped her hands, or tapped her toes in my sessions because she simply couldn't. BUT she could slowly move her lips to form words. One day I decided to play a song with the residents that included solos. I gave each resident a different instrument to play (shakers, scrapers, woods, metals, drums). Because of her very limited mobility, I used a bell with a Velcro strap to place around her wrist. I wasn't sure she would be able to make any sound, but we could try. If not, then I would gently use hand-over-hand assistance to help her play the solo.

We played and sang Blue Suede Shoes, with repetitions of the chorus and rhythm guitar to frame each solo. For each solo, all the residents became quiet so that the soloist could come through loud and clear with his/her unique contribution to the musical piece. When it came time for Betty to take a solo, I sang "Let's hear it Betty! Play play those bells for us!" She turned towards me slowly, and it probably took about 10 seconds for her to form the most beautiful big smile. Then she wiggled her wrist as fast as she could to make those bells jingle! It was like the clouds opening up to see the heavens. All the residents whooped and hollered, cheering Betty on as if she were scoring the winning run in a baseball game. It was magical. I had never seen Betty so happy before. Sometimes, my clients amaze me so much, it's hard to hold my happy, proud tears back.
Are there new therapies and ideas in your industry? Research is consistently being done at some of the 75 colleges and universities that offer music therapy as a degree program. The field of music therapy as we know it today dates back to the 40s and research in the medical setting has really boomed over the past 20 years. We're finding new ways to help our clients year after year.
How do you use social media in music therapy? I use social media as a means to share information with colleagues, educate the general public, and connect with professionals in the healthcare industry. The initial purpose of my blog was to educate the public, then I realized that I was connecting with more music therapists than random internet users. Now I use social media and the blog to share, educate, and connect. Music therapists are regularly using iPad and iPhone apps, GarageBand, and other music software to assist clients in writing music, improvising, mixing... all for the purpose of achieving therapeutic goals. Social media and technology: It's a beautiful thing.
We agree - thanks for sharing Kat!
To learn more about Kat visit Rhythm for Good and be sure to check out her cool new video Firework on Boomwhackers.