Practice makes Perfect
Music Therapist Noreen Donnell (BA’86, BMT ’88, MMT ’03) has released a CD collection of clinical music for children through blueballoon Health Services, the result of a professional partnership that began ten years ago and with approvals from the children with whom she has worked.
Donnell and speech-language pathologist, Kim Kearns-Pace, co-founded Music Express, a music-based group intervention program that combines music therapy and speech/language pathology to improve communication skills in children. Donnell initially used familiar songs with altered lyrics, when working with children in this programme. As the programme grew and developed, she began using original music with lyrics created by Kearns-Pace; Singalingalong is a selection of the best songs from a decade’s worth of practice. In the liner notes, Donnell writes, “As the program evolved, it became natural to create our own music, tailor-made for each child’s speech, language, or communication goals. Composition of original music by pediatric music therapists ensured that the children were exposed to musically rich and complex pieces.”
Although originally intended for children with communication challenges, the songs on the CD appeal to all children, from infants to teenagers. Originally, the recording was marketed just to teachers and clinicians but demand for it is growing as word spreads because, Donnell says, “Good music is good music, enjoyable for everyone.”
The selections are entertaining yet instructive in different ways. One song focuses on how to take turns while another promotes body awareness, and the CD offers a mix of genre, including pop ballads, African, Calypso, and Country and Western. As well, all but one of the musicians and composers involved in the recording are Laurier music therapy grads, including Adrienne Pringle, Robert Harris, Anne Faye, Sara Varvas Klinck, Michelle LePage Robinson, and Linda Chan. Donnell says “The training I received at Laurier focused on clinical improvisation, and many of these songs started as seeds of improvised music – music offered in response to a child in the moment.”
Donnell confirms that, unlike most recordings for children, Singalingalong is well-tested: “None of the songs were written in isolation of the child. These songs are rooted in a specific intention and purpose, for example, to motivate interaction and stimulate a response. Some children’s music talks down to the child and simply isn’t enjoyable to parents. We’ve created high quality music, with complex rhythms, and interesting melodies.”
Donnell also asserts her good intentions are being rewarded. “Some songs we’ve used over the years didn’t make the cut because we knew they just didn’t work as well as others. What we have now has been approved by the most honest of critics – the children.”
Singalingalong can be purchased at the blueballoon website by clicking here.