Accessible Music for All

What do you do if you have a music therapy group with extremely diverse music skills? It is up to you as a music therapist to adapt, compose, arrange, rearrange, or otherwise help every group member participate on some level. For example, in a high school life skills class, the group ensemble recently included (1) a student playing color-cued one-finger chords on an electric guitar with the two bass strings removed, (2) a student playing a simple ostinato on a trap set, (3) a student playing pre-programmed rhythmic chords on a keyboard using color cues, (4) a student playing a simplified pattern on an electric bass, and (5) a student playing  wooden maracas. The maraca student had limited skills, but seemed to enjoy joining in the group. She was not aware of the fact that most of the beads had been removed from the maracas, so her “overly-enthusiastic” playing didn’t distract from the ensemble. This Pop Combo accompanied the lead singer who actually spoke the words to “Rock Around the Clock” rhythmically since he was not able to match pitches and had a very limited vocal range. The resulting performance was video-taped for the end-of-the-year party. Not only did everyone enjoy watching the video, but the combo members learned about cooperation, team-work, compliance, and focusing on the task at hand while at the same time practicing fine motor skills and visual tracking skills.