Rainbows in Music Therapy

rainbow colors in MT

It goes without saying that personal connections, maximizing potential, and enhancing life quality are the focus of music therapy, and that each individual has distinct challenges, interests, music preferences, and therapeutic targets. Although I recognize “activities” are not the primary focus in music therapy, I do plan a basic core of music experiences for each week, usually around a central theme, for my individual and group therapy sessions with MT friends of all ages in a variety of settings. Because of St. Patty’s day and spring thunderstorm season in our corner of the world, the music therapy theme this week was rainbows. Here are four well-received applications of music in therapy:

(1) OVER THE RAINBOW. This popular, readily recognizable song can be sung and/or played  on piano, keyboard, xylophone, tone bells, or in a bell choir using traditional notation, letter cued melody line, or pointing cues. The song sheet leaves room for people to create their own rainbow with crayons, colored chalk, or water colors. I was THRILLED when an 8-yr-old with limited academic abilities informed me this week my rainbow colors were in the wrong order – she had learned the ROYGBV order in science the day before.

(2) MAGIC! I put flowing, brightly colored scarves from Oriental Trading Company in a large canvas bag, then show younger friends my “magic trick” where they name a color, and, with much fanfare, I magically pull that color from the bag. Kids love “hiding” under their large, gauzy scarves, and they enjoy swirling the scarves – up, down, round, figure-8 – in coordinated unison or improvising while I sing a song about colors and rainbows, inserting their names and colors. Because scarves are so much easier to catch than balls, we play “toss and catch” with partners or toss up high, watching them float slowly to the ground.

(3) BOOKS! Although some of my music therapy friends have limited vision or show no interest in books, most are intrigued with Chuck Murphy’s “Color Surprises” pop-up book and with Eric Carle’s “Let’s Paint a Rainbow.” Both are clever and visually attractive, making them appealing to all ages. One of my life-skills teacher colleagues introduced me to an awesome book by Karen Beaumont – “I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More” based on the catchy folk tune “Ain’t Gonna Rain No More.” I sing the whole thing, including the intro page, and have adapted the book’s lyrics slightly to encourage singing along and/or to cue percussion instruments playing on selected repetitive lyrics. This song book will not doubt make my MT Top Ten Requests list.

(4) SCIENCE. We talked about sun & rain as key components of rainbows, and used prisms and flashlights to create our own rainbows. I showed some pictures I’ve taken of rainbows, providing a catalyst for MT friends who can talk to share some stories about seeing rainbows. One kid spoke volumes as he kept pointing at a rainbow in a picture and saying, “Grandma.”