LIH Team with Country Roads Sign

As the first vibrant colors of the autumn season begin to pop up all around Southwestern Wisconsin, we adjust to the changes around us. While the weather changes, so does our wardrobe, and as we change our clocks back and the sun rises a bit earlier for those few weeks, we may have to wake up a bit earlier to take advantage of the sunlight, which never seems to stay long enough! Changes associated with aging can be similar to the leaves changing on the trees; these changes occur slowly over time and in varying degrees.

Music can be used as a tool for managing changes associated with aging and slowing the progression of some of these changes. Changes in the weather can bring about seasonal aches and pains with the fluctuation of air pressure and temperature, and along with it, a reminder that staying active is important to maintaining physical health, flexibility, and mobility. Select preferred music to create a playlist to support some daily, light exercise. Start with selections with a slower tempo for warm-ups, and gradually increase tempo to match the highest intensity of exercise performed. Even supplementing a walk with a steady beat can provide motivation to walk just a bit faster and for a longer duration. Our bodies will naturally entrain to an external beat so music that matches the desired speed of exercise can be a goal to work toward.  Just be mindful that the tempo is not too fast as this can increase risk for falling.

Changes in circadian rhythms and sleep patterns are common during the aging process. Music can be utilized as a sleep aid by creating a playlist to support a slowing of respiration and heart rate. Tempo of the music should approximately match the individual’s current rate of respiration, and then gradually slow. Music can be burned to a CD, played through headphones, or selected through a music streaming service and set to an appropriate station.

Some older adults begin to notice a weakening of the voice or reduced breath support throughout the aging process. Singing naturally supports deep, diaphragmatic breaths. Similar breathing patterns to that of singing can be used when speaking to support a healthy speaking voice. Breathe deeply, from the lower abdomen, and expel full breaths when speaking. Warm up your voice before speaking for longer periods of time by humming, which puts less stress on the vocal apparatus.

Seasons are inevitable and bring upon welcomed and unwelcomed changes.  Music may help tolerate these changes and bring out the best in each season of the year, or also of your own life.  Some of our favorite songs of the current season are “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash, “Turn, Turn, Turn” by The Byrds, and “Country Roads” by John Denver.  What are your favorite songs that remind you of autumn or fall?  How do you use music to stay positive, energized, and engaged when you become discouraged by the changes you see in the weather; or possibly the changes you see in yourself, your spouse, your parent, or a loved one?

“But now the days grow short, I’m in the autumn of the year

And now I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs

From the brim to the dregs, it poured sweet and clear

It was a very good year.”

Lyrics from “It was a Very Good Year” by Frank Sinatra

~ Andrea Halvorson, MA, MT-BC, WMTR

Happy 7th Birthday, LIH!

(A little belated due to getting our pictures together)

As I prepared for our first birthday celebration event since we opened in 2008, I found myself thinking “Do I have my math right?  Has it really been seven years?!”.  The thought process immediately took me back to sitting at my kitchen table, in my one bedroom apartment, pondering what to name my infant… business, that is.  I remember testing each potential business name out loud by saying, “Hi, this is Amy from ______”, only to laugh at some of the wild ideas my boyfriend (now husband) and I were coming up with.  I wish we saved a list of all of the potentials!  It seemed like such an impossible task and at the time, it didn’t even seem necessary!

I remember thinking “Do I really need a business name?  I only have one client and one contract.”… “What is an LLC?  I better find a lawyer.”… “What about a logo?  I’ll just make it on my own on Microsoft Word.”… “I did the service but now how do I make an invoice?”… “Oh, you want a brochure?!?  Great!  Let me put one in the mail for you (right after I make it!).”

In a way, seven years seems like yesterday when remembering back to all of those “firsts”; however, in other ways, it seems like a really long time!  We have some clients who’ve been with us for the entire journey and it is amazing to review the goals they have conquered during this time!  Luckily, they provide a visual reality check of how old LIH really is as I’ve seen one client transform from a two-year-old toddler to an almost nine-year-old boy!  What’s funny is I still have many tasks I’ve been meaning to do since day one!  Maybe they’ll be accomplished in the next seven years!

At the birthday party, one of the social workers who knew LIH in its infant state saw my red Kia Spectra 5 (hatchback/instrument hauler) and told her husband, “That’s where it all started!  She would drive that car to everyone’s house with tons of instruments inside”!  I loved hearing this comment because it instantly took me back to those beginning times.  When LIH was just starting out on the road to discovering the great need for music therapy in our area.  When we were just starting to dream BIG!  It reminded me of moving from being a home-based service to working out of a small office (which seemed huge at the time).  Then thinking of our most recent move to our bigger space which has now started to feel a little crammed as our team has expanded to five music therapists, an administrative assistant, and soon to be adding an office assistant.

Looking around at the birthday party, it was impossible to not think about the importance relationships have played over these seven years. Seeing that families took time out of their day to celebrate US made me realize how strong the therapeutic relationships are between music therapists and their clients (family members, too!).  I could hear what community sounded like in the laughter, chatting, and music being made.  I saw teamwork as I watched the LIH staff and volunteers going above and beyond to organize and execute the plans for the afternoon.  I saw my own family (and the family members of other staff members) there to support and help (as always)!

I saw my husband and immediate family there and thought of how strong LIH is because of their support. I saw my kids running around and realized how badly I want them to grow up respecting diversity and recognizing that “every bird has a song to be heard” (our theme for 2015).

One regret from the party is that I didn’t have time to get to know more of the individuals who I don’t work with directly.  I think the hardest realization over the past seven years has been accepting that my role has changed and not trying to fight this inevitable (and great but uncomfortable) transformation.  I have found it is very hard to balance the passion to do clinical work and the desire (and need) to lead the LIH team.  I do know that it is so much easier when you see your staff pour their heart and soul into their work where you feel excited to share with a new referral that their assigned therapist is not you, but instead an AMAZING music therapist who you know they will LOVE!  The past seven years has been a complete transformation from being a fresh graduate right out of my music therapy internship looking for my first job to being a board certified music therapist, a business owner, a wife, a mom, a director, and I guess you could say “the boss”.  So much has changed in the past seven years that it’s hard to identify how each role has impacted the others.  It is equally as hard to think of the change LIH has experienced and try to separate how each client, organization, social worker, parent, advocate, new staff member, etc. has impacted this change, however, I know each person has left a huge foot print.

While the past seven years has not necessarily resembled a newly paved road (like the hill on Hwy 33), it has been filled with abundant joy and blessings.  The struggles seem to have made LIH stronger and provided myself and the entire team an opportunity to focus on why we do what we do and how can we be sure to continue to serve others using the gifts we’ve been given to share.

I think I could reflect on the past seven years for another seven hours or more so I’ll wrap up with a short list of thank yous! (which could also go on and on and on!)

To the individuals and organizations who support and utilize the work we do, THANK YOU!  To the community organizations who provide grant funds that can be used towards music therapy… THANK YOU!  To the individuals who travel near and far to receive our services, THANK YOU!  To everyone who has shared their music therapy success story with others, THANK YOU!  To the social workers, medical providers, case managers, educators, parents, and other individuals who send us amazing referrals, THANK YOU!  To the social workers and case managers who go above and beyond to help us coordinate services, THANK YOU!  To the individuals who have volunteer their time at LIH, THANK YOU!  To the network of music therapists across the US and World who give their all every day to grow awareness for our profession, THANK YOU!  To the talented team of music therapists who moved to the Coulee Region to join the LIH Family, THANK YOU! To our immediate family members who believe in us and encourage us to chase our dreams, THANK YOU! And last but not least… to everyone celebrated with us, THANK YOU!!!!!

With great appreciation,
Amy Schaack