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

A musical reflection on Father’s Day

The cards have been mailed, the phone calls have been made, the steaks have been grilled, and the messages of love and appreciation have been shared in so many ways.  Your day may have also been spent placing flowers on a gravesite or remembering an individual in a different way.  Despite whether this holiday stirs positive or negative emotions, there are many songs that bring your memories to life, giving you a soundtrack as you reflect and smile, cry, laugh, or maybe even experience feelings of anger or sadness.  There are songs about dads being role models and teachers, dads being heroes, dads fighting for our country, dads being “Mr. Mom”, and about being “Daddy’s Little Girl”.  There are songs that say “I miss you”, songs that talk about writing letters to heaven, and lyrics that pose the question “Where did you go?” or “Why?”.  Due to our neurologic response to music, memories are triggered by the songs we hear and this can directly impact our current mood state.  Thus, create a soundtrack of songs that remind you of an important individual in your life and share that list with your dad, grandpa, foster dad, etc.  If finding a positive song about Father’s Day is a challenge for you, start with a song that validates how you feel.  Start with a song that makes you cry or feel upset. It’s okay to feel this way… but try not to stay there, musically.  Place songs in a specific order to transition your mood from sadness/anger/bitterness to songs that bring you a feeling of acceptance, strength, or peace.

To all the men who who mentor, protect, counsel, provide, teach, and parent… “THANK YOU!”  Whether you are a dad, a grandpa, a soon-to-be-dad, a foster dad, a dad of an angel, a mentor, a significant other of a single mom, etc. we know that you have made an impact in so many ways!  We want to say “HAPPY FATHER’S DAY” to those close to our heart and to do so we each selected a song we would dedicate to our dad this Father’s Day.

My dad, James, is pretty spiffed up in this picture, but he usually has dirt, grease, and manure on his clothes! I'm dedicating the song,

“My dad, James, is pretty spiffed up in this picture, but he usually has dirt, grease, and manure on his clothes! I’m dedicating the song, “The Field Behind the Plow” by Stan Rogers to him this Father’s Day because it so clearly describes the faithful, dedicated service he has given and continues to give as a father, husband, friend, and farmer. I love you, Dad!” ~ Sarah Kolander, MT-BC

Happy Father's Day from Katherine, MT-BC

“For my Dad and I-music has always been our language. For years growing up, I borrowed CDs from his seemingly endless collection. As I got older, I started to burn CDs of songs I loved or recorded for him. It was our connection. The only thing stronger than our shared love of music is the courage and strength he instilled in me. I am my father’s girl.  So I dedicate “My Girl” by The Temptations in honor of every Father-Daughter dance we spun around to it at, every concert on the green we sang the words at, and every time it played on one of our CDs. Music is one of my great loves in this world and it took a truly loving father to show me the notes.  Love you, dad.” – Katherine Sherrill, MT-BC

“Even though my dad isn’t here to hug or call on the phone, I believe my love still reaches my dad and his love still reaches me.  I carry him with me every day in my thoughts, memories, decisions, choices, highs, and lows; thus, I want to dedicate the song “Never Alone” by Lady Antebellum and Jim Brickman to my dad, Kevin Oppriecht.  I recorded this song and put it on a CD for my mom and dad to give them hope during a time of unknowns in my dad’s battle with multiple myeloma.  I was never fully satisfied with this recording until just recently when my mom shared with me that my dad would would hear this song on the CD and would just start crying and then he would hit repeat.  My dad was always there to encourage me and to tell me he was proud of me and his presence in my life reassured me that I was never alone.  Ironically, after my dad passed away, I came across another song called “Never Alone” by Jesse Bonanno, and I feel like it’s his message back to me, reassuring me that he is with me, always, and that I am still never alone.  I find a lot of comfort in this song, especially on the days that seem to be difficult to get through. I dedicate my recording (you can play it below) of Lady A’s version of “Never Alone” to my dad and Jesse Bonanno’s “Never Alone” to anyone who is feeling sadness in the wake of Father’s Day. Until we meet again, Dad, I love you with all my heart… and keep sending me rainbows, sun dogs, deer, or whatever you want to send so I know you are with me!  I also wanted to wish a Happy Father’s Day to my husband, Bradley, who makes this day joyful again and one to celebrate!  The song “Good” by Dave Barnes always reminds me of the love you have for our family.” ~Amy Schaack, MT-BC

“I would like to dedicate the song “Desperado” by the Eagles to my dad. When people ask me about my job, about my love for music, or about my love for making music with others, they also frequently ask me from whom I developed my musical talents. My dad always encouraged me to pursue my passions; he has been there for every concert, recital, play, or any other production with which I have taken part. He also paid for a lot of lessons along the way! The Eagles are one of my dad’s favorite bands, and it is from his love of music that I was first introduced to making music of my own.” ~Andrea Halvorson, MT-BC

Summer Group Registration Now Open!

For more information about our summer groups please check out our registration form below!  Registration closing dates vary so register today to reserve your spot!  If you are an organization and would like to offer an advertised group at your facility, please contact LIH for facility group pricing and scheduling!

LIH Music Therapy Group Registration Form_ 2015 Series Summer

The groups advertised in the Summer Series Registration form are for music therapy groups.  If you are interested in music enrichment classes (not targeting functional goals) or beginning a music enrichment class at your facility, please contact LIH so we can add these to our offered services in the fall or begin helping you create your desired music experience!

Please contact us for more information regarding coverage for groups through programs such as IRIS, Family Care, Children’s Long Term Support Waiver, Family Support Program, Family Support Grant, and local grants (Children’s Miracle Network, La Crosse Area Autism Foundation, Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin).  Grant application forms can be found under the “Resources” tab on our website.

A Musical Reflection on Mother’s Day…

Did you ever pick up the phone and call Delilah or another radio host/station to dedicate a song to a special individual?  Did you ever go searching for a song that matched a celebration or heartache?  Have you ever thought about what song you would dedicate to your mother or another important female figure in your life?  What songs remind you of this special person?  What music memories come alive when thinking of this person?  Did she sing to you when you were young?  What songs do you remember?  What song captures the emotions that you’d like to share with her today?

In music therapy, we use music to help a client connect with his/her emotions to learn ways to identify emotions, triggers, and coping strategies.  This often involves discussing lyrics and the instrumentation used in order to identify what emotions or message is heard in the music.  Sessions may also involve the use of familiar music to access positive moods/feelings associated with the memories sparked by a particular song/memory.  Research shows us that music can bring us back to a specific place, person, or moment in time.  Thus, we all have at least one personal story of how music has sparked a memory or a feeling, immediately after hearing a song.  For the most part, these feelings are welcomed, but other times a song can leave you feeling exposed and may evoking feelings of extreme sadness and heartache.

Just like music, holidays may also bring upon a variety of emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant.  As you reflect on Mother’s Day, we hope you can identify at least one song that reminds you of your mom or a motherly figure in your life.  What song comes to mind?  What emotions do you experience when listening to this song?  We also challenge the mothers/moms-to-be to think of a song that you would dedicate to your child/children.  If you have multiple children, is there a different song that comes to mind for each child?  For the individuals experiencing grief and sadness due to the loss of a mother, a grandmother, a foster mother, a child, or for those who struggle to conceive, what song can inspire positive memories and/or hopeful thinking?

We wanted to share our song dedications with you.  Please comment below or Tweet at @LIHmusictx with your song tribute or dedication, a “song to remember by”, or a song that inspires you through a negative feeling associated with “Mother’s Day”.  We can’t wait to hear from you!  #songtobeheard

“My song for my mom, Linda, is called “Music in My Mother’s House” by Stuart Stotts. My mom is the most hard-working and dedicated woman I know. She is dedicated to her faith, her family, and her friends. Ever since I can remember, my mom has been “a busy bee”: always taking care of our family of farmers, working in the garden, taking care of the church family, and making extra time to tutor and work with my younger sister who has special needs. But amid all of her busy-ness, Mom has always had time to share music with me. My love of music stems from music in my home, specifically watching and listening to Mom play the piano (she studied it for 14 years). As a child, I was always amazed at her ability, and through all my years of music training, Mom was always there to encourage me, especially when I didn’t want to practice! Even though I have moved away from home, memories of music made there still resound in my mind. There has always been “Music in My Mother’s House”, and I love that I know there always will be!” – Sarah Kolander, MT-BC


“I would dedicate the song “You Are My Sunshine” to my mom. I remember she used to sing this song to me when I was a little girl. When I sing this song with my clients, it reminds me of my mom!”                     – Andrea Halvorson, MA, MT-BC

“My mom has always been there to teach me, cheer me up, and support my ambition. She always tells me to chase my dreams and be the person I wanted to be.  I dedicate the song “More Heart, Less Attack” by NEEDTOBREATHE to my mom for all the times that she showed me a new path to take. I can never thank her enough for always being there for me–to encourage me when it seems impossible. She is the one that taught me how to give my all and, most importantly, my heart to what matters.”                            – Katherine Sherrill, MT-BC

“Part of learning how to be a great mom is balancing the desire to hold onto your children as tight as possible while still finding the courage and strength to let go in order to allow them to explore the world. I do not know how my mom learned to do this so well and I am just realizing how hard it must have been for her to do this. The song “When You Come Back Down” by Nickel Creek reminds me of my mom’s never ending presence in my life.  I cannot imagine life without my mom’s support, guidance, friendship, and love. I am so thankful to have been given an opportunity to learn from the best!”                                     – Amy Schaack, MT-BC


“Sing” – 2015 Recital Slideshow

Thank you to all of the performers who participated in the 3rd Annual Recital!  Our theme this year was “Every Bird Has A Song To Be Heard”.  We had two shows, each two hours long!  What an amazing way to showcase music therapy!  Thank you to our very respectful and patient audience as well!  Every performer had an opportunity to shine, to sing out, and to be proud!  We had some amazing volunteers and two proud parents volunteered to emcee the event!  An extra special thank you goes out to Bradley Schaack for running the sound and setting up the stage for the show and also to Julie Wallace who volunteered her time and talents to take photos of our event.  You can learn more about Julie at her website!

If you would like to order a photo you see in the slide show we will have order forms available at LIH.  Please ask a LIH staff member during your next appointment to see the photo album and order form!

Our team voted on the song “Sing” to use for the background of the video because we feel all of the performers had an opportunity to “Sing/play it for the word” to see and hear.

We cannot wait to see everyone on stage again next year!  Date is TBD.

Advocate. Appreciate. America!

IMG_3196As a music therapist, I feel we have a responsibility to help advocate for those we serve, especially for individuals whose voices may not be heard often.  We have a duty to empower our clients to share their story. There is nothing that brings us more pride than hearing a family share a success story about how music therapy has made an impact on their life.  It is even more powerful when the person they have an opportunity to share their story with is able to retell their story in Madison to other decision makers. Helping our clients find opportunities to share their stories is pivotal in our efforts of expanding awareness of music therapy and its vital role in recovery, treatment, and maintenance of functional skills.

Angela working with music therapist, Andrea, to increase eye contact and social skills in the music therapy setting.

Angela working with music therapist, Andrea, to increase eye contact and social skills in the music therapy setting.

We wanted share how much we appreciate that two local political figures asked to join us in the field to learn more about how music therapy is impacting the lives of individuals with disabilities.  Senator Jennifer Shilling and Representative Steve Doyle went above and beyond to learn more about Life In Harmony Music Therapy, LLC and what LIH provides to individuals receiving services through Family Care and the IRIS program.  It was such a great opportunity to show what services would be significantly impacted and likely eliminated if Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget remains intact.  We are so thankful for the time we had to share our passion for our profession and clients we serve.  We were also very impressed by the willingness of both Senator Shilling, her staff member, and Representative Doyle for getting involved!  This video highlights the use of the tone chimes to promote eye contact, awareness of others, and receptive skills of listening for one’s turn to play.  
Many of our clients love to sing, hear, or play patriotic songs and there was no better song for Erik to perform for Representative Steve Doyle.  While Erik played “America”, he had to work very hard at keeping his upper body relaxed to allow his arms to be accessible to reach the piano keys.  When Erik hears patriotic songs he immediately becomes very excited, making self-relaxation even more challenging!  With the support of Erik’s music therapist, Sarah Kolander, MT-BC, he did a fabulous job demonstrating what interventions are helpful for cognitive development, communication, and motor skills for an individual diagnosed with cerebral palsy.     

Having an opportunity to help others advocate for themselves makes me strongly appreciate we live in America where we have the freedom to have our voices heard!

If you are a current client at LIH and you would like to have your story and voice heard, contact us today and we will help capture your story and share this with the decision makers in Madison.  If you are a music therapist, please reach out to a local elected official to share the successes happening in your area!

~Amy Schaack, MT-BC

Angela was so proud to have Senator Shilling spend time out of her day to see what she does in music therapy!

Angela was so proud to have Senator Shilling join her for her session!

Erik and his advocacy team!

Erik and his advocacy team! Thank you for all you do!

We love that Erik wore his shirt from his performance in the 2014 LIH Recital! Thank you, Representative Steve Doyle for coming to see Erik shine! Thank you to Sarah, MT-BC for providing Erik with appropriate music interventions to foster success!

We love that Erik wore his shirt from his performance in the 2014 LIH Recital! Thank you, Representative Steve Doyle for coming to see Erik shine! Thank you to Sarah, MT-BC for providing Erik with appropriate music interventions to foster success!

Adrianna and her family shared their story at a Budget Hearing Session in West Salem.

Adrianna and her family shared their story at a Budget Hearing Session in West Salem.

“I Am” – Changing the world one song at a time!

At Life In Harmony, we believe that success-based music therapy experiences bring SO many opportunities for individuals to complete the phrase “I am ____________”.

“I am confident”, “I am able to express myself”, “I am independent”, “I am expressive”…

We love the “I am” phrases that accompany the smiles in the video!

The lyrics of the song “I Am” were inspired by families from the Down Syndrome of Wisconsin – Children of the Heart – Greater La Crosse Area (DSAW – COTH – GLA) organization.  We gathered thoughts thoughts on paper through a series of interview questions about the strengths of their child with Down syndrome, challenges, what they would want the world to know, and their hope for the future.  We love this song because their words can be applied to all individuals who face challenges with feeling limited and not accepted for who they are.

I feel so lucky to be able to combine my skills as a songwriter and music therapist to help an organization like DSAW-COTH-GLA strengthen community, advocacy, and awareness.  Organizations or individuals with a mission – Email LIH at admin@lihmt.com to get started communicating your message, mission, and passion through song!

Comment below or tweet us at @LifeinharmonyMT to celebrate all that we can be!  We want to know how you SHINE!  “I am ____________”.  #songtobeheard #musictherapy #IAm

~ Amy Schaack, MT-BC

Winter/Spring Music Therapy Group Series Registration is NOW open!

Winter_Spring Music Therapy Graphic

We hope you will be joining us for one of our ten-week music therapy group series!

Registration is open through February, 20th, 2015.  All groups begin the last week of February (2/21 – 2/28) and extend through the end of April/beginning of May.

We can’t wait to make music with YOU!

LIH Music Therapy Group Registration Form_ 2015 Series 1 (Winter_Spring) UPDATED

2015 Recital Information – “Every Bird Has A Song To Be Heard”

With only two weeks to go before our 3rd Annual Recital we want to be sure you know the details!  

LIH Recital Shirt 2015

Our recital will take place on Sunday, February 15th at the Heider Center in West Salem, WI.

Heider Center (West Salem High School Performing Arts Center)
405 E. Garland Street

West Salem, WI 54669
Directions from I-90
Directions from Hwy 16

Due to the large number of clients wanting to showcase their hard work, we will have two shows this year.  Each show will have different participants and is sure to be unique!  We will be featuring our younger clients at the beginning of each show and we will have our teens and adults following.  

Show #1 will be from 1:00 – 2:30/2:45 PM
Show #2 will be from 3:00 – 4:45 PM

Participants are asked to be at the event 15 minutes prior to the show they are participating in.

The event is open to the public and this is a free event.  We will be collecting a free-will donation for those who wish to help offset the cost of the event.  

Shirts will be available for purchase for $10.00 – sizes may be limited but additional shirts can be ordered and picked up at LIH after the event.  The design above will be featured on the shirt this year and they will be lime green with blue and brown font!

The purpose of our annual recital is to allow our clients an opportunity to shine and show what they are working on in music therapy!  Each performance will highlight a favorite song or instrument/intervention of the participant and audience members can follow along with the program to see what goals/objectives the participant is targeting with his/her song.  This year, we are encouraging each client to perform a FAVORITE song!  We love that this event helps the general public see the joy we experience each day!

… accompanying the journey in 2015!

We are excited to begin another year with you!  To begin the year, we are working on updating our webpage so stop back regularly for new changes and additional information.

If you would like to receive information regarding upcoming classes, groups, and special events at LIH, please “opt in” to receive our e-newsletter!  You can sign up by clicking here: http://eepurl.com/bbbyIX

We hope you can join us for our 3rd Annual Music Therapy Recital on February, 15th, 2015!  Check back for more information coming soon!

Recital 2015 Save The Date

Please make note of our new phone numbers!  Just a reminder ~ if you are needing to cancel a scheduled session, please call the therapist scheduled to see you/your child.  Thanks!
Amy Schaack, MT-BC, WMTR – Director of Services

Sarah Kolander, MT-BC, WMTR

Andrea Halvorson, MA, MT-BC, WMTR