Competency 7.4

By kalani

One of the many areas every music therapist is required to demonstrate professional competencies within is Music Foundations. Consider the following taken from the AMTA Professional Competencies as listed on the AMTA website as of 9-25-10:

(Keyboard Skills)
4.4 Play a basic repertoire of traditional, folk, and popular songs with or without printed music.

(Guitar Skills)
5.4 Perform a basic repertoire of traditional, folk, and popular songs with or without printed music.

(Voice Skills)
6.3 Sing a basic repertoire of traditional, folk, and popular songs in tune with a pleasing quality.

Surveys and studies show that clinical Music Therapists use drums and percussion instruments more than any other instrument group. Most of these instruments come from cultures that have a rich musical heritage and long traditions with the use of drumming as a central part of their music and culture, often at the core of wellness and health-related  processes. The traditional, folk, and popular music from many countries and cultures is  largely expressed through drums and percussion instruments.

Compare the above skills with those listed under Percussion:

  • 7.1 Accompany self and ensembles proficiently.
  • 7.2 Utilize basic techniques on several standard and ethnic instruments.
  • 7.3 Lead rhythm-based ensembles proficiently.

One might ask the question, “Why, when drums and percussion instruments are heavily used by music therapists, is there no minimum competency requirement to learn about the traditional, folk, and popular music that is common to drumming traditions?” Historically, there is precedent for the use of what the competencies list as “non-symphonic” and “ethnic” instruments, but those are focused on basic technique and caring and maintaining, rather than the music.

Could there be an additional ‘percussion skills’ competency?

7.4 Play (Drum) a basic repertoire of traditional, folk, and popular songs with or without printed music.

What would a music therapist gain from meeting ‘competency 7.4’?

At a minimum, s/he would:

  • execute native techniques on a variety of common drums and percussion instruments.
  • play fundamental and specific rhythm patterns to support group music making.
  • demonstrate the ability to tune, set up, maintain, and care for drums and percussion instruments.
  • perform and lead several songs that are indigenous to drumming-based cultures.

Additionally, s/he would likely also learn:

  • about the cultural context and “story” of the music.
  • some basic dance and movements that match each song/rhythm.
  • how to use the dance and “story” aspects to expand the depth and scope of experiences .
  • how to apply drumming-based music to meet therapeutic goals and objectives.

Supporting music therapists and helping them to meet “Competency 7.4,” is why Music Therapy Drumming exists. The goal of MTD is to help music therapists get the most out of the instruments and music that drumming-based traditions have to offer. To find out more, see the curriculum page and register for an upcoming MTD course.

MTD is an independent educational body, consisting of professional music therapist/percussionists. MTD is brand-neutral and not beholden to any outside groups, organizations, or corporations.

Filed in: Instruments, Music Therapy, Training • Sunday, October 17th, 2010




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Music Therapy Drumming is a world drumming and clinical therapy curriculum primarily for Board-Certified Music Therapists (MT-BC). It is designed and presented by MT-BC's who are also professional percussionists.