At the recent Great Lakes Regional Conference, the MTD consortium offered a students-only session about how percussion and drumming is used in music therapy.   The session was full of playing, but it was also full of fruitful discussion.  The studentship of GLR asked many thought-provoking questions and comments, resulting in great dialogue and great musical interplay.  Some of the question ideas discussed included:

‘Having had no experience with either musical or clinical improvisation, I do not know where to begin with a client, and I am anxious to try using improvisation as a therapeutic approach…what do I do to overcome this?’

‘How do I communicate with a client, or with a client’s parents about the use of drums in therapy?   What terms will best communicate what we are working on?’

‘I have not considered telling the client the name or history of an instrument before, but it makes complete sense with many of our clients.’

We also enjoyed witnessing some of the students volunteer to demonstrate particular leadership skills…. showing how they would accompany singing with hand drums, how they can be creative through a ‘drum play’ exercise (creating museum artifacts with percussion instruments), and acknowledging the particular leadership skill needs for both musical improvisation and clinical improvisation.

These are, in my opinion, representative of the training needs, and wants, of music therapy students, coming from the students themselves.   We owe these students the tools that will allow them to create music on percussion….to facilitate relationships between clients and percussion in its many facets, to create on a level that will ultimately surpass our current use of percussion with clients.  We owe them foundational music and music therapy-oriented skill sets…… more than a set of percussion games and conducting techniques, more than a peripheral view of improvisation (musical or clinical), more than a class period on basic hand drum sounds.     The students are ready to dig in……. are we ?