Another view of the American Grands stage
Today we’re posting the second of two pieces profiling American Grands participants’ experiences. Guest blogger Stu Ainsworth, who has been part of American Grands since the beginning and even has a copy of its very first poster, interviewed two year participant Jillian Chase about both her experience with American Grands and her experiences in music therapy as Arts Manager for Helping Hand Center in Countryside. Read on for Stu’s great interview with Jillian that touches on the amazing therapeutic benefits of music. Thank you to Stu and Jillian!
Q: Jillian, how many years have you performed in American Grands concerts?
A: This will be my second year performing in the concert. I moved to the area in the fall of 2012 and found out about from a friend.
Q: You work at the Helping Hand Center in Countryside as Arts Manager a role that involves art, music, and library programs. Can you tell us more about your role there?
A: I am in charge of several major areas including curriculum development for the areas of art, drama, library and music. I am in direct leadership of the music program and the music therapist we have on staff. I work with her to help write goals for our clients, which we help them achieve through using music. I also run all of Helping Hand Center’s music performance groups [...] My main work is with adults with developmental disabilities. Helping Hand also has a school for autism.
Q: What part does music play in your client’s programs and activities?
A: Music is a part of most of our client’s daily schedules […] Over half of our groups are music therapy focused groups, which means that the individuals in these groups, have specific goals that we address using music in various forms. We work on goals such as socialization, physical movement, self-expression, as well as other personal and specific needs. Some of our other groups focus solely on music as recreation.
Q: What benefits are derived from these programs?
A: In the last eight years, I have seen amazing things [result] from these programs in music. In our general music therapy groups, I have seen self-confidence flourish and for some appear when they have had none. I have seen clients who could not move their arms or had jerky movement, relax and move to/with the music. I have seen clients who have had a hard time socially, talk and make friends with their peers, or express their thoughts on a song. I have had amazing experiences with having clients come sit at the piano with me and just start to play. I accompany them based on what they are playing and a person who might have had a problem with behavior, might be able to express anger, sadness or happiness through playing it out on the piano. In our kids groups, I have seen a child be able to focus for five minutes, when in the past five seconds might have seemed difficult.
Q: Music Therapy Adaption is an activity/program in which you have developed unique expertise. Can you provide insight on how this applies to piano lessons and successes realized by many of your students?
A: The piano seems to be an instrument that can do amazing things […] When I first started, I was working with a colleague who had created an assessment with some of her music therapy colleagues that addressed the needs and amount of adaption that would be required for a child who had special needs […] I would work with these students on the basics of piano, like any teacher, but the approach had to be different. It was some trial and error at first […] it tends to be finding what method works best. I have adapted using colors, using numbers, using games, using many different things that work for each individual and for many it is repetition, or structure. Colors has worked very well for some. Each note is associated with a color, and you do this with an octave. You then create songs based on the colors with the note names, take out the note names, leave the colors, then finally take away the colors. Others do well with games. One child I worked with learned everything by playing a version of the game memory. He would match a pair and then go show me on the piano where it was and play it. It worked great. A child who might not be able to focus for five minutes, was after two lessons sitting through thirty minutes straight and was asking at the end if I could stay longer. His mother was amazed.
Thank you to Jillian for sharing her story with us. And to Jillian and the 461 other pianists that will be performing in American Grands XIX: break a leg this Saturday!
American Grands performances will take place on Saturday, January 25 at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. For tickets and information, visit elgin.edu/arts.