July 27, 2020; Elyse Erdman
Other Contributors: Nina Rovner and Kristyn Beeman
Board certified music therapist Kristyn Beeman states that “the beautiful thing about music is it's a whole brain experience.” Music bypasses parts of the brain that may have delays for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. “Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program,” according to the American Music Therapy Association. It is important to note the difference between therapeutic music and music therapy; when a Grower is listening to his favorite music through headphones that activity is simply therapeutic, while a board certified music therapist working with a Grower to improve communication skills is music therapy.
Since 2012, WB Music Therapy has been coming to the Farm and leading Growers in music therapy sessions. It all started when Kristyn and her family visited the Farm’s annual Harvest BBQ in 2012. Through engaging in typical conversation with other attendees, she was connected with the administration who was eager to collaborate with her. She led her first session on the Farm in October 2012, and monthly sessions quickly turned weekly with occasional individual sessions to help address more specific goals. She was even able to take some Growers to the Capitol in Harrisburg to talk to legislators about the importance of music therapy.
Not only do Growers embrace and greatly enjoy the music therapy sessions, they experience various aspects of growth through them. Music therapy improves speech and communication, fine and gross motor skills, academics, social skill development, behavioral skills, social-emotional skills, and self-esteem and quality of life. Kristyn has personally experienced this growth over time with our Growers. Coping skills, direction following, and identifying and handling feelings are some of the non-musical goals that Growers work on with Kristyn. To work on these goals, they participate in songwriting, instrument plays, movement to music, and call and response singing. In Kristyn’s own words, “Growers have shown significant progress in working towards these goals together as a group. Growers have their own songs that address daily tasks at the farm and how to complete them, even when they don't want to. They've shown progress in working together as a group, identifying feelings, learning self-control, and having opportunities for self-expression.”
Although we can’t all be together on the Farm for music therapy right now, Kristyn continues to give sessions via our Zoom parties. The Growers sing their welcome and goodbye songs every single day. Then, twice a week, Kristyn leads them in a special music therapy activity. Whether it is clapping and gross motor movement to We Will Rock You, singing a song about things we don’t like doing, or following directions and dancing to Jump in the Line (Shake Senora), we see the Growers beaming through our computer screens. They truly let go and have a good time, taking their minds off of the stressful past few months spent in quarantine. “It's so important for the Growers to continue experiencing it to maintain a sense of normalcy to their routines,” says Kristyn. “By continuing to sing the original songs they've created, to participate in movement to music, and to interact with each other, allows them to continue addressing their goals and see that even in tough times, we are all in this together. Until the day we can all be together again in person, the Zoom Farm parties allow us to continue to connect and grow within our music therapy sessions.”
We want to thank WB Music Therapy and Kristyn Beeman for their transformative work with our Growers. If you would like more information on music therapy, you can visit WB Music Therapy’s site at www.wbmusictherapy.com or the American Music Therapy Association’s site at https://www.musictherapy.org/research/factsheets. If you would like to donate to support our ability to provide Growers these sessions, please visit our fundraising site.