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Strengthen your Community with Music

Hello, and welcome! The goal of the MUSACOR site is to encourage individuals and small groups of musicians to start their own music projects, filling gaps left by the fragmentation of our communities: If we and our neighbors feel isolated or at a loss for meaningful interactions, together we can address this musically. If we […]

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Locations For Music And Wellness Activities

This list is intended to give you ideas about locations for music and wellness presentations. It may help remind you of other possibilities for partnering and for reaching new audiences. Of course there may be many other opportunities in your area!

Cancer groups

  • An interactive presentation sponsored by Reach to Recovery for cancer survivors and volunteers.
  • Cancer Caring Center presentation on the use of music during diagnosis and treatment.
  • STAR (study comparing the effectiveness of a cancer drug to another treatment) research participant thank you.
  • Gilda’s Club. Thank you for volunteers. Presentations on how to use music for stress and pain management, how to use music to support your rehab and exercise goals.
  • Play for a fundraiser for American Cancer Society, or a cancer screening organization in your area.
  • Play at a fashion show for African-American women, advocating screening for cancers, where the presenters provide vouchers for anyone uninsured or to give to someone they know who could use them. and other information (One of the musicians needs to be a survivor to give a testimony to the benefits of screening).

Religious organizations

  • Your local synagogue, church or other religious center. How music with religious ties can help with coping.
  • Post -Taize service presentation on the use of music for stress and pain management. Congregants sing the service, so they are primed for participating!

Hospitals, insurers and medical schools

  • Hospital presentation to all those who are involved with diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer patients (Could be another type of cancer one of your musicians experienced and used music).
  • Presentation to nurses as a thank you for their work.
  • Presentations to hospital support groups (breast cancer, ostomy, prostate, ovarian) on how to optimize quality of life using music.
  • Stress reduction using music for relatives of patients in ICU (some want silence).
  • Family house waiting area for families of hospitalized children.
  • At children’s hospital play for a memorial service to honor children who died the year previously. The event is for families of the children as well as for all hospital staff who cared for them.
  • Playing for a pancake breakfast for patients and families at your children’s hospital.
  • Unlocking the classics at Med school. How music that patients choose can help them cope.
  • Highmark or other health insurer presentation for employees on use of music.

Your concert hall

  • A pre-concert talk onstage (especially during October, or before your area’s race for the cure or other cancer research fundraiser.
  • Music 101 or brown bag lunch series on use of music for stress and pain management.
  • Donor events at people’s homes or workplaces on stress management using music.
  • Presentation at a Volunteer Association gathering.
  • Presentation to the Board.
  • Presentation at a staff retreat.
  • A session with your local adult choir on use of music for stress reduction.


  • Educators conference on use of music for self-calming and transitions.
  • Health fair at a school. What are they trying to emphasize? How can using music help?
  • Wellness retreat in conjunction with the music therapy community, Dalcroze or Eurhythmic teachers, and other expressive therapy leaders.
  • Housing project pilot music program with a performance at the end.

Summer camps

  • YMCA heart camp.
  • Camp for children with special needs. Some are very talented and have undiscovered music talents!

Other possibilities

  • Retirement communities.
  • VA campus, guided by their music therapists.
  • OASIS (older adults organization) on stress reduction.
  • Carnegie library presentations.
  • Barnes and Noble or other bookstore.
  • Play as part of slain police officers memorial service , or other all-city memorial service after a catastrophic event.

For more on this topic visit

Design of a Program for Refugees

Creating a music program for refugees involves taking the time to doing a lot of learning,  information gathering and listening, as well as visiting areas of the city that may be very unfamiliar to you. The culture and traditions as well as the language of the refugees may also be new to you and will require some time to absorb and understand.

There are many people who can help and guide you along the way, people who are  familiar with the refugees and the issues they face. But for you, one of the most important first steps is to do some field work:

Start with visits to a school, community center, clinic, library or ethnic food store in the area where refugees are settling and where you might want to start your program. Listen, ask questions, network. Trail a teacher or social worker and observe. What ethnicities are there? Are they from all social classes? What did they do for work?  What is the range of education, professional skills and ages?

What does your city look like from their perspective? Take your time absorbing their environment and seeing through their eyes. Are the experiences of adults different from that of the children? What issues emerge? What are their biggest challenges in making the transition to their new home?

What brought them here? What are their stories? Are there other US cities where refugees of this ethnicity settled? What can you learn from what worked there? Are there music activities in these other communities?

Do you see any opportunities to use music to help with their transition? Interacting through music would help smooth their adjustment to a strange culture and language, and help create a welcoming, safe, supportive environment. You can share experiences and at the same time show them connections to the culture, stories and music of your community. You may find a way to (re)affirm their cultural identity and history, while learning about their familiar music and stories. Music could address the trauma they might have experienced as well as the major adjustments to moving to an environment so different from their original one.  You help them to connect in many ways to their own culture as well as to their new environment.

How might you begin?

Engage in a participatory music experience singing or playing instruments. If you decide to start children on violin, you could include songs from their music traditions.  Many of the music traditions are oral, so writing down some of the more famous ones, teaching the children the melodies and giving the music to the families at their request can be a deeply meaningful gesture.

Suggested reading:

The Experience of Being a Refugee: Insights from the research literature. Barry N Stein 2010 This is an old article, but a useful starting point.
Local refugees struggle to transition in US.  Dayton Daily News

Other ideas:

You could speak to people already working with this population:

Who found housing for them?

Who gave them their initial orientation?

Who is working with them on language skills?

Who is helping them find jobs and get job training?

Who is emerging as a group leader that could help you?

You could collaborate or at least work in cooperation with the support services around ESL (English as a Second Language) programs.

Developing a program may take some time, with many twists and turns, and perhaps a re-evaluation of what success means. In my case, working with refugees started with joining up with a literacy project, SOLE, which I will describe later in this article. As that project came to a halt when college students left for the summer, I had an urgent request to help with a fundraising event for Nepal Earthquake relief efforts. Because of the SOLE literacy project, I already had Nepali music, a Pitt ethnomusicologist specializing in Nepali music, Western and Nepali instruments, Nepali professionals willing to sing in a choir, and connections to the Nepali community that helped make the fundraising concert more effective and meaningful for everyone. Those connections continue to evolve as we help support rebuilding efforts. While visiting a Jain temple for a service and as part of promoting the concert, I was able to connect not only with the Nepali community but with leaders of the Indian community. And most recently, as a result of these engagement efforts, a well-known Indian performer suggested a joint collaboration. It’s quite a change from where I started! Your efforts may lead you in a direction quite different than this.

Below is a description of the SOLE pilot project:

In Pittsburgh we chose to piggyback on the work of Computer Reach, a group that was studying the effectiveness of using shared computers at homes to supplement learning ESL in the classroom. Computer Reach took responsibility for documentation (video and narratives) which are essential when you apply for grants. NOTE: If you partner or team with another agency, many of the staff roles can be handled by them, and the musicians can focus on finding the appropriate music.

Pilot: 2014 SOLE (Self Organized Learning Environment) project for Nepali Bhutanese refugees
The SOLE project was designed and developed by Computer Reach.
The music component was developed by a musician in partnership with a music therapist.

Possible music goals: 
Strengthen a sense of belonging and a welcoming environment. Provide hope. Encourage and nurture their personal strengths and ability to overcome obstacles. Connect what they know to similar things here: instruments, customs, songs. Reinforce positive memories or events by telling familiar stories from their childhood and recognizing important cultural events from their country and religion of origin and by connecting the familiar to the unfamiliar. What else?

Computer Reach’s Dave Sevick got funding for the pilot from a prominent local foundation and provided 100 restored G4 towers, monitors and keyboards, mice and power strips, 100 tables and 400 chairs. Computers were donated to Goodwill and restored by CR volunteers. CR did data collection, video and photos to document the project. CR designed and developed the program, recruited and organized teams for the project. That way the musicians could focus on their specialty.

Note how different the community partners are for a project like this compared to our usual partners:
Newcastle University, UK Sugata Mitra (started a project in India that inspired the development of SOLE)
The Pittsburgh Foundation Fisher Fund
Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh
Students Consulting for Nonprofit Organizations
Hilltop YMCA
Allegheny County Department of Human Services
Vibrant Pittsburgh
South Hills Interfaith Ministry
Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council
PA Vision Foundation. Provides exam and glasses to participants
Dollar Bank
Greentree Printing
Jewish Family and Children’s Services
Repair the World (Jewish volunteer group)
Baldwin High School
Pittsburgh Public Schools

You will probably find similar organizations in your area.

So how can you get more familiar with your population? Depending on your interests and time available, you could do at least SOME of the following:
Identify famous writers, performers, politicians, educators, and personalities of this ethnicity.

Research the history and background of the refugees, their educational level, their concerns, what their housing (dirt floors? rural? multi-story, tin, mud, bamboo?) and social organization was, and what helped get them through until now. The education levels and experiences may be wildly different in the same ethnic group, since masses of people from all walks of life were displaced. Some may never have learned to read and have never been in a classroom; others may be college graduates, fluent in several languages. Do/did they use cell phones? Internet? Radio or TV? What was/is their usual transport? What is the attitude toward sharing? Borrowing?  Pay attention to social customs, particularly the relationship and interactions between men and women, and people of different social strata (were they accustomed to not eating together?).

What acoustic instruments and music are familiar to them? What experience have they had with music?  How is their language, written and oral, different than English? What is their accustomed method of learning (classroom, oral)? What was and is their religion? How did/do they practice or observe it? What does it mean to them? What is their attitude toward illness and health care? Medicine? Hygiene? What was the geography and climate in contrast to where they are currently living?  What are familiar foods? Animals? Plants/trees? Is there anything taboo? Are there any colors, gestures or anything else that has a different meaning than what we are familiar with:  avoiding 4, white for mourning, pointing, eye contact, saving face, symbols? What is the concept of time/timeliness? Work? Authority? Law? What other information should we know?

We learn about them as they begin to relate to us and tell us their stories.

Useful resources 
Include their ESL teachers in your planning: When they take ESL,  find out what concepts create the most difficulties  learning, and identify psychological areas that might be addressed musically: can you learn and teach each other songs from each country and ethnic group represented? Can you use instruments that are familiar from their upbringing? How about small percussion instruments? How does music fit into the culture from which they came? You could ask an ethnomusicologist specializing in the customs of your various ethnicities.

Look at the pamphlet Learn About the US quick civics lessons (It is a pamphlet for the naturalization test).

Identify music therapists, psychologists  and ethnomusicologists specializing in this population (check with local universities, health care providers  and libraries).

Use the website Mama Lisa’s World It has music, lyrics and translations from many countries.

Music  as a Global Resource. Solutions for social and economic issues. Compendium. Fourth Edition  is an invaluable source of information about ongoing music projects addressing community concerns.

Foods: are there local restaurants, grocery stores of this ethnicity? Can your group provide ethnic foods for your events?

Look at Upbeat Drum Circles

Find Folktales translated into English. For the Nepalese this might include Nindra Maya, the Kings Parrot, Anecdotes of the Gurkha Soldier, Folk Tales from the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal, the Decision, Tales of Old Bhaktapur, Nepalese Fairy Tales, Lore and Legends of Nepal, Bending Bamboo, Changing Winds, the Golden Umbrella. What tales are their own favorites?

Is there an El Sistema program near you? Do they have resources that would help you?

Two other good resources that came out of 9/11:
Caring for the Caregiver The use of music and music therapy in grief and trauma ed. Loewy DA, MT-BC and Hara MA, MT-BC
Collective Trauma, Collective Healing Jack Saul

Supplies that might be useful:
A giant playable keyboard mat (you can add upper and lower case letter name stickers) is a good ice breaker! And it is another way of practicing English alphabet letters.
Native Nepali instruments include: sarangi (Nepali violin), madal (Nepali 2-headed drum), Nepalese tabla and small percussion. What instruments are unique to your population’s original country or culture?
You can use flash cards, with each card naming a type of body percussion. The activity teaches action words such as snap, clap, brush, tap, stomp.
Suggestion: If you want to use percussion, choose percussion instruments that are not too loud; for example  fruit-shaped shakers, thumb pianos, a marimbula, djembe, small bells, or an ocean drum.

Find CDs and DVDs that connect your ethnic groups to other music traditions here. Look for connections between the music they know and what is familiar music to us. For example:The Mountain Music Project DVD and CD. A very interesting cross-cultural effort that connects Appalachian fiddlers and sarangi players, Old Tyme fiddle tunes and Nepali music. Both have oral learning traditions, families of players and makers. Investigate your own group’s music traditions.
Folk Songs and Sacred Music from Nepal. What are your groups’ folk songs and tales?
Sur Sudra Festivals of Nepal  What festivals do your various ethnicities celebrate?
Himalaya Roots traditional music of Nepal What is your group’s traditional music?
BBC sound effects library India and Nepal City Life (street sounds) The sounds are very different from what we hear. There are sound effects for many major cities globally!
Nepali music (free on Spotify, YouTube )
Himalayan Sounds of Sarangi
Songs and Dances of Nepal from the Smithsonian Folkways Archival Library. Check to see if they have music from your refugees’ countries.
The Healing Drum CDs Christine Stephens, music therapist.

Identify songs for your project: include songs with local ties, seasonally appropriate songs, songs with ties to local sports and pieces that connect something familiar from their past to what is similar here. Have them teach you songs and stories from their upbringing. Connect it to something you show them. Do movement or action songs. Make something up together. Create a “band” using instruments from both cultures. Teach each other.

Music for a Nepalese population:
Music Collections:
Appalachian Fiddle. Compare this with the ornamentation  in music for sarangi as well as for  Irish or Scottish music.
Indian Melodies for Violin  Candida Connolly compare ornamentation to Irish or sarangi music
Old Time Fiddle Style 
Music for Two . Comes in many volumes, produced by Last Resort Music. Can make a path connecting the smaller ensemble pieces to orchestral music.
Traditional and Folk Tunes of Nepal Vijay Kumar Sunam, especially Parbate folk tunes
Nepali songs (look on YouTube )
Are the following songs familiar? And appropriate? What do they mean? Can we use them?
Piper came piping
Her Zinga (the fly)
Sita rani bonai ma
Deri dhul paareko
Honira salala
Das avatar
Asaar mahina ko geet
Resham firiri
Daina khabara
The crow, cow, dog and ox are mentioned as part of traditional fall festivals (Deepawali/ Tihar.) Are there any appropriate western songs relating to these animals? Any other festivals that could be related to US festivals?

Because much of the folk music came from an oral tradition, it may be difficult to find sheet music. I found a supplier through music I purchased from Amazon, who went to Nepal frequently and was willing to buy (very cheaply) anything I requested: stories, instruments, music. So keep searching!!

Below are some songs you could teach newcomers, but also look for appropriate ones you know and like!! Many are free online, or you can find them in a good public library (try the children’s section). If these seem outdated, what songs do you think newcomers should learn? What do you consider the classics?
ABC song (Twinkle, Twinkle)
Abide with me
All through the night
America the Beautiful
Are You Sleeping
Arkansas Traveler
Ashokan Farewell
Auld Lang Syne
Bach: solo string instrumental suites, sonatas and partitas, two -part inventions, Wachet Auf, Gavotte II ou la Musette, French Suite for piano.
Bagpipe tunes. Ornamentation has similarities to ornamentation on sarangi.
Bear Went Over the Mountain, The
Cavalleria Rusticana Intermezzo Mascagni
Chicken Reel
Cluck Old Hen
Come Follow
Coro did Zingarelle from la Traviata
Coventry Carol
Danny Boy
Days of the Week
Die Zauberflote (magic flute) Mozart
Down in the Valley
Drowsy Maggie (Local version)
Eency Weency Spider
Flower Duet from Lakme
Gonna build a mountain
Goodnight ladies
Good morning and how do you do?
Greeting (introduction) song such as Shalom Chaverim (my Friends) or similar song with words you make up
Grouch Song, The
Hallelujah from Shrek
Happy Birthday
Head and shoulders, knees and toes
Hokey Pokey
Home, Sweet Home
Hush ‘n’ Bye (hush little baby)
I Love the Mountains
If You’re Happy and You Know It
Irish fiddle tunes: Cooley’s Reel, Dry and Dusty(scordatura), Irish Washerwoman, the Kirn, Orange Blossom Special, the Otter’s Holt, Sleep Sound I’ da Mornin’, Swallowtail Jig. Is anything similar to sarangi music?
Lazy Lucy
Loch Lomond
Lullaby Brahms
March of the Toreadors
Molly Malone
My country tis of thee
New World Symphony theme
Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen
O Mio Babbino Caro from Gianni Schicchi
Ode to joy
Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be
Old Joe Clark/ Oh Susannah
Old MacDonald
Over the Rainbow
Over the River and Through the Woods
Papageno’s Song from Magic Flute Mozart
Pennsylvania Polka (became Steelers football local song)
Pop! Goes the Weasel
Romanian Folk Dances Bartok
Rose, Rose, and Up She Rises
Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Scarborough Fair, All the Pretty Little Horses
She’ll be comin’ ’round the mountain
Simple Gifts
Singin’ in the Rain (local connection)
Skaters Waltz (hockey)
Somewhere, over the rainbow
Spring Vivaldi
Star-Spangled Banner
Summertime Gershwin
Swallowtail Jig
Take Me Out to the Ball Game (baseball)
Telemann canonic duos. Relate to rounds, fugues.
30 days hath September
This is the way we get up in the morning (Hap Palmer)
This Old Man
Three Blind Mice
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (ABC song)
The Water is Wide
Wheels on the bus
White Coral Bells
Who’s That Tapping at the Window?
Wide River to Cross
Winter Vivaldi
Yankee Doodle
Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?

Much of this music is public domain or otherwise free on the Web. You could of course have quite a different list than this. Piano reductions are easy to adapt to myriad instrument combinations. Have them teach you songs they know!
As you learn more about this population and their culture, how can the  orchestra weave that into what it presents:
In children’s concerts demonstrate a Nepali instrument side by side with a more familiar orchestral instrument?
Play an Irish fiddle tune, an Appalachian tune and a Nepali sarangi melody to see how the British empire affected their music?
Commission a piece for Nepali sarangi and violin? That way you have a modern piece, directly related to your community.
What else???

Enjoy the discovery process. There is always more to explore!







Designing Your Music Event

Here is a quick way to develop the program for a community engagement event. By answering the following questions, you will be able to determine more effectively what music and interactive experiences are appropriate for your audience. I have filled out this template in italics for an imagined Children’s Hospital event.

Who do you expect to be your audience? Hospitalized children from infants to teens, their parents and siblings. Staff.

What musicians will be playing? Two violinists who can play in one place and then stroll around to tables. They know many children’s songs and one of them is good at making up bass lines to accompany familiar melodies. The orchestra mascot will make a brief appearance halfway through the program and encourage children to dance and interact with him.

When Mid-morning Sunday

Where Hospital cafeteria, with round tables where a pancake breakfast is provided. Most people are seated, but some will get up to get more food periodically.

Why Entertain, provide hope and optimism, distract, create a sense of normal. Provide a way for the whole family to do something together. Enable families to have a positive, non-medical opportunity to relax.

How Discuss with your contact person what the parameters should be: Not too loud, not too energetic. Be prepared to provide calming-down music. Keep selections short, since patients tire easily. Be ready to stop and play another piece if something is not working. Play optimistic music.

Music Selection, the next step

What music do the children already know? What is familiar? What instruments do they know? Do they play an instrument or have they played or sung in a group?

How do you introduce yourself if they are not familiar with your instrument? Is there music you can start with that many of them know?

You could:

  • Start to play as they get breakfast and sit down, so they get familiar with sound of your instruments. Then go from table to table, introducing yourselves to the families and finding out something about them.
  • Play dance music of many types and encourage the children to follow the lead of someone who would coordinate that activity.
  • Have them conduct you as you play something.
  • Have them clap rhythmically or otherwise accompany your playing.
  • Have them do arm and hand motions to children’s songs.

What else can you try?

As you can see, your playbook will need to have quite a range of pieces, more than you will use for the session. That way if you want to prolong an activity which is getting a good response, you can. With that in mind, here is a sample playbook for two string players:


  • Rounds, canons Telemann Canonic Sonatas, Mozart Allegro, Gentle John, Haydn Allegro
  • Leclair duo Giga


  • Brahms Lullaby
  • Bach JS Gavotte II ou la Musette in G, Loure  for solo violin, Cello suite G Prelude, Bach Double for two violins, slow movement
  • WF Bach Pastorale
  • Litanie Schubert
  • Puccini O Mio Babbino Caro

Familiar (Interactive) tunes

  • Songs from musicals
  • Bingo, Eency Weency Spider, Old MacDonald, London Bridge, Pop! Goes the Weasel, The Farmer in the Dell, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star/ABC song

MUSIC FOR MOVEMENT Marching, dancing, skating, conducting


  • Bear Creek Hop, Cattle in the Cane, Cooley’s Reel, Drowsy Maggie, Sleepy Maggie, Irish Washerwoman, Lannigan’s Ball, Chicken Reel, Old Joe Clark, Say Old Man (can you play the fiddle), local fiddle music
  • In the Hall of the Mountain King
  • March of the Toreadors
  • Sarasateana Tango by Zimbalist

Music for the Imagination

  • Bartok duos: what is the title of this piece and what happens in the story?
  • Romanian folk dances


  • Ashokan farewell
  • Lulle me beyond thee
  • My love is like a red red rose
  • Bach movements in slow, major keys
  • Skaters waltz


  • Take me out to the ballgame
  • Skaters waltz
  • Pennsylvania polka

Songs with local roots

  • What should this include?

Seasonal: What is appropriate for your audience in your community?

For fall this might include songs about Harvest, Thanksgiving, fall, leaves, school starting, pumpkins, Halloween, apples, cider, syrup.

What else?

Now try planning an event for an adult audience:

Who Who is your audience: are they adults? How many do you expect? What styles of music and instruments are they familiar with? Are they accustomed to physical activity? Do they have any special needs?

What What categories of music will you need for this event? (See the previous sample playbook for ideas)

When How long is the event? Is it close to nap or mealtimes that would affect audience attention and energy levels?

Where What resources are available at the venue such as exercise classes, yoga or meditation? Does the venue want them mentioned or promoted? A hospital may offer Tai Ji but want more participants, or it may have social workers and support groups that are underutilized. A library may want the audience to know about a medical literacy or ESL program.

Is there an event before, during or after yours that might affect your start and stop times, or disrupt your session? Are there sounds such as air conditioning, fans or phones that might affect the ability to hear and stay focused during your event? What is the lighting and the seating configuration? How live is the venue? Is it carpeted?

Why What are the sponsor’s goals for the event? To promote music-related activities that encourage exercise and movement? To reduce stress? To entertain or distract? To strengthen a sense of community or group?

How What actions and pieces will you utilize in your session, and why?

To help participants learn to reduce stress, musicians could lead the group as they do belly breathing. To strengthen a sense of community within the group, musicians could lead a group sing-along. The musicians could also demonstrate what entrainment is, and how it could help participants exercise longer and more intensely: by having participants walk in place, they will notice that they match the speed of the music as the tempo changes.

Do you have a handout? Does it contain your organization’s contact information? Who pays for copies? How did you determine the length and content of the handout? Did you provide links to more information and resources available online? Did you include any listening suggestions?

For more information on music and wellness visit

Understanding Inequality

When you are designing a pilot music program, at some point you may find it useful to have at least a rudimentary grasp of issues around inequality and poverty, a complex and somewhat overwhelming area of study.

A good place to start is ‘ Key Issues in Poverty and Inequality:

Depending on where you want to initiate a program, you may want to read more at one of the following subheadings:

  • Children: Effects of family origins, family structure and family processes on opportunity.
  • Conflict, War and Instability. The relationship between poverty, inequality and violence. Sexual violence. Trafficking.
  • Crime and the legal system. Law as a source of inequality and as an instrument for reducing inequality. Prisons.
  • Disability as a cause and consequence of inequality.
  • Education: access to schooling and return to schooling.
  • Environment: unequal exposure to social and environmental threats, drugs and violence. Physical insecurity.
  • Gender: gender differences in education, occupation and income.
  • Health and mental health. Disparities in health and health care.
  • Discrimination against immigrants, assimilation of immigrants, immigrant policy.
  • Ethnic tension.
  • Land, housing and homelessness. Differential access to home ownership, causes and effects of homelessness.

Another way of understanding poverty is to identify what our basic needs are:

  • Food and adequate nutrition Healthy foods and eating habits.
  • Safe water No lead or other contaminants.
  • Safe, stable housing No lead in paint or pipes. No mold. Adequate heat and cooling. Safe neighborhood. Strong sense of community. Minimal air and soil pollution.
  • Adequate clothing and shoes that fit. Glasses as needed.
  • Access to information including speedy internet access.
  • Access to health care Preventive care: vaccines and regular exams, diagnostic, prenatal, family planning, dental, vision care.
  • Adequate pay Stable work and regular income, enough to cover housing, food, clothing and health care.
  • Good schools Good educational support services. Buildings are in good condition, with adequate facilities and supplies, and with a functional class size. If needed, there is educational support for parents. ESL classes if needed.
  • Strong community organizations and voice.
  • Opportunities A way out. Hope.
  • Strong support services and safety net Support for the disabled, the aging, the mentally challenged, special needs and single parent households. Services to address domestic violence. Mental health treatment.
  • Transportation Good, affordable public transportation.

Music And Movement

What is another way for our audiences and our communities to engage in the music listening experience? In a wordEurhythmics, also known as Dalcroze Eurhythmics: the active embodiment of music rhythm, tempo, phrasing and melodic contour, dynamics and musical expression using movement. 

Eurhythmics can be of great benefit when working with:

Students with special needs  as a sensorimotor treatment. Eurhythmics helps with auditory processing, proprioception and movement inefficiencies.

  • It can be part of a program for the transition to group home living or to school.
  • It can be part of a weeklong summer music camp and music weekends throughout the year.
  • It can be introduced at sensory friendly concerts or as part of pre-concert activities.

Those experiencing trauma, stress, anxiety or emotional anguish such as Vets, refugees, or victims of violence.

Patients who had a stroke, or who have MS, Parkinson’s, Cerebral Palsy or paralysis. It can also help address body changes after surgery or chemo, to help reclaim a sense of wholeness.

Eurhythmics can also be part of a Successful Aging program for adults, designed to improve balance and strength, organize sensory information, speed processing and response, or counter depression. Eurhythmics could be part of a music academy week for adults (See Baltimore Symphony Academy week). Successful Aging programs address resilience and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and needs. Weeklong programs could include Eurhythmics, side -by -side rehearsals, conducting, lessons, chamber music sessions, and themed programs like music for meditation, bedtime beats, music for renewal, sing-alongs, improvisation sessions, or a composing class on telling your story with music.

If you aim for developing a weeklong program rather than single sessions, you can go more in-depth and create deeper connections.

Identifying Dalcroze Eurhythmics Certified instructors

It is likely that you will be able to find Eurhythmics programs and trained instructors near you: in Pittsburgh there are classes in Dalcroze Eurhythmics at Carnegie Mellon University as well as Duquesne University.

For further reading:

  • Dorita Berger Eurhythmics for Autism Kingsley 2016
  •  American Eurhythmics Society   David Frego, President
  • Rudolf Von Laban
  • Irmgard Bartenieff   Bartenieff Fundamentals
  • Feldenkrais
  • Alexander Technique
  • Kodaly and Orff methods

By incorporating Eurhythmics into your programs you will be cultivating a whole new group of active listeners!

April 27,2016

Script For A Presentation To Medical Students On Music And Its Uses For Patients In Addressing Anxiety, Post-Op Recovery And Rehab

In July 1999 I was diagnosed with breast cancer through a routine mammogram. Over the next two months I had a biopsy, 3 diagnostic surgeries and a mastectomy, followed by four rounds of chemotherapy. At the 18-month mark I had a six-hour free-flap reconstruction and three months later the final touches on reconstruction. Soon after chemotherapy was completed I started playing for patients in the hospital. For nine months a music therapist and I visited the transplant area in Montefiore Hospital every Monday, and the next day I played for people in the radiation oncology waiting area, as well as in its ovarian cancer inpatient area, at Magee Women’s Hospital.
I continue to do this, though not so regularly, now that music therapists have been hired at Children’s Hospital and more musicians and staff have experience playing for patients in different settings. I do, however, continue to play for a semiannual memorial service at Children’s Hospital for families and caregivers.
So my talk today about how to use music in the hospital setting is based on my own experience with diagnosis and treatment, my experience with the music therapy community, and the interaction I have had over the years with patients and their families.

I want to address three topics, Anxiety associated with diagnosis and pre-surgery, Post-op recovery and Rehabilitation


My diagnostic phase lasted for months, with a great deal of uncertainty about what my diagnosis would mean for my family: will I die tomorrow, or will I live a normal lifespan? What do I say to my 7- and 9- year old children? My employer?

I have a limited time that I spend with the doctor who gives me the diagnosis, but where do I go for the support I need? Because I will be actively seeking support wherever I can find it, you as doctors, or your support staff, have an opportunity to steer me, the patient, toward legitimate complementary therapies and activities. This may include suggesting joining a support group, speaking to a social worker, or identifying someone who could do meditation or guided imagery with me, perhaps an oncology psychologist; or I could work with a music therapist to find support in the music I choose to listen to.

Why is addressing anxiety important? What effect does anxiety have on being able to make good medical decisions, on taking in information, on handling stress, on the immune system, on pain perception, or on attitude? How can I address the sense of helplessness, or the feeling that I have lost control?

OK, lets put this into another everyday context: we have 200 players applying for one viola position in the orchestra, and many of them will be playing for the audition committee of which I am a member at the end of this week; and my Dad is having a pacemaker put in and is nervous about it; and the house next to my sister’s just burned to the ground while she watched, with the neighbor just barely getting out in time, and the whole block threatening to go up in flames. So what kind of music would be helpful for this daily or weekly stress?

(Play Asturias) What do you think this music does? It recognizes my anxiety and unrest, and transforms it. I could then play something slower following that piece, and be much calmer by the end… But now, let’s compare this to what I listened to and played when I was first diagnosed:

(Play Irish tune Lannigan’s Ball)

How is this different? I needed more support. And this is more dance-like: instead of running away I could listen and take in what the surgeon or radiologist was telling me, so I could make better decisions. It has a minor feel to it, validating my sense of crisis, but a message of hope. For the diagnosis phase I liked Take 6, a male A cappella group, because they sang, or almost shouted their faith into me, supporting me, holding me up.

There is other music I could play to slow down respiration and heart rate before surgery: Bedtime Beats or Ocean Surf.  I needed to feel held, surrounded by people, and warm, so I chose cello and male voices to address the uncertainty surrounding the diagnostic surgeries.  At a later time, without the uncertainty of what cancer the surgeon would find, the music I preferred for reconstruction surgery was quite different.

Post-op Recovery

Some of the most helpful conditions for recovery were: lots of natural light, a view of nature, and music.

Let’s examine this more closely: what do I as a patient need to be doing the most right after surgery, and what gets in the way of this? I need the ability to sleep and to get back to sleep, or at least to a restful state. Strange or loud noises, checking for vital signs, talking in the hallway, pagers and beeping equipment can seriously impair my (the patient’s) ability to sleep. So I used noise cancellation headphones that I could fall asleep wearing, and music with no or very little pulse such as Gregorian or other types of chant, or thumb piano music, or ragas, depending on what I liked and what seemed to help support my needs. A variety of music is good since if I am in the hospital for days I will get tired of hearing the same things over and over! For me at that moment, Bach Goldberg Variations, Baroque solo guitar or other music with a uniform texture and no sudden changes were good. A music therapist can help the patient find music that works for them. The success of use of music can be seen in studies that show reduced need for pain meds and reduced hospital stays for many patients. (e.g. studies of knee surgery patients in recovery, many of whom needed dramatically less pain medication) Patients are more comfortable and can be more cooperative during procedures where pain medication or sedatives are not an option. Music that the patient helps to choose, in partnership with a music therapist, is a particularly good option for special needs patients and children. Having a music therapist provide music during medical procedures for these populations can be invaluable.

With neonates a music therapist can make a recording which includes the mother’s heartbeat. A baby’s heart rate and respiration respond so that they are able to rest and thrive, rather than spend a lot of energy crying, so many are able to leave the hospital many days earlier, and experience fewer complications.


If I as a patient am in the hospital for longer than a few days, I can feel very disoriented and isolated from all that is familiar. I can use songs and other music to reconnect to time of year, religion, memories or home and family.

Let’s try singing something and see what you notice happening as we do it:

(Sing something) What do you notice as we sing the beginnings of different songs? How do you respond even in the first few seconds as we start the song? Which ones would you choose to help support you during diagnosis and treatment? The key is to pick the right song, the one that gets the result you want: positive associations, connections, hope. For someone who needs to improve their breathing, singing songs that work for the patient gets them to do their breathing exercises for a longer time while connecting to the music therapist and the outside world at the same time.

Now let’s try one more thing: Stand up and walk in place, about this speed:


First we’ll do it without music and I want you to pay attention to what you notice as we do this.

Now I am going to start playing. Notice what happens and any differences.

(Play two Irish songs. Play the second one faster, and speed up, changing tempo as you play it)

This is called entrainment, or, in the language of exercise, cadence training. It is useful for people just regaining strength or confidence in their walking, recovering from surgery. It can also be very useful in working with people who have Parkinson’s. Oliver Sacks talks about his leg, temporarily not working, that somehow was able to function effectively again when he thought of a particular piece of music; in his case Mendelssohn’s violin concerto.

During my recovery from reconstruction surgery I used a CD entitled Shakti Yoga, focusing on grounding, then expansion (including expansion of breathing) and reawakening, and then on gradually speeding up.

Listening suggestions to help expand and explore your music choices in preparation for diagnosis and treatment. What helps you? What else could you choose?

  • Chant the Benedictine monks of Santo Domingo, or Chanticleer
  • Eight String Religion David Darling
  • Ocean surf with no other sounds, or with bird sounds
  • Agnus Dei I   The choir of New College, Oxford. What other spiritual music would help support you?
  • The Three Masses of William Byrd   The Tallis Scholars. How about other music by this same group?
  • St Matthew Passion Bach, later movements. Is there music Bach wrote for the current time of year that would work better for you? How about Bach for solo violin, viola or cello?
  • Mbira Healing music of Zimbabwe Erica Azim. Are there any other instruments you respond to in ways that help?
  • The London Viola Sound Dvorak and Ravel cuts. How about all cellos, or all violins?
  • Raga Sindhi Bhairavi Ali Akbar Khan, Sarod and L Subramaniam, violin. How about other ragas?
  • Dream Melodies Vol. 1 Baroque   How about lute, oud or other instruments? Or Classical, acoustic guitar?
  • Shakti Yoga Russill Paul
  • Ambient 1 Music for Airports Brian Eno
  • Drumming, Double drumming Michael Harner

For further exploration:

What music is used in different cultures for meditation?

For creating a trance-like state? For self-hypnosis? For self-calming?

What music is used to nourish or strengthen the spirit?

What music is used to energize the body?

Who would be able to help you answer these questions more fully? An ethnomusicologist? A music historian? A music therapist?

Taking it back to the concert hall:

What orchestral or chamber music pieces fall into those categories?

Could you have a music for meditation, a music for the spirit, or some other themed concert series using some of the music you discovered? What acoustic music from other cultural traditions could you introduce in a western music concert? How does this change your idea of who you could invite to be a soloist?

For more information on music and wellness visit

March 2007 Pitt, updated April 2016

Script And Playlist For A Successful Aging Presentation For Older Adults

A successful aging program often emphasizes stress reduction, participating in activities that strengthen connection with others and staying physically active. In keeping with those goals, in the sample program below, the group practices deep breathing, sings familiar songs together and does upper body movements to music.

Background: They meet regularly for sessions on nutrition and maintaining an active lifestyle.

Goal for this session: Optimizing quality of life by keeping physically active, connecting with others and breathing deeply.

About this audience: Ages: 70-89. This is a 30-45 – minute session for 30-40 people. We have two musicians presenting: a violinist or violist and a cellist.

Part 1. Practice deep breathing:

Lead diaphragm breathing (wind and brass players can make suggestions on how to do this) Do you notice anything different? Answers might include I feel dizzy, I feel sleepy, I feel more awake, or sorry, I have to leave. The more varied the answers the better!

By practicing this type of breathing you become more in touch with your body and can take a nap, have some coffee or otherwise deal with what your body is telling you when you are ready to hear it.

Pick songs to sing from the listings in the playbook, below. Play along as they sing. Have them help you choose what to sing next. After singing a few songs, ask  if  they notice anything different or if anything changed. Answers might include: singing together makes me feel like we are more of a group, or I feel more alert, or when I practice breathing I get dizzy, but I don’t when I sing, or I can’t remember the last time I sang with other people. I think it was in summer camp.

All responses accepted!

Part 2. Do upper body movements to music:

Have their exercise instructor, if they have one, show your audience movements for them to follow as you play short pieces from your playbook that are in three.  Then try pieces in two or four. What do they notice? They may have already done exercises without music, so they will notice a change when you are accompanying their movements. You can ask them about what they observe.

An exercise instructor or yoga professional has a better idea of what movements are safe and helpful for maintaining strength and flexibility. But if one is not available the exercise leader could also be a volunteer from your audience. The group will enjoy having someone they know lead the movements!

Ask “How does your movement change when the rhythm is in three versus two or four?”

Part 3. Introduce your players and instruments and play something written for your instrument that you particularly like, that tells them something about you, or that you think they might find interesting. Selections might include a movement from a Bach Suite, Sonata or Partita, a tango, Recuerdos de la Alhambra arranged for viola, a scordatura fiddle piece, or something else that engages you and that they might like. Your piece should be relatively short, and upbeat.

Part 4. Give thanks. Play a thank you song such as Simple Gifts, Saturday Night Waltz, or Cavalleria Rusticana to leave them with something optimistic and hopeful.

The Playbook:

Bach Gavotte (has a melody over a drone, a sustained G)

Songs with piano reduction and words:

  • Let me call you sweetheart
  • Summertime Gershwin
  • Somewhere over the rainbow
  • Loch Lomond
  • Take me out to the ballgame
  • Blue skies
  • Shenandoah
  • Molly Malone
  • Auld Lang Syne
  • Amazing Grace. This may not be appropriate if the audience is of a different religion or if the song reminds them of a funeral!
  • Pennsylvania Polka or some other sports song
  • Danny Boy
  • Scarborough Fair

Instrumental music:

  • Waldteufel Skaters Waltz
  • [Ashokan Farewell. Might be too closely associated with death or funerals]
  • Sicilienne Paradis
  • Signal Mountain Sunrise (originally for bagpipe)
  • Mouret Rondeau (Masterpiece theater theme)
  • Haydn St Anthony chorale
  • WA Mozart Papageno’s Song
  • Bizet Carmen
  • Bartok Rumanian Dances: Mountain Horn Song, Sash Dance.
  • Puccini O Mio Babbino Caro
  • Copeland Saturday Night Waltz
  • Mascagni Cavalleria Rusticana

Questions to explore:

Assuming the above presentation happened a few years ago, what would you change if you presented to a current group of 60 to 79 year olds?  Singing as a group: What was their favorite music to sing when they were in their early twenties or late teens? What music might the group all know? What is their favorite instrumental music?

What would you change if the group was a mix of African-Americans and Latinos as well as Caucasian? What are your assumptions? They are probably inaccurate! Who works with these populations that could give you suggestions?   How about if you ask the group what are their favorite songs to sing? How does this differ from your assumptions?

What would you change in the instrumental selections?

You could add a segment where you play a short piece that suggests a story, and ask what is happening in the story. What music would you choose?

Getting back to the hall

How can this experience change what orchestral works you present at the hall?

For more information on music and wellness visit

April 27, 2016

Script For An Outpatient Ostomy Support Group Presentation At A Hospital

1. Introduce the sound of your instrument. Play familiar tunes as if warming up.

I am introduced

2. Connect to the time of year and the location of the presentation. Thanks for coming. By the way, congratulations on your many wellness programs: The Cinco de Mayo 5K, your fitness lending library, your cardio jazzercise, salsa, the summer fitness program, and your support of preventive wellness screenings. These are very important things you are doing! And they sound like fun!

It is October 1 and Halloween is just around the corner, so I have to set the proper tone for this presentation and make it seasonally appropriate. I need to ask you some important questions:

Why did the skeleton have trouble crossing the road?

What does the skeleton say when you sit down to eat?

another one:

Why was the vampire fired from the blood bank?

and finally:

why did the ghost have trouble getting a date?

Question for discussion: For your presentation what  seasonal jokes would be appropriate, if any?

3. Introduce the focus of your presentation  OK, here’s what I’m going to talk about today.  (I brought my violin and viola.)

Using music for pain and stress management. Why these two things together? Anxiety is often manifested in increased heart and respiration rates, elevated blood pressure and increased muscle tension.  We may not sleep well either. And when we are tense and lacking sleep, do you think we feel more, or less pain? Think back to you or someone you knew going through childbirth and those labor pains. What did you (or they) do to try to manage the pain? What about those breathing exercises? And if you (they) had a long labor and were tired, was there a change in pain level?  Did you (they) need more pain meds?

We expend a lot of extra energy if we are chronically stressed or anxious, and what happens: we get colds, we may get sick more easily or we may get depressed. So what can we do that will help us cope?

a. Breathing

Take a deep breath. Ooh I see lots of different ways you get your air! By the way, if I try to play and I’m only breathing from up here, look what happens: tense shoulders, bumpy sound! And if my neck and shoulders are tense, I am tense, and it radiates down my arms and back. So lets stop the tension before it starts. We need to get air from down here, in the belly. (If for some reason you are not able to use your belly, do what makes sense for you)

Let me show you a quick way to start belly breathing. Sit like a guy sits when he’s watching a [Steelers] game… (Watch what they do) No, not like he’s sitting back having a beer, but like he’s watching an exciting play! From your sitting position, move your legs apart like a Vee, if they aren’t already, and lean forward, resting your forearms on top of your legs. OK, NOW take a deep breath. See if you feel it expand. Where do you feel it? You probably feel it here, in front; do most of you feel it here? (nod yes) Now see if you can feel it back here: put your palms on your back, just above your hips. The bones and structure of the upper chest inhibit expansion.  To breathe deeply we need to expand down; to fill down with air. So your ribs open up. Feel it? Keep going…(pause)… If you get dizzy, stop for awhile.

Ok let’s do this for awhile: just follow your breath…Feel the air coming in, going out…What are you aware of? (Speed changes, pauses, cold air in the nose, blowing the hot air aou, faster in or out)

OK now let’s sit up. Put your hands on your sides on your lower ribs. (Not your waist; your ribs don’t go that low) Feel the rib bones. Relax your shoulders. Feel your ribs expand and continue to breathe from the belly… On your next exhale, make a “ssss” sound…again…good, now we’re going to pretend to through a straw for five seconds (Count 1,2,3,4,5) hiss it out: “sssss”…good.

OK, keep going with that…Now, with your next exhalation you’re going to make a sound. Go “aaaaaaaah.” Open your lips. Now, open wide enough to put two fingers in your mouth without touching your lips. Take your fingers out…]

Pretend you’ve been trying without success to balance your checkbook and you FINALLY find the mistake…Say “aaah” with a feeling of discovery or inspiration. aaah…aaaaH (cup behind your ear) AAAAAAH  Wow, that’s more like it!

Make a motor boat sound, buzzing your lips, then on “are you sleeping”}

Make a ch ch ch sound. Ss ss ss, p p p k k k k. Feel the diaphragm]

So by doing belly breaths you have to have relaxed your muscles enough to let the rib cage expand. Feel any changes? Anything?

That’s enough on breathing. Let’s talk about sleeping.

Anybody have trouble getting to sleep? Getting back to sleep? Why do you think we have trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep? (Stress, too much on our minds, noises, indigestion, too much fluid before bed so we have to keep getting up, unfamiliar place, unfamiliar sounds, medications, depression) In the hospital we add several other challenges to sleep: medical staff, particularly in the first 24 hours after surgery, need to keep checking vital signs and they invariably wake the patient. Pain, noise and lots of unfamiliar sounds also contribute.

So what kinds of skills might help us sleep better at home and on the road? First we need to get into a relaxed or hypnotic state. We need to be totally in the present moment and let go of what just happened or of anything coming up.

Just be here, now… For that, we start with breathing or following the breath. You already noticed that in a short time working with breathing you were more relaxed. If you were lying down, that alone might be enough for you to let go into sleep. But what else could you do, using music?

You could start by setting aside a regular time to listen to music, perhaps just before bed, or just before you want to take a nap. Shut off phones or close the door to your bedroom; whatever you need to do to create an uninterrupted time for yourself.  Get your music-playing device and your headphones, covering the ear, like this (show them) and noise-canceling, if you have them, and your choice of music. If you are somewhat wired or still going full tilt, you might start by playing something relaxing that you really like, maybe a favorite song, or perhaps quiet Spanish guitar music, or Bach played on lute, or Bach’s Goldberg Variations for piano. Bu the way those variations were written for a client who had trouble sleeping.

Play Ashokan Farewell, or Loch Lomond.  Give the beats per minute (BPM).  Play a chant improvisation. Play a short piece with a drone.

Try pieces with 60-80 BPM or slower. You might follow this by listening to something like the sound of ocean surf, or Gregorian Chant, ragas, or a drone.

Play an example or two.

After a number of your music sessions you may notice that it takes less time to get into the state you want [the relaxation response] But find what works for you, music that you look forward to hearing and enjoy. I have given you some suggestions, but sample potential music on iTunes, YouTube or Amazon, wherever works for you. You will know if the song or piece does what you want by hearing it even briefly. Surround yourself with the music that works for you.

In the hospital setting, noise-cancellation headphones block out unfamiliar or loud sounds and bring your familiar home environment into your hospital room. You as a patient have more control of your environment. And if you as a patient sleep better and are able to sleep more while you recover, that will help you with healing.

b. Exercise

After 50 what kinds of exercise do we need the most? (Balance, core strengthening, flexibility, strengthening around the joints) How can we get it? Salsa, waltzing, jazzercise, walking, Pilates, yoga or modified yoga, even dragon boat rowing (My team had many women over 50)?  You notice a lot of these activities can include music (the dragon boat has a drummer) and you will find plenty of studies which show that if you use music while you exercise you will be more apt to stick with your diet and exercise program. These kinds of exercise also give us a chance to be around other people and feel less isolated.

Let’s try an experiment to remind us of what music contributes to our exercise. Besides, I want an excuse to play some fiddle music for you!

Stand up. Yeah, you’ve been sitting too long! Stretch those legs! Let’s start by walking in place, about this pace. (snap your fingers)  notice how this feels. We’re doing this without music… OK now I’m going to play something, but I want you to notice whether anything changes when we add the music (Play Lannigan’s Ball at a slightly different tempo than they are walking, then Drowsy Maggie. Speed up) Wow, you kept right with me!  All right, now you can sit down! What did you notice? Did you notice that without me saying anything, you matched the tempo and changed as the music suggested you speed up or slow down?

Now in the hospital, if the physical therapist uses music as part of rehab or as patients first get out of bed, the music can help get you moving, and moving more fluidly: think about what happens if you go to an exercise class. Maybe you are sleepy and feeling all kinds of aches and pains, or you just feel sluggish and you don’t want to do anything. The instructor turns the music on, and rather quickly you feel energized and ready to move.

4. Indicate that you are about to conclude. Play an ending piece that is calm but provides hope, such as Saturday night Waltz. What else could you play?

For more information on music and wellness visit

Script For A Presentation For Over-21 Adults With Special Needs

PSO cellist Adam Liu and I were recently invited to do a 45-minute presentation for the first Woodlands Foundation Notes from the Heart Music Camp for adults over 21. Adam plays the erhu as well as the cello and I play violin and viola, so between us we had the potential to provide a wide range of sounds and styles. As usual I brought percussion instruments so that we could have an audience-provided rhythm section as needed! And I knew the campers were very willing to sing on request.

I found the most challenging part of playing for a group with highly individual abilities was designing a program that could be engaging and inclusive on multiple levels. I knew that the music selections needed to be relatively short and that we would need to shift gears a few times. For me the key to engagement was to ask the audience a lit of questions.

So this is how our program unfolded:

Adam and I began by holding up and introducing the instruments. In addition to the violin and viola, I showed them a Nepali violin, the sarangi, a four-string instrument unfamiliar to everybody, with carvings of a bird and an elephant god (Ganesh) on the back. This provided an interesting contrast to the western violin and the erhu.

I also showed them an ocean drum. (How many of them had been to the ocean?) While I played it, we used the sound to imagine being by the water, and then we used our voices to create the whooshing sound of waves coming to shore.

Adam, playing cello, gave the campers some drone notes to sing as I played a bagpipe version of Auld Lang Syne on the violin. We asked, “Does anybody recognize this piece? Does anyone know the words?” With their participation, singing the drone notes while I played the melody; together we became the bagpipe. Adam and I then played a short bagpipe version of The Water is Wide. One of the campers identified the piece and proceeded to sing the words with a beautiful, pure sound, to the subsequent applause and cheers of everybody.

I followed that with a local fiddle version of Drowsy Maggie. We added some audience percussion when I introduced and played the scordatura Appalachian tune Dry and Dusty and a few American folk dance tunes. One of the participants was able to identify every key we played in.

To change the pace, Adam introduced and played a Chinese melody on the erhu, followed by a cello piece from a Bach suite.

We switched to viola and cello and played five Romanian folk dances by Bartok. After each dance I asked what title they would give the piece. The participants’ responses were astoundingly creative.

And finally we switched to playing local sports songs: take me out to the ball game and the Pennsylvania polka. Everybody sang, played percussion, danced, or waved Terrible Towels

To thank the participants for all the wonderful ideas and positive energy they contributed to the event, we finished with simple gifts. The song is familiar, and they could still play their percussion to a quieter, slower beat. One of the campers accompanied us beautifully on the two-headed drum, the madal, an instrument he had never played before.

I leave the Woodlands inspired and humbled by the participants’ brilliance, enthusiasm, and creativity.


  • On the Ocean Drum, make wave sounds. Then have the audience, with their voices, imitate the sound of the waves.
  • Start the audience singing, matching the specific pitches the cellist plays. Those will be the drone notes for the bagpipe tune. Add the melody on the violin to create the complete effect of a bagpipe.
  • On violin, play  fiddle tunes such as Drowsy Maggie and(Scordatura) Dry and Dusty, followed by other folk dance tunes. The audience can play percussion un-pitched instruments to accompany this.
  • On erhu, play Horse Race. Have the audience make galloping sounds with their instruments.
  • On cello, a Bach Suite movement
  • With viola and cello, Romanian Folk Dances Bartok
  • Take Me Out to the Ball Game
  • Pennsylvania Polka
  • Simple Gifts

For further consideration:

What other repertoire could you use for combinations of two instruments?  What are you working on that could be played in place of the Bach Suite movement? How do you determine what is appropriate? Who can you ask? Who works with these campers and could give you feedback?

What are the goals of your session? How else could you have them participate?

For more information visit

July 2014 updated April 2016