Monday, December 1, 2008

Partnering with Music Therapists: A Model for Addressing Students' Musical and Extramusical Goals

Partnering with Music Therapists:
A model for Addressing Students' Musical and Extramusical Goals
Janet Montgomery and Amy Martinson

Report by: Shauna Garelick


This is an article and primitive resource to help music educators begin to address teaching students with learning disabilities within the context of a mainstream classroom. The author differentiates between the role of a music teacher and music therapist, pointing out the common goals and objectives but addressing that the music teacher attempts to achieve this through forming lessons around the musical concept, while the music therapy bases her lessons on what the learner needs. Practical and pragmatic suggestions are made to help music teachers access resources and reevaluate how they approach music education in order to engage all students. Furthermore, the importance of ensuring that the teacher knows and understands what exists in the students individual education plan (IEP) is discussed. Finally, an example of a lesson that employs some of the strategies is provided to put all of the aspects of the article into context.


This article addresses many key ideas that a music teacher must consider when planning lessons involving students with developmental disabilities. Perhaps the most significant part of the article is the discussion of the endless benefits that students with learning disabilities can gain through being involved in music. In recognizing this, music teachers can attempt to get more students involved in music who otherwise would be overlooked because they might not appear to be the most talented. One critical area that the author neglected to discuss was trial and error. Especially when working with students with various disabilities, it is important to realize that there may be some excellent approaches with strategies, they may or may not work. There is no right or wrong, just what works. Knowing the student is perhaps the most important advice that can exist not only for students with disabilities, but for all students. It is critical try many strategies. Every child learns differently.


As a music teacher for students with developmental disabilities, I was particularly interested in the strategies that were offered. I paid close attention to see if they were ones that I had employed in my practice or would attempt. I found both. However, I found that it is important to realize that strategies will not work for everyone and that is the constant struggle in education, particularly when working with students with special needs where repetition is so important. Furthermore, it may take more time for children with disabilities to show improvement, but don’t let that translate into thinking music is not having a profound affect on their learning, cognitive, emotional skills and self esteem. Positive reinforcement and repetition are probably the most important strategies no matter what the approach. In reflecting on my own practice, I realized that while I was quite comfortable and excited in teaching students with developmental disabilities, I did not have a particular strategy. I think that it made me more creative in my approach and accepting as to what worked for each student, recognizing that what seemed good in theory could be completely useless and vice versa. However, I should have spent more time analyzing what worked in order to perhaps have a practical use of strategies and while they may or may not work on another student, it is a jumping off point for the next time.

Montgomery, J. and Martinson, A. (2006). Partnering with Music Therapists - A model for Addressing Students Musical and Extramusical Goals. Music Educators Journal. 92(4). p. 32-39.

No comments: