It’s Monday evening and I am just finished a drama class with a group of people with intellectual disability. We know each other well and meet every Monday for two hours to create, talk, discover and uncover our stories through drama. today the theme was bullying; as I make my way home, I am left humming the tune of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers ‘I won’t back down’. It is playing its way through my head as I flick through the book Group music activities by Maria Ramey. Boom! Suddenly I see it staring back at me in print, on page 91.
Maria Ramey’s book is packed with 100 musical exercises that I, as a drama facilitator for people with intellectual disability, find instantly engaging. Maria has produced a very clear and well laid out book that is accessible and easy to follow. it incorporates movement, art, conversation and thinking into each musical exercise and it provides an excellent tool for any creative arts practitioner’s toolbox. the book itself is user friendly and not aimed solely at therapists; as I read I imagine teachers filling their classrooms with the sound of the twist or the beat of an African drum. What better way to learn than through all of the above.
the blurb on the back of the book suggests that it has been written to provide more age-appropriate material, moving away from the childish material that exists in some music therapy resources today. As a parent of two young boys, I am constantly fascinated by their ability to play, and equally fascinated in the way their play develops and changes as they get older. I would go so far as to say that the older we get the less in touch we are with our ability to play. When i think of music I immediately think of play—musical instruments are played, musicians play in an orchestra, children play together. So, while Maria’s book has made these exercises more palatable for an older population, it is important to note that they will remain exercises on a page unless they are played with.
One of the many beautiful things about play is the space it provides for the moment. The moment is bursting with potential and waiting to be filled, so while I welcome this book with its myriad of exercises and well thought-out clinical applications, I would encourage any music therapist, teacher, parent or care-giver to play with it and allow room for spontaneity and improvisation. The moment and our ability to inhabit it is where the potential for growth, creativity and change truly lies. Let the group find their rhythm and they will play the tune and sing the song that they need to be played and sung.