Should one travel down the Social Studies hallway during 5th block Monday or Tuesday, they may detect some singing, strumming, or drumming (or all of the above) drifting out of Mrs. Harrison’s room. At this time each week, students arrange chairs into a circle and await the arrival of Mr. B, who will serenade them with melodies about money and the odd pop tune. They are encouraged to sing along and respond to questions asked through song, and later to drum together. Students are known to continue humming the catchy numbers for the remainder of the week.
Referred to as Mr. B by his Gull Lake clients, Jared Bobcean is a senior in Western Michigan University’s therapy program. He has been working with a portion of Mrs. Harrison’s class since January for his practicum assignment. He discovered his passion for music therapy, he said, due to his upbringing and a google search.
“I know that sounds pretty anticlimactic but my father was a funeral director and he helped a lot of people through the difficult time of a loss,” Bobcean said. “I realized that I wanted to help people like that, just minus the funeral aspect of it? So go figure I’m going into hospice music therapy–funny–but I realized that I’m very musically inclined, so I typed in ‘music’ plus ‘therapy’ because you know I wanted to help people, and here I am!”
As for his experience at Gull Lake, Bobcean is delighted.
“I absolutely love it here,” Bobcean said. “The atmosphere is great. My clients are just as wonderful as the school itself.”
It seems that the students get just as much out of the experience. Andrew Peavler excitedly insists on singing the National Anthem after many of the sessions, and Sophomore Jakob Beilby frequently sings the oft revisited ‘money song’ throughout the week, especially while transferring coins into his Tootsie Roll shaped piggy bank. This is a prime example of how music therapy works.
“I think it works very well. It’s very hands on.”-Jared Bobcean
“We are working with improving social skills and money skills and (for money) we’re using… specific melodic contours and melody lines that are unique to the different coin values… as a way to identify the different coins and the different money values associated with them,” Bobcean said. “In that case music is such an efficient pneumonic device.”
Students have become familiar with the varying verses and are each given a laminated coin print out to hold up as their verse is sung. They are currently working on meshing the worth of each coin into an understanding of equivalency, again with the help of rhythm and melody. The core of this method is fairly noticeable in everyday life.
“It’s easy to remember music,” Bobcean said. “You know, you think of your favorite song and you can sing the whole thing and so…pairing (this information) with the music will help internalize (it).”
However, Bobcean said that it isn’t so much about the music as the musical elements. He uses an example a music therapist may encounter to link the musical to the physical.
“With the music, we use music to facilitate clinical growth,” Bobcean said. “For example, if I’m using let’s say, rhythm and I’m using it in a setting where my client doesn’t walk well–the gait is very labored and the movement isn’t smooth–walking is intrinsically rhythmic, so we use rhythm as a kind of guideline…”
These guidelines will hopefully show up and be built upon well past Mondays and Tuesdays.
“I believe that they are enjoying themselves very much,” Bobcean said. “Since I’m only here a very select times out of the week, I hear word from Mrs. Harrison and other faculty members about how well they are improving and how well they are functioning as the people that they are.”
Read the full article with additional media at the official Gull Lake Reflection page.