American Music Therapy Conference – November 2018

Hello My Friends,

Arthur in Dallas, Texas here.

In the early 90s I started doing programs for the regional music therapy gatherings, then the national conferences. The music therapy community was one of the major environments where I learned the power of rhythm care.

It was at one of those conferences where Christine Stevens got bored with the workshop she was in and snuck into my pre-conference mini-Facilitator Playshops. Being one person amongst 90 participants at that workshop, I didn’t really notice her. It wasn’t until later, at a PASIC percussion conference, that Christine showed up in the midst of the usual suspects: Jim Greiner, Randy Craftsmen, Kalani, Suli Greg Wilson, and myself. She blew us all away with her spirit, spunk and very clear and precise facilitation technique. I walked up to her after her facilitation sequence and asked, “Where the hell did you learn how to facilitate like that?” Her answer, while looking up a me with a big smile, was: “From You.”After that, and for how many years? I am not sure, we worked together and slowly developed our co-facilitator alchemy process during each annual National Music Therapy Conference. By the first World Music Therapy Conference, we were equals, working together with a community that we both knew and loved, and who knew and loved us back.

Finally, my increased international Playshop touring dictated that I hand the Music Therapy Facilitation mantel over to Christine, and she has carried it well for quite a number of years. Since then, my last few visits to these gatherings have been far and few between. My last American Music Therapy Conference was in Louisville Kentucky in 2014.

But because we had only booked Playshops in six countries this year, I had the time and the opportunity to do this year’s American Music Therapy Conference in Dallas, at the end of this relatively short world Playshop tour.

My thanks to Alyssa Janney for facilitating the opportunity for me to return to one of my root communities. To REMO for the years of supporting the Music Therapy movement in many ways, including supplying drums for all rhythm related programs. And thanks to Omi Belli, REMO’s CEO, for joining us at the drum circle and participating fully.

Although I had Lots-o-Fun at this event, visiting old friends and making new ones, it is one of the few times I have been at a Music Therapy Conference without working with my friend Christine Stevens. I missed her sparkly presence and our amazing alchemic co-facilitation. We are both masterful facilitators, but when we are collaborating together to facilitate the highest musical and rhythm spirit in a drum circle event, amazing things happen.

As usual, there were Lots-o-Women here at the American Music Therapy conference in Dallas. One guy for every nine women. You will find this same proportion of gender dynamics in the Chinese Music Therapy community as well.

The afternoon Rhythmical Alchemy Playshop (workshop) had around 100 people attending. It was a challenge for me to teach them drum circle games designed for 15-30 participants. I made it work by showcasing the center row for the first game - the second row for the second game - the third row for the third game and so on and so forth. We used the progressive drum circle games in the, ”Groove To Solo” series to teach platform learning consciousness, phraseology - improvisation - rhythmical cycles - interactive dialogue, etc. We used the “Rumble To Rhythm” game series to teach quantifying pitch - facilitating pitch dialogue - melody line - air drumming, etc. We had Lots-o-FUN.

The 200+ person strong evening music therapy conference drum circle was exactly what I hoped for and expected.

Music Therapy drum circle populations constantly make the best music. I always look forward to facilitating these events. Facilitating volume dynamics and listening is the key.

Lower volume makes for more listening - More listening makes for more music - More music makes more magic. 

Tonights Music Therapy Conference Drum Circle was no exception. A whole lot of dynamic tempo and volume changes with amazing vocals were woven throughout the whole evenings event.

For the ending I worked with what they gave me. I brought the volume down, showcasing the vocal chant that was developing. As I brought the drum volume lower, the chant strengthened into an angel’s chorus. Finely the drums stopped as the angelic vocals flew up into the glass ceilinged roof. I had the drums strike one note every two measures to support the vocals. Each accent note on the drums got softer and slowly faded into the vocal alchemy that was flooding our hearts. Then the soft angelic chant finally faded into silence. After a long space of teary quiet, I whispered into the mike, “Have nice dreams” and we all silently filed out of the room. The magic had visited us, again!

This type of incredible angelic closing in a drum circle is just what I would expect from a group of music therapists of around 180 women and 20 men.

I think that we will have a lot of music therapists at the 2019 Hawaii 6-day Playshop in August. 

Now it’s finally time to go home for Thanksgiving and for the Winter. After doing programs in Chicago, Scotland, England, Norway, Portland, Boston, India China, and finally Dallas (in that order), I deserve a rest.

Share your Spirit…