Melody Is a Risk
by Music Therapist Robin Bates

This boy, Gabriel, has just taken a big risk. He has just sung Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (TTLS) together with me in a music therapy group for seven children with profound and multiple learning difficulties in the Curnow School, Redruth.

the look on his face, of excitement and exuberance, speaks of the terrific effort he has made

The look on his face, of excitement and exuberance, speaks of the terrific effort he has made.

And no wonder – for the children in Gabriel’s group, their disabilities make it very difficult for them to organise a singing voice. It took three years of music therapy for Gabriel to achieve his.
For three years he could only manage his voice to produce one note; TTLS always on one note. And after he achieved his first melodic rendition, he effervesced and luxuriated in the wide praises from myself and all the staff in the room. He had taken the risk and succeeded.

For some children however, it is their emotional inner world which prevents them from taking risks.

Many, through appalling family circumstances, are terrified of the world and unsure of their place in it – afraid to assert themselves for fear of catastrophe.

One such was Jamie, a three-year old boy with whom I worked at the Truro Child Development Centre at Treliske. An ablebodied and inquisitive boy, Jamie’s eyes, which seemed to find wonder wherever they looked, were also full of fear. Initially he couldn’t enter the music therapy room; it took four weeks before he crossed the threshold. Then, for one three-minute episode each session I sang a well known song (TTLS) and for 21 weeks he joined in – but only singing on one note; literally monotonous.

I reflected on how safe it was for him to remain on one note, how comfortable – yet how restricting.

Then one spring day, he took the risk. Firstly with the first two notes; two weeks later with the whole song. The look on his face was unforgettable. That safe, holding quality of music, was for Jamie a steadying hand throughout.

By the end of the year his singing was exuberant, melodic and confident. Child Development indeed.

he took the risk… firstly with the first two notes, two weeks later with the whole song

Big news for Jamie, big news for music therapy and worthy of a fanfare on this blog.