Archive for the ‘Music Therapy’ Category

Three Free, Easy Ways to Self-Manage Stress

April 15, 2010

By Faith Halverson, Music Therapist at The Lesson Studio

Faith Halverson, Music Therapist at The Lesson Studio

Faith Halverson

Stress is a natural part of life. It is something that everyone experiences at times regardless of age. (Because remember, even though they may not be able to articulate it, children feel stress too.) Stress is a normal response to situations that we, whether consciously or unconsciously, perceive to be threatening.

The stress response is an internal physiological phenomenon of brain activation and hormone secretion which sets off a “fight-or-flight” response that can provide us with the burst of energy needed to escape dangerous situations. This mechanism has been very helpful to us humans through the years as a way to ensure our survival.

Yet, especially in todayʼs busy world, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the demands that are placed upon you either by yourself or others. These demands are not life-threatening, yet the culmination of these stressors may make it feel as though your life is in danger.

This culmination can in turn become a vicious cycle in which you may find yourself in more and more stressful situations that then result in a state of perpetual stress. Eventually this feeling of being constantly “stressed out” can grow to become understood as a normal state of being.

However, living from a place where one is constantly “stressed out” comes with both a physical and a mental price. While we are evolutionarily hard-wired to respond to stress, our overall health and well-being are affected when this constant state of stress becomes a way of life.

Some of the health problems that have been found to be linked with the long-term activation of the stress-response system, due particularly to the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones, are:

Heart disease
Sleep problems
Digestive problems
Memory impairment
Worsening of skin conditions, such as eczema

These are serious health conditions that greatly affect the quality of life for many people in this country. The American Heart Association estimates that in 2006, 81,100,000 people in the United States had one or more forms of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health state that in a given year, approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the US population age 18 and older is affected by major depressive disorder. Additionally, about 3.3 million American adults, or 1.5 percent of the population, are affected by dysthymic disorder, or chronic, mild depression.

So, now that we know that chronic stress can be detrimental to our health, what are some things that you can do for yourself to manage your own stress levels?

Following are three easy things that you can do to manage stress for yourself:

The first thing that is helpful is to increase awareness around your own personal stress signals. When you notice yourself becoming stressed, draw attention to what is happening in the present moment. What particular thoughts, feelings or sensations are you experiencing? By shifting focus back to the here-and-now, you can develop a more objective view that can be helpful to you in finding resolution to the stressful situation.

Another thing you can do is to simply make a sound- any sound. Many people tend to withhold their voice for anything other than speaking; you too may feel silly, fearful, or embarrassed about how your voice sounds. However, it can feel really good to just sound out how you feel, without any words- just pure sound. It can be a sigh, hum, growl, bark… however you are feeling the need to express in the moment. Creating sound like this with your voice can help you reconnect with your breath by requiring you to breathe more fully and deeply. This allows feelings of tension and stress to move through and out of your body. As a result, you can feel more grounded and energized.

Lastly, move your body. I know that for myself when I feel stressed, I become really restless. This affects me mentally as it is difficult for me to focus my thoughts and ideas when my attention is instead focused on the agitated energy within my body. When this happens, I move. By moving your body, you give your brain a break from problem-solving while also giving yourself a chance to reconnect with your body. After some movement or exercise, you can come back to the task at hand feeling refreshed and renewed.

These three little things are all easy to do. They donʼt require that you pay for treatments or buy special equipment. Try them out for yourself and see how you feel!


American Heart Association- Cardiovascular Disease Statistics

Mayo Clinic- Stress: Win Control Over the Stress In Your Life

National Institute of Mental Health- The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America

The Benefits to Children Engaging in Music-Making

March 9, 2010

By Faith Halverson, Music Therapist at The Lesson Studio

Faith Halverson, Music Therapist at The Lesson Studio

Faith Halverson

Music has long played a special and varied role in childhood development. Universally, lullabies are sung as a way to soothe infants and young children to sleep. Music can also be used to convey information, and songs such as “The Alphabet Song” (or the “Schoolhouse Rock” series for those of us kids of the 70‘s) have been used to teach children academic concepts. As their children grow older, many parents also see the value of their children studying music by having them take private music lessons. However, while older children can benefit from becoming musically active, young children as well can benefit from engaging in musical activities. The fields of music therapy and neurology have shown that music has a physical, emotional, and psychological effect on a person. Recent neurological studies have shown that music activates multiple areas of the brain, including those involved in motor function, speech, language, cognition and executive functioning, memory, and emotions.  Through neurological research specific to music, it is now becoming understood that the brain is physically changed through engaging in music-making and that music can
actually help build the brain.

How might your child benefit from engaging in music-making? By providing opportunities for your child to participate in music-making, you are:

• allowing them to engage in rhythm and movement activities that can help them to synchronize their brains and bodies, thereby helping them to further develop motor coordination.

• providing opportunities for your child to use and develop their voices in ways different than in speaking, allowing the ability for greater self-expression.

• helping them to increase their ability to maintain focus and sustain attention to tasks at hand, while simultaneously developing problem-solving strategies and the
ability to think creatively and critically.

What is music therapy and how does it differ from music instruction? While engaging in music-making can have beneficial, therapeutic effect, a difference
exists between music instruction and music therapy. Music therapy is a recognized healthcare profession in which music is used as the primary means of addressing the
physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs of an individual or group. A Board-Certified Music Therapist is trained to assess individuals in multiple areas of
functioning and to then use that information in devising therapeutic goals and objectives.

To find out more about music therapy, go to the website for SoundWell Music Therapy:, or you can contact me, Faith Halverson-Ramos, MA, MT-BC, NMT, directly at

Can You See What You’re Playing? And I’m not talking about the notes on the page.

March 9, 2010

By Hollie Bennett, Intern at The Lesson Studio

You know you’re a true music nerd when you start finding all the similarities between everything you do or see and how it could relate to music. And you know you’re especially bad when you just see something and bam! Now that you watched that special on the Discovery channel about outer space, you know how you can explain vibrato to the twelve year old. But really, finding those parallels between, let’s just call it this for fun, the “real world” and the “music world” can help you understand exactly what you’re doing even more than before.

Imagery is such a staple part in music, at least for me. Hearing a piece of music that really attaches itself to me makes me feel in colors, imagine stories and truly understand the emotion that the composer or performer was trying to convey. Part of me thinks that as a musician that is your true purpose in life is to tell the story, show the audience what is happening, even if you don’t know, you need to show that you do. Sometimes doing crazy things like pulling out your box of 64 Crayola crayons that you haven’t used since the fourth grade and literally coloring your music the color that you thinks conveys each part of your piece can do wonders. Even making up words to go along with what you’re playing or seeing a story that can play out in your head can get the emotional and expressive side to connect with the technical of your playing.

One of my favorite topics to bring up to students is the Olympics. I’ve probably been driving my students crazy trying to convince them to watch everything from figure skating to the super-g to curling. The parallels between musicians and athletes are really interesting to me. How much work each party puts into perfecting their own craft is mind blowing: hours in practice versus hours on the ice or snow. You can find so many similarities. Figure skating spins and trills is one of my own teacher’s favorite analogies. You can also think of the idea of balancing between technique and musicality as the way a speed skater like Apolo Ohno and J.R. Celski balance around their turns with speed skating. So go out and try to find those parallels and start imagining them will you play. It might just help even more than you’d think!

Music and Couples

February 11, 2010

By Faith Halverson, Music Therapist, Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Faith Halverson, Music Therapist, Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Faith Halverson

Recomposing the Interpersonal Duet Between Romantic Partners

A connection has long existed between music and love. In the Middle Ages, troubadours would travel the countryside singing about chivalry and courtly love. Baroque English composer, Henry Purcell, poetically captured this connection when he wrote, “If music be the food of love, sing on till I am filled with joy.” Even today, most popular music is filled with themes of love or desire. Couples may even choose a song that reflects their love for each other.

While music can capture the feelings and experiences of love, music can also be used to illustrate how we communicate with those we love. Music is a means of expression- a relationship wherein parts can be in harmony or dissonance. Similarly, the way we communicate within our own relationships can be in harmony or dissonance. This can be observed in the ways in which we communicate with each other, such as through our tone of voice or the words we use. We also send non-verbal messages through our facial expressions and body posture.

By noticing how you “harmonize” with others, you can assess the state of your relationships in that moment. Are you accurately communicating what you wish to say or are you sending mixed messages? Have you truly heard what was said to you or were you distracted by planning a rebuttal in response?

Nowhere is harmonious communication more important than between romantic partners. In order to have a successful relationship, partners must feel safe and comfortable in communicating with each other. This includes being a good listener that pays attention to both the verbal and non-verbal messages being sent by the speaker. By listening to your partner and giving them your full attention when they speak, you send to them a powerful message that you care.

Likewise, as a speaker, there are ways of speaking that encourage good listening. This includes expressing thoughts clearly and in an honest way, using positive (or neutral) words. This helps the listener become more open and attentive to what is being said, rather than becoming defensive. Statements that blame, or “you” statements, often trigger defensiveness or hostility and tend to increase conflict.

“I” statements can provide a helpful model for clear self-expression. They help a speaker describe their feelings and tell how they are affected by their partner’s behavior, without blaming the partner.

The three parts to “I” statements are:

  1. to describe the speaker’s feelings
  2. to make a statement about the behavior that caused the feeling
  3. to identify the reason for the speaker’s feelings.

For example, the statement “I get upset when you criticize my parents because my parents are so important to me” is an “I” statement because:

  1. it describes the feeling: “I get upset.”
  2. it describes the behavior: “when you criticize my parents.”
  3. it identifies the reason: “because my parents are so important to me.”

It can be uncomfortable using these skills at first, especially if you and your partner have a long history of dissonant communication. However, with practice and patience these skills will become more comfortable to you, leading you to have more harmonious communication. Naturally, you and your partner won’t always like what the other has to say, but by using good communication skills you will be better able to solve problems, thereby strengthening your relationship.

The Voice: What Is Yours Saying?

January 19, 2010

by Faith Halverson, Music Therapist

The voice is unique in that it is deeply connected with one’s identity; it is a significant part of who we are and how we express ourselves. Yet, the voice says much more than the words one chooses to speak. The tone, timbre, and melody of the voice can reflect one’s physical state of health, as well as express unconscious thoughts and feelings.
Reflecting back upon your own life experience, how do you feel when you find yourself in a situation in which you must speak up? Do you feel comfortable using your voice? Unfortunately, many of us have had experiences in life that led us to “silence” ourselves out of feelings of fear and feelings of inadequacy. This silencing carries a price, as we deny ourselves the opportunity to fully express who we are in the present moment.
If you find that you’re “silencing” yourself, an activity you can engage in to reclaim your voice is a vocal exercise called “toning.” Toning is an easy, gentle way of working with one’s own sound and breath. In toning, the vowels “AH,” “AY,” “EE,” “OH,” and “OO” are individually sounded on pitches of your choosing.
When preparing to tone, find a space where you can feel safe engaging in voice work; this is a time for self-exploration, not inhibition. Once you’ve identified a space that works for you, position yourself in a chair with both feet on the floor so that you can breathe freely and deeply. Breath is an important component to voice work, whether it be for toning, singing, or speaking. You may want to take a few moments to breathe and become more present before beginning to tone.
Once you’re ready to tone, identify a pitch that feels comfortable and then tone on a vowel for 5 minutes. Toning for this amount of time provides an opportunity for your voice to warm up, as well as allow you to have a deeper experience without overtaxing your voice. While toning, bring your awareness to what is happening in the present moment; simply notice whatever thoughts, feelings, and sensations may arise. Afterwards, you may even want to journal your experience. Try this activity for one week, choosing a single vowel to tone each day.
While your experience toning will be unique to you, there are common benefits for those who choose to engage in such vocal exploration activities, including decreased feelings of stress and an increased sense of relaxation. Even more important, when we feel connected to our voices, we can be more authentic in who we are. By exploring our voices in new and different ways, we can gain greater self-awareness, acceptance of our life situations, and discover new ways of relating in an ever-changing world.

Contact Faith Halverson-Ramos, MA, MT-BC at SoundWell Music Therapy to find out more about music psychotherapy and the therapeutic use of voice: 303-521-2791 or by email at

As always, The Lesson Studio is available for Boulder voice lessons or you can call 303-543-3777.

Faith Halverson, Music Therapist

Faith Halverson, Music Therapist

Winter/Spring Semester Registration Begins

November 12, 2009

On Monday, November 16, 2009, The Lesson Studio (TLS) will begin its Winter/Spring Semester registration!

The dates for our Winter/Spring Semester 2010 are: January 9 – May 21, 2010

TLS has instructors for guitar, piano, voice, drums, bass, violin, viola, saxophone, clarinet, trombone, trumpet, tuba, euphonium, ukelele, oboe, cello, flute, mandolin and banjo! We also offer music therapy, a free workshop series, and summer music camp. We have an in-store drop-off/pickup for instrument repair. Included with your semester tuition are weekly instruction with the teacher of your choice; supplies including weekly goal sheets, staff paper, CDs, and music charts; assistance from three administrative staff people; free Wi-Fi in the reception area; 10% off coupon for a local music store; and best of all, an end-of-semester recital! Our Fall recital is held at the Old Main Chapel at CU and our Spring recital is held ON STAGE at the Boulder Creek Festival!

If you are a current student, be sure to let our staff know if you prefer the same day/time or a new time slot for your music lesson. If you are new to The Lesson Studio, please call 303-543-3777 for your FREE CONSULTATION today!

As always, please visit for more information.The Lesson Studio logo

How Music Therapy Can Help You

October 30, 2009

What is Music Therapy? How Might It Help You?

By Faith Halverson, The Lesson Studio’s Music Therapist

Music has long been a part of human culture. Throughout history, philosophers and poets around the world have extolled the virtues of music upon overall well-being. Confucius said about music, “Music produces a kind of pleasure that human nature cannot do without.” Plato is quoted as saying, “Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow described music as being “the universal language of mankind.” Even Nihilist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche recognized the value of music when he said, “Without music, life would be an error.”

Perhaps you recognize the value of music for yourself and have favorite songs or bands. You might even know how to play a musical instrument. Or two. Or three…

Or maybe you used to play an instrument or sing, but somewhere along the way you were told that you weren’t “good enough,” or you simply lost interest in continuing formal study. Yet, deep inside you know yourself to be a musical being.

Maybe you have a child who communicates little, due to disability, traumatic experience(s), or as simply a part of their journey through adolescence. You notice that he or she responds strongly to music, and you long to share enjoyable, positive experiences with your child and seek to improve the lines of communication.

Perhaps someone you know- your parents or grandparents- have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or some other type of dementia. You’d like to find ways to enjoy your time together, where you can positively experience who they are presently while learning more about who they were in the past.

Or maybe someone you love has died or is entering the end of life. You’re having a difficult time with your grief process, and talking isn’t enough.

If you recognize yourself in any of these situations, music therapy might be of interest to you.

Music therapy is the therapeutic use of music and its components (rhythm, timbre, melody, and harmony) to impact overall well-being and functioning. Music therapy is an established healthcare profession that utilizes the power of music to address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs of an individual in a safe and individually unique way. Music therapy utilizes both active and receptive musical activities, meaning that prior skill and experience is not required to benefit from music therapy.

Music therapy has been been found to:

  • promote wellness
  • manage stress
  • alleviate pain
  • assist in emotional expression
  • enhance memory
  • improve communication
  • promote physical rehabilitation

Music is unique in that it can transcend ability to capture the true expression of experience. As French poet Victor Hugo said, “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and cannot remain silent.”

Find out more about music therapy at: Faith Halverson-Ramos, Music Therapist, The Lesson Studio