Speak to the Beat

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A. Blythe LaGasse; Influence of an External Rhythm on Oral Motor Control in


    Children and Adults, Journal of Music Therapy, Volume 50, Issue 1, 1

March     2013, Pages 6–24, https://doi.org/10.1093/jmt/50.1.6


One of the most undeniable elements of music is rhythm. Everyone experiences rhythm; whether it is through hearing it within music or feeling it through vibrations. Rhythm is also one of the most undeniable elements of our bodies. As humans we are rhythmic beings. From our heartbeat, blinking, walking, and to the way our breathing patterns changes, we operate with rhythm. This is something that excited me about music and how it impacts the body. Therefore, when I came across the article, Influences of an External Rhythm on Oral Motor Control in Children and Adults by LaGasse, I knew it would be an interesting and informative read.

Before jumping into all the technical details of this study, I will briefly discuss something the author references throughout the article, which is the concept of entrainment. Entrainment is basically our body’s ability to sync up with external rhythms, pulses or beats (LaGasse, 2013). We entrain to the rhythms around us all the time, but we are not always aware of it. A simple example of this could be tapping your foot to a familiar song, or beginning to walking in sync with someone you are walking next to. Our bodies are often able to anticipate as well as reproduce what is heard and felt around them through entrainment. It is important to preface with this, because the author goes on to discuss motor movements of the upper and lower extremities, as well as oral motor movements and how they relate to entrainment.

Rhythm in music therapy is one of our most valuable tools, especially with individuals that have neurological disabilities. Within my practice at The George Center, rhythmic auditory stimulation is used regularly to support and facilitate patients with motor and speech goals. Sometimes all it takes is tapping on the shoulder of a client while they vocalize. Other times entire interventions are centered around helping a patient entrain to a slower beat so that they can slow down their body enough to have success in later exercises. Body percussion throughout a song, or playing rhythm sticks are some way that this is implemented musically.

LaGasse touches on how rhythmic auditory cues have been supported in the field through research. Rhythm is beneficial in promoting the development of motor speech, which is an individual's ability to plan, control, coordinate, and produce speech. LaGasse also compares the limb motor responses to oral motor responses. This is important to note because just like our arms and legs entrain to rhythm, so can our mouth. The oral motor system is complex, but has much less research to support rhythmic impact within therapy. Therefore, this study in 2013 opened a door for others to continue researching the entrainment phenomenon in relation to oral motor movements.   

The study focused on 26 children and adults ages ranging from 7 to 35 years old with no history of speech, language, or hearing impairments. The method used to measure kinematic (movement) data in these individuals was Peak Motus, a 3-camera system. The camera recorded markers that were placed on three points of the oral motor area, the upper lip (UL), lower lip (LL), and the mental protuberance of the mandible (J) (LaGasse, 2013). Digital cameras were also set up so that 60 samples would be taken per second. A metronome positioned in the same location near each patient, was used to produce the auditory stimulus, which was set at 60 decibels. The participants were asked to repeat the syllable /pa/ at a comfortable pace during one trial. This trial tracked oral performance at a self-selected tempo.  Participants were instructed to produce the same /pa/ syllable with an external auditory stimulus provided through a metronome set to the beat of their previously self-selected tempo. The participants were also asked to produce the syllable with a faster tempo, at a 10% increase from their original preferred tempo. The trials were done in varying orders through random selection. This was done to decrease any effects due to learning or fatigue amongst the participants (LaGasse, 2013).

After the trials were completed, measurements were made to compare levels of entrainment. This was done through the use of program data, which measured movement and the amount of time between beats, as well as the distance between UL and LL during syllable production (LaGasse, 2013). In short, the technology used measured each individual’s oral movements in length, time, and distance to come up with an overall average for the subject. This was done for all 26 participants.

The results of this study were particularly interesting to me because they were calculated using such a raw element of music. Individuals were solely provided a computer-generated tempo to entrain to! This is cool because they had no melody or otherwise motivating musical theme to listen to, it was simply a constant “beep” that created the steady beat. For the synchronization aspect of the study, no significant differences were shown amongst children and adults. Asynchrony, which means the individual produced sound before the beat, was recorded for all groups, but was a result of anticipatory responses in all cases. However, these instances were milliseconds off of the beat (LaGasse, 2013).

This study supported movement data with graphs for all participants, which were especially interesting to view, as they created a picture of each movement. They were successful in measuring all participants through this method, which is exciting because this research will be able to be repeated in the future! This method proved to be a reliable way of tracking oral motor movements in individuals. When comparing oral motor synchronization to the same strategies done for limbs, LaGasse reported some slight differences among errors recorded. Overall, the data recorded was exciting to view and compare amongst children and adults.

As I reach the halfway point of my internship at The George Center, I can honestly say that the approaches I am being taught can be supported with this type of research. There is not a day that goes by that I am not reminded to, “let the music be your co-therapist” or to “use the rhythm”. Words like “entrainment”, “anticipation”, and “support” are constantly woven into the teaching of approaches being applied in the treatment setting. One clinical example of this would be using percussion, like drumming, with patients as a primer activity to get their body in sync with the beat of a song. Following this, I continue to play the guitar rhythmically to support them while we sing a song together. After the client is singing, I can fade out singing with them and use the rhythmic playing to cue responses. With clients that have speech and oral motor difficulties, techniques like this have proven to work very well. I am continuing to learn how to better manipulate and use the elements of music to elicit positive responses from each client. Rhythm is a major part of this beautiful process!


Summertime Services


It’s that time again! The last 2 hectic weeks of the school year, and at the end of the long tunnel is the glimmering light of summer vacation! Many families are planning vacations and other travel opportunities, and several of our students are already excited about the camps they will be attending this summer. Here at GCMT, we are prepping for the many camps we’ll be leading music for across the community this summer, including FOCUS+Fragile Kids Camp Hollywood, Aurora Day Camp, Camp ImpACCt, and our own Camp CreARTive. We also have our weekly Bucket Drumming and GROW social skills groups meeting throughout the summer!

These last couple weeks of school can leave parents and caregivers feeling a bit frazzled and really looking forward to any planned vacations or unscheduled time that may be coming up (although a couple folks have let me know they are dreading the change in routine). It can be tempting to contemplate taking a break from services over the summer. Vacations and camps and all the things can definitely be a lot to juggle! However, we always encourage our families to try to maintain consistency in services over the summer for several reasons:

  1. Therapeutic Value

Often during the summer, we see an increase in progress toward therapeutic goals/objectives BECAUSE our students have time to practice and complete home exercises. They also can be less distracted or tired as they have not spent all day at school. You wouldn’t take off 3 months from working out or training for a marathon and then expect to pick right back up where you left off! Consistency over the summer keeps our students from having to relearn concepts and skills later, which is an efficient use of time and money! Many of our students thrive on routine, so keeping music therapy appointments consistent during the summer months is a good way to create that environment for them!

  1. It’s MUCH MORE Than Just Fun Time!

Music Therapy services or Adaptive Lessons are much more than “Happy Music Fun Time” for our students. While it is definitely a motivating modality, we are working on so much more than just having fun! When the human brain perceives an experience as fun, the skills learned during that experience are more likely to be retained. Think about the last time you went to a concert or party, and then about the information you studied the last time you were preparing for a test. Bet you can probably recall the details from one more easily than the other! Summer can be the perfect time to really focus on our student’s goals and objectives, because we have the scheduling flexibility to have more frequent appointments, and our students are often in a more relaxed frame of mind. If your student is enrolled in Adaptive Lessons, talk with your student’s therapist about the possibility of addressing a wider variety of goals and objectives during the summer while time permits. Summer is also a great time for families to get involved in at-home practice to promote further progress towards goals.

  1. Increased Flexibility

Unfortunately, many of our families who do choose to discontinue services over the summer wind up losing their time-slot for the school year due to our attendance policy. Our therapists and office are always willing to work with families who may have tricky scheduling needs over the summer, and often have increased availability for rescheduling missed sessions or moving to an appointment time that works better for your schedule. Summer also provides opportunities for your student to work with another of our amazing therapists if they have someone subbing for them while they are out on vacation or working at a camp. This can give increased chances to work on transfer of skills and address goals in different ways! Call our office or talk to your therapist about rescheduling or working with a substitute. Summer is also the ideal time to apply for 3rd party funding resources to help pay for therapy services!

Summer can be a great time to take advantage of opportunities your student may not have during the rest of the year, and we’re not just talking about vacations! GCMT prides itself on providing our families with outstanding services, support, and communication throughout the year. We always want parents, caregivers, and other family members to be an integral and active participant in your student’s therapy and learn how to provide an environment for your student that will support continued development. Our intention is to move toward a level of independence within everyone’s abilities. As in all aspects of life and learning, steady progress toward our goals requires consistency in service provision. Of course, we know that everyone needs a break now and then, so give our team a call so we can coordinate a schedule that supports summer vacation fun and consistent appointment scheduling for the best of both worlds!


We are still accepting donations for our SOS Financial action campaign. See our DONATE page to learn more!

Music, Memory, & Healing: An Article Review

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Carme Solé, Melissa Mercadal-Brotons, Adrián Galati, Mónica De Castro; Effects of Group Music         Therapy on Quality of Life, Affect, and Participation in People with Varying Levels of         Dementia, Journal of Music Therapy, Volume 51, Issue 1, 1 March 2014, Pages 103–              125, https://doi.org/10.1093/jmt/thu003



Music is present in every stage of a person’s life. Think of when you listen to the radio and a song from childhood comes on. Oftentimes songs from the past  are the ones that people know the best. Music stimulates our brains in a way that long-term memory is accessed so that we can use it when we hear a familiar particular song. Long-term memory is located in various parts of the brain, the hippocampus being the catalyst. When we are able to make music with others through singing, and enjoy knowing every word of a song we haven’t heard in years, we also experience positive feelings. There is enjoyment and comfort in knowing the music we hear. Individuals living with dementia do not get to experience the easiness of knowing in everyday life due to the nature of their diagnosis. Dementia affects orientation and overall awareness. Even in early stages of dementia, individuals may experience the uneasiness that feeling overly forgetful can bring.

As an intern at the George Center for Music Therapy I am involved with several memory care groups and get to observe multiple settings where dementia patients receive music therapy services. This article topic stuck out to me because it poses important questions and sets a foundation for future research, while validating therapeutic approaches already being used. Through the article, “Effects of Group Music Therapy on Quality of Life, Affect, and Participation in People with Varying Levels of Dementia”, music therapists examined how music therapy positively impacts the lives of individuals living with dementia. The study included 16 individuals with dementia. The Global Deterioration Scale was used to measure cognitive functioning amongst the 16 participants (Solé, Mercadal-Brotons, Galati, & De Castro, 2014). Their functioning levels ranged from mild (9) to moderate (5) and severely impaired (2).

Dementia is defined in general as a neurodegenerative disease that is characterized by the progressive loss in memory as well as other mental functions including language and judgment. Due to the of the nature of these types of diseases, therapeutic techniques that involve multiple parts of the brain are important. According to this study Alzheimer’s disease is the leading type of dementia that affects people in the United States. It has been reported that 60 percent of all dementia cases are of the Alzheimer’s disease (Solé, Mercadal-Brotons, Galati, & De Castro, 2014). This study further supports the importance of research in these areas where music therapy is involved. Individuals with dementia that are receiving services deserve the most effective interventions. Music therapy provides just that! As I continued to read the article, it became evident how an individual’s quality of life is positively affected by music therapy in a group setting.

Although this study had a small sample size of 16 individuals, three groups according to stage of dementia were formed. These stages were low, moderate, and high levels of dementia.  Each group met for 12 weeks and received 45-50 minutes of music therapy once a week (Solé, Mercadal-Brotons, Galati, & De Castro, 2014). Documentation was done through the help of registered nurses before, during, and after each group session. Quality of life was measured using the Government of Catalonia (GENCAT) questionnaire. This questionnaire consisted of 69 questions revolving around eight different dimensions. These dimensions were emotional well-being, interpersonal well-being, material well-being, personal development, physical well-being, self-determination, social inclusion, and equal rights. The individual’s scores in these domains reflected their overall quality of life. Participation was measured through data collection as well as through video analysis. Sessions 1, 6, and 12 were video recorded and analyzed for each group. But enough of the data details, let’s dive into the music therapy specifics!

For each group the music therapy interventions used centered around stimulating cognitive functions, social interactions, and motor skills. Motor skills were addressed through instrument playing. Other musical activities during each group included singing, listening to music, movement to music, and improvisation (Solé, Mercadal-Brotons, Galati, & De Castro, 2014). The music used for the groups was selected based off of personal preferences of the group members. In my experience using familiar music is especially important with this population when trying to evoke active participation. Each session included opening activities, like a hello song, one main activity, and a closing activity.

As data continued to be collected weekly, it became obvious which areas of the patient’s lives were being most influenced during the study. Participation and affect amongst the group was measured through observation. During observation the categories being measured were verbalizations, physical contact, visual contact, active participation, and emotions (facial affect and body expressions). Each group recorded the same pretest and posttest weekly, and each domain within the test was tracked statically. Some of the areas to show the largest changes were emotional well-being and personal development. However, emotional well-being was the only domain to show a statistically significant increase, recorded as Mdn=21 pretest to Mdn=23 posttest (Solé, Mercadal-Brotons, Galati, & De Castro, 2014). Although the personal development domain did not reap significant results, the data still presented interesting outcomes. I felt it was worth noting that the medians for all groups in that measurement either stayed the same or increased. The extent of these results was interesting and sets a wonderful foundation for future research.

As I near the midpoint of my internship at The George Center, I continue to learn more about every population and clinical environment we serve as music therapists. Since personal development and emotional well-being had such positive outcomes in this study, I would like to close by briefly discussing those in the memory care setting. As this study emphasizes, every part of the therapeutic interaction and participation within a group is important. I especially loved that this study used primarily patient preferred music and that the comfort that can bring was reflected in the patient’s emotional responses. When patients have decreased levels of anxiety or have the opportunity to increase their overall mood, this benefits the whole body. I have experienced firsthand the benefits of group music making with dementia patients. Although personal development is hard to measure with this population due to the degenerative nature of dementia, there are still many promising examples. It is always a special moment when an individual comes out of their shell to sing several verses of a song from memory, or passionately plays an instrument with peers. After a moment like this, many times that individual sustains attention and participation for the rest of that session.

Working with the George Center I have learned so much about this population and I feel confident about the interventions we use within each session. I can leave the facilities knowing we left a positive and lasting impact. This article simply confirms the importance of group music therapy in the healthcare of individuals with dementia. It screams, Music therapy works- pass it on! And that I will do! Before reading this article I was relying on past experiences and learning as I went with this population. I have learned that patient preferred music and being able to play in the original styles of songs evokes more of a positive response in memory care groups especially. As a new professional a big challenge is expanding my repertoire. This article was a great reminder that I can never know enough music. I look forward to passing on more research like this and continually retaining knowledge through the clinical experiences this internship offers.

We Go Together: Broadway in 3 Acts


“Any Dream Will Do” presents

We Go Together: Broadway in Three Acts


ALPHARETTA  (April 20th, 2018) – 20 teens with developmental and learning differences from around the metro-Atlanta area will be putting on a series of three musical theatre vignettes Friday night (April 20th) at 7:00PM at Alpharetta High School in Alpharetta, Georgia.  The performance is free and open to the public and press.

The teens, part of the “Any Dream Will Do” performing arts group, have been preparing for the show since September and features teens from Fulton, Forsyth, and Gwinnett Counties. All performers have developmental and learning differences.  The show will feature singing, dancing, and acting in both solo and group performances through highlights of three classic musicals: The Music Man, The Wizard of Oz, and Grease.

This group is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for adolescents with special needs that share a common love of music, dancing and theatre, to come together on weekly basis, and learn through social interactions, improvisation and expressive arts therapy.  

“Any Dream Will Do” is celebrating its sixth annual performance and is organized by The George Center Foundation.

The George Center Foundation is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization that provides scholarships to families, organizations, and programs which are unable to finance music therapy services for those in need.

All participants have audio/visual releases on file.  Contact Jamie George, founder of The George Center for Music Therapy, Inc. at Jamie@thegeorgecenter.com or by calling (347) 351-2703.


Intergenerational Rock Band Coming to Hamilton Mill!





My name is Melissa Pate and I am the Director of Senior Services for The George Center for Music Therapy in Roswell, GA. The George Center is a music therapy private practice that serves children and adults with various special needs and diagnoses across the metro Atlanta area. We pride ourselves on offering a creative approach for individual growth and we employ licensed and board certified music therapists with additional training in neurologic music therapy.


We are excited to announce that we are about to begin our 1st season of Intergenerational Rock Band with the Independent Living Community at Arbor Terrace Hamilton Mill! We have already seen great success with this program over the past several years in both Roswell, Decatur, and Buckhead and can’t wait to crank up the volume and jump into some awesome music making at the new Hamilton Mill location!


Intergenerational Rock Band was developed and implemented by music therapy students at Florida State University and Drury University in order to reach across the perceived barriers of generational divides. Intergenerational groups are about connecting and belonging. It is that simple and that complex. Intergenerational programs rock because they can enrich the lives of participants while meeting special needs of one or both groups, but support is needed to make that bond happen.


We are looking for music therapy students and young adults who have an interest in music and an eagerness to serve their community. Volunteers will participate in rehearsals 1 hour per week, on Thursdays, from 1:30-2:30pm, May 10th through August 2nd. The semester will culminate with a ROCKING PERFORMANCE TBA!


This opportunity is perfect for students that are interested in a career in music, music therapy, or any student needing volunteer or clinical hours!


People rock our world. Music can help us rock together. Many people see music preferences as divisive yet they need not be. With careful selection and a variety of genres and eras, music can be a connecting and gathering point. The values inherent in music can transcend age. Research in music-based intergenerational programming has shown benefits such as improved cross-age attitudes and cross-age interactions between younger and older generations. We hope that YOU will take part in our program!


If interested in participating in our program, please contact Melissa Pate, LPMT, MT-BC, Melissa@TheGeorgeCenter.com no later than April 27th with your name, contact information, age, any instruments you may play, and availability. We look forward to rocking with you!



Melissa Pate, LPMT, MT-BC

Director of Adult Programming



Bucket Drumming Fun!

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Ah, summer in Georgia. It’s on its way again, and I know I can’t wait for the sweet tea and lemonade, hours spent on the Chattahoochee, hammocks in the shade, and one of my very favorite experiences I’ve had as a George Center therapist: Bucket Drumming!  The summer can be a great time for kids and teens to spend time with old friends and to make new ones, and every Tuesday evening during the summer, we have an excellent opportunity to do both in a fun and educational setting during bucket drumming with the George Center.

In bucket drumming class, participants have the opportunity to learn how to play a rhythms from all over the world and what role each rhythm plays in a social setting. Whether it’s a Latin rhythm from South America, an African rhythm that dates back centuries, or a modern hip-hop rhythm, participants get to explore what makes these rhythms culturally important while layering different rhythms to make even more complex sounds by working together as a team.



Each week, the instructors, participants, and assistants meet to learn and have fun, and, when weather permits, they get to do it all under a shaded gazebo outside of the George Center and enjoy the summer evenings. But the best part? At the end, everything comes together in a final performance for family and friends to demonstrate what participants learned together, show off their drumming skills, and even teach the audience a little bit about the rhythms they worked on.


So, if you’re looking for a truly awesome opportunity to have fun with friends outside and wail on some bucket drums, bucket drumming with the George Center is definitely for you, so sign up and come join us!

G.R.O.W. is BACK!


Friends, I have the BIGGEST news to share with you.

G.R.O.W. is BACK!!!!

If you’re new to these parts and you would like me to take a step back, I’d be happy to! G.R.O.W. stands for Girls Reaching Our World….. Through music! It is a GIRLS ONLY 9 week summer music course focused on GIRL POWER! We’ll make music and build friendships as we explore empowerment, self-advocacy, and social skills.


Here are the deets:

Who: Your rock star daughters, rising 4th-12th grade

When: Monday afternoons from 4:15 - 5:15 pm

Where: Building Bridges Therapy in Cumming, GA


So, here’s the deal: we’re going to use our favorite music - I’m talking Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Moana, Frozen, and MORE! - we’re going to use that music to develop friendships and skills using evidence based techniques in music therapy. This will look like sing-alongs, musical games, instrument play, drumming, you name it! We hope you’ll join us for this non-stop fun class as we explore powerful music to discover the power in us individually and as a team! The most fun part might be getting to share a moment of this class with your girl on our last day of class when we show off some of our favorite activities from the summer. It truly is a can’t miss opportunity. We can’t wait to see you there!

For more information, or to REGISTER, visit TheGeorgeCenter.com/GROW or email HannahR@TheGeorgeCenter.com



Camp CreARTive at The George Center


It’s that time of year again, my friends! It’s that time of year where all the summer camps are getting planned and everyone at the George Center is getting STOKED for our 2018 hosting of Camp CreARTive! As a new employee to the George Center last summer, I was lucky to be able to lead music in every day of camp and am here to tell you about how great it was!



One thing that sets Camp CreARTive apart from other camps is its emphasis on making art. We spend every part of the day being creative by exploring different mediums art, whether that is through playing music, moving to music, making crafts, etc. Camp is led by an Adaptive Art Teacher, a Music Therapist, an Occupational Therapist, a Speech Therapist, and a Recreational Therapist. With all these creative individuals leading camp, your child can’t help but have a good time!


Every day of camp is set to a theme that serves as an influential emphasis for the art to be made that day. Last year’s themes included themes such as Australia Day, Native American Day, and my personal favorite, MOANA Day. One of the highlights of last summer for me (and for most of the campers) was Moana Day! This day was particularly special in that we got to use ALL of the music from the movie within our music therapy sessions. That means all the hits such as “How Far I’ll Go” and “You’re Welcome”. The campers also made their own Hawaiian demigod masks and even Maui’s infamous hook. Did I mention we also learned how to dance the hula?!


With all this being said, you might be thinking “how can it get any better?”. Well, my favorite moment of camp was the last day of camp when all of the parents showed up for our final performance of the week where we not only showcased all the art that we had made that week, but got to show off our music skills in front of all the parents. We sang, danced, and played instruments, but couldn’t help ourselves in including all the parents. We capped off a magical week of art making with a full on drum circle! That means all the campers, therapists, parents, and families all making music together. Considering music is a universal behavior, everyone got to experience the power of music one last time before camp ended.


This camp is special one. You’re kiddos will leave each day feeling accomplished by their creations, empowered by their interactions, and excited to come back! Our goal is to provide an avenue to learn and grow through art and music. After my first experience with camp last year, I can’t wait to be back this summer for a full week of non-stop art creation and music-making!