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!


Songs, Sensory, and Social Skills: Group Music Therapy for Children with Autism

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The possibilities that music brings to the therapeutic process are endless. Communication, motor movement, processing, stimulation, sensory elements, and so much more are easily accessed through the use of music alone. As a new intern, my first weeks at the George Center have been full of observing all of this in action.  My mind seems to be more full than ever of examples of how music therapy is used to benefit the lives of individuals everyday. Considering all of this, as I chose my first journal article, I decided to pick something that addresses one of many populations that I am passionate about: children with autism.

In my experience, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) presents itself differently in every child. There is beauty in this, but it definitely does NOT make an easy job for science. This diagnosis can still be a highly controversial in many settings and even homes. The history of therapy for this population can be both inspiring and heartbreaking to those who know how far the world of healthcare has come in regards to individuals with ASD. All of this is exciting as we see research lead to successes being documented, especially with music therapy.

According to the  article Effects of a Music Therapy Group Intervention on Enhancing Social Skills in Children with Autism, statistics show that 1 in 88 children in the United States are diagnosed with ASD (LaGasse, 2014). Since this study statistics have changed. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention 1 in 68 children now meet the criteria for ASD. Autism is defined in short, as a neurodevelopmental disorder. Current research suggests that neurological aspects influence specific features of ASD. Some of these directly relate to motor deficits and difficulties with sensory processing. However, research also confirms that individuals with ASD demonstrate different musical processing skills, in that the activation of their brain surpasses that of neurotypical or normally developing individuals (LaGasse, 2014). So, good news: music is a multisensory medium!  

You may ask, “What is one of the biggest challenges for children with ASD?” I would venture to say that one of the largest areas of focus in general is socialization and communication. Although this is a large focus, to achieve goals in this area the regulation of the sensory system is what current research has shown to be most important. Therefore, it may be language development we are trying to foster; other times it is socialization skills and interactions that are required on a daily basis that we are trying to build on or make more tolerable through music therapy. The areas of expressive, receptive, verbal, and nonverbal language all fall under social and communicative areas of development. One way music therapy can help children that battle issues like this is through group interventions. This article by LaGasse exemplifies recent successes in this area, so let’s jump into the details!

Studies show that music therapy can improve social behaviors and joint attention in children with ASD. LaGasse delves into what impact music therapy has in a group setting along with areas of focus within the groups relating to social skills, which included eye gaze, joint attention, and communication. To examine this in the study children ages 6-9 with ASD were assigned a music therapy group or a non-music therapy group. The children participated in two 50-minute sessions per week for 5 weeks, for a total of ten sessions during the study. Each group was designed to target social skills.

Social skills are important to be addressed in children with autism because the lack of development in these skills will have lifelong implications (LaGasse, 2014). It is stressed that social skills are needed in every relationship and activity. Noting this, another important piece of research is referenced in this article, stating that, “ The notion that persons with ASD do not want to be involved in their environment is being challenged as self-advocates with autism indicate that it is not a matter of wanting to interact; rather, they have an inability to follow through or tolerate the desired interaction” (Goddard & Goddard, 2012). Key words there are inability and desired.  As research like this advances, it is becoming more apparent that by helping develop these skills in children with ASD, we are also giving them tools to enhance their overall quality of life.

The outcome of this study was very interesting. Through the use of uniform scales to measure the changes in social behaviors, the results found over this brief period of time that the music therapy group showed more improvements. Positive differences primarily showed up in attention with peers and eye gaze towards individuals (LaGasse, 2014). After 10 sessions the mean for eye gaze variable in the final calculations increased by 3.73 for the music therapy group. The mean decreased 14.75 for the non music social skills group. The explanation of these results pointed toward musical structure being able to maintain children’s attention to their peers more than the prompts and visuals used in the nonmusical group.

These results are important because they validate techniques being used in music therapy and highlight an issue that has a lasting impact on the ASD population. In the music therapy group of this study, some intervention tools used were rhythmic cueing, rhythmic deep pressure exercises with songs, instrument playing, as well as music and movement. For both groups the goals were the same, however, outcomes for the music therapy group were different. Both groups had interventions revolving around group interactions, cooperative play, and sensory experiences. The rhythmic and structural components of music can provide a cue or foundation externally that assists individuals with ASD in organizing their responses to their surroundings (LaGasse, 2014). This fact only supports why the music therapy group had higher positive outcomes.

This article is one of many that scientifically support the use of music therapy for children with ASD. This type of research impacts my work as a future music therapist and as an advocate for individuals I serve because it supports the use of music as a therapeutic tool to reach nonusical goals. Going forward, I will continue to observe and participate in ASD groups with the mindset that this type of research gives of hope and a solid foundation to what possible benefits music therapy services can bring. There are opportunities everyday to observe success happening at the George Center. I appreciate the proactiveness, integrity, and assumed competence I have observed each therapist treat ASD clients with at this facility.

The importance of early intervention and consistent complimentary treatments like music therapy cannot be advised enough by professionals.  It is my hope that through being able to share small pieces of this, that parents, teachers, and current therapists will continue to take initiative and stay updated on ASD research. For this relates to our professions, our caregivers, our community, and most importantly our loved ones impacted by this diagnosis everyday. It is our job to advocate and support these children that cannot always access the ability to do so for themselves.   



A. Blythe LaGasse (2014). Effects of a Music Therapy Group Intervention on             Enhancing  Social Skills in Children with Autism, Journal of Music Therapy,         51,(3). 250–275.     

Goddard, P., & Goddard, D. (2012). I am intelligent: From heartbreak to healing- A         mother and daughter’s journey through autism. Guilford, CT: Skirt!

About "Singing with Parkinson's"


In just a few short weeks, we at the George Center for Music Therapy, in partnership with The Alchemy Sky Foundation, will be kicking off Atlanta’s first Singing with Parkinson’s choir!  Singing with Parkinson’s is a therapeutic choral experience designed by neurologic music therapists to address the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) all within a setting that is sure to provide a sense of community and a multitude of opportunities for growth.

We begin rehearsals on Monday, April 9th, from 6:30-7:30 PM at the beautiful Renaissance on Peachtree in Buckhead (complimentary valet parking is provided).  We will rehearse each Monday evening at the same time and location from April 9th to August 20th, with all our hard work and fun culminating in a community performance!

Singing with Parkinson’s is open to all those living with PD, and you do not need a musical background to participate.  We will begin each rehearsal with vocal and physical warm-ups led by a neurologic music therapist incorporating techniques designed to address the symptoms of PD.  Throughout our time together, we will explore a broad spectrum of repertoire, including genres spanning from folk, pop, and Broadway tunes to choral music. There is sure to be something that will challenge and engage participants from a range of backgrounds, as well as opportunities to build new and meaningful relationships.

Registration for Singing with Parkinson’s is currently open and will remain open until March 31st so if you are interested in joining, please click here and fill out a registration form.  If you have questions you’d like to ask, please contact us at  We’d love to have you join us in this therapeutic opportunity to blend backgrounds, experiences, and voices in a rich and beautiful music-making experience.

Hope to see you there!


Singing With Parkinson’s: Therapeutic Benefits and Potential

This April, we at the George Center for Music Therapy are thrilled to be partnering with The Alchemy Sky Foundation for our inaugural season of Singing with Parkinson’s! Singing with Parkinson’s is a unique choral experience designed to address various symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) in an engaging, holistic approach. The program is designed by Neurologic Music Therapists to specifically meet the individual needs of participants with PD, and promises to be a source of community, fun and treatment for all participants. (For more information on the kinds of music we’ll be doing, check in with our next write up in a couple of weeks!)

PD is a neurodegenerative disorder that primarily manifests through impaired motor abilities for those with the diagnosis. Individuals with PD frequently experience a variety of movement-related symptoms, include tremor, gait dysregulation, bradykinesia (slower-than-normal movement), impaired speech production, difficulty swallowing, and muscle rigidity. In addition, individuals with PD are at risk for mood disorders, including depression and anxiety (Tan, 2012), which can further affect quality of life for the individuals and their families. As of 2018, there are approximately one million Americans with a diagnosis of PD.


Fortunately, there is a vast body of research supporting the use of music therapy to address these various symptoms. Studies have shown that music accesses various areas of the brain, and that rhythm synchronizes neural and motor activity in humans in general, regardless of diagnosis. This means that your body has an innate response to music, and is activated to respond in predictable ways based on musical input and interaction. Music therapy, and Neurologic Music Therapy in particular, use these intrinsic responses to facilitate both neural rehabilitation and motor regulation. In relation to PD, research shows that music therapy is an effective means addressing multiple symptoms, including improving gait regulation (Lindaman and Abiru, 2013), reducing bradykinesia (Pacchetti et al., 2000), facilitating speech production (Yinger & LaPointe, 2012), and decreasing mood disturbances and depression (Raglio et al., 2015), to name a few.


So what does this mean for Singing with Parkinson’s? It means that we will be using evidence-based methods to maintain and improve functioning with our members so that they can maintain their best quality of living outside of the rehearsal. Furthermore, we hope to provide members with an engaging, quality musical experience within rehearsals using a variety of repertoire and activities. And we hope to provide a place where various individuals of the Atlanta area can come together and experience a community of support, encouragement, and fun. When we make music together, we acknowledge our commonality, our ability to come together from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences to produce something beautiful.

We are so excited about this amazing program. And we are so excited to have you join us.

See you there!



Lindaman, K., & Abiru, M. (2013). The Use of Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation for Gait Disturbances in Paitents with Neurologic Disorders. Music Therapy Perspectives, 31(1). 35-39.

Pacchetti, C., Mancini, F., Aglieri, Ro., Fundarò, C., Martignoni, E., & Nappi, G. (2000). Active Music Therapy in Parkinson’s Disease: An Integrative Method for Motor and Emotional Rehabilitation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 62(3). 386-393.

Raglio, A., Attardo, L., Gontero, G., Rollino, S., Groppo, E., & Granieri, E. (2015). Effects of music and music therapy on mood in neurological patients. World Journal of Psychiatry, 5(1).

Tan, L.C.S. (2012). Mood Disorders in Parkinson’s Disease. Parkinsonism & Related Disorders, 18. S74-S76.

Yinger, O.S., & Lapointe, L.L. (2012). The Effects of Participation in a Group Music Therapy Voice Protocol (G-MTVP) on the Speech of Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease. Music Therapy Perspectives, 30(1). 25-31.

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Lessons from a Green Thumb

Article by music therapy intern, Becca Dideum

During my sophomore year of college, I went through a plant-hoarding phase. That is, I thoroughly enjoyed walking aimlessly through the numerous, filled greenhouses that were down the street from ECU and buying every plant in sight. I particularly loved the Norfolk Island Pines, the bleeding hearts, and the little pepper plants. By the second semester of that year, I had no less than thirty plants in my tiny apartment room… and I wish I were kidding.

In addition to buying all the plants I could get my hands on, I bought and planted seeds. Years later, I still have about ten of my original plants, including a hibiscus tree and some cacti that I managed to grow from seeds. Out of the six or seven cacti seeds I planted, four grew into actual, living cacti, and they survived the trip to Georgia with me this past year!

A few weeks ago, I repotted the cacti for the first time in their lives. They hadn’t grown any taller in years, from what I could see. I put each cactus into their very own pot and placed them on the back porch where they would get sun and rain. A few days later I went to check on them, and they had doubled in size! My tiny cacti had grown inches in a matter of days just because I gave them fresh mulch and room to grow.


Looking back on it, it’s simple science. I gave those plants the tools they needed to thrive, and they did so. Since coming to the George Center, I’ve had the pleasure of serving many different clients with many different treatment plans. Up until very recently, I was stuck using the same songs repeatedly for my clients. As soon as I started branching out and using songs and activities that not only motivated my clients but also allowed them to be the most successful, I saw a change in my clients’ growth.

By keeping my clients in the same pot, so to speak, with the same song and dance, I was hindering their growth. Through my exploration of new territory, my clients are able to spread their roots and have the most successful sessions. Whenever I get stuck while writing session plans, I remember how small my cacti used to be, and how a simple act of “fresh mulch” can do wonders for growth.

Group Music Therapy and Domestic Violence

Teague, A. K., Hahna, N. D., McKinney, C. H. (2006). Group music therapy with women who have experienced intimate partner violence. Music Therapy Perspectives, 24(2), 80-86.

If you heard about a friend of yours who was experiencing physical abuse from her partner, the standard response would be “Oh, she needs to leave him right away!” “What was she thinking staying with him for this long?” Anyone you ask, man or female, would understand the seriousness of the situation and advice this woman to get out as soon as possible. But then what? Far too often you hear of a woman going back to her abusive partner, or breaking up with him just to find a different abusive partner. Now, I’m not targeting women; I understand men deal with abusive partners as well. However, this article specifically discusses women. So what makes these women feel as if they have no way out, or can’t escape their circumstances?

Women who have experienced intimate partner violence also battle anxiety, depression, and self-esteem (Teague, et. al., 2006). Even if a woman leaves a violent partner, she still has to deal with her anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Recent literature supports focusing on depression as part of the holistic treatment for anyone who has experienced partner violence. Obviously any type of violence can be traumatizing, but especially when it involves an intimate partner. So what can be done for these women? Teague, Hahna, and McKinney investigate the effects of group music therapy, combined with other creative arts methods. Music therapy is a viable treatment option for this particular group because music therapy can address increasing awareness and expression of emotions, developing problem solving, and decreasing social isolation (Teague, et al., 2006).  A similar study conducted by Whipple and Lindsey (1999) concluded that music therapy can increase levels of relaxation and increase communication.

For this study, a group of seven women met for six sessions weekly (Teague, et al., 2006). The goal areas targeted were decreasing depression, anxiety, and increasing social support. These women all currently resided at a transitional housing setting for women who had experienced intimate partner violence. The results of this study showed a significant effect on depression and anxiety, showing them lowered. There was no statistically significant effect on self-esteem. Most of the participants reported that all musical interventions were very helpful and that the six sessions as a whole were a positive experience. The findings suggests that music therapy within a group may be an effective intervention for improving mood and well-being in women recovering from intimate partner violence.

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Photo credit: Flickr user Alex R. Dixon

Camp Infinity Drumming Day

Yesterday was my FAVORITE work day of the year: our annual trip out to Camp Twin Lakes to visit FOCUS's Camp Infinity!

FOCUS is a fantastic organization that we're honored to provide music therapy services for throughout the year. Camp Infinity is one of their overnight camps for children with special medical needs.

This camp is truly a special place. First of all, Camp Twin Lakes is B-E-A-U-T-F-U-L. Seriously, imagine the most perfect summer camp you can imagine, and Camp Twin Lakes is better. They have everything. A pool with a sweet water slide, zip lines, rock climbing walls, a camp wide radio station, a lake with paddle boats, they've just got it all. The coolest part, is all of these things are wheelchair accessible!

For a lot of these kids, this is their first time staying away from home without their parents, and it's such a cool experience to see them in that light. They have an absolute ball, and for a week get to cut loose, have fun, and experience life.

My favorite part of the day is eating lunch in the mess hall with the campers. As you can imagine, the noise levels are off the chart. Between bites, the campers challenge each other to "shake their booty" and do all sorts of crazy dances at their table. That's mixed with multiple competing chants of "we got spirit" and loudly drumming beats on the table. Fun stuff.

Every year, we go out and run drumming groups for a day at this camp, and have the time of our lives as well! Everyone is riled up, loud, and having a great time. There's no judgement and no limitations. We leave exhausted and with no voices, but it's worth every minute.

I urge you to check out Camp Twin Lakes and FOCUS online and learn more about these organizations! They're a fantastic group of people.

...also, this happened:

Interested in having The George Center come out to your school or group? Sign up for a free consultation!


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Come See the Performance of a Lifetime!

The Beatles had their 1965 U.S. Tour. Jimi Hendrix had Woodstock. Queen had Live Aid. And our Any Dream Will Do has their end of the year performance THIS SATURDAY!

That's right, our teen performing arts group has been working hard since September to put on a show like no other, and you can catch it all on Saturday, May 4th at 7:00 PM. The performance will be held at Sweet Apple Elementary School in the cafeteria. Tickets are just $5 or $20 for a whole family!

Seriously folks, if you're in the Atlanta area, you don't want to miss this one. The show is a Broadway-style performance featuring singing, dancing, acting, and more. These kids have been working hard for months, and it's sure to warm your heart and soul.

If you're interested in enrolling in our group next Fall, this is a great time to see what it's all about!


We hope you'll join us Saturday night! Here's a re-cap:

  • What: Any Dream Will Do performance
  • When: Saturday, May 4th, 7:00PM
  • Where: Sweet Apple Elementary School cafeteria (12025 Etris Road, Roswell, GA)
  • Cost: $5 a person or $20 per family

We'll see you Saturday night!