|A proud graduating class with music therapist Jennifer Miller|
They are receiving diplomas for completing their work in Music Sweet Music, an outpatient program started 12 years ago by a former hospital volunteer, Ted Wagner. He and his wife Nuala have been fixtures on the local performance scene for the past two decades, appearing regularly in the lounge at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. But by day, Wagner has poured himself passionately into his musical outreach to children who suffer from speech and communicative impairments.
"Through volunteering, I kind of saw a need for therapy beyond people’s hospital stays,” Wagner says. “A lot of the kids really responded well to music therapy but wouldn’t receive therapy after the hospital stay. I found out that there was really no organization in St. Petersburg that provided ongoing music therapy or instruments – and that’s really why I started it.”
One therapist, Jennifer Miller, has been working with the children at a recent session at ACH. The kids, ranging in age from 2 to 5, bang on drums, keep time with shakers, and jump and sing to songs they have learned in class. Soon she asks a little girl named Baela to pick a song for the group. “Can we do Wheels on the Bus?” she asks. Miller obliges, strumming the chords on a special electronic instrument that simulates the sound of a guitar, and the kids all sing along enthusiastically.
“You hope that when they try to sing along, it’s a vocalization,” Montanari says. “If they’re having trouble talking with two-word phrases or single words, they may string some vocalizations together to try to sing. We have seen a nice correlation between getting their intonation and rhythm – that’s important when you’re having a conversation. And with a certified music therapist, she has the background to help the children.”
|Applause for a new Music Sweet Music grad|