What is Musicreative?
Musicreative is the unique and original music education method that blends music therapy and music instruction. This method was created by board-certified music therapist, Kana Kamitsubo in 2008 and has been highly recognized in the field of music therapy and education. It focuses on improving both musical skills and vital life skills. It has been found effective especially with those children with learning difficulties including autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit. Key to success in this method is motivating the students to develop and grow through music activities and instruction. Based on the premise that all children can learn when given the proper tools, this method is adapted to provide elements of success and competency. Respecting that each individual is unique, this approach recognizes individual difficulties and strives to reach the musician within each child, which Kana refers to as “Musical Self”.
This method has demonstrated remarkable outcomes and been found effective among the families of special needs children and professionals who work with children with special needs. With the outcomes of her approach, she was invited to present at “Autism Speaks and Sings” an event sponsored by Autism Speaks. As a panel speaker, Kana gave her case study presentation, which received tremendous positive acclaim from several music therapy experts. Kana’s approach is referred to as a“highly significant in the field of music therapy, music education, and special education” and regarding the outcomes of her students, “they have far exceeded the outcomes typically attained by clients on the spectrum,” according to Darcy Walworth, Chair of Certification Board of Music Therapists and Co-chair of the Autism Task Force for the American Music Therapy Association.
What motivated Kana to develop this method?
As a clinical music therapist who often works with children with autism, Kana has encountered situations where parents strongly hope that their children learn music and instruments in music therapy sessions. Though music therapy and music education are distinct fields, by working with special needs children who exhibit exceptional musical skills, she came to recognize the benefits of incorporating music instruction into her music therapy practice. Shortly after she started to implement her new approach, those children with autism showed great interest in learning music and demonstrated remarkable outcomes in the areas of cognitive, communication, and social skills. As they joyfully learned music and how to play instruments, their attention spans, motivation in learning, and self-esteem increased greatly, which led them to improve their overall learning skill. These outcomes confirmed her theory and led her to start developing and establishing the method, now branded as Musicreative.
What are the goals of this method?
The goal is to enhance each child’s growth, as a musician and as a person, improving musical skills and vital life skills and at the same time. While the primary goal is to improve musical skills, Kana believes that growth as a person and growth as a musician are mutually reinforcing processes. For example, when a child learns to plunk guitar strings properly, his fine-motor skills also improve. When the child learns to play a song on the piano or gains a new musical skill, his self-esteem grows and he becomes more motivated to learn.
How does the lesson proceed?
When a child starts Musicreative, the first step is always to start with music activities that help him improve his pre-academic and other skills that are necessary for learning. For example, if a child has very limited attention span and difficulty in following structures, we provide music activities to help him stay on tasks and follow directions. All the musical activities are enjoyable and success-oriented. Through music activities, teachers discover each child’s innate musical ability and strengthen it. When the child seems to be ready, session content gradually transitions to music instruction and the more focus is placed on improving musical skills.
What does the lesson look like? How does this method work?
It is vital to provide appropriate instruction by giving the right amount of challenge, based on careful assessment of the child’s progress and emotional needs. The emphasis is placed on customizing the contents of the session, including providing a step-by-step approach and a multi-sensory approach. Because of the unique abilities and difficulties of children with special needs, the instructional steps provided in traditional music lessons are not easy for them to follow. Even with step-by-step instruction, often each step may be still too challenging. Thus, it is important to break each step up into smaller steps. Each step must be designed to enable the child to succeed. Along with those steps, providing a multi-sensory approach is important. Each concept is taught through different sensory information. Start from the child’s preferred sensory system, and gradually add other sensory information to reinforce the same concept. For example, Mark, one of the clients, learned the concept of solfege though singing (auditory), then color-coding (visual), and bell-playing (auditory, visual, kinesthetic). Then he transferred his knowledge and skills onto the paper-piano (visual, kinesthetic) and finally, to real piano playing (visual, auditory, kinesthetic).
Watch the case study of one of Kana’s long-term students. The case study illustrates how Mark, a boy with autism, has grown as a musician and a person through music lesson with Kana.
Mark, a 3 year-and-11-month-old boy, was referred to Kana’s Music program in May of 2010. Mark’s mother had a desire to let Mark learn music and piano, but had been discouraged after several unsuccessful lessons with his former piano teachers who lack an understanding of and experience with special needs children. Mark had been diagnosed with autism, ADHD, and language delay. When started his music lesson, Mark demonstrated impulsive and disruptive behaviors and thus was a very challenging student; people around him doubted his ability to learn. Within two years, he made significant progress in his life skills and learning to play musical instruments.
Letter from Lisa, Mark’s mother
“When I first brought M (child’s name) to Ms. Kana, I did not know how far he could go; he was 3 years and 11 months old, was extremely impulsive, and could not engage himself in any activity for more than 2 minutes. He could not play one key at a time with his finger.
But Ms. Kana made a miracle happen! Immediately after M started to work with her, I was impressed by her enormous effort and extraordinary skills to improve my son’s skills. She carefully observes M’s behaviors and tries to understand the reasons behind them in order to decrease inappropriate behaviors and increase proper behaviors. It was impressive that M’s attention span greatly increased within 8 sessions and he was able to maintain his focus and fully participate in a 30 minute lesson with no problems.
After a few months of working with Ms. Kana, it was obvious that M started to make tremendous progress. When I watched a video excerpt she sent me of M’s playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the color bells, my heart was beating fast and, at the end of the excerpt, it was jumping out of my chest. I was amazed by his progress and realized that he has great potential! He continues to develop his skills and now he is able to play more complicated songs such as Ode To Joy both on the bells and piano with both hands and fingers alternating – before training with Kana, this would have been an impossible feat for him.
Another miracle to me is that M improved his cognitive skills through his work with Ms. Kana. He learned to play music games Kana introduced in the lessons. I just could not believe that he one day could put seven solfege cards in order, descending and ascending. She has also introduced him to reading rhythms in a way he can understand. Ms. Kana always designs musical games and activities that are just right for M and gradually makes it more challenging. In this way, M feels secure to explore himself in learning and grow his self-esteem and motivation in learning. I have noticed that those learned skills have transferred to his activities outside music lessons; M is now able to follow directions better, learn and play games successfully, demonstrate willingness to try new and challenging tasks, and communicate better with me.
Furthermore, Ms. Kana closely working with me has helped me understand the therapeutic and educational process. She sends me weekly lesson report and describes my son’s progress and learning process. She shares my son’s accomplishments in the lesson through video and audio clips as well. These help me understand the therapeutic purposes of music activities and how I can help him at home. Moreover, Ms. Kana’s confidence in M’s potential has encouraged me to believe in him and has helped me notice subtle positive changes in his behaviors.
For all of these reasons, Ms. Kana is a remarkable music therapist/teacher, an indispensible asset to my family and a major contributor to the fields of music therapy, music education, and special education.”
It has been 4 years since Mark started his first lesson. He has continued to improve his skills; he has mastered playing pieces that require advanced skills and enjoy taking the challenges.
PUBLICATION: To learn the approach in more details, please read the recently published article through Journal of Urban Culture Research. It describes the goals, methods, assessments, techniques, and a case study in details. You can download the journal from here [Click]. My article is on Page 108-117.