The objective of this paper was to distinguish rather a child would benefit from music therapy by having them draw several pictures to various types of music styles. Although music therapy is used by a licensed Board Certified Music Therapist, as a student preparing for music therapy coursework, I wanted to see if any of the participants would benefit from having sessions with a music therapist. In so doing, I found that two of my participants and my only non-participant could benefit from sessions with a Board Certified Music Therapist.
In order to conduct this research, I had a total of five participants and one non-participant, who was in the session room at least half of the time. The research was conducted in the children’s classroom at the center of worship that I attend. The method that I used was designed by playing six various genres of music. I then asked each participant to draw me a picture of how they visualized each song. Whatever your listening experience, you take music in through the senses (Draper, 2001), and this includes sight and drawing, being a cognitive sense. After their drawing was complete they were asked to explain what their drawing meant to them.
The participants were in a group setting and included: one male, age three and four females ages five, six, nine and twelve. The non-participant was a five year old male. The three year old male and six year old female are brother and sister, have a newborn baby brother and live with both parents. The five year old and nine year old females are half sisters and live in a single parent home. The twelve year old female is an only child and lives in a single parent home. The five year old male non-participant lives with his grandparents who have taken legal guardianship.
The participants were asked do draw a picture for each of the following songs that they heard, with some or no rules, played once or more, or : “You Are Loved,” Pop; “Something in Red,” Country; “Galop (The Gadfly, Op. 97),” 20th Century Russian Nationalism; “Mele Kelekimaka,” Christmas; “Für Elise,” Classical; and “We Like To Party,” Electronica. The rules were as follows: “You Are Loved” and “Für Elise” had no rules; “Something in Red,” they were asked not to use the color red in their drawing; “Galop” was played twice; “Mele Kelekimaka,” they were asked not to draw any trees; and “We Like To Party,” they were asked to wait until I gave them permission to start drawing.
Studies on the effects of music on childhood drawings play an important role in viewing a child’s psychosocial stages and cognitive development. It is also a simple way to test if a child would benefit from music therapy.
Some psychologists would argue that if we can understand how children think, we can probably understand most other aspects of their behavior. We start with an outline of the basic concepts of…Piaget’s developmental psychology, and very briefly outline his account of developmental stages. In the pre-operational stage, studies of symbolic play and drawing throw a good deal of light on parallel musical developments (Hargreaves, 1986).
Every child in the world has drawn pictures and every picture that has been drawn could easily be analyzed. To do this with every single picture, we could easily find some kind of psychological issue with every child. This is not the point in having these participants draw a picture. In actuality, the purpose of this experiment is to find out, through a child’s drawings and their reactions to the music, if music therapy would be a beneficial aspect to their development.
In viewing the drawings and the children’s reactions to the music along with brief discussions with each of the participants regarding each of their drawings, my conclusion is that although a child could be behind intellectually, they might benefit from some amount of therapy with a Board Certified Music Therapist (BCMT). Although most music therapy is reasonable and necessary for an individuals with an illness, learning disability or injury (American Music Therapy Association, 2007), it can be used as an alternative to more conventional for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other childhood mental disorders.
In the results of my first participant, Adam, he showed remarkable promise at the age of three, with no signs of need for music therapy. In viewing Adam, there was the obvious factor that his fine motor skills are developing normally. When asking him what his drawings were, his response was, “I just like drawing.” This coincides with the scribbling stage with clustered and centered drawings that children just enjoy the process (Handout PSYU 323, 2007).
The second point of interest with Adam’s drawings was what he chose to color with. In the first and third songs, he chose to use only one color; however, he chose to draw with three colors in the second song, while the performer of this song actually had sang about five different colors. During the first song, he also focused his drawing toward the center of the page, while the other two songs, he covered nearly the entire page.
After viewing the drawings that Adam drew for me, it is my opinion that he is not only in the preoperational stage in age but also in his mental cognitive development. It appears that he is starting to become aware of the lyrics and music and I find at this time that Adam is not a candidate for music therapy.
My second participant was Adam’s older sister, Amber. When asking her to describe her drawings, Amber showed what seems to be an understanding of love and many ideas along with awareness of the world around her. At six years of age, I found it nearly amazing to realize that a child could actually draw pictures of not only flowers and stars in the sky but also clouds in the shape of hearts. It appears that Amber is both mentally and physically in her preoperational development and that she is starting to grow into the concrete operational stage very well.
I also have chosen Amber as my first candidate for music therapy, even though her development seems normal. In her time listening to the music, she was the only child not dancing in her seat during the third song, “Galop” by Shostakovich, which is an instrumental piece with an allegro tempo played with brass, woodwind and percussion instruments. After leaving the room for one song and returning for the fifth song, “Für Elise” composed by Beethoven, Amber seemed to be frightened and wanted to leave the room. I asked her if something was wrong and she replied, “I am scared of that song.” I informed her that she was more than welcome to stay or could continue to play in the next room. This concerned me, since every person that I have known has always enjoyed this composition. Amber’s fear for this musical composition may be as simple as having heard this music and something scared her. Any number of other issues may also have brought on this fear. I believe that music therapy might benefit her in the future if she is unable to overcome her fear of certain pieces of music.
Julie was my third participant at the age of five years old. It is my belief that Julie is also adjusted normally in her initiative psychosocial stage. During the first two songs, Julie chose to play with five year old, James, the only non-participant in the group. Even though James never joined in drawing and her older sister, Lisa, chose to stop participating after the fourth song, Julie chose to stay and participate.
When I asked to describe her drawings, her first drawing was just scribbles with pastels. She described the drawing the same way that her sister had. This was not surprising to me considering these sisters are very close.
During the next song, “Mele Kelekimaka,” I had asked the remaining participants, Julie and Jamie, to draw whatever they like excluding trees, even though the song had palm tress swaying in its lyrics. Even though I had asked them not to draw trees, Julie chose to draw a picture of a fuchsia colored “crystal tree” on a green patch of grass. I find in asking children under the age of ten to “not do” something, this is a difficult task for them to understand. Michael Losier stated that “your unconscious and conscious mind automatically filters out the words don’t, not and no” (Losier, 2006). In my opinion, this appears to be an automatic case most of the time with children under the age of ten.
In viewing and analyzing Julie’s drawings, it is my judgment that she is developing normally and is not in need of music therapy sessions.
The next participant is nine year old Lisa, Julie’s older sister. In her first drawing, she drew figures in action of motion but in no relation to what a typical nine year old would draw. Her figures of fish looked more like ameba, her whale looked more like a drawing of a person with fins instead of arms and her concept of crabs was that they have faces like people do, all of which comes under the pre-schematic stage.
Lisa called her second drawing “my imagination.” This was interesting, considering the page was just scribbles, however each color had a different meaning, such as one color being the teacher, myself, three of the colors representing ideas from her teachings in her spiritual upbringing, and the remaining colors were representing various things from her favorite cartoon, SpongeBob SquarePants.
The third drawing by Lisa drew most of my attention to her. During this song she was the only child bouncing up and down or getting up from her seat and running around the room. She also had a schematic drawing once again and specifically called the drawing a “zig-zaggy flower,” with one prominent color. This definitely shows that music can inspire movement and drawings (Sample Activity Drawing to Music, 2007).
Music, movement, and the visual arts can overlap one another. All three areas can be used to help children develop understandings of patterns and feelings (Sample Activity Drawing to Music, 2007)
It is my observation that Lisa could definitely benefit from music therapy. I feel that music therapy could very easily assist her in gaining the appropriate growth in her concrete operational stage and also in her industry cognition.
Twelve year old Jamie was my final participant. Her development seems to be perfectly adjusted. Her cognitive development shows she is actually right where she should be according to her age. Erikson noted that in the adolescent stage of identity, one has the ability to see oneself as a unique and integrated person (Handout PSYU 319, 2007).
In Jamie’s drawings she focused mostly on drawings of people. Although she questioned the concept of not being able to use the color red during the second song, she complied. When you use these words…don’t, not and no…you are actually internalizing in your mind the exact thing you are being told not to do (Losier, 2006).
In each of the songs played, Jamie was the only participant who seemed to understand and also seemed to be able to pay attention to what the words of the songs were. This showed in her drawing and interpretation of the third song, in the drawing of instruments and a measure of music, which was almost accurate. It is my viewpoint that Jamie is not in need of music therapy. (Upon letting her know this and that it was my opinion that she is “normal,” she told me emphatically, “I don’t want to be normal.”
My only non-participant was a five year old by the name of James. In my early viewings of James I had made a guess that he possibly suffered from ADHD. During my time with all the participants, James would constantly try to get my attention. He would frequently leave the room and go to the playroom, which happens to be the next room over and then a few moments later he would return to get my attention. After the music session with the participants, I was able to speak with his grandfather and found out that James has been diagnosed with ADHD and that it runs in the family. With my observations and this knowledge, I firmly believe that James would definitely benefit from music therapy.
In conclusion, music therapy can help two of my participants and my one non-participant, each in a different way. Music is a fundamental that enhances the cognitive systems, including visual-spatial, analytical, and creative (Jensen, 2001). Music therapy has had a tremendous impact on the lives of those who have suffered from various diseases and illnesses and can help greatly with mental disorders, however it is my belief that it could also help in the cognitive growth of a child.
In suggesting that James, Lisa and Amber receive therapy by a BCMT, I believe that it will help them in their cognitive development. Music helps you think by activating and synchronizing neural firing patterns that orchestrate and connect multiple brain sites (Jensen, 2001). This neural firing pattern is essential because thinking and learning require making connections between many parts of the brain (Berger, 2006). Therefore, I have faith in music therapy and that it will be a benefit to these children.