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The purpose of this activity was to encourage the campers to exercise impulse control by waiting their turn to play and to engage in a productive and respectful musical exchange with their peers. Additionally, this activity provided each camper with the opportunity for freedom of musical expression and artistic validation during their turn as the leader.

These sessions were diverse in nature and varied from voice and instrumental lessons to using programs such as Ableton Live and MIDI controllers to create musical compositions. In addition to honing musical skills, these lessons facilitated musical expression and opportunities for decision-making. Such lessons were perhaps the clearest instance of how music therapy interventions could be applied to medical ethnomusicology practices in order to blend elements of therapy and ethnography.

Below I provide an ethnographic account of a lesson involving Cameron, a year-old boy with WS, and Izzy Branch, a counselor and music therapist; this example illustrates how these music lessons advanced musical expression and decision-making skills through the collaborative construction of a musical narrative. During their lesson conducted in the camp library, Cameron was drawn to a book about robins. He took it off the shelf and began reading it.


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Izzy, seeing this as an opportunity, encouraged Cameron to incorporate the book into their music lesson. Izzy recalls,. Through this compromise, the lesson was transformed from a purely musical activity to an opportunity for Cameron to demonstrate his musicality and reading abilities. Cameron greatly enjoyed this lesson and the next day asked if he could sing the song at talent night that evening. Izzy, who had recorded their session the day before, agreed and suggested adding instruments to the recording.

Through the use of Garage Band and auxiliary percussion instruments, Cameron, his dad Lance, and Izzy worked together to create a musical arrangement. In talking with Izzy, choice and decision-making were the main focal points of her lessons with Cameron. Though Cameron made all of the decisions about instrumentation and form, Izzy facilitated these choices by giving him options to make the process more manageable. Izzy and the other staff members frequently emphasized the importance of independence both within and outside of lessons.

One of the goals of camp and of the Williams Syndrome Association WSA is to promote independent living and to create adaptations that make independence possible. According to Izzy,. Rather than doing difficult tasks for the campers, the therapists adapted situations to ensure that the campers were successful in completing challenges autonomously. The development of decision-making skills and a sense of independence are regularly cultivated in all children, be they neurotypical or neurodiverse. However, as Izzy mentioned, people who have disabilities are often defined by misguided perceptions of what they cannot do, rather than by their abilities.

Thus, for Izzy and for many of the music therapists at Whispering Trails, it is particularly important to facilitate and accommodate choice-making procedures for young campers to ensure that as adults they will have the tools to make their own decisions and to become self-advocates. This is one instance of how the therapists accomplished therapeutic goals by allowing the campers to exercise their own agency and to express themselves through collaborative musicking; such examples not only demonstrate how music therapists blend aspects of the social and medical paradigms of disability, but also provide a model for how medical ethnomusicologists could use therapeutic interventions to aid their interlocutors in articulating their identities in ethnomusicological settings.

The hidden diffability : discovering Aspergers / by Lyndel Kennedy | National Library of Australia

Outside of planned music therapy sessions, music therapists freely interacted with parents and campers in musical and nonmusical activities, creating a cohesive feeling of community in which all members came together to co-create a culture based on the shared experience of Williams Syndrome. Counselors and therapists took turns leading the festivities by playing instruments and singing popular top 40 hits and camp songs.

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During this song everyone sings the chorus, which is then followed by a counselor choosing an individual to perform his or her own version of the dance. The song follows a call-and-response format:. Through the calling of their name each camper is individually recognized and free to express him or herself through improvised body movement. This is their time to shine and to musically and physically express themselves without fear of judgment.


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Parents, counselors, and therapists are also included in this community-building ritual. This state of liminality is then followed by what the symbolic anthropologist Victor Turner described in his book, The Ritual Process , as communitas. This musical ritual serves to affirm the individual and to construct a supportive community that is free of judgment. Once you bugaloo, you belong. Within the camp environment, Williams Syndrome is not treated as a deficit, but rather as a marker of difference that is appreciated, nurtured, and accommodated. In this way, the social model of disability reigns supreme, though elements of the medical model pepper the musical landscape through daily music therapy interventions.

While the parents, music therapists, and campers are initially drawn together by the shared experience of WS, over the course of the week they create a community and culture based on mutual support, understanding, and possibility for the future that is crafted through shared musical experience and music therapy. The Williams Syndrome Whispering Trails community presents a compelling case for a culture in which music is intrinsically a part of the lives of its members.

Music not only serves as an effective tool for accommodating learning difficulties for children and adolescents with WS, but also acts as a vital medium for personal expression. During my participant observation-based fieldwork I not only became involved in the musical lifeworlds of the campers, but was also enmeshed in the musicultural world of the music therapists; through this experience, I have gained a greater appreciation for the methods of music therapists and understanding of the fluidity, adaptability, and humanitarianism of MT.

As explored in this article, ethnomusicology and music therapy are two distinct fields defined by differing epistemological positions in which music therapists are charged with facilitating change in their clients, while ethnomusicologists are responsible for musically and culturally exploring the lifeways of their interlocutors.

Despite these differences, fruitful collaboration and cooperation between these two disciplines is possible. Medical ethnomusicology provides a dialectic solution for blending and negotiating methodologies and theories from both ethnomusicology and music therapy while also adding its own layer of complexities to the two fields. The previous ethnographic narratives demonstrate that the disciplinary synergy between the ethnomusicology of Williams Syndrome and music therapy provides a compelling case for future collaboration between these two fields. Such interchange could not only aid individuals and specific populations through musical means, but also heal society through the promotion of accommodation and acceptance for neurodiverse individuals.

My work, and ethnomusicology more broadly, has only begun to scratch the surface of interdisciplinary possibilities, though I am hopeful that such work will continue and become commonplace in the future. I believe that through such collaborations music therapists and medical ethnomusicologists can work with their communities to engage in musical advocacy that will ultimately lead to a more just, inclusive, and accommodating society.

However, such a society cannot be achieved if we, as scholars, continue to draw exclusionary disciplinary boundaries. Instead, we must take responsibility and advocate for one another through interdisciplinary collaboration. It is my hope that in the future such musical and academic cooperation becomes commonplace. As a result of these missing genes, particularly the protein that makes elastin, people with WS frequently have cardiovascular disease that often necessitates open-heart surgery.

What is Asperger Syndrome, Autism, and Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Many individuals with WS also face challenges in spatial-motor skills, have learning and behavioral disabilities, and experience high levels of anxiety. Additionally, people with WS exhibit a distinct behavioral phenotype characterized by hypersociability and musicality. This research technique is a standard methodological research technique among ethnomusicologists as well as anthropologists. Thus, the social model of disability, while important for combating the marginalization of people with disabilities in society, also frequently ignores the very real suffering or difficulties experienced by people with disabilities as a result of their impairments, and in so doing suppresses their voices and experiences.

All names, narratives, and photographs included in this article have been used with the consent of the individuals. Allison, T. Songwriting and transcending institutional boundaries in the nursing home. In Benjamin D. Koen Ed.

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New York: Oxford University Press. The nursing home as village: Lessons from ethnomusicology. The Journal of Aging, Humanities, and the Arts 4 3 , American Music Therapy Association. Williams Syndrome WS : Recent research on music and sound. Bakan, M. Ethnomusicological perspectives on Autism, neurodiversity, and music therapy. Ethnomusicology 59 1 , Barz, G.

Ebook and Manual Reference

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Kennedy, L. The hidden diffablity: Discovering Aspergers. Australia: Blasck Publishing. Koen, B. Introduction: Confluence of consciousness in music, medicine, and culture. Koen, Ed. LaCom, C. Destabilizing bodies, destabilizing disciplines: Practicing liminality in music therapy. Metell, M. Mollow, A. National institute of neurological disorders and stroke.

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Rickson, D. The relevance of disability perspectives in music therapy practice with children and young people who have intellectual disability. Rolvsjord, R. Competent client and the complexity of dis-ability. Siebers, T. Disability theory. Stige, B. Where music helps: Community Music Therapy in action and reflection. Burlington: Ashgate.

With a range of activities that introduce mindfulness and encourage relaxation, this workbook will help young people aged to develop the tools needed to prepare for and respond to future difficult situations.