Song Spotlight: “Yes, My Darling Daughter”

  • Mood: Nervous excitement
  • Themes: Parenting, Moms and Daughters, Dating
  • Tempo: Upbeat
  • Genre/style: Big Band era

I’ve been trying to think of a good song to highlight for Father’s Day, but the one that keeps coming back is a favorite from my Mother’s Day playlist. There’s a fatherly twist, though, so we’ll go with it.

Yes, My Darling Daughter” is a 1941 song written by Jack Lawrence and made famous by Dinah Shore. The melody Jack Lawrence used as the basis for this song has an interesting backstory. The music is based on the Ukrainian folk song “Oj ne khody Hrytsju,” which is thought to have been written by Catterino Cavos in 1812. This same folk song was published in translation in 1816, and its English version did gain some popularity in the United States. Interestingly, the final phrase of the melody, to the words, “yes, my darling daughter” follows the Hyrts sequence, a melody common in Ukrainian songs and one that was used by several classical composers, including Haydn, Mozart, Boccherini, and Liszt. Musical motifs really do travel across time and distance, don’t they?

Daddy, may I go out dancing? Yes, my darling daughter!

Anyway, let’s get back to Jack Lawrence’s lyrics. In this song, we hear the conversation between a nervous young woman on her way to the dance, and her beloved mother. Here are a few lines from the beginning of the song: Continue reading


Song Spotlight: “Cuddle Up a Little Closer, Lovey Mine”

  • Mood: Sentimental, tender
  • Theme: Love, physical tenderness
  • Tempo: Relaxed
  • Genre/style: Popular/Easy Listening

With Valentine’s Day coming tomorrow, I have been singing lots of love songs with my clients. There are so many GOOD love songs, too, which is to be expected, I guess, since love has been the subject of artists of all types for many generations.

My favorite love song of the moment is especially awesome for a few reasons:

  1. It works for romantic love as well as other kinds of love, like that between a parent and child.
  2. It encourages physical touch, but not in a overly sexual way.
  3. It’s in the public domain, so you don’t have to worry about copyright restrictions in experimenting with this song.

“Cuddle Up a Little Closer Lovey Mine” was published in 1908 as part of the Broadway music The Three Twins, with music by Karl Hoschna and lyrics by Otto Harbach. I learned it from a client of mine, who at the age of 99 can sing all of the words by heart. Here are the lyrics: Continue reading

Song Spotlight: “How Much is that Doggie in the Window?”

My husband wants one of these!

  • Mood: Silly
  • Themes: Pets, Relationships
  • Tempo: Relaxed
  • Genre/style: 1950s novelty song

My sweet husband has been lobbying hard over the last several months for our family to get a dog. I have never really been a dog person, but since one day soon we will probably be adding a pooch to our family, I have been paying extra attention to the variety of dogs around me, especially those that live with and are loved by my older adult clients. There are many beloved dogs around, and they are sure to draw attention from even some of the most quiet and passive people. Visits from these canine companions almost always call for one of my favorite songs for music therapy: “(How Much Is) That Doggie In The Window.” Here are the lyrics for the chorus:

How much is that doggie in the window?

The one with the waggly tail

How much is that doggie in the window?

I sure hope that doggie’s for sale

This song was written in 1952, with the iconic recording by Patti Page released in December of that year. The song was one of a string of successful novelty songs in the 1950s and 1960s, which also included one of our previously spotlighted songs, “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.” These songs are lighthearted and goofy, so they’re great for drawing out smiles, winks, and nods.

One of my favorite ways to adapt this song is to change the words slightly to match a description of the client’s pet. For example:

How much is that doggie in the window?

The one with the black and white fur?

How much is that doggie in the window?

I think that I will call him Buster.

Of course, you could change the words to be about any kind of pet. Here are a few good questions/prompts for getting the information to fill out the verses:

  • What kind of pet did you have? Tell me about it.
  • What was its name?
  • What color was it?
  • What did it like to do?
  • Did it do any tricks?

Creating a verse for each person’s special pet is an especially good way to get a discussion going in any size group. (P.S. Animals and pets are always great topics for discussion in intergenerational groups as well!)

What do you think? Could you use this song with seniors in your life? Let me know in the comments section!

This post is part of an occasional series on special songs to share with your loved ones. For more song spotlights, click here.


Video: Intergenerational Music Therapy

Today I am very excited to share with you a video interview with Dr. Melita Belgrave, assistant professor of music therapy at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. Dr. Belgrave is a board-certified music therapist and a researcher, whose research focus is intergenerational music therapy. Recently, she co-authored the book Music Therapy and Geriatric Populations: A Handbook for Practicing Music Therapists and Healthcare Professionals, which is available for sale from the American Music Therapy Association.

In this video, Dr. Belgrave tells us about intergenerational music therapy: what it is, who it benefits, and how to get a program started.

Luckily for us, this is not all the wisdom Dr. Belgrave has to share! In my next post, I will share a video especially for music therapists with tips for successful intergenerational music therapy groups. In my next newsletter, I will share a video especially for people in the Kansas City area, describing a special music-making opportunity for older adults in our community. Subscribe to the newsletter to hear about it first. Stay tuned!

Activity Idea: Musical Hot Potato

*Hot potato not required

Here’s one of my go-to activity ideas for music groups. Based on the well-known hot potato game, I use this activity to get people alert and interacting with each other and with an instrument. I’ve seen it work well with groups of kids and adults of various ability levels.

Here’s what you need:

  • Recorded music
    • Choose music that is upbeat to encourage quick instrument passing. You can also select music to match the theme of your activity.
  • A passable instrument 
    • Choose instruments that your group members can manipulate and play easily. My favorites are egg shakers, jingle bells, and my goat toenail rattle.

Here’s what you do:

1. Pass the selected instrument around the circle while the music plays. Sometimes people need cues to keep the instrument going around the circle – I usually encourage them to, “give it a shake and pass it on.” You might also need to bridge the gap between two participants seated far apart or help someone with limited mobility pass the instrument.

2. When the music stops, whoever is holding the instrument is “it.” What you decide to do next will depend on the type of musical response you want next. Here are some ideas that I’ve tried:

  • The person who is “it” gets to choose another instrument from a table/bag/pile then starts a band in another part of the room, playing along (and stopping) with the recorded music. For each round of the game, another person joins the band, until everyone has an instrument.
  • The person who is “it” gets to play a short solo on a melodic instrument.
  • The person who is “it” gets to choose a song for the whole group to sing together.
Tips for making this activity work:
  • As always, know your group members. My older adult clients usually encourage each other to pass the instrument and are not upset when they have the instrument when the music stops, but I’ve had younger clients who are either super-competitive about not getting “out” or who try to hold onto the instrument so they can be the first to pick an instrument and start the band. Add additional rules as necessary.
  • Be mindful of how you set up the group. This activity works best when you can seat group members in a circle, close enough to pass an object easily. Be aware of where your participants are who need help passing the object, and ask any staff members or visitors for help if needed.
  • Wield your power as the music controller wisely. It’s okay to let the music play a longer or shorter period of time to have it stop on a particular person. This is about encouraging social interaction and musical play, not someone winning a game.
This activity is great for getting group members to interact with each other, rather that just with you. It can also raise the energy level of the group and add interest to what might be a more run-of-the-mill singalong or instrument activity. This activity is also particularly nice for intergenerational groups – young and old are probably already familiar with the traditional hot potato game, and their strengths complement each other here. (The young folks can add to the excitement and keep the instrument moving along, and the older folks can model patience and non-competitiveness.)
Have you tried this activity with your groups? Please share any other tips or suggestions in the comments section!

Growing in Empathy: What is it like to be a caregiver?

As a music therapist, most of my day-to-day clinical work is with people who have long-term care needs, particularly older adults and people near the end of life. Many of my clients live at home with family caregivers or have family members who are deeply involved in their day-to-day care. One challenge for me as a therapist is that I don’t yet have either of these life experiences – being elderly or caring for elderly family members – so it can be hard to put myself in the other person’s shoes. I really do want to try to understand, though, so that I can be more helpful, more effective as a therapist.

Now that I am a mother, I think I am beginning to understand some of the challenges of being a family caregiver. My six-month-old daughter has been having a hard time sleeping through the night recently, and a few days ago, she was awake every hour. Sometimes I was pretty sure I knew what was wrong (wet diaper!), but sometimes I was only making my best guess (Teething pain? Too cold? Lonely?) In the midst of trying to figure out what she needed, I was also trying to figure out the quickest route back to bed, thinking about how absolutely desperate I was to get back to sleep, and mentally begging my baby just to go back to sleep already.

(Okay. I confess. By the wee hours of the morning, I was begging out loud for my little girl to go back to sleep.)

By the morning, I was still pretty much awake, exhausted, and facing another full day. My husband pulled double duty in getting the baby ready for daycare so I could catch an extra hour of sleep, but still, all day long I felt like everything was taking twice as much effort as usual and that my energy reserves were draining twice as fast. What else did I feel? Guilt. Guilt that I took a mid-afternoon nap instead of doing office work. Irritation at my daughter for keeping me up, and guilt for feeling angry at her. Anxiety that maybe I was doing something wrong, and dread for the next night, that it would be just as bad or worse, and that I would be even more drained the next day.

Fortunately for all of us, the last couple of nights have been a little better, and my husband and I have gotten a bit more rest, although I’m not anticipating a truly restful night for a while yet. So, I lived to write another blog post.

Is this what it’s like to be a family caregiver? To feel this mix of crazy emotions when someone is wandering around the house at night, confused; or when your loved one needs help with bathing, then with dressing, then with eating, then with taking medicine, and you never really get a chance to rest? To think, in the middle of whatever the current crisis is, that you are virtually alone, with the weight of responsibility solely on your shoulders (whether or not you are really alone)? Maybe even to resent this responsibility, even though you desperately love the person you are caring for?

These are such difficult things to go through that it’s no wonder that caregivers burn out. They need support, too, through the challenges of caring for a loved one.

Happily, there are joys, too. For me, it’s seeing my little girl’s smile in the morning light – no matter how rough the night was, I can’t help but smile back. It’s rocking her to sleep and knowing that I have the privilege of being her comfort, the same way my mother was for me.

I hope other family caregivers have these kinds of joys, too – the good times when your loved one smiles and laughs like he used to, or the moments when you remember a special time that you shared together. Sometimes, I get to help facilitate these joyful moments in music therapy, like when a caregiver gets to choose a special song for his loved one and she remembers it word-for-word, or when an upbeat number gets a loved one dancing in his chair, even when he can’t be coaxed out of bed for much else. These moments are the ones that keep people going through the most difficult times.

I do hope that our baby will be sleeping better soon, but I am also grateful for the opportunity to experience maybe just a little bit what it might be like to be in the shoes of some of the folks I serve in music therapy. Caregivers, can you relate to what I’ve described above? What am I missing? What helps you get through the tough times?

P.S. This is not the first time I’ve written about being a tired new mom. I guess I still need those lullabies…

From Nursing Home to Nursery School and Back

Today I am delighted to feature a guest post from Rachel Rambach, MM, MT-BC. Rachel is a board-certified music therapist primarily working with children with multiple disabilities. She also blogs and publishes original songs for use in music therapy at Listen & Learn. Here she writes about how musical experiences with her grandmother led her to the field of music therapy.

My music therapy journey began while I was a sophomore majoring in vocal performance at a college without a music therapy program.  I’d never heard of such a profession, but once I did, there was no going back.  I graduated one semester later (a whole year and a half early) so that I could hurry up and become a music therapist and work with older adults, particularly those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.

When I tell that story, people are surprised.  After all, I spend my days (and nights) providing music therapy for and teaching children of all ages – but not one older adult.

My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when I was in 8th grade.  I watched as her memory and health rapidly declined, yet her love of music remained unchanged.  I witnessed the power of music firsthand when she’d sing along to every word of a Frank Sinatra album.

I wanted to help people like my grandma, so when it came time to choose my first practicum in graduate school, I made it clear to the professor that I wanted to be placed in a nursing home.  She obliged, and I loved every minute of it.  I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be, and was convinced that this was the perfect population for me.

The next semester, I was placed in a classroom of young students.  Some were typically developing, while others had very special needs, and while I had felt completely comfortable with my previous population, this one completely intimidated me.  I had no prior experience with children and wasn’t even sure where to begin.

But to my surprise, working with these students came naturally to me.  My supervisor commented that she thought this population was a great fit, but I was still convinced that I belonged with older adults.  She begged to differ, and next placed me in a one-on-one practicum with a tiny little girl who had a sensory disorder.

That was my turning point.  As much as I had loved my time in the nursing home, I realized that I was truly meant to work with children.  I went on to complete an internship with a private practice who served a special education school district, got my first job working with multiply disabled children in a residential school, and started a private practice and teaching studio where my main clientele is young children.

Before my grandma passed away in late 2009 (after 13 years of suffering from her disease), I had the chance to visit her in the nursing home.  She’d long forgotten the names of my family members, and was really just a shell of her former self at that point.  But I got to see my grandma one last time that day as herself, happily singing along to every single Christmas song I played on my guitar.  I can’t express in words how much joy that experience brought me. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll revisit the population that first led me to become a music therapist.

I’m tired…

I’m tired. This comes from being a new mom. Pre-parenthood, I tried very hard to take care of myself in various ways – getting enough sleep, exercise, time to be alone and quiet – so that I could be fully present with my clients in music therapy and with my family and friends all the rest of the time. I’m still trying to do that, but the fact is I now have an adorable little human being who is depending on her parents for everything. This means I’m not getting much sleep – my attention span is very short – my frustration tolerance is much lower than I’d like it to be. I’m sure this is a familiar experience for all of the parents out there.

So what has been my musical saving grace in the last several weeks? Lullabies. You would think that as a music therapist, I would automatically know how to use music with my child, but I was definitely grateful to listen to the podcasts from my music therapist colleagues at A Perfect Lullaby. They reminded me of many benefits of singing to our baby: music is great for bonding with our child, soothing her when she is upset, and helping me to cope with my own frustrations and anxieties. Singing familiar songs such as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” “Jesus Loves Me,” “You Are My Sunshine,” and (in this season) “Away in a Manger” comes naturally with the oh-so-automatic rocking motions, and since these songs are so familiar, I don’t have to think much at all to sing them. I don’t need an accompanying instrument, I don’t need to think about what key I’m singing in, and I really don’t have to think about the words since I can just hum if I want to. This is especially important for the sleep-deprived! My husband gets in on the singing action, too – no professional training required. (“Daddy’s Going to Buy You a Mockingbird” is his special song!) Plus, these songs that are so special now will continue to be special in our family as our daughter grows up, and maybe someday she will be sharing them with her own family in more precious moments. What a gift to be able to build these musical bonds, even when I can barely see straight!

What are the special songs you’ve sung to your little ones or that were important in your family? Please share in the comments section!