Cedar Falls Library hosts music therapy sessions
CEDAR FALLS | One normally wouldn't expect drums, guitars, whistles and other musical instruments at a public library, but Friday was special.
Friday was the day Lucy Schipper came to visit.
Schipper, a music therapist with West Music, held two 45-minute sessions at the Cedar Falls Public Library for clients of Comprehensive Systems and North Star Community Services, nonprofit agencies that provide a variety of services for people with disabilities. The event was sponsored by the Friends of the Cedar Falls Library.
As the clients sat in chairs pulled into a half circle, Schipper strummed her guitar and greeted them with the "Hello" song, incorporating each of their names into the tune.
"Hello there, Don, it's time for music. Hello there, Don, let's make some music," she sang to Don Golinvaux as he grinned and sang along.
"It lets them know they are involved in creating the music, not just being entertained," Schipper said. "That brings so much value to who they are, not necessarily what they can or can't do."
That was followed by a string of patriotic songs the group sang together while waving small American flags Schipper had handed out.
Schipper made her way around the semi-circle singing and allowing each participant to strum the guitar with a large plastic pick.
After a rousing rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballpark," Golinvaux yelled, "Play ball!" and rose from his seat to take a bow.
The room erupted in laughter and applause.
The clients also got to try their hand at a number of instruments, including drums, bells and whistles. They sang, "marched" in their seats and waited patiently for the instruments to make their way to them.
Kate Fineran, North Star art coordinator, said her charges attend a music class at the facility every day. "But they don't get to interact with the instruments. I think they really enjoyed that part of it."
"Yeah, I liked all of it," said Joe Parker, a North Star consumer.
Client Kylie Paton couldn't name her favorite instrument.
"I don't know," she said. "I liked all of them."
During the second session, few staff members from North Star and from the library sat in the back of the room, enjoying the performance. With them sat state Rep. Bob Kressig, D-Cedar Falls.
Schipper had invited area legislators to the sessions so they could see the benefits of music therapy for themselves. She is seeking legislation that will recognize the job of music therapist as a health care profession.
"I was impressed," Kressig said of the session. "It looks like it is a benefit to folks with health issues."
Kressig also attended one of Schipper's previous sessions at a nursing home.
"Lucy reached out to me, and I am making an attempt to learn all I can," he said. "I've asked Lucy to draft some language. I think it is worthwhile pursuing it."
Schipper, who is under contract with West Music, holds music therapy sessions in a number of venues -- including nursing homes, hospices and preschools -- in a 60-mile radius.
"Music therapy aims to use music to elicit a specific response," Schipper said. "It may be social interaction, vocalization or physical movement, depending on the client."
Schipper, a graduate of the University of Iowa, has been working as a music therapist for more than 14 years and also supervises music therapy students at both Wartburg College and U of I, the two schools in the state that offer degrees in the field.
"It is really rewarding," Schipper said. "It doesn't seem like work.
"You see someone like Emma (Harms, a participant in the Friday's session) who isn't really engaged or making eye contact at first, and by the end of the session is making song requests. That's pretty moving.
"Music can supercede all ability levels and breaks through any barriers."