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Penny Burns has created songbooks and other music resources that will be useful for teachers, group-leaders and therapists. They are now available as physical copies or digital downloads - please visit www.open2sound.co.uk. The popular song ‘Little Star’ is No.2 in the ‘Sing a Simple Song’ songbook!
I had to hold a very large smile inside as I beheld the view in front of me. A group of five primary aged children were sitting on chairs in a semi-circle around the front of my 55cm wind gong that was hung on a low wooden stand. Five pairs of shoes were strewn around the room and five pairs of feet were battling for space on the two chairs that were inches from the gong.
As I began with dragging a large flumi (a plastic ball shaped instrument that you scrape over the surface of the gong), there was a delightful variety of noises from the children – groans, screeches, ooos, ahhs and everything in between. I tried unsuccessfully to get them to move their feet away from the gong. I explained that I wanted to get the gong swinging but they slid forward on their chairs and pushed their feet as close as they could so they could feel the gong's vibrations.
Another great reaction to the sound of the gong is when they giggle their whole way through it because ‘It tickles!’ - and when I ask them if they want me to stop they cry ‘No!’.
I tend to use the gong on the fourth week of the six weeks that I have with them. I see about twelve small groups of primary school children each week in different schools and each session lasts for an hour. Every week I use a different instrument - shakers, drums, metal singing bowls, gong, a voice recorder and didgeridoo. once I used my Shruti Box.
All of the instruments offer something special. I use the shakers on the first week as a way of introducing the idea of an individual ‘sound bath’. I play a range of homemade ones and invite them to choose the sound they like best. Whilst they sit down and put their feet up on a chair in front of them I invite them to take their shoes off if they want but not if they don't. I tell them that they will probably feel it more with their shoes off.
Shakers: I use their chosen shaker around their bodies in the following order. under the feet, up the outside of the left leg, pause at the knee, around the hip, across the back from side to side, the base of the spine, around to the other hip, down the right leg, pause at the knee and finish at the feet. If it feels right, I will talk this sequence through as I do it so that if they want, they can give each other a ‘sound bath’ later in the session.
Didgeridoo: Giving a ‘digeridoo sound bath’ is definitely a joy because they love the vibration. They often move their toes, wriggling them towards the end of instrument right in the sound so that they're only a few centimetres away from the end. They often giggle through this session and after a good giggle I can see how their tension and stress has disappeared. The children look refreshed, calm and free from worries and I feel that the sound of the didgeridoo is very nurturing.
Drums: The drums are great because of their versatility. I use them to deliver individual ‘sound baths’. They are very resonant and the children can feel the vibration going through them. We also play them in a group, sharing rhythms, doing some call and response and playing together, or they can be used for a simple mirroring game.
Mirroring using a drum is when one person plays a (hopefully) short rhythm (or any sound) and the other person copies it as accurately as they can. Although the mirroring game can be played in a group, it is more personal playing it with an individual. This ‘game’ can be really beneficial and deeply healing as mirroring is an essential part of a child's development. Sometimes the game can go on for a long time and expand into using movement, voice and other instruments.
Singing Bowls: I use three metal singing bowls;
I offer them the opportunity to stand in the large bowl whilst I strike it with a mallet. I usually strike the bowl three times allowing a space between strikes for the sound to travel into their feet and up their legs.
The middle sized bowl fits over the children's head and provides a totally different experience. I look into their eyes and hold the eye contact closely attuning to them for feedback as to how the experience is for them. I need to be very careful about striking the bowl when it's on their heads because the sound can be very strong. I know that sound is an exceptionally powerful tool and I feel that singing bowls can easily become too much for very sensitive children. The eye contact and attunement that this type of ‘sound bath’ calls for offers some healing at a deep level because attunment and eye contact is an early developmental need.
The practice bowl is a machine made bowl that is very easy to play and it is their chance to have a go at playing a bowl. Some children will spend the whole of the session playing it.
I feel that more research could be done to explore the way that sound affects the brain waves of children. At present I am working with lots of young children with ‘sound and art therapy’ and watching the way that they benefit is an honour and a privilege.
Linda Davies-Holmes - October 2013
BA (Hons) with Qualified Teacher Status
Post Graduate Diploma in Art Psychotherapy
Practitioner and Member of College of Sound Healing
I had an opportunity to bring some of my Sound Healing work into one of my college classes; this particular group were quite fractious, with many different personalities and energies, and were having difficulty working together. I decided to start the class with the lights out and instructed them to lie on the floor in a comfortable position. I then asked them to sound how they were feeling.
Although they were initially quite tentative, the dissonance and resonance began to build. I asked them not to ignore the dissonance, but to acknowledge it and accept it. I then asked them to change tones freely as they needed. You could feel the atmosphere change as they resolved their differences through sound. The harmony became more consonant and the harmonics filled the air. This was a profound moment for everyone in the room, and I believe some students found their true soul note.
The exercise I did with my students happened on quite an instinctive impulse. After quite a considerable time, I asked them to gradually draw the sound to a conclusion, in their own time, and only when it felt right to do so. After the process, I let them absorb the energy in a short silence. I left the lights off for a short while, allowing them time to come around before sharing their experiences.
There was initial discomfort for some as they keyed into the dissonance; others felt more energised, and had more clarity. Most of them were in a completely different headspace; a quiet and calm enveloped the group. It seemed that the silence gave them time to listen and assimilate each other's energy. They also created the most extraordinary creative and synchronised piece of a Cappella singing for their end of term assessment.
They became one of the most solid and cohesive working groups in the college. It seemed that the silence gave them time to listen and assimilate each other's energy.
This is a brief description of the work I do using sound within the context of Art Therapy with children in School. Any details that may identify the schools and/or children involved have been changed.
When I began work with young school children it was purely as an Art Therapist (aka Art Psychotherapist). Since training to become a sound healing practitioner with Simon Heather and following this with his training course to become a tutor for the College of Sound Healing, I have become interested in using sound healing with children.
At present I call myself a ‘Sound and Art Therapist’. It is an anomaly because the word therapist in ‘Sound Therapist’ means a complementary therapist and the therapist in ‘Art Therapist’ means psychotherapist. However, what interests me is the part that they have in common and that is healing - they are both meant to support a process of becoming whole.
I start the sessions with a written ‘Agreement’ that I make with the children. This focuses on what the sessions are for and the boundaries. I ask the children to sign their name to it if they agree with everything on the ‘Agreement’. Knowing the rules at the start and agreeing to them are important in creating psychological safety.
I work in blocks of six weekly sessions and each week there is a focus on a specific instrument for example, gongs, metal bowls, voice and rhythm. I show them the particular instrument and how to play it without damaging it. I show them what to do and what not to do with it and how to give another person a pleasant sound experience with it.
Developing rules for each instrument is important because some children want to ‘bash’ instruments - particularly the drum. For some children it's hard not to ‘hit’ the drums - it is as if they need to be heard and their anger at being ignored or not listened to comes out.
Some children love seeing the patterns on the drums move and put objects on the drums and watched them jump with the vibrations as they hit them. Another thing they often like is to put a little bit of water in the bottom of a singing bowl and watch it make patterns and splash as it is played.
The gong is popular for what I now call ‘gong foot baths’ and drums played around the body I call drum baths. Gong foot baths came about by a child lying down, propping their feet up so they were level with the gong and getting someone else to play it! I have a large metal singing bowl that is big enough for a child's feet and I offer them the opportunity to stand in it whilst I ‘dong’ it with the mallet. I carry these things out in a way that they are in control - generally this means using a running commentary of what I'm doing and questions.
Questions like ‘how does that feel?’ is the most common. Often the answer to ‘How does it feel?’ is ‘Weird’ so then my counter question is ‘Nice weird or not-nice weird?’ Generally the answer is favourable. I have a sweet sounding large bowl that fits onto a child's head and I offer them the chance to put it on their head and have it ‘donged’ carefully by myself; the response to this is very varied so I have to really tune into them.
For part of the session on rhythm I offer the opportunity of making a rattle or shaker by bringing in simple containers and things that will make a noise. One child who was very quiet, reserved and shy, danced around the room with their shaker they'd made. This seemingly out of character act made them become really alive.
Some children don't like very much sound and others come back for more. Some get bored with the sounds and prefer the safety of art making, and some spend all the time with the instruments. I think there is a safety in sound because there's no final product that is concrete. Another advantage of sound is its capacity to bring the group together.
The main limitation with sound is when it is too loud and when the intention isn't healing; it's easy for it to become abusive. Behind this type of sound making is meaning though. For some children making sound from an object outside themselves can help that feeling of being able to exist. It is something that others can hear and therefore it serves as a type of ‘I am making a noise and can be heard therefore I exist’. I often wonder what words would take the place of some of the sounds I hear. It could be as simple as ‘I want you to hear me’, ‘notice me’, ‘listen to me’ or ‘think about me’. Sometimes I feel that if there were words they would be screamed.
I have a selection of art materials available that remain the same each week. This is to provide a sense of reliability, predictability and consistency. These factors are the reason why I try to keep the sessions on the same day of the week, the same time and same place. It is all about trying to create a safe space that is contained. The roots of this are in Art Therapy.
I feel that the sound enhances the work. I believe that using sound in a therapeutic way encourages transformation and I know that art therapy is a healing and transformative process. Together I feel that the sound speeds up the process of the children making beneficial positive change for themselves.
by Linda Davies
I have used the biosonic tuning folks with my students on a number of occasions. They find them very interesting and they like to sound them really loudly. I have shown them how to use the sole of a shoe to make a softer sound but they prefer them loud.
I have also shown them the singing bowl and bells and have allowed them to try them out. The singing bowl has proven to be quite difficult for them to play whereas the bells are a lot more accessible.
I always use drums or low sounds to ground them after working with high pitched sounds.
As part of every session with the learners I have a closing routine that helps to ground the learners. The routine consists of a relaxation session where they listen to calm music, sometimes I take them on a visualisation journey. After this I gently persuade the learners to blink their eyes open and begin to notice their surroundings (a few would always fall asleep - so I'd have to gently wake them up).
Once they were all awake, I ask them to sit up and become aware of their own space. I ask them to imagine that the sand-coloured floor is sand and ask them to draw a circle around themselves to outline their personal space. They then slowly get up. Once they are standing, I get the group to click fingers, then get louder by clapping hands, then stamping feet, then we all clap hands and stamp feet at the same time and shout out excited sounds. This reaches a climax where we all end up laughing.
I then instigate a hands in (where the group put their hands together in the middle and choose a word, then count 1,2,3... while breaking the circle of hands). The learners then knew that this is time to leave the session. Ending a session with this routine allows me to feel more grounded and independent from the group.
During singing sessions I use toning with the group to warm up their voices. We sing each vowel sound Oh, Ah and Ee beginning by singing low, then medium, then high, back to medium then low again. We tone any sound we like with the focus on singing softly. I also introduce what I call the ‘aeroplane’ where we sing one sound from low to high then low again in one breathe.
To begin with some of the learners were unable to re-create high or low sounds. They would make one long monotone sound in response to each different sound. I found a way to help them, I get them to feel the sound in their bodies. I achieve this in many different ways :
Through these methods nearly all the learners managed to make a low and high sound. I recognised that I needed to find something that was meaningful to them. Each week I try new ideas until I find something that works for them.
I often use the Sah Ray Gah scale with the learners as they seemed to find this accessible.
I also teach simple chants to the learners for example ‘Let your little light shine’. The students love the melody in this song but some of them found if difficult to remember the words and keep to the tune. I began to use chants that didn't have recognisable words such as ‘Om Tare Tutare’. I noticed that the simple tunes with fewer words worked best and especially when they are in another language as they approach them more as sounds rather than words.
I began a project on Native American Pow Wows. This project allowed me to introduce dance, drumming and chanting all at the same time. We learned each part separately - researching drum rhythms, dance moves and chants used. We chose the group favourite and practised this for a performance. Each learner experienced each part and then chose what they would like to do in the performance.
I often use the ‘Hey Yana’ chant that combines singing and movement. We made up a dance and moved around in a circle while chanting. For most learners the movements helped them to remember the songs.
For more information please contact Amy Burns.
Vital Spark Music promotes holistic growth through music, sound and performance. We work in schools, community groups and with individuals; teaching, performing, composing, recording and enjoying music with all ages and abilities.
Our intention is to share the healing properties of sound in positive ways, as well as to increase the understanding of the effects of music.
In a school environment we usually begin with warm-ups, which include toning and ‘shaking -out’. This relaxes and loosens the body and is great fun. It is a great ice- breaker which includes everyone.
We have found that children naturally enjoy taking part in non-threatening activities. We ask them how different notes make them feel, and where in their body they feel the sounds. The children are encouraged to voice their opinions. As well as increasing their self-awareness, this gives an ideal opportunity to let the child feel heard.
We use simple chants, exciting rhythms and gentle movement. Together we gain a sense of unity and create the most beautiful harmonics!
Children are introduced to a wide range of music and encouraged to explore the sounds of weird and wonderful instruments to see what delights can be found. The magical sound of the biosonic tuning forks is a consistent favourite with the children!
So far our workshops in schools have been well received and have produced positive results ie. an increased knowledge of music, improved listening skills and clear evidence of emotional growth.
Penny Burns MCSH, Teacher, Composer, Musician.
Penny has produced a book and CD for use in schools. For more information about her work please contact Penny - tel 01588 630 047
It seems difficult to imagine now, but as we arrived at Holycombe House in the Cotswolds, that last covering of winter snow was melting and we made haste to unload the car loads of instruments into the house.
The weekend had been more than a year in the planning for Chrys Blanchard and I, and we were looking forward to working with the group, mainly College of Sound Healing College members, looking to develop their knowledge, skills and confidence to take sound work into schools - particularly to key stage 1 pupils.
Our programme started on Friday evening after everyone had arrived and were settled into the house. Following a hearty supper in the beautiful conservatory, we congregated in the Angel room and enjoyed a short ‘getting to know you’ session singing songs Chrys uses in her work in schools and in her community singing leader role.
Topics over the weekend included a starter ‘toolkit’ of creative ideas for sound workshops, how to set the learning space, how to shape a sound workshop, how to manage the group, and a marketing session which included indications of how much sound workers should charge for services and responsibilities regarding Public Liability Insurance and CRB checks.
During the day on Saturday we learned the importance of setting the space and entering the room which are key aspects of creating a sound session in a school environment. Experiencing songs and singing together in the way that children would experience them was a helpful way of learning.
On Saturday evening we held an intimate concert when everyone brought along their own instruments. It was amazing how beautifully the eclectic collection of instruments ranging from an acoustic guitar to a shruti box blended together to create an ever changing symphony which lasted a couple of hours. This was a lovely highlight of the weekend.
On Sunday, everyone contributed to a creative workshop when we worked in small groups to develop a themed idea and presented it to the group at large. We were treated to delightful improvised chants, songs from around the world, creative artwork and dance as well as the sounds of simple instruments.
We concluded the practical sessions on Sunday with a marketing workshop where everyone shared ideas and experiences and advice on how to market sound work into schools.
Everyone took away handouts and follow up digital recordings of the songs we had learned and practised over the weekend.
Feedback said that the weekend had been helpful and inspirational and everyone felt better equipped to take their sound work forward in their individual ways.
Report by Jane Doyle
13th - 15th February 2009
I am working with a class of twenty-four, 5-7 year olds. It is an inner city school that has many children who have challenging behaviour.
There are social and drugs related issues in some of the family backgrounds.
The children can be very unsettled and have a tendency to interrupt any adult who is talking, albeit with comments, ideas and suggestions. There is much jostling and winding up of each other. Several children display behaviour that suggests ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or show some degree of Autistic Spectrum traits.
Peter is a particular child who has several problems; he struggles with class work, is poor in social skills and is overweight. This affects his ability to mix comfortably with the others, and affects his self-esteem. His behaviour is disruptive and he is attention seeking. He tends to push others around physically and is quite bolshy and hard to engage. He also tends to sulk if things dont go his way, and this can affect the dynamic of the whole class.
I was asked to work creatively with the children on one afternoon a week for a term. The head teacher was open to any ideas I might bring to enrich the childrens experience.
I wanted to extend their social skills, work on group dynamics whilst working on communications and feelings.
Many of these children craved attention. I decided to work with giving positive attention. In our culture, there is not enough opportunity for people to participate in group activities that are about expressing emotions and are about support and nurturing.
I decided to use music and sound as a vehicle to work with their emotions and to heal them as a group and make them a more coherent class. My intention was to encourage positive behaviour in the children both individually, and towards each other.
I used a particular song that could be used as healing medicine, not only for these children, but also for the whole school.
Song: We're going to hold you in our circle, hold you in our love [By Emily Maxey Jukes]
I intended to use the song much in the way we would use a sound bath, with the person receiving it standing, sitting or lying in the centre.
Method: I built up to the concept of putting someone in the centre and the rest of the group singing to them by going through various stages. There were 3 Phases:
The children just gather in a circle and sing the song and take turns to go into the middle and be sung to. It all seems very natural to them now. The ones on the outside tend to put their arms around each other and sway as they sing, rather like the camaraderie of a football crowd.
The Head Teacher took the song to a staff meeting and taught it to the staff. The children and staff have used this method since, and have sung the song many times to each other. They also burst out singing it spontaneously at other times, i.e. in art session, walking down the corridor, in the playground, when sharing fruit at fruit time.
Ideas for the Future
I suggested that the song could be used when any child was suffering in school, perhaps when they were upset or not coping. There are several children in the school that are particularly disturbed and difficult to deal with.
The song could be used on a one to one basis i.e. a member of staff singing it to a child.
An idea that I would like to see put into practise in the future is that there would be a special singing team of about 5 children (these could be selected weekly and put on duty as it were, i.e. be on call for emergencies) that could be called upon to come and sing to the upset child in a quiet and clam space.
The child then would receive a sound bath via the song, and the peer group would learn that we need to take responsibility as a community for helping each other.
Three months after this session, I observed the children singing this song spontaneously as they were going about their business in the rest of the school. We used it regularly in the weekly session during the term that I visited.
Update - December 14th 2006
I have been visiting the class one afternoon a week since September.
I assessed the mood of the class. The weather was bad, the children had been bottled up all day, and had not been able to go outside to play and let off steam. It was raining extremely heavily and there were gusty, stormy winds. The children were extremely unsettled. To add to this we had to meet in a different room than usual. The children throughout the whole school were wound up and restless.
I introduced my collection of Tibetan bowls to the class. I showed them the patterns made in water when a bowl was filled and struck. I demonstrated lying down and placing the bowl on the body and striking it gently. I also demonstrated putting a bowl on the floor at the side of someones head and striking it gently. I gave out one bowl between two children and let them experiment.
Finally we placed someone in the centre and put the bowls around them and gently struck the bowls. The children then requested that they all do this with the headmistress receiving the sound lying down in the middle. All children placed their hands on her whilst she received the sound.
The children had varying degrees of response. Some were not able to strike the bowl gently, striking too loudly. Several attempted winding the rim of the bowl. Two boys working together, (one with considerable behavioural and social problems), noticed that when they used two bowls, putting one on either side of the head it produced a wah wah sound (discovering the effects of oscillation) and they were very excited by this effect.
Some of the children struck the bowls too hard with the beaters at an angle around the rim making dents in the beaters.
The children became calm when we worked as a group, responding to the meditate quality created by sound of the bowls, and at the end of the session they focused on giving the sound healing to their Headmistress. I felt that they learnt to focus positive, gentle energy and to give to another human being in a gentle, healing way.
I have suggested the idea of having a sound healing room in the school. Something small would do, painted white or cream with very little in it, it would be a very calm space. I also recommend a simple training for a member of staff.
I have started designing a basic sound healing package for use in schools, consisting of a few carefully chosen instruments with specific functions, and a series of healing songs to be applied
(The pupils names have been changed to protect their identity).
September 28th 2006 - Chrys Blanchard
For more information please contact Chrys.
Children have become better behaved since teachers began singing to them in school.
Teachers at 70 British primary schools have joined an experimental scheme to improve the performance of their pupils - by singing to the children in lessons.
Organisers of the scheme say the project brings a whole new dimension to classroom learning and they are hailing it as a success.
Under the scheme, set up by the charity The Voices Foundation, teachers take part in a special course to teach them how to take more music and singing into the life of the school.
Young children are then encouraged to sing as much as possible during lessons - including English and maths.
Pupils are encouraged to sing the answer to sums in maths classes.
At the Oxford Gardens primary school, west London, music has played a prominent role in the school's curriculum, taking an important place alongside the ‘three Rs’, ever since the school teamed up with The Voices Foundation.
Teachers have found the project so successful that in some classes they only need to sing to restore order behind the desk.
Children sing their two and three times tables in maths classes, appear happier and even go home and sing to their families, say the scheme's organisers.
While it all may seem like a lot of fun for the children, and a little embarrassing for some of the croaky-voiced teachers, the people behind the project say it can have a huge benefit on a pupil's education.
Susan Digby, of The Voices Foundation, which set up the scheme, hopes to see 2000 schools taking part in the scheme within 10 years.
"Singing and making music is undervalued in our culture in general," she said. "I think in many schools it is quite hard, given the resources, to implement it in anyway that it has a substantial part in school life."
The staff at Oxford Gardens have seen an improvement in pupils academic success and in their behaviour.
Headteacher, Liz Rayment-Pickard, said: "I do feel foolish but it is just one of those things that is so enjoyable and so much fun."
"As a school we have got so much out of the project that it is worth feeling a bit foolish for a few minutes to move yourself and the institution along."
School pupils say they have enjoyed singing during lessons.
Music has long been seen as a valuable educational tool and it features in the British National Curriculum for pupils aged between five and 11.
Teachers are required to ensure that their pupils can sing, play some music and understand it as a form of communication.
But schools nationally say that they have not got enough resources to provide the specialist teachers that pupils need.
"Anndrum and Company consists of Ann Easthope (Drum Circle Facilitator) and myself Christine Cleobury (Sound Healer). Ann and I are both lucky as weve had prior experience of working in schools before we became Anndrum and Company so were well aware of what to expect."
"In our Drumming for Health workshops we use a combination of Percussion/Sound/Movement to help people to gain confidence, free their voice and body, understand rhythm, learn to work together as a group and have fun; all of which is very healing."
"We had been working with children at a youth centre when we got the contact for the school and followed that lead which was in the beginning of last year 2005. Working with children as opposed to adults can be freeing and challenging all at the same time. You have to make it interesting and fun and learn to pitch the level of work that you want the children to do at a range they can understand and prevent the boredom."
"We have a wide variety of instruments that the children can play with; from Djembies to wood, bells, bowls, tingsha, frogs, shakers, etc. We stress that they dont have to have any musical experience and we encourage all to have a go. It helps to have the teachers present so that you can concentrate on what you are doing with the children and not have to worry about discipline."
"I have found that children as well as adults have some reluctance when it comes to using the voice. Helping them to just have a go and do some loud noises, clapping and stamping to various sounds gives them the confidence to be a bit freer to then be able to go onto chanting and singing. We always bring the spiritual aspect into our work and explain how the different cultures use sound for ceremony as well as healing."
"We have had some wonderful experiences with children who were afraid to pick up an instrument at the beginning of a workshop and then were unable to put their instrument of choice down at the end because they didnt want to stop. They were also able to feel in their body the different vibrations of the sounds they were making and were amazed at how different instruments and voices caused different reactions."
"Although it is early days for us yet in the field of working in schools we are hoping that it continues to grow as its given us a new outlook of how sound can cross the many barriers that we have and bond together groups of all ages in healing harmony."
IIHHT MCSH - Holistic Therapist
select a track:
"The River She is Flowing" by Diana Hildebrand-Hull
"Mother I Feel You Under My Feet" by Windsong/Diane Martin
Contact the College on 0333 012 6555
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Alexandra: "A wonderful experience covering all the necessary tools a person needs to become a sound healing practitioner. The emphasis is on the practical side which for me was so important as to be a practitioner one needs to learn how to ‘practise’. It was a year of enlightenment!"