Strumming, drumming, learning: Music therapy class receives new instrumentsThe competitive grant process usually keeps applicants' hopes in check. So when Esther Gullixson applied to the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation in search of new instruments for her music therapy program, she sought out $1,500 worth.
By: Mike Longaecker, The Republican Eagle
The competitive grant process usually keeps applicants' hopes in check.
So when Esther Gullixson applied to the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation in search of new instruments for her music therapy program, she sought out $1,500 worth.
Not a pushy request, she figured.
"They called and said, 'Is that all you want?'" the Red Wing School District teacher said of the foundation, based in Studio City, Calif.
Gullixson ended up with about $5,000 worth of equipment for her high school classes: seven drums and two harp-like instruments.
"I was ecstatic," she said, calling the generous donation a rare opportunity. "(I tell them) I'll take one and they send me seven (drums)? That's fabulous."
The instruments replace 20-year-old band department castoffs. Though grateful for the school's band department's contributions, Gullixson said the new instruments are a welcome addition to her program.
Most prized are the two Reverie Harps, she said.
Gullixson said the instrument — about the size of a pizza box — is a perfect fit in music therapy classrooms, especially for her lower-functioning special education students.
The reverie follows a pentatonic scale, which means it produces no dissonance when strummed.
"No matter what they play on it, they can be good," said Gullixson, who has been a district music therapist for 21 years. "Everything you play is going to be pleasing and successful."
The instrument — designed by Stillwater, Minn., based Musicmaker's Kits — also helps low-functioning learners with motor-skill development and turn taking. When held, the reverie produces a vibration that some find relaxing, she added.
All special education students find uses for the new drums, she said. Higher-functioning students can engage their creativity on the drums, which Gullixson said are designed to take more than the average beating.
Other students can use the drums as a step toward improving body control. She said some special ed students have difficulty organizing their body movements.
"This can help," she said of hand drumming.
The instruments have been a hit with students, too. Gullixson said her choir students "can't keep their hands off them."
The goal of her music therapy classes is to bring about a change in students, Gullixson said.
"It brings a medium that's fun, that most kids like so they can work on those areas they need to work on," she said.
Gullixson's music therapy students will perform a Dec. 18 "Let it Be Christmas" concert at Hovda Hall.