E-songbook ‘Songs About Social Distancing: #StopTheSpread’ developed by alumnus

Roger Coda
Wade Richards, in a music studio at Spectrum Creative Arts in Rochester, N.Y.

Wade Richards, in a music studio at Spectrum Creative Arts in Rochester, N.Y.

Wade Richards, who earned a B.S. in Music Therapy at Fredonia in 1994, believes the widespread use of social distancing, which has dramatically altered much of our world during the coronavirus pandemic, shouldn’t get in the way of providing music therapy to clients who may need it now more than ever.

That’s why Richards’ team at Spectrum Creative Arts, an inclusive arts clinic in Rochester, N.Y., that provides arts instruction, classes and therapies to over 400 students, created their inaugural digital songbook, “Songs About Social Distancing: #StopTheSpread,” as a resource to help fellow music therapists and educators.

The songbook is a collection of original music composed by Spectrum Creative Arts staff that’s designed to help families, educators and creative arts professionals cope with the impact of social isolation brought on by COVID-19.

Like online learning models school administrators everywhere have adopted, Mr. Richards, co-owner of Spectrum Creative Arts, had to shift his entire service delivery model to virtual sessions – an uncharted territory in the music therapy world, and Spectrum Creative Arts wasn’t alone.

“A lot of the music therapy community was struggling or had questions; we’ve never done this type of service model before,” Richards explained. “In social media it was clear there were a lot of questions about providing these kinds of services and needing resources right now.”

“A lot of the music therapy community was struggling or had questions; we’ve never done this type of service model before,” Richards explained. “In social media it was clear there were a lot of questions about providing these kinds of services and needing resources right now.”

Spectrum Creative Arts recognized that the songs its team members had been using in virtual sessions to support their own clients deal with the consequences of social distancing were a resource that could be shared with other music therapists. Richards, whose business has a staff of 19 music therapists and art and music educators, is hosting three Fredonia interns – Cheyenna Eagle, Zoe Waltman and Bradley Butler – in the spring semester. Two of them wrote and performed a song in “Songs About Social Distancing.”

“In just talking through and developing our particular resources, we felt this was an area we were addressing with our current students, talking about what’s happening, processing what is happening, and social distancing was an important topic,” Richards said.

book cover With titles such as “Things are a Little Different,” “Personal Space,” “Cabin Fever Blues” and “What Can I Do,” the e-songbook is designed to engage students in educational learning tied to safety, health and resilience through music. It was assembled and made ready for distribution in just two weeks.

Richards has observed the songs encouraging students to talk more about changes that are happening in their own homes as well as changes in how they are dealing with their own emotions. “The songs and experiences provide a way for them to process all this information with someone that they have worked with and feel comfortable with,” Richards explained.

Adapting to a virtual instructional model has been quite an adjustment for students and teachers alike, Richards said. “We’re hoping to share these resources and tips just because our virtual sessions have been successful and are continuing to expand. We wanted to share what we’re doing, and let the community know what services and resources are available.”

Feedback from music therapy colleagues has been very positive. “What they have found is that the music has been really accessible, something that’s easy to adapt for a variety of ages and populations that people work with,” Richards said.

Members of the music therapy community have learned about the e-songbook, marketed by Spectrum Press, a division of Spectrum Creative Arts, through social media as well as connections his staff have with colleges they attended as well as webinars and online workshops.

Ironically, Richards believes that avenues for social connection with the music therapy community – both locally and around the world – has been strengthened as a result of social distancing.

“We’re finding new connections that we’ve never made before. We are pulling together members in the community who are continuing to provide services for at-risk populations and special-needs populations and providing ways to come together to share resources and make connections in the community.”

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