music therapy. voice, ukulele, guitar, piano.
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Observation Report from Shake and Roll Therapy Session

(Names have been changed for privacy)

On Monday nights, a “Shake and Roll” session is held with six clients. All of them were high functioning, some with Downs Syndrome and some with Autism. Before the session formally began, all but one client had arrived and sat down, chatting with each other and “Melissa”, a MUTY student who was to conduct the session. “Jason” talked about his weekend to each of the other clients. “Alex” was very concerned that one of the clients, “Laura”, had not yet arrived, and “Melissa” assured him that she would be there soon. He also stressed the fact that his eyes were itching, and that his allergies were acting up. This continued to be a topic for him throughout the session. Two women with Downs syndrome, “Lisa” and “Dana”, seemed to be talking only to each other.  Two men, “Gary” and “George” were both very quiet and reserved. 

The session began with “Melissa” singing a hello song that catered to each individual client; she would sing “Hello-“ – then the name of the client – “welcome to music!” and continued throughout the circle. Some of the clients chose to sing along with her. All but “Gary” and “George” seemed excited for “Melissa” to turn to them and sing their name. After the introduction song, “Melissa” moved to a new song, “My Girl”, which they had done last week as well. In the last session, they had all chosen someone who gives them “sunshine on a cloudy day”, which goes with the song. She asked each individual client to recall (and if they couldn’t, she reminded them) and she wrote it on the whiteboard so as to have a visual. She then asked each of them what said person does when the client is feeling bad. She sang through the first verse of “My Girl”, starting with “Alex”, who said his sister gives him sunshine. When he’s feeling itchy and sneezy, his sister would give him medicine- hypothetically, since she doesn’t live near him now. She would sing through the first verse and chorus with each client and their respective person who gives them sunshine, and the scenario in which that person makes them feel better. I (as well as the clients) loved that it was so individualized, and it seemed to make each client feel very important. In the middle of this exercise, “Laura” arrived. Things got a little disorganized, and once “Melissa” was able to calm everyone down and get everyone situated, she asked “Laura” to recall what she said last week regarding the song “My Girl”. She did one last verse and chorus for her and then concluded.

The next activity involved instruments for everyone. “Melissa” had a xylophone in front of her, and she told the clients one by one to stand from their seat in the circle and go over to a table to pick an instrument of their choice. When everyone had their instruments, she explained that they would all play their instruments together. When instructed, they would play very quietly and she would play a solo on the xylophone. They would then resume their loud playing upon instruction. Afterwards, she explained that they would all rotate, leaving their instruments in the chairs, so that everyone could play different instruments as well as have a solo on the xylophone. This was exciting for them until the rotation with “Melissa” on xylophone ended; “Laura” and “Alex” did not want to give up their instrument. “Melissa” explained that they had to leave them so that everyone had a chance to play all of the instruments, after which they agreed to move on without their instrument. Everyone was eager for their turn on the xylophone. It was interesting watching the different levels of understanding for rhythm during their solo, whether they were able to go along with what everyone else was playing. “Melissa” had taken out a few of the keys on the xylophone, so that whatever was played stayed in a certain key. That way, no matter what notes the soloist played, it would sound logical and pleasing to the ear. After the rotation reached all the way back to “Melissa” once more, she began another activity. It was a series of hand movements and foot movements to go along with the song “Footloose”, which excited many of the clients. “Alex” said it was his “Favorite song” and was very visibly happy. The three girls as well were very excited about the song choice. The activity, however, seemed to be a little too complicated. They had to clap at certain beats and then turn to the person next to them and high-five them, but the clients seemed unable to grasp the concepts of which way to turn and when to turn. “Melissa” ended up removing some of the instructions so that it was simpler to follow, and the clients were able to move and enjoy “Footloose”, keeping time and coordination at the same time.

The last activity was a sing-along for the song “Sweet Home Alabama”. Everyone in the group was familiar with this song, so everyone was willing to participate. It was really interesting to watch their faces light up during the familiar chorus; even “Gary” and “George”, who had been the least participating, were clearly singing alone and enjoying the music. At the end of the session, “Melissa” sang a goodbye song, which was similar to the hello song in that it was simple and clear to understand. She talked to the clients about how many sessions were left, and explained that she would see them again next week. She expressed her happiness for being able to see them again, and in turn, they thanked her and told her how fun everything was.

The patients seemed to really benefit from the session. All throughout the session, “Alex”, who was the most vocal of the group, expressed “oh, this is so great!” or “this is so wonderful!” at the start or during each activity. Some clients who came in feeling down or sick left with smiles on their faces and anticipation for next week’s session. The attention the clients received as individuals from “Melissa” really showed in their mood changes throughout the session, and “Melissa” seemed to really enjoy it as well. The relationship they had built over the course of their sessions was wonderful to watch and it’s definitely something I would love to conduct at some point in time.

Elevator Pitch

O Del Mio Amato Ben” by Stefano Donaudy

As performed by Miranda Contreras-Peterson

Music Therapy Undergraduate at Meadows School of the Arts 
Southern Methodist University

 "Ave Maria" - arranged by Franz Schubert

"The Daisies" - by Samuel Barber

Miranda Contreras-Peterson 
SMU Meadows School of the Arts
Prescreening Video

November 30th, 2012

"Part of Your World" by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman as performed by Miranda Contreras-Peterson at the "Simon Says Sing!" Cabaret performance

elevator pitch.

Hi! My name is Miranda Contreras-Peterson, I’m working on my bachelor’s in music therapy at SMU. I sing and play piano and ukulele, and I’ve really always loved working one on one with people, and as much as I love performing, I know that I can give so much to the world. Music therapy is pretty new as far as being a well known medical field.. it’s usually why the first question I answer when I tell people about it, “what’s music therapy?” You should definitely read into it, it’s one of the most interesting things. I really want to get into geriatrics, and working with specifically Alzheimers and MS patients. There have been huge strides in the medical field with Music Therapy and that patient group. But hey, If you ever want to learn more about music therapy or even just to chat, I’ll give you my card. Thank you so much!


my motivation?

I want to succeed. I want to learn how to help kids like my brother deal with their autism with the help of music. I want to make enough money to support myself and pay off college. I want to help my mom live the life she could never have, because she was to busy giving everything to the people she loved. I don’t want my parents to have to work. I want to make the most of what I am paying to attend this institution. I want to make my mima proud. I know she would be, and I wish she could have seen how far I’ve come. I want to help people with multiple sclerosis, because maybe, if there were more progress in that field, mima could have seen me. I want to make people proud and I want to change the world. that is my motivation.


I was raised by very giving, very philanthropic, very loving people. I grew up surrounded by expectations of respect and selflessness, and always keeping in mind the well-being of others.

My goal for a very long time is to touch peoples’ lives. I want people to be able to thank me for what I have done for them. I have entered a field which very well may allow me to do just that.

My values revolve around who my mother is. Everything that she has every done has been for others. Everything that woman does is in the best interest of her family, her loved ones, and her community. I believe that If you have the ability to share your gifts and privileges, then it is your God-given duty to share it.

I believe I was given a musical gift and a wonderful mother for the purpose of helping to heal the world. I value the betterment of my community and I value universal respect. I value seeking out opportunities to to as much good as possible. 

In the words of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement,

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” 

work habits.

It seems as though a lot of “effective” work habits as described by others involve some variation of repetition and beating the information to death. They advise to associate the material with other things so it’s easier to remember, and to go over it as many times as necessary until it’s been branded into your brain.

This is true for me - at least for the most part. I do find that rereading and resurfacing previously attained information is very beneficial in mastering a subject; however, there comes a point where if I do it for too long, the material loses meaning and it’s harder for me to retain it. 

I find that listening to music while studying or doing work does me a great deal of good. I’ll always listen to the same music when studying a certain subject until finally, I can listen to the music without the material in front of me and I have a better time of recollecting what I read. 

I have a lot of trouble focusing initially, but once I’ve begun, it’s easy for me to continue writing or studying or doing whatever it is I need to do.

I like reward systems and they tend to work well for me. For example, I really was dreading writing my first blog. I finished my first paragraph and allowed myself to make a hot pocket. After my next two paragraphs with a steamy hot pocket staring at me, i allowed myself to take a bite. Then I wouldn’t finish it until I finished my blog.

Needless to say I finished my entry pretty quickly.


I come from a background of music. My mom did musical theatre and tv, and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts, and molded me into the performer I am today. My father raised me in a household which seemed hollow and empty when there wasn’t music shaking our home. My sister possesses the incredible skill of being able to play any instrument she touches.

I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. I began playing with our piano an indeterminable number of years ago, and have been playing for years and years simply for fun. I picked up ukulele when I was home sick one day sophomore year. 

Music has always been a method of escape for me. I always look back at some of the first songs I ever wrote. In 6th grade, I wrote a song with a hook that went "Life comes at you fast, and you never know which moment will be your last; you can live for today or plan ahead, hope for what you want to happen or trust in fate instead." For a 12 year old, those were some deep lyrics. 

The difficulty with which I am faced when trying to pinpoint the moment in my life where I began dedicating my life to music astounds me. I am always taken aback when I talk to people who haven’t been completely surrounded by music their entire life. I grew up listening to a vibrant spectrum, from the Beatles to Bob Marley to the White Stripes to the music from Into The Woods. I cannot imagine myself in any other field than one pursuing art. 

Music is a beautiful gift that was given to be given. I wholeheartedly feel that any talented musician is talented for a reason. They have a God-given task to spread their ability and their passion and their love for music, and that’s what I plan to do. My lifelong goal is to touch the hearts and minds of as many people as I possibly can, and I can’t think of a better way to do that than to pursue a degree in music therapy. I’m happy where I am and my future looks bright, and I plan on keeping that light as bright as I can for as long as I can.