The Kalimba and Music Therapy

Music Therapy Rose

Kalimba Magic Presents at Four Regional Music Therapy Conferences Spring 2010

This spring, Kalimba Magic had the honor of presenting at four of the seven regional music therapy conferences in the U.S.: Western Region (WR), Mid West Region (MWR), Great Lakes Region (GLR), and Mid Atlantic Region (MAR). We look forward to presenting at the SE, SW and New England regional conferences in the future.

map of regions

What did music therapists buy from Kalimba Magic at the conferences?

It should come as no surprise that Hugh Tracey Alto Kalimbas with pickups were a big seller, especially in GLR and MAR. There was a lot of interest in the Sansula, especially in Western Region. Arthur Hull, who owns several Sansulas, picked up the Renaissance Sansula in Beautiful E tuning and decided to buy it after only 30 seconds. "It spoke to me," he said.

A few dozen 5-note chordal kalimbas tuned in three chord choirs went home with therapists. These little kalimbas work in teams to cover complex chord progressions. The Catania 8-note board and gourd pianos were also big sellers. As I stated in my presentations, every music therapist should own one of these rugged, capable, and inexpensive instruments. I also sold several pentatonic kalimbas.

Other items that sold well were instructional books, including the Alto and Treble fundamentals, hymnals, classical books, and Christmas carols books. And there was a great deal of interest in Ray Day's kalimba holders, which we discussed in our music therapy article of the March 10th newsletter. These ingenious and adaptive devices don't hold just kalimbas, they can hold other instruments. Learn more at A Day's Work.


Who Won the Kalimbas in the Conference Drawings?

When I go to a conference, I collect people's business cards in exchange for a chance to win a free kalimba (except at MWR, where I was only there for about three hours). The winners were:

I believe all of these winners are students. Most of the people who entered the drawing were students, and about half the participants in my presentations were students. Which brings me to the next subject.


Kalimba Magic Seeking to Sponsor MT Undergraduate Students or Programs

Every music therapist has a main instrument - usually piano, guitar, voice, or harp, but it could also be flute, violin, percussion, or anything really. In addition, all music therapists need to have a basic competency in piano and guitar and voice. They need to be able to lead a song on a guitar, or play basic music on the piano.

I think the kalimba is a perfect instrument for music therapy, and it is as powerful as a harp or a guitar in many ways. Its size makes it better than a guitar or harp or piano for things like hospice work or working close in with small children, or in remote locations you need to hike to. And the kalimba definitely tilts the odds towards success when played by children.

It is a dream of mine that in 20 years, basic kalimba competency will be a requirement for music therapists across the nation. (I guess I had better start going to AMTA business meetings!)

That is a big dream, but I will start it out with something small and doable. As far asd I know, there is not a single music therapist who makes kalimba their main instrument. (I am as close a person to that as there is, but the catch is that I am not a music therapist.) I would like to change that by calling on all undergraduate music therapy students: would you consider making the kalimba your main instrument? I think it is now possible for a dedicated individual to make the kalimba their main instrument in a music therapy program. The classical books, the Christmas books and Easter downloads, the hymnals, the spirituals book, the upcoming pentatonic songbook, the elementary 8-note material, and the traditional karimba material are of sufficient breadth and depth for someone to draw upon to demonstrate facility and expertise and to use as their main instrument in a music therapy practice.

I don't know exactly how this will work. If someone far from Arizona wants to make the kalimba their primary instrument, I would be able to travel there only a few times, but would be able to provide extensive online support and lessons and could even write instructional masterial and arrange songs. For the first few people who take this difficult route, I would also be able to provide material support in the way of kalimbas - perhaps one for each year of study. A more favorable option would be to be associated with a nearby university with an MT program (ASU for example - hint, hint, Barbara!).

If you are an MT student who is interested in the kalimba in a big way, you need to get in touch with me, and we need to talk to figure out if it will be possible for you to make the kalimba your main instrument.


A Music Therapist's Old Kalimbas Get New Life

One of the coolest things that happened to me at one of the music therapy regional conferences that I presented at this spring was when Carolyn Koebel brought me an old rusty Hugh Tracey Treble kalimba that was completely unusable. Before I was finished retuning it to an idiosyncratic middle eastern scale (the kalimba itself asked for this special tuning, and Carolyn was also cool with it), she brought me a good Hugh Tracey Alto that she had performed I-Ching on some 20 years ago. This one, which is comparable to my own 20 year old Alto in quality and sweetness, I put back into standard tuning, but not before Carolyn appeared with a third kalimba - an old German-made instrument that looked like it could have been the inspiration for the Hokema box pentatonic kalimba. I later learned that Carolyn was from Kalamazoo MI, and was just traveling around with these three kalimbas stashed away in her car, looking for someone to tune them. She wanted this one in a pentatonic scale, but the range from lowest good note to highest good note was not sufficient, so we added the flatted 5th as a blues note, and it came out great.

Two great things will come from this episode with Carolyn. First, in about 6-12 months, I expect some world class kalimba music to come from Carolyn in Kalamazoo. If you are in the neighborhood, look her up and see if it isn't so. Second, I am putting out the call to the world - when I am in your town, bring me your tired, your poor old rusty kalimbas, broken wood, out of tune and buzzy tines, and let's see if I can't bring them back to life. I would recon there are between 100,000 and 1,000,000 poor old kalimbas that people just don't know how to play or how to fix. I can give them new life. In some cases, these old kalimbas are just as good as or better than the new ones being made today (they do mellow with age, just like a good guitar).

MTs learning Kalimba

Kalimba CMTEs Are Available

Still more firmly grounded in the possible is the Kalimba Magic CMTE, i.e., Continuing Music Therapy Education. This is a 5.5 hour workshop which I had offered Arizona MTs in 2007 where we had 25 participants. At WRAMTA in 2008 we had 6 participants. Both CMTEs received glowing reviews, and I have learned a lot more about music therapy and about teaching kalimba since then. We have received amorphous requests to do CMTEs or weekend wortkshops in Indiana, Ohio, and in Wisconsin (thank you, GLR, for embracing the kalimba), but we are still looking for our first actual commitment. (Actually SER-AMTA offered me a CMTE for spring 2010, but the email offer never got to me and I didn't find out about it until well after I committed to going to MAR-AMTA. I hope to attend SER next year to offer a CMTE there, but the offer may or may not come again--we'll see!)

The kalimba CMTE is a great way for your community to become familiar with the kalimba and the myriad resources that are now available for it. If you are interested in me traveling to your state to do a Kalimba CMTE, please contact me.

Anyway, I love working with music therapists. They are fun and funny and joyful and they are working to make the world a better place in ways that parallel my own mission. If I were 30 years younger, I would probably be enrolling in a music therapy program right now. But I am on a different path, so I look forward to the times when I can work with music therapists.

Hope to see you in Cleveland at the AMTA conference in November!

Take care,
Mark Holdaway
Director, Kalimba Magic

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