Utilizing the Jamstik in Music Therapy Sessions
I’ve been a music therapist for over 25 years and, in all that time, I’d guess you could call me a “gadget junkie” when it comes to finding new ways to bring music into the lives of my clients. If you don’t believe me, look up in my attic! Somewhere up there is box filled with a soldering iron, wires, old cassette players, and different kinds of switches to help people turn on a tape by something as simple as lifting their head. Well, gadgets come and go, but every once in a while I find something that’s a keeper. The minute I saw the Jamstik online, I just KNEW that I was looking at something that could help people of all ages make music in an accessible way!
Over the years, I’ve worked with countless children and adults who have limited (or minimal) upper body movement but are absolutely fascinated with the guitar. Looking at the Jamstik for the first time, I immediately thought about a client with whom I currently work. This is a man who, after suffering a horrible Traumatic Brain Injury (or TBI), can no longer walk, talk, feed himself, or do any of tasks that we all take for granted every day. He does, however, still have his big personality and he is very aware of his surroundings. When I was called in to provide music therapy for him, I immediately saw that he was very drawn to the guitar. He would watch my left hand move through chords with an intensity that was quite remarkable! I knew that I wanted to try and have him strum a guitar but I also knew that he would need almost full assist from me to do so. I wish I had pictures of all the times I tried to maneuver myself onto the edge of his alternating air pressure mattress (special air mattress to help with positioning), get my acoustic guitar positioned and chords fingered (I can hear my back creaking now!) AND hold his hand (with adapted pick) in mine to help him strum down the strings. If you saw this scene in a movie, you’d alternately laugh and cry….I know I did at the time! Then, I saw the Jamstik! I just knew I was looking at a small, easily positioned, instrument that would deliver the sound and feel of a real guitar. Having actual guitar strings was the deciding factor for me. Those strings would provide a stopping point for the guitar pick that would take intentional movement to keep the pick moving downward over the strings.
The first time I brought the Jamstik to him, I immediately realized that I would no longer have to go through the gymnastic routines of the past. One simple pillow to support my chording left hand, and we were on our way! The first time he brought the pick down the strings independently, gravity helped him down the E,A,D strings and, as I predicted, stopped on the G. I urged him on and felt the muscle twitch in his shoulder that I was looking for. Sure enough, the pick went down the G and stopped on the B. “ You can do it!” was all it took. Another twitch and we had the B. Rinse and repeat….and finally the last E string! “I think it’s time we took this rock band on the road!” I said. His response? A smile that said it all.
Thank you, Jamstik! There are countless therapeutic uses for this amazing tool that I can think of to help bring music to people of all ages, needs, diagnosis, etc.. This is just one, remarkable example and it’s enough to make me excited to continue exploring all the potential of the Jamstik as a music therapy tool!
Laura Lenz, LPMT, MT-BC, NMT
Licensed Professional Music Therapist
Music Therapist Board Certified
Neurologic Music Therapist
Laura has been working as a music therapist for over 25 years and is currently the Director of Clinical Services for Metro Music Therapy LLC, a private music therapy practice headquartered in Atlanta, GA, serving both Atlanta and the Orlando, FL areas. Laura has worked with countless children and adults with a variety of needs including Developmental Disabilities, Autism, TBI, Mental Health Disorders, Dementia, Hospice, Pain Management, and Medical Needs. www.metromusictherapyga.com