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Music therapy intern discovers her biggest hits

There's no doubt that music can impact an individual's mood or behavior. Just think about the last time your favorite song came on the radio-instant mood-changer. One Augustana student is studying music therapy and how it can help those with disabilities.

Christine Nyquist '15, a music and psychology double major from Rockford,Ill., spent her spring term interning at Goodwill of the Heartland's Day Habilitation Center in Davenport, Iowa. Nyquist led hour-long music sessions with a variety of clients with disabilities ranging from moderate to severe.

Nyquist is taking the courses necessary to meet the requirements of Augustana's pre-music therapy program. According to her advisor, Associate Professor of Music Sangeetha Rayapati, she was "interested in gaining experience with varieties of client groups that she might encounter when she works as a music therapist."

For three months, Nyquist spent two hours each Tuesday and Thursday morning running different music activities for clients ranging in age from 18 through 50. Her activities focused on group participation through teaching new songs, musical games and making musical instruments.  

"We did a lot of writing our own songs, as well. They really enjoyed taking songs that they already knew and fitting in their own words to make a new and usually more silly version of the song. We even wrote a DayHab theme song together during one activity," said Nyquist.

During the first month of her internship, Nyquist used her music activities to expose her clients to music from all around the world, focusing on a different country each day. For example, when the country of the day was China, she followed a showing of a Chinese Opera face-changing performance with an explanation of what all of the different colors meant, and then the group created their own masks.

One of Nyquist's biggest hits at the habilitation center was a "sing or dare" game that involved participants working in pairs to choose a "sing" or "dare" card and then complete the corresponding task. These included things like "shake three people's hands and introduce yourself," "sing your favorite song," "give two people compliments," "teach the group a dance move," etc. The activity facilitated group participation and interaction in a fun game setting in which different interactions, introductions or high-fives were broken up by fun songs and dances.

According to Nyquist, this internship has taught her that she still does not know everything about what she wants to do, even when she thought she did. "I can't wait for the next opportunity that comes along," she said. "I want to learn and experience new things within this field."

After graduating in 2015, Nyquist plans to attend graduate school and earn a master's in music therapy.

-Maria Catalano '16