Enforcement vs. Invitation

Enforcement is an appropriate legal term but it has no merit when facilitating a musical activity. Acknowledging a participant's right to choose to participate is crucial for successful interactions with others. The stories below offer invitation alternatives to enforcement dictates.

Just Don’t Say No

The word “No!” is a powerful one. As children explore and experience life, “No!” is often a partner in the discovery processes. I remember Bill Cosby’s routine about his confusion about his name. He claimed that it was not until he was enrolled in school, that he learned that his name was Bill, and not “No!” “No!” comes out quickly, often literally exploding from my mouth, alerting others of danger, denial, and displeasure. My “No!” responses seem to originate in the amygdala, often bursting forth warning of imminent danger or threat. It is, I believe, an instinctive attempt to slow down a world that so often spins too quickly.

As my thoughts and reactions take longer to form, I find that “No!” is bursting from my mouth with more frequency. I fling about the word as if I have swallowed a bar of soap, helpless to control the hiccups that bubble out.

“No!” explodes from my mouth when I must convey information quickly, not the best time for careful consideration of acceptable words of reply. 6-21

It’s Just Aphasia I’m Going Through 6-21
A patient with Broca’s aphasia speaks very little. When speech is attempted, it is halting – the patient has difficulty getting the words out. There is an absence of small grammatical parts of speech and proper inflection. When a patient does say a word, it is usually pronounced reasonably well. The ability to name objects is poor, but prompting helps significantly. These facts help justify the view that the deficit is not simply at the level of articulation. Most Broca’s aphasics seem to understand spoken or written language, so the problem is considered to be at the motor output stage of language rather than in comprehension. Patients also seem to be aware of most of their errors.

Receptive aphasia, also known as Wernicke’s aphasia, is a disturbance in which the patient has great difficulty comprehending speech. It is associated with damage to the posterior region of the first temporal gyrus, or Wernicke’s area. The speech of a patient with receptive aphasia is much more fluent than that of an expressive aphasic, but, depending on the extent of the damage, it may vary from being slightly odd to completely meaningless. Patients often use inappropriate words (paraphasias) or nonexistent words(neologisms). Left Brain Right Brain , Springer & Deutsch, p164










These abrupt responses are often received by others as unconditional statements of displeasure or judgment. A succession of startled looks and remonstrances about my need to control life’s circumstances led me to try to consciously shift my unconscious verbal eruptions.

When we were preparing for a presentation at a conference on aging, we were in a flurry of last minute preparations. I had spent time in calculating the placement of the video projector. Needing an additional three inches in height, I placed books under the projector. Just before the program I saw an assistant grab for the books, intent on relocating them to the book area. Trying to bring order, she was about to topple the finely composed shelving system.

Before I was able to pause, I heard the loud shout: “No!” Startled at my outburst, and embarrassed at the apparent harshness of my words, I immediately apologized and explained why I had erupted. That “No!” is burned into my memory. I spent long hours grappling with the dilemma. How could I have done it differently? I had to devise a new method that could be as instantaneous as my old habit. I needed to train my amygdala. I took to shouting “Wait!” in a conscious effort to create a new pattern of response. It took time, practice, and patience but “Wait!” now wins out—50% of the time. 6-22

Developing Awareness 6-22
Behaviors don’t change just by announcing new values. We move only gradually into being able to act congruently with those values. To do this, we have to develop much greater awareness of how we’re acting; we have to become far more self-reflective than normal. And we have to help one another notice when we fall back into old behaviors. We will all slop back into the past – that is unavoidable – but when this happens, we agree to counsel one another with a generous spirit. Little by little, tested by events and crises, we learn how to enact these new values. We develop different patterns of behavior. We slowly become who we said we wanted to be. Leadership and the New Science , Margaret Wheatley, p130










Living in a World Apart

When my dopamine level drops, confusion often results. When I am confused, my state of confusion is my reality—my only source of reference of my placement in current space and time. Others may consider me to be confused, or not making sense, but I am usually adamant about my perceived abilities and the absolute rightness of my thoughts and actions. 6-23

Drinking from the Well of Madness 6-23
A powerful wizard, who wanted to destroy an entire kingdom, placed a magic potion in the well from which all the inhabitants drank. Whoever drank that water would go mad.

The following morning, the whole population drank from the well and they all went mad, apart from the king and his family, who had a well set aside for them alone, which the magician had not managed to poison. The king was worried and tried to control the population by issuing a series of edicts governing security and public health. The policemen and inspectors, however, had also drunk the poisoned water, and they thought the king’s decisions were absurd and resolved to take no notice of them.

When the inhabitants of the kingdom heard these decrees, they became convinced that the king had gone mad and was now giving nonsensical orders. They marched on the castle and called for his abdication.

In despair the king prepared to step down from the throne, but the queen stopped him, saying: ‘Let us go and drink from the communal well. Then we will be the same as them.”

And that was what they did: The king and the queen drank the water of madness and immediately began talking nonsense. Their subjects repented at once; now that the king was displaying such wisdom, why not allow him to continue ruling the country? The country continued to live in peace, although its inhabitants behave very differently from those of its neighbors. And the king was able to govern until the end of his days. Veronika Decides to Die , Paulo Coelho, p34










The basis of our interpretation of the behaviour of others lies in our own expectations and experiences, not those of others.

Eduardo’s Non-Command Performance

When I began my weekly volunteer drum~story~song circles at a local adult day care facility, I was drawn to Eduardo, a whisper-quiet man in his 40’s who always sat at the far wall at the center’s computer. Possibly a stroke limited his arm movements and caused his hesitant speech. Perhaps, he was unfamiliar with English.

I decided to begin a personal dialog with him before the drum circle was in session and walked over to him carrying a tongue drum (a hollow wooden block with sweet tones when tapped with a mallet.) Had it been during the circle, Eduardo would have probably declined, sensitive to others listening while he explored. When I placed the tongue drum on the table in front of him, he politely hit a few notes. But when I left to facilitate inside the circle, he put down the beater, seemingly uninterested. Each week, I returned with the tongue drum to spend a few minutes with him. Each week, I left the drum near him.

One day, mid-program, I heard the unmistakable voice of the tongue drum, dancing in and out of the frame drum rhythms. I stopped the others in the circle and held out a hand in an inviting manner to Eduardo, encouraging him to continue tongue drumming. He played a few notes and then I again brought in the rest of the group.

This spotlighting in and out went on for about five minutes. All of us enjoyed the beautiful contrast of the loud drums with the interjection of the small sweet wooden tones.

At the end of the rhythm Eduardo received enthusiastic applause. Not only had he found his voice and a means to express himself, his sense of timing and rhythm added to the richness of the circle itself.

The tongue drum became his signature drum. 6-24

The Talking Drum 6-24
Cooperation and attentiveness was exhibited during music sessions. Subjects participated, displayed physical energy, positive affect, increased and more fluent verbalization, pleasure, and initiative by leading singing, dancing, or by playing piano. Improvised harmonic, melodic, rhythmic, and dance movements revealed musical skills preserved from early years of life. Biomedical Foundations of Music as Therapy , Dale Taylor, p48










Eduardo had joined the circle.

He had made the shift from being an observer to an active participant. After some weeks, he left his comfort zone in the far corner and sat in a chair about ten steps away from the circle. Here, there was no table on which to place the tongue drum. I understood Eduardo’s unspoken signal — he wanted to try a regular drum. An assistant placed a frame drum, mounted on a stand, in front of him.

From that day until he moved six months later, Eduardo was an occasional active drum player. He never sat directly in the circle, or played for long, but he now belonged. I acknowledged his presence by giving him eye contact, smiles, and nods of encouragement during sessions.

During the ritual welcome and goodbye songs, I made sure to include him, continuing to spotlight his efforts. 6-25

The Dynamics of Leader and Follower 6-25
Leader presumes follower. Follower presumes choice. One who is coerced to the purposes, objectives, or preferences of another is not a follower in any true sense of the word, but an object of manipulation. …True leading and following presume perpetual liberty of both leader and follower to sever the relationship and pursue another path. … If the behavior of either is compelled, whether by force, economic necessity, or contractual arrangement, the relationship is altered to one of superior/subordinate, management/employee, master/servant, or owner/slave. All such relationships are materially different than leader/follower. Birth of the Chaordic Age , Dee Hock, p67









Ronella’s Teaching

When I study videotapes of our six-month study at a skilled nursing facility in San Francisco, Ronella is a consistent presence, noteworthy, in my eyes, for the unvarying scowl on her face, her arms crossed tightly to her chest, never picking up a beater. During the programs, she rarely spoke and never sang. She appeared quite fierce and disapproving, yet she never missed a circle.

After many weeks, I got up the courage to speak with Ronella after a session, asking if there was anything I might do differently to create an experience more to her liking. Anxious to please, I confessed that I was a “newbie” and wished to learn how she thought I might increase her participation. I felt that I was, in some way, letting her down. Ronella’s answer was succinct and to the point. She said, “I’m here, ain’t I?”

I now realize that Ronella was an active and alert participant, sharing in the energy of the circle; she just was not drumming. I was reminded of my own Parkinson’s scowl. I remember the sinus headaches so severe that any movement of my face muscles would set off an attack of neuralgia, and how I coped in silence.

I again vow to remember Ronella’s teaching—that my interpretations of my observances are coloured by my own history, fears of failure, and hopes for approval. She serves as my reminder to look and feel from opposite eyes.

Freedom to Steer Clear of the Circle

Many individuals in skilled nursing facilities are in the activity room because they were brought there by the staff. They are often not asked if they wish to attend and may not have the ability to understand the invitation, express an opinion, or form a response. Be sensitive to those participants who are not ambulatory. If they choose not to drum, consider their reasons instead of your goals.

Tom was sitting at his wheelchair at a skilled nursing facility program and had not picked up the drumstick, apparently not involved in the group program. An assistant facilitator rolled her chair up to him, picked up his beater, and tried to get him to take it and drum. She was met with a steady gaze and immobility.

She then playfully prodded his belly and said, “Go ahead, give it a try, it’s fun!” 6-26

Dignity and Behaviour 6-26
If people lack either a physical environment or a society that allows a basic measure of dignity, meaning, and security, behaviour is compelled. Birth of the Chaordic Age , Dee Hock, p90










He began to cry. Another assistant came over, patted him on the back, and said “There, there. It’s all right.” It was not all right. If it had been all right, Tom would not be crying. I reviewed this scene after the fact, thanks to the training videotape we were making. At the time, I had no idea what had happened.

I looked over and saw a tall man, sitting erect in his wheelchair, hands clasped in his lap, with tears and mucus rivering down his face. I didn’t need to know what happened. I needed to know how to fix it.

I somehow knew I had to restore his dignity and show respect. 6-27

Nourishing Dignity 6-27
Even when dementias are far advanced, a quality and dignity of life can be nourished or restored; and nothing is more important here, in addition to everything else, than the provision of music therapy. Oliver Sacks Clinical Applications of Music in Neurologic Rehabilitation , Concetta Tomaino, p11










I did so by offering him a Kleenex, sitting with him as he wiped his face. What could I sing to ease the sorrow? I still don’t know how Home, Home on the Range came to me, but it worked. The soft song was sung without drums and by the second stanza, he was tentatively singing. I took great pleasure in seeing him at the end of the session, engaged and smiling.

Jim Won’t Play

At the start of another circle at the skilled nursing facility, an assistant went up to Jim, a wheelchair-mobile resident who declined to move his wheelchair beyond the doorway. Proffering a drum and beater, she encouraged him to join in and play. He was adamant in his refusal. This time, there was no playful poke of encouragement. The circle assistant turned to put the drum and beater in another location.

I beckoned to her that she should put the drum and beater nearby, and not force or further single him out to play. 6-28

Participant Rights and Obligations 6-28
No participant has inferior or superior rights and obligations. The contract creates irrevocable rights, but allows withdrawal at any time should the participant judge benefit no longer outweighs obligations. Birth of the Chaordic Age , Dee Hock, p13










Within minutes, Jim was caught up in the rhythm, reached for the beater, and began to drum. Over the next six months, his wheelchair came closer and closer into the room; at times joining me in the center.

He loved the challenge of the story~song guesses and the dynamic conversation that often ensured. I, in turn, showed a great appreciation of his quick wit.

One day, as I was telling the story~song of how Johnny toured America, I was trying to get the participants to connect to the song Row, Row, Row Your Boat. Saying he had no money as he set out from San Francisco, I asked what form of transportation he might have taken.

The guesses, and my responses, came fast and furious:A train! — “He had no money for a ticket.”He walked! “It was too far to walk all across the United States.”A plane! — “He had no money for a ticket.”His car! — “He had no money for gas.”

It was time for another hint. I said “This is San Francisco! What are we all surrounded by?”

Jim shot back his reply with lightening speed. A bunch of idiots! 6-29

Blessed are they … 6-29
Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they will never cease to be amused. Author unknown










I suppose it was not politically correct, but I howled with laughter.

By using his ready wit, Jim became a dynamic leader of the group, enhancing playfulness and therefore participation. He had found his niche and reveled in it. But he was there on his own terms and that was important to his self-esteem.


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