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Music therapy hits high note in school

Sure, music can sooth the savage breast, but what can it do for a room full of unruly kids? Plenty, according to music therapist April Carroll.

Ms. Carroll uses songs, ditties, recorded music and simple musical instruments in her work with children with behavioral problems in Brevard County. On Thursday, she explained what she does and sang a few songs for a group of Pasco school counselors.

Her presentation was one of several Thursday at the annual workshop to commemorate student services week in Pasco. This year, the workshop theme was music.

"With these kids, music appeals in a way that nothing else does," Ms. Carroll said. "Everybody likes music. They may not like this or that, but they all listen to the radio."

Ms. Carroll, who works for Devereux Hospital in Melbourne, pointed out that she does not teach music and does not dabble in music theory. Instead, she uses music to work on children's behavior and improve their self esteem.

Children who might not sit still in class for more than a few minutes can learn to sit and learn longer if they have positive experiences with music, she said. Through music, she said, she can get children to increase their attention span in class and to improve their social skills.

"If they don't know the first thing about a chord or a note, I don't care," Ms. Carroll said. To teach young children about colors, she'll sing songs about a red fish, for instance. Or she'll play a game sort of like musical chairs where a Nerf ball is passed around, and when the music stops, the child holding the ball has to answer a trivia question.

"It makes the kids feel better," Ms. Carroll said. "Who wants to just sit there all day?"

In another presentation Thursday, two Pasco counselors discussed objectionable song lyrics. The lyric sheet they handed out, including words to the radio song Me So Horny, was full of lyrics that might be missed if you were listening to the song on the radio.

In one other presentation, counselor Dennis Crow, who had been a music instructor, gave simple musical instruments to the counselors and had them play along with popular classical music pieces. Before his presentation was over, Crow had the room full of counselors and school officials frantically tapping sticks together and ringing triangles trying to keep up with the overture from the opera William Tell.