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Seton Hill students practice music therapy here, across globe – Tribune

Updated 6 hours ago

Elvis Presley was in the building recently at an adult day care center in Greensburg. About a dozen people got in tune with Elvis’ recording of “Jailhouse Rock,” and the energizing track helped them begin to move beyond their various developmental challenges.

“For every verse, we had them move a different part of their body,” said JoAnna Ayala of Nazareth, a senior music therapy major at Seton Hill University who helped lead the session.

While singing along to the song, she said, “We tapped our toes and tapped our heels, and we would march, moving our arms up and down and out and back, and we would do all of these movements in a seated position.

“They don’t seem like grand gestures,” she admitted. But the music-driven movements helped the participants maintain gross and fine motor skills, she explained.

To help bolster the attendees’ cognitive functioning, Ayala challenged them to identify a series of musical instruments based on snippets of the sound each makes when played.

“They had to focus on listening and comprehension,” she noted. “These are skills that aren’t musical at all, but you’re using music to get there.”

A growing program

Ayala is one of 40 students enrolled in Seton Hill’s growing music therapy program, introduced about 15 years ago. In addition to classroom instruction, undergraduates take part in a series of semester-long practicums — weekly sessions where they lead therapy activities for clients in the larger Westmoreland County community.

The students must complete an internship before they graduate and can take a national examination to gain a credential as a board-certified therapist.

Though it’s been in use

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