Planning for Music – Tips from a Teacher

Planning for Music – Tips from a Teacher post page

Online Dementia Journal

By Online Dementia JournalJanuary 23rd, 2020

Planning for Music – Tips from a Teacher


by Mary Sue Wilkinson,

Founder of Singing Heart to Heart

The start of a new year. The start of a new decade! Are you feeling inspired to try new things and to implement all you are learning from Teepa and others? I hope so!

But here’s what I want to tell you. Don’t let all those goals and resolutions overwhelm you.

Just make a plan.

My Plan Like a Pro series will show you how, in 5 easy steps.

For this series I put on my teacher’s hat. And I’ll tell you up front - I have serious hat hair. I spent decades writing lesson plans as a teacher. Along the way I learned a thing or two.

As a school administrator, I observed that the best teachers were the ones who had good plans. (These same great teachers knew when to throw the plan out the window. But that’s a topic for another article.)

Planning a good music session is a lot like planning a good lesson.

No matter what you plan, there are some key components that will help lead to success.

In my Plan Like a Pro series, each blog post (listed below) addresses a piece of the planning puzzle. Each section offers questions to ponder, food for thought, and advice. And each article is only a 2-4 minute read. Follow the links to check it out. All the articles live on the blog on my website so they are there for you to refer back to at anytime.

Part 1. Who are the participants? What do they need? What do they enjoy?

What do individuals need? What does the community need?


Part 2. What’s your goal?

This is the most important step. But don’t let this part of the planning process overwhelm you. Your goals can be simple and they will change and evolve.


Part 3. What’s going to take place? What are the nuts and bolts of your plan?

This article addresses the basics: where, when, what, etc.


Part 4. What resources do you need and what is your most valuable resource?

My answer to this may surprise you.


Part 5. How will you know if your music plan was successful?

If you need a little convincing about whether it’s worth it to plan for music, you might want to check out this section first. I list nine signs of success that I think will inspire you.


Wishing you all a Happy New Year! I’ll plan to see you again in next month’s journal. Meanwhile, don’t hesitate to write to me with your questions. And don’t forget to check out my Resource Library. The materials there will help you plan!

I’m Mary Sue. I grew up in Iowa in a musical family and I’ve been singing as long as I can remember. I got my first guitar when I was twelve years old. My mom saved up green stamps to buy it for me. (Thanks mom!)

I’m the founder of Singing Heart to Heart and the Young at Heart Music Program. My passion for singing with elders started when I sang for my father-in-law who had dementia. He had lost all language but when I sang the hymns he knew and loved; he could sing every word. Perfect pitch. He even added harmony.

I quickly learned what research is now documenting. Music is a powerful tool to help us connect, find joy, and spark memories. Especially for people living with dementia. I've seen this first hand. I lead over 400 singing and music experiences for seniors each year.

I’m a career educator, a certified music teacher, an experienced speaker and trainer, and a professional musician. I’m also the author of Songs You Know by Heart: A Simple Guide for Using Music in Dementia Care. Teepa Snow endorses my book and my work.

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