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Growing up, Jennifer Goodman dreamed of performing on Broadway. After graduating from Syosset High School, she worked professionally on international tours and cruise lines, performing for any audience she could get in front of. She felt like she was getting “so close” to her name on a marquee, but knew in the back of her mind that it wasn’t realistic.
A friend told her about a class at The New School in Manhattan, called Introduction to Music Therapy. Goodman went and remembers thinking to herself, “This is exactly what I should be doing with my life.”
But with the coronavirus outbreak, Goodman can no longer do business as usual at Jammin’ Jenn Music Therapy in New Jersey, which she started after earning her master’s degree in music therapy from New York University. So, Goodman turned to Instagram to virtually offer music therapy to anyone who tunes in, free of charge.
“If I can give back a little bit during this time, I’m going to do my best," says Goodman, 49.
Goodman's sessions are either in groups or one-on-one, so for now her studio is closed and she’s home until further notice. This disrupts her clients’ routines, and plenty of parents rely on her services.
“We realize that virtual sessions for a child on spectrum are not going to work for every single kid,” says Goodman. “But it might help, and we’ll offer that.”
Ordinarily, Goodman and her staff of six therapists offer their services in schools, nursing homes and their studio in Watchung, New Jersey. Goodman mostly works with individuals on the autism spectrum, and with developmental disabilities. In a typical session, Goodman sings improvised songs, leads vocal imitation exercises for individuals who need help with speech and she provides instruments for her clients to play, such as drums.
Goodman says the most important takeaway from this kind of therapy is the universal bond music can provide between people.
“It's about making a meaningful connection within the session,” she says. “If the session is 30 minutes, it could be an eye glance, sustained eye contact, or saying a word for the first time.”
Goodman did her first Instagram Live session Wednesday and it garnered 118 viewers. On average, she estimates 90 of those users were tuned in the entire time. During the session she played children’s songs on her guitar, sang and led interactive activities with her audience.
The night before, Goodman posted a video where she gave instructions on how to create rain sticks and maracas with objects you’d find in your home, such as soda cans and uncooked rice. During her live session, she encouraged viewers to whip those out and shake them “up high, down low, in a circle and then freeze!”
“So much of the feedback was positive,” Goodman says. She notes that she received videos from parents all over the country, showing their children watching her session and singing along.
Goodman will do another Instagram Live session Friday at noon on her page @jamminjennnewjersey, and is planning to do them regularly if there’s interest. No matter the venue, Goodman will continue performing for those who need it most.
“This came out of me being bonkers and a little cabin fever, and me having a heart and knowing these parents need help.”