SMWC music therapy graduate designs one-of-a-kind drum table

December 1st, 2014 | SMWC

Sherry Bube
Sherry Bube, 2014 music therapy graduate of SMWC, designed an electronic drum table for use in therapeutic settings as her grant-funded senior project.

“This isn’t something we can just give a final ‘ta daaaaa’ and it's done,” Sherry Bube, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) music therapy graduate, practically sings while presenting her senior grant-funded project at the 2014 Ball Venture Fund Colloquium. Although Sherry Bube graduated this past spring, she has continued to work diligently on the final stages of B.E.A.T.! (Bring Everyone Around the Table), her project to design and create an electronic drum table for use in therapeutic settings.

“Learning is a never ending process that one continues throughout life and is something that my time at The Woods further instilled in me,” states Bube. “I feel that this project was an opportunity that came about from the cultivating, nurturing and challenging learning environment that The Woods provides.”

A drum table is an electronic percussive instrument with a projection sound system that allows participants to play different instruments depending on where the drumhead is hit. Before Bube’s invention, there was no known drum table of this style or use for the therapeutic setting.

For her senior project, funded by an $11,000 Independent Colleges of Indiana (ICI) Ball Venture grant, Bube developed an inter-collegiate collaboration between herself and two senior mechanical engineering students from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. She was the lead at every stage of the process from writing the grant proposal and designing the prototype to evaluating the feasibility of the design and writing a summary grant report.

“Being able to see a project from the point of idea conception, through development and all the way to completion is very fulfilling and rewarding,” states Bube. “The B.E.A.T.! project was truly a providential project from finding out about the grant, connecting and collaborating with the engineering students, as well as the faculty, staff, peers and family who provided me with their feedback, guidance and support.”

Throughout the project, Bube worked closely with the Lead Faculty Advisor for the innovative project, Sharon Boyle, MM, MT-BC, associate professor and coordinator of the undergraduate program in music therapy at SMWC. As one of the last stages of her senior project, Bube recently conducted a training session to Boyle’s current music therapy students to demonstrate the maintenance and care, troubleshooting and updates and operation of the drum table.

Sherry Bube demonstration
As the final stage of her grant-funded senior project, Sherry Bube demonstrates the operation of the electronic drum table that she designed for therapeutic purposes to current music therapy students.

The interactive percussive drum table utilizes electronic and technological components, such as sensors and computer programming, to allow the drum to be adapted for a variety of uses within the therapeutic setting. Another important component of the instrument is the adjustable base that will allow for the drum to be made more accessible for individuals with physical disabilities, such as those with wheelchairs. This is the first known drum table of this style with specific programming and technological capabilities toward a therapeutic use.

Percussive instruments are easily interactive and provide tonal and rhythmic elements to the music. For example, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease have been found to respond to rhythm into the late stages of the disease, despite decreased mobility, coordination, social and communicative abilities. Rhythm is also basic to gait, speech and other physiological functions, and is valuable in addressing the various needs of clients in both group and individual therapeutic settings.

Bube presented her work at multiple conferences including the Great Lakes Regional Music Therapy Conference and the American Music Therapy Association National Conference, as well as at the Ball Venture Fund Colloquium where she was the only student presenter. But this project doesn’t end there for Bube.

“Looking forward, I am hoping to continue my interest in developing and collaborating on projects, instruments and technologies that grow from a therapeutic intent and idea to best meet the needs of the therapists and clients, especially for the profession of music therapy,” states Bube. “Specifically for the B.E.A.T.! prototype, I am hoping to utilize the remaining Ball Venture Grant funds to develop a second working prototype that addresses what was learned and came about from the first prototype.”

Immediately after the Ball Venture Fund Colloquium, Bube went home to pack up and leave for Salt Lake City, Utah, where she will be interning at Primary Children’s Hospital. Throughout the 6-month clinical internship, Bube will observe, participate in and co-lead individual and group music therapy sessions along with the music therapy team.

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