Articles for October 2014

PASSION – My musical journey – part 4 of 5

This is a series about passion for music, for music therapy and for the profession of music therapy, (read the previous posts here) so I will take this opportunity to briefly describe my journey and my passion.

Me and my big sister

I come from a large family, the 4th child out of 6 kids and the first one born in Arizona. My childhood was pretty average, not perfect but definitely not horrible either. As a child, I was always singing, a fact which probably drove my parents crazy and gave my oldest brother lots of ammunition for teasing me. My mother recognized my musical abilities and enrolled me in extracurricular music classes through the local parks and recreation department until I was old enough for more structured music education. I tried taking piano lessons on several occasions, but for a variety of reasons, I was never very successful.

After a very short time in grade school band, where I attempted to get a good sound out of a clarinet, I joined the choir. And I stayed in choirs throughout my elementary and high school years. The voice is the most portable instrument and I could take it with me wherever I went.

During my junior year of high school I sang with 3 choirs and won a silver medal for vocal performance at the Arizona State Solo and Ensemble Festival. I auditioned and performed in theater productions and earned the nick name “meg” short for megaphone, because I really didn’t need a microphone. I set some very unrealistic goals for myself to become rich and famous, AND I decided that I would star in a movie about Barbra Streisand’s life!

During my senior year, I was looking at colleges and I wanted to major in music but my dad wanted me to do something “more substantial” with my life. I am sure that he would agree that my work is very substantial, but we didn’t have a clue about music therapy at that time.

Come back next week for part 5 when I talk about how I accidentally found out about music therapy.

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PASSION – For the Music Therapy Profession – Part 3 of 5

In my last two blog posts, I talked about the importance of passion as a musician and as a music therapist. (Read those posts here). There is a little bit of difference being a professional music therapist and having passion for the profession of music therapy. As a working MT-BC you can choose to focus on your relationship with your clients, your musicianship and your job, but as I have learned over the years, one of the few constants in life is change. So maybe you are tired of working for someone else and you decide to start your own private practice as a music therapist.

Networking with other professionals

Networking with other professionals

Add all of the skills listed in the last two posts and then, add in all of the responsibilities and skills needed to run a business. You will need to learn how to write a business plan, how to market your business so that you can get work and you will need to account for all of the earnings that come in. You may need to develop policies and procedures to have employees or sub-contractors.

In this day and age it is difficult to have a business if you aren’t online. At the least you need to be able to send and receive emails. It also makes sense to have a website, which, if you don’t have the investment to hire a website designer or marketing experts, you will need to learn to do this yourself. And if you don’t want your website to be static, then you will need to be finding content and updating your site regularly. You can do this through blogging and/or posting pictures, videos and news stories about music therapy. This is time consuming but at least there is a lot of material to choose from on the internet.

If you are the only music therapist in your area, then you will need to be networking and educating other professionals in related disciplines so that they can refer clients to you. If you are one of many music therapists in your area, people in other professions may already know what music therapy is and the outcomes, so then the task becomes setting your practice apart from the others, and at the same time, adhering to the CBMT code of ethics so that you are not taking business away from the other MT’s in your area.

The main thing about being a music therapy business owner is to keep on going and not give up. Many business advisors say that it takes at least two years of hard work before you start seeing the results and your business starts to thrive. This is why passion for the profession is so important to be a successful music therapy business owner.

Visit the blog next week and read about my music therapy journey.

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PASSION – For Music Therapy part 2 of 5

I began my last post with the question “What makes some music therapists successful while others are struggling to get enough income to live on?” (Read that post here). The simple answer is that music therapists have to be passionate about music, but they also need to be passionate about the practice of music therapy.

Music therapists work in a variety of settings.

Music therapists work in a variety of settings.

Once the education is complete and the MT-BC designation has been earned, it is time to go to work. Times have changed so much since I completed my training and these days there are a multitude of employment opportunities in the field of music therapy. Music therapists can work in special education programs, hospitals, senior centers, day programs, skilled nursing and rehab facilities either as an employee or independent contractor.

This is the best part of being a music therapist. When you work with clients, you experience first-hand, the power of music to create positive changes physically, emotionally, cognitively, neurologically and physiologically. Most of the clients love participating in music therapy and it is fun and rewarding for everyone.

There are some other things to consider though. Whatever group or population you will be serving, you need to have instruments, which may or may not be provided by your employer, and unless you work in a clinic, be prepared to have days where you feel like a pack mule, loaded down with guitar, keyboard, rhythm instruments and drums that you carry with you so that you can serve the differing needs of multiple clients. There will be times when you may not feel good, or creative, or up to facing the next difficult client, but you will have to work through it anyway. You will also need to be able to spend the majority of your time singing and making music with those clients, and then you will get to document the outcomes of each therapy session. There may also be a lot of driving if you go to multiple locations. I hope by now you are getting the message that passion for music therapy is important.

Come back next week when I will talk about being a music therapy entrepreneur, also known as a music therapy business owner, and in two weeks, I will tell about my journey as a music therapist.

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PASSION – For Music – part 1 of 5

What makes some music therapists successful while others are struggling to get enough income to live on?  That’s really not an easy question to answer because there are so many facets to being a music therapist.

Annie touches the guitar with one finger

Annie touches the guitar with one finger

It starts with passion. Children are naturally musical and exploration of sounds and patterns starts in very young children. Parents who recognize the importance of and are able to provide music based activities and later music lessons for their child can support and nourish this musical passion.  In order to be a music therapist, you must first be a musician. And you must be passionate enough about music to devote time and energy into practicing and learning and exploring the many forms and styles of music. This can be in one major instrumental area or in multiple areas, and it can be in ensembles or solo.

Once basic musicianship has been developed and nurtured throughout elementary, middle and high school it is time to look at college education. I am often asked if someone who plays “some guitar” or is a “good singer” but hasn’t had any formal training can pursue a career in music therapy. Based on the paragraph above, my answer may surprise you. But, I am one of those people who sang in choir throughout my early education years but never had more formal training until college. So my answer is a resounding YES! In such cases, I recommend attending community college to get 2 years of basic music education. This requires a choice of a major instrument and private instruction as well as ensemble performances, classes in music history, music theory and one of the most important areas to pursue a music therapy degree is class piano which is a direct application of music theory and history.

The next step is to apply to an accredited music therapy program at a University. Where, in addition to the musical training mentioned above, there are classes in sociology, psychology, human

Some children have an innate rhythmic sense

Some children have an innate rhythmic sense

anatomy, and human behavior. Depending on your areas of interest you may also need classes in special education and child development. That’s just the basics. There are also classes in MT repertoire, group dynamics and pre-clinical experiences which consist of working with clients as a student music therapist under direct supervision of a Board Certified Music Therapist (MT-BC). In order to complete the education, the course-work is then followed by an internship which consists of more than 1,000 hours of direct experience with special populations, with supervision. Once that is complete there is a certification exam to receive the MT-BC credential.

This is only a partial answer to the question I asked at the beginning of this post. Come back next week when I will explain how the passion for music needs to become a passion for music therapy in order to be successful as a practicing music therapist.

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