This summer, I’ve had lots of people ask me what I do. When I explain that I’m a music therapist with my own private practice/teaching studio, they almost always comment how incredibly lucky I am to work from home.
Every time that happens, I think to myself, “Yes, I am incredibly lucky and it has been such a convenience to my life. So why the heck am I giving that up?”
My work arrangement has afforded me so many little luxuries — being able to pop over and visit my son if I happen to have a break, saving money on gas since I’ve had no commute, always having everything I need on hand. I can’t help but feel a little sad about dismantling the room that has been home to so, so many music therapy sessions and lessons over the years.
That is when I have to step back and remind myself of all the reasons why I made a conscious decision to move my work out of my home and into a space that allows the things the current arrangement doesn’t. A room just for groups and classes, multiple studios for multiple therapists working simultaneously, a place I can leave my work so that it is a little less tempting to spend every spare moment of my life working, the list goes on.
This week has truly been bittersweet. I’ve been waxing nostalgic about all the awesome musical moments that have happened within these walls, and almost all of my students or their parents have commented that they can’t believe it’s the last time they’ll be here.
But I know I made the right decision, because underneath that nostalgia and sadness, deep down in my gut, is excitement. I can’t wait to arrange and decorate my new studio, welcome my students in, and help them achieve all of their goals.
On Thursday evening, I’ll facilitate my very last music therapy session and then close up shop for the very last time here. My office will probably become a bedroom, and years from now, the fact that it used to be my workplace will seem hard to believe.
I’ll miss it here, but it’s time to flee the nest. I’m so ready for my next big adventure!
If only we could go back in time and do certain things over again, knowing what we know now. Better yet, having the resources we have now. The years I spent in graduate school studying music therapy (2004-2006) seem like ages ago; SO much has changed in our field, in technology, and the world as we know it.
Recently I’ve received a few emails from students preparing to begin their music therapy studies, and this is the most common question: “What can I do while I’m in school to prepare my career as a music therapist?”
It’s fun to put myself in their shoes and — armed with the knowledge and experience I’ve gained after being in the field for all these years — come up with a list of all the things I’d do as a music therapy student in 2014.
- Start your digital music collection. And by digital music, I don’t mean audio files; I’m talking sheet music, lead sheets, and scores. If possible, purchase in digital form (I love musicnotes.com) so you don’t have to spend half your life scanning. Been there, done that, no fun.
- Find a music reader app that works for you. As a music therapy student/intern/professional, you will most likely have an iPad or similar tablet device on which to access your music. I use a combination of GigBook, the Musicnotes app, and Ultimate Guitar depending on the song type and the context in which I’m using it.
- Play, play, play that guitar. I didn’t even pick one up until the summer before I left for grad school, and after I learned the basics, I only played when I had to. Big mistake. I was able to muddle my way through practicums using my limited guitar skills, but I really had to buckle down when I started my internship. The best way to motivate yourself is to choose songs you really want to learn for yourself, not just the songs you have to learn. That being said…
- Learn and memorize the basic repertoire. There is a pretty universal set of songs for each population that you’ll need to know and play fluently, so save yourself the stress and just go ahead and learn them. Your professor probably has lists, or you can find them on various music therapy sites online. A few years ago, I made a list of music therapy songs I think everyone should know.
- Know your piano chords and be able to play from a lead sheet. Yes, everyone has to take keyboard skills as part of the curriculum, but those classes won’t necessarily prepare you for when a client wants you to play his or her favorite song on the radio without ever having heard it. I strengthened my keyboard and improv skills by choosing songs I know and like, finding the lead sheets (lyrics and chords only) on my Ultimate Guitar app, and then accompanying myself while singing.
- Write your own songs. I cringe when I think about how much time I wasted searching for songs and material to use in my practicums during grad school. Why didn’t I just come up with my own? The only way to become a great songwriter is through lots and lots of practice, so get to work.
- Get as much hands-on experience as you possibly can. Offer to volunteer at practicum sites and ask your professor how you can get involved with/assist/observe other music therapists in the area. Not only is this great for resume-building when it comes time to apply for internships, but it will also help you get a better idea about which population you want to work with in the future.
- Ask for instruments and materials as gifts. This is one thing I actually did start doing as a student, and I’m so glad I did. Each Christmas and birthday, I would make a wish list of music therapy equipment, and by the time I headed off to internship, I had a trunk full of supplies without ever having purchased anything myself.
- Start making connections online. Reach out to the music therapists who are doing work you admire and are inspired by, whether via email, Facebook, or just reading and commenting on their blogs. You never know where these connections might lead down the road. As a professional who has been around for a while, I still love to hear from students who are interested in my work and have questions for me. It’s exciting to watch our field grow, and get to know the students who will one day be our colleagues.
Fellow music therapy professionals: what would YOU add to this list? Please share in the comments. And if you’re a music therapy student, I envy you just a little for having so many resources and pieces of technology at your fingertips!
I fell in love with The Civil Wars’ music the first time I heard their song “20 Years” randomly on Pandora in 2011. I couldn’t get enough of their album Barton Hollow, and my bandmate and I added several of the songs to our set list.
When they posted on their Facebook page last year that they were taking a break but coming out with new music, I crossed my fingers they would stay together and bought the new album when it came out.
I was crushed to read the announcement on their website this past week.
“The Civil Wars—made up of duo partners Joy Williams and John Paul White—have regretfully decided to permanently part ways. The difficult decision ends a tumultuous period for the four-time Grammy Award-winning band, who has been on indefinite hiatus since late 2012.”
Joy and John Paul are amazing musicians in their own right, but there is something magical about the music they made together. It’s not often that I am as inspired and affected by a musician or group as I was by them. It’s not obvious when you listen to the songs I share here, but my personal songwriting has most definitely been flavored by The Civil Wars.
Nothing lasts forever, but this band is one thing I wish had lasted just a little bit (or a few more albums worth) longer. They did leave us with a parting gift — the saddest version of “You Are My Sunshine” I’ve ever heard. I guess it’s quite fitting.
You can download the song for free on their website. After you’ve done that, go check out my first (and current) BIG musical inspiration, Jason Mraz’s new album. It’s beautiful and uplifting…the perfect music to help cope with a painful breakup.
The day Zach proposed to me (7/27/07), I chose a wedding date based on my lucky number: 08/08/08. Conveniently, it’s also a very memorable date, which has worked to Zach’s advantage ;) We celebrated our 6th year together this week — a year that has been by far the hardest, but also the best, of our lives.
Our wedding day was, up until June 8, 2013, the very best day of my life. It has since fallen to the #2 spot, but for good reason. It was a beautiful, sparkling, perfect Friday in Springfield, and I was surrounded by my entire family and best friends. We had a beautiful ceremony at Laurel United Methodist Church, followed by the most fun party I’ve ever attended at the Inn at 835.
I actually cried as the last song played at our reception, because I didn’t want the night to end. Everyone, and I mean, everyone, was still on the dance floor at midnight, and the facility basically had to force us out. That’s when you know you’ve thrown a successful party!
We spend the following week on our honeymoon in St. Lucia, and then came back to “real life” as a married couple at our first house on Holmes Avenue. In our six years of marriage, we’ve tackled some big things (home ownership, getting a puppy, owning a business, pregnancy) but nothing could have prepared us for our first year of parenthood.
Raising Parker has brought us together in so many ways, but it has also highlighted our differences and the things we need to work on as a couple. It’s comforting to know that we aren’t the only parents who have gone through this, and I think in the long run our marriage will be stronger because of it.
My mom offered to host Parker’s first sleepover so that Zach and I could go out and celebrate our anniversary. I think they were both pretty excited about it! Parker didn’t even look back as my mom carried him inside and we drove away.
We had dinner reservations at Augie’s Front Burner in downtown Springfield, which is one of my favorite restaurants. We don’t go out to dinner alone very often, so it was really nice to be able to take our time eating and enjoy each others’ company. It was really dark in the restaurant, so the photo didn’t turn out great — but we’ll still add it to our album of anniversary dinners.
After dinner, we went out for a drink downtown and then came home at the very late hour of 10 pm. So I suppose we didn’t take FULL advantage of Parker being away for the night, but what can I say…we’re old! We exchanged anniversary gifts, me going first as usual (because Zach always outdoes me in the gift-giving department).
I gave him a memory box with photos from all of our previous anniversaries and the one I took of Parker commemorating #6. I filled the box with smaller gifts, each wrapped with a note sharing a “wish” for year #7. We’ll see how many of them come true this year :)
For the past 5 anniversaries, Zach has given me a photo book containing all the highlights of the previous year. It is my FAVORITE present and I look forward to it every anniversary. We have so much fun looking through it together and reminiscing, and when we have guests over, they love going through all the books. It will be so wonderful for Parker to have photo books of our lives, dating way back to before he was even a glint in our eyes.
All in all, it was a wonderful anniversary and the start of what has been a great weekend so far! I slept in and woke up to Parker running into my room after Zach had picked him up from my mom’s house. Those two headed to the fair shortly after, so I’ve spent the entire day in my office getting lots of work done. I guess you could call that a bonus anniversary gift!