Has it really been two whole weeks since I returned from the AMTA conference in San Diego? According to my calendar, it has, but it feels like just yesterday. My first national conference was an experience I won’t soon forget, and I’m already thinking ahead to next year. You can read some of the highlights I shared early on during my stay, but more important, in my opinion were the lessons I learned not only about my profession, but about myself, as well. (I know…how cheesy am I?)

Yes, there are actually others like me out there! Ok, so I knew this already, but it’s easy to forget that there are plenty of other music therapists out there, with jobs very similar to mine, when I am on my own in good ol’ Springfield. Having face-to-face contact and trading stories and advice was worth the price of admission, in my opinion.

The internet really is a good place to meet people. Of course, I mean that only in the most professional sense :) I’ve made quite a few online connections with fellow MTs over the last couple of years, and I was thrilled to have a chance to meet many of them IRL (that’s “in real life” for those of you who don’t speak internet!) at conference. Several of us joked that we felt like old friends already, but it really was true. And let me tell you, hanging out with music therapists in person is much more fun than sending tweets and writing on Facebook walls!

I’m on the right track. Having been in the field for only 2.5 years, I tend to question my knowledge, professional abilities, and the decisions I make as a therapist from time to time. I had this false notion that every other MT knew exactly what he or she was doing every step of the way, but I quickly learned from the vets at conference that those question marks are normal. Based on the feedback I received regarding my career, I came home with a brand-new sense of confidence and even clearer vision for my future path.

Public speaking is actually fun. This was probably one of the most valuable lessons of the bunch. In submitting my presentation proposal, I basically forced myself to face one of my biggest fears: public speaking. Little did I know that the key to this art is finding the right topic, which I definitely had by presenting “Music Therapy in the Blogosphere”. I enjoyed myself so much that I couldn’t wait to give another presentation two days later. I’m officially hooked on public speaking!

Good ideas lead to big things. I knew that I would finally get to see and hold the new Listen & Learn Songbook once I arrived in San Diego, but it wasn’t until it was actually in my hand that I was able to grasp the reality of it. What began as an idea was now, after lots of hard work, a product that people were buying! The picture above shows Michelle Erfurt (my wonderful publisher, on the left) and I at our booth in the exhibit hall.

I could spend another hour telling you all about the specifics: the presentations and workshops I attended, the people I met, and the conversations that were had, but I have a feeling those will unfold over time as I put them to good use. This conference was just what I needed to recharge my battery, so to speak. Do I really have to wait an entire year for the next one?