Show Choir Made Me a Better Music Therapist

My former high school’s show choir is coming to perform for my students today.  I was a member of Seven & Senators at Springfield High School from 1998-2001, and can’t wait to see and hear how the group has evolved over the last ten years.

I wrote about my show choir experience (which is probably the reason that I am a total Gleek) last year, but think it’s worth bringing up again…this time, in relation to my career.  Because as far-fetched as it might sound, those three years in Seven & Senators actually helped prepare me for life as a music therapist:

I gained an appreciation for all genres of music. We performed Broadway, golden oldies, love songs, classic rock, jazz, and just about everything else under the sun.  Now there’s a special place in my heart for “Blue Skies”, “Bill Bailey”, and lots of other music therapy standards.

I got experience singing in front of audiences of all ages and abilities. Every year, we made the rounds at elementary schools, nursing homes, hospitals, and facilities like The Hope Institute (where I work now).  I always enjoyed talking with the students and residents and brightening their day with our performances.

I learned how to improvise. Both vocally, and otherwise!  Reinterpreting choreography when my dance partner was MIA, riffing with the audience when our sound system failed us, and creatively solving various other issues were par for the course as a member of show choir.

I taught myself how to memorize at lightning speed. Not only did my brain have to remember all of the music we sang, but it also had to remember countless dance steps, positions, and song order.  Now, working with children, I memorize all of the music I use in music therapy sessions so that I can focus on my students — not the lyrics or chords.  All that memorizing I did back in the day has served me well.

I bonded with others through music. We all know that the therapeutic relationship is a crucial aspect of music therapy.  There’s something about music that speeds up a budding friendship, as I realized early on being involved in show choir and musical theatre.  And though my clients aren’t necessarily my friends, our relationship is strong because of the music that we make together.

I’m sure there are other ways in which show choir helped shape me into the music therapist I am today.  It’s so cool to look back at my past and realize how all the dots connect perfectly.  What about you?  Did your past experiences (show choir or otherwise) prepare you for your current career?