My Final Hurrah

This morning, one of my co-workers asked me if I was ready for my “final hurrah” at The Hope Institute, and I thought that made a great title for this post.

Four years ago, I started a new tradition at Hope: an all-school spring singalong.  I rounded up some of my musician co-workers and started a band, complete with drums, bass, rhythm guitar, and vocals.  Every year since, I’ve looked forward to this event all spring long.

Today is that day.  The picture above is from last year’s singalong, and I realized that I’m wearing those same shoes again this year :)  I’ve chosen a dozen of my students’ favorites tunes, made up packets of lyrics for everyone, and set up the instruments and sound equipment.  Now all that’s left is to rock out!

Have Cart, Will Travel

Music Therapy Cart

I have to admit: pulling a cart from classroom to classroom took some getting used to at first.  Four years later, though, my trusty cart is like an extension of myself.  That and my guitar, of course.

I know very well that I’m not the first music therapist or teacher to travel with a cart.  The speech therapists and art specialist at my school do the same, and it works extremely well for our students.  They get to stay in their classroom or activity room, where they feel the most comfortable, and we take only the materials we’ll need on that particular day.

That being said, I wish I had a third eye to keep on my cart during particular music therapy sessions.  It can be a little too tempting for several of my students at times, especially when there are favorite instruments or equipment on it.  Some teachers keep a sheet over their carts while working with students, which is not a bad idea at all.

So what do I put on my cart?  Well, the instruments change from week to week, as do any visual aides or props that accompany my activities and interventions.  Every so often, I’ll bring along my iPod and speaker, which I use as positive reinforcement for a few classes.  My visual schedule and guitar stand are cart staples, since I use them every day in every classroom.

Pretty soon, I’ll be passing my cart down to my intern, who will be taking my place when she graduates and I go full-time with my private practice.  It has served me well over the years, though I’m not sure how much I’ll miss the fun of squeezing it in and out of my office several times a day!

Do you travel by cart, too?

Giving Up Hope

Music Therapy at The Hope Institute

A little over four years ago, I began my professional career as a music therapist at The Hope Institute in Springfield, Illinois.  Although many of my new coworkers at Hope, a residential school for children with multiple disabilities, were unfamiliar with music therapy, they were amazingly supportive of me as I started developing the program.

At the same time, I was slowly growing a private practice.  After an 8-hour day at Hope, I hit the road as a traveling music therapist and voice/piano/guitar teacher, working with my students in their homes.  I did this 5 afternoons a week, for two years, until my husband and I moved into our new home and I opened a home studio.

Ten private students increased to 20, which eventually increased to 30.  I loved the work that I was doing at Hope, and I loved the work I was doing in my private practice.  Life was good.

But life was also exhausting.  When I added my church music job, elected IAMT officer position, and Listen & Learn to the mix, I sometimes marveled at the fact that I actually found time to sleep.  Oh yea…and then there was my husband and dog, with whom I was spending less and less time.

12-hour workdays were doable, at least for the time being.  But what would happen when Zach and I started a family?  And was it really good for my health to be this busy and stressed all the time?  I found myself asking these questions on a daily basis.

So what did I do?  I took on new students.  Over 20 of them, actually, totaling to 52 private students for the upcoming summer and fall sessions.

And then I made the scariest and most exciting decision of my entire life thus far: I gave notice of my resignation at The Hope Institute.

This moment, which I had been dreading, turned out to be like something out of a fairy tale.  My principal told me that I would be greatly missed, but that he completely understood my decision and supported it wholeheartedly.  And then upon my recommendation, Hope hired Karen, my wonderful intern who has been such a blessing to the music therapy program this year.

I am infinitely grateful to my colleagues and students for providing me with such an amazing, challenging, rewarding, overwhelming, fun, and educational experience these past four years.  My work at Hope not only gave me credibility in my community, but it also connected me with so many people who enriched my life and opened the door to countless opportunities.

I’m going to miss this place.  But as sad as I am to be leaving, I’m equally excited about this new chapter in my life.  Going full-time with my private practice will be a challenge, to be sure, but it will also allow me the flexibility and free time I’ve not had thus far in my career.

June 2 is my last official day at Hope.  I’m going to enjoy this final month to the fullest, and then prepare for what promises to be quite an exciting adventure.  I hope you’ll come along with me.

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Choosing a Graduation Song…Help!

Graduation Songs

One of my favorite parts of being in high school show choir was singing at graduation every year.  It was always a little bittersweet, especially the year I graduated, but I loved it.  I’m not in school anymore, obviously, but I still get to sing at my students’ graduation.

Every May, one of my job duties at The Hope Institute is choosing and performing a graduation song.  In years past, I’ve sung In My Life, Seasons of Love, You Raise Me Up and For Good.  It’s always a big decision, and this year I’m a little stuck.

So far, here are the front-runners:

  • “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts
  • “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” the Israel Kamakawiwo’ole version
  • “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus
  • “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day

I know most of these are a bit dated, but I’m keeping in mind who the graduates are as well as the audience.  So this is where I need your help: what options am I missing?!  I’d really like to do something more current, however, I’m at a bit of a loss for ideas.

Please leave a comment with your ideas and input!

Friday Fave: My New Middle School Friends

Interview with Middle School Students

I had the pleasure of spending Wednesday morning with a great group of middle school students (I’m the non-student wearing stripes in the middle) from Lincoln Magnet School.  They contacted me last month about interviewing me for a project in their video journalism class, and of course I said yes!

These kids were pros, let me tell you.  I had reserved the board room at The Hope Institute for our interview, and as soon as we walked into the room, they began discussing the best placement for their video camera and me as the interview subject.  They had already sent me a list of questions, so I looked over those as they finished setting up.

Middle School Interview Questions

This was just page one of the excellent questions they had for me.  It was interesting to listen to their reactions as I explained what music therapy is all about, and how my students benefit from it.  They came up with some fabulous on-the-spot questions, as well.

After the interview was over, I took the students and their guidance counselor (who I had as a teacher when I was in middle school!) on a tour of the building.  They had the chance to meet some of my students, chat with my principal, see lots of cool aspects of our facility, and get an idea of all the kinds of services an organization like Hope has to offer.

The students will be editing their video into a short piece that will be shown at their class’s end-of-the-year movie screening, and I can’t wait to see the final product.  Not only was this a fun opportunity for me, but it’s one more way to get the word out about music therapy in my community.