Summer Projects

I’ve always been a sucker for a full plate, both in the literal sense (ha!) and when it comes to work-related projects. I wasn’t sure if that would be the case this summer, since last year at this time I was on maternity leave and work was not a high priority. But it turns out that the opposite has been true, and I’ve been lucky to strike a good balance between family time and music therapy.

Music Therapy Pro

After our weekend summit in California last month, my Music Therapy Pro colleagues and I have stepped up our game. We added a brand-new feature called “Four Corners” in which each of us shares a monthly audio or video post on our area of expertise. My corner is called The Business Savvy Clinician, which is all about running a private practice (both inside and outside of the therapy room). While I love collaborating with Michelle, Kimberly, and Matt on topics for the podcast, it’s also fun to have my very own space over there.

MT in 3

The four of us also launched a new mini podcast called “MT in 3” that will air monthly via the Music Therapy Round Table. This podcast is free, and features a 3-question interview of a different music therapist each month. We had so much fun coming up with a HUGE list of potential interviewees, and then writing the 3 questions that each of them would answer. Michelle Erfurt is our roving reporter, so she’s the lucky one who gets to talk to all of the people we consider to be “rockstars” in our field. The first episode features Mallory Even, who is one of my own personal music therapy idols. You can listen here as well as subscribe on iTunes.

Early Childhood Programs CMTE

And this is my own personal project, which I’m super excited about. In the last month or so, I’ve had a lot of fellow music therapists ask for advice when it comes to creating and running early childhood programs. Since I have a lot of experience (I’ve been doing it since grad school!) I decided to create a 3-hour online CMTE course on this topic. This is a very labor-intensive project, which I know first-hand after creating The DIY Guide to Writing, Recording, and Sharing Your Music for Kat Fulton’s Music Therapy Ed, but like that one, it has been a labor of love so far. You can learn more and get updates about the course here.

There are actually a few other projects on my plate at the moment, but I need to keep those under wraps just a little longer. I’ll share them with you soon, though! What are you up to this summer? Are you tackling big things, or taking it easy? (Also, sidenote: how is it almost August already!?)

MTRT Summer Summit

MTRT in Napa Valley

For the 4th summer in a row, my Music Therapy Round Table colleagues and I devoted a few days to what has come to be called the “MTRT Summit” — where we focus on brainstorming and planning for the following year.

This year we convened in northern California, where our newest colleague Matt Logan lives. While we spend a good majority of the long weekend sitting around his table with our laptops open, we did find time to enjoy some delicious food and wine (in Napa Valley, no less!).

MTRT Coffee Break

I arrived early Friday evening, so Matt and I went out to dinner and started doing a little preliminary planning for the weekend. Michelle and Kimberly’s flight had been delayed, so they didn’t end up getting in until 11 pm. I was already asleep by the time they got to the hotel! We had a super early morning on Saturday, which began with coffee and breakfast at a yummy diner in Berkeley.

MTRT Photo Shoot

Next we met up with Matt’s friend and photographer Tara, who took photos for our website and promotional materials. She was great to work with, and it was a bonus that we got to hang out on the water at the same time. I can’t wait to see the photos after she edits and sends them next week.

After the photo shoot, we headed to Matt’s house for a long day of work. And by “work” I mean bouncing ideas off of each other, setting goals for the year, coming up with new projects, and enjoying the awesome company. We only see each other in person twice a year, so it hardly feels like work even though we are super productive and our brains hurt afterwards.

MTRT Summit

It’s really amazing how much we can accomplish when we are all together in the same room! One of the very best parts of our yearly summit is recording the podcast, since we’re used to doing it via Skype. Being able to read each other’s cues, make eye contact, and really just chat without having to worry about any potential technical difficulties is a breath of fresh air. This month’s episode is one of my favorites.

MTRT Wine Break

The best way to avoid the afternoon slump? A delicious lunch followed by a quick wine tasting. When in Rome, right? We were all ready to get back to work following our excursion, and ended up ordering pizza later that night because we were on such a roll and didn’t want to stop working. That’s when you know you love what you do :)

Recording MTRT Podcast

Our last full day together! Matt made us a delicious breakfast on Sunday morning, and then we picked up right where we had left off the night before. We finished recording both podcasts, mapped out our new content, did quite a bit of writing, and came up with topics for the entire next year. Whew! We more than earned an afternoon in Napa Valley, which is where we headed as soon as our work was done.

Matt took us to his favorite winery, Judd’s Hill, where we learned all about lots of different kinds of wine (and of course, tasted them too). The weather was gorgeous and it felt so wonderful to sit in the sun. The view wasn’t so bad either — miles and miles of vineyards with mountains in the distance. Next we had lunch and then enjoyed another tasting at a different spot before heading home.

End of the Summit

All good things must come to an end, and for us, that was the next morning. Michelle, Kimberly and I headed to the airport at 5 am to catch our flights, but not before taking one last photo. I had a looooong day of flying, followed by a two hour drive home. After being away from my son Parker for the first time since he was born, it was pretty sweet to see him when I walked through the door.

I can’t wait to share with you everything we have planned for Music Therapy Round Table and Music Therapy Pro this year. Not only that, but our summit inspired me to make some big plans for my own personal businesses (Listen & Learn and Music Therapy Connections) as well. Now I just need a few more hours in each day to carry them all out! ;)

“Make This Count!”

NICU Music Therapy Certification

A couple weeks ago, I was talking to a friend whom I have a lot in common. Like me, Mallory Even is a music therapist, business owner, and mom. During the course of our conversation, I mentioned that I had recently started saying “no” to work-related opportunities that didn’t excite or inspire me. Mallory agreed, and added:

When I am away from my kiddos, I am always thinking, “make this count!”

Yes, yes, yes. I feel more driven than ever when it comes to my career, and Mallory articulated the reason why perfectly. If I’m going to be spending precious minutes and hours away from my baby, they’d better be spent well. I think this has made me a better therapist and teacher, which in turn benefits my students.

A recent “make this count!” experience: becoming certified in NICU music therapy. Attending the lecture component, fieldwork training, and completing the outside reading and exams were a huge time commitment, but the joy I felt in receiving that certificate was a reminder that it was worth the effort.

I’m genuinely excited about the work I’m doing these days and the direction(s) in which I’m heading professionally. There’s no room for indifference or ambivalence in my life, and I’m learning to feel less guilty when I turn down commitments that would most likely evoke those feelings.

Now if only I could rewind a few years and tell my younger self to take this approach; guess I’ll chalk it up to growing older and wiser, right?

Burning the Midnight Oil

Burning the Midnight Oil

For almost my entire adult life, I have been an early riser. My alarm went off at 5 am every weekday morning, and then I’d go to the gym, come home, and spend the next couple of hours writing, working on songs, or other creative projects. Those morning hours were when my brain worked best.

After I went back to work following my maternity leave, I tried getting back into that routine. Some days, it worked; other days, Parker would wake up expecting an early breakfast just minutes before my alarm went off. Sometimes he would sleep in, sometimes he wouldn’t. To this day, he still has no consistent morning wake-up time. And neither do I, since he is still waking up multiple times throughout the night.

Needless to say, my productive early mornings are a thing of the past. And since I spend my days with Parker before work in the afternoons, I don’t have much time for creative projects (heck, I barely get a chance to check my email!) during daylight hours.

After I finish seeing students (usually between 7-8 pm), Zach and I give Parker a bath, put him to bed, and then eat dinner. By 9 pm, I’m ready to tackle blog posts, songs, music therapy interventions, and business-related work.

On a given night, I usually go to bed between 12:30-1:30 am, which to my former self would sound crazy! I never thought I would be a night owl, but then again, I never knew how much becoming a mom would affect every aspect of my life. I’ve actually grown to like the quiet hours when everyone else is asleep, and I’m getting used to sleeping in (usually 7 am at the latest, ha!).

At some point I would love to get back to my productive early morning routine, but I’m not counting on that happening any time soon. Until then I’ll just enjoy my new normal — and the late-night Facebook chats with fellow working moms who are up doing the same thing as me ;)

2013: A Year in Review

2013: A Year in Review

Hands down, 2013 has been the best year of my life thus far. The first half was spent anticipating the birth of my first child; the second half has centered around watching my baby boy grow and develop right before my eyes.

Needless to say, when it came to my work I was a little…distracted. Don’t get me wrong: I still put 100% into each music therapy session and lesson, but the extras — songwriting, recording, my online biz, THIS BLOG — took a backseat. For the first time in 6 years, my career was no longer my baby. I guess that’s what happens when you have an actual baby.

That being said, I did manage a few professional accomplishments over the past twelve months that I think are worth noting, if only for my own peace of mind. This list will come in handy on days where I feel like my only accomplishments involve diapers, board books, and an assortment of Fisher-Price toys :)

2013 Review

In January, I participated in Social Media Advocacy Month by writing an adapted version of The Lumineers’ song “Ho Hey” for my clients. I also celebrated my 6th year teaching Church Mice, the early childhood music class at my church (a “job” I will probably do until I’m old and gray, I love it so much).

In February, many of my students participated in Junior Festival and ALL of them received superior scores. Several received their first gold cups, and I couldn’t have been any prouder. That month also saw the launch of Listen & Learn for Little Ones, my new class for kiddos ages 0-3.

In March, my CMTE course — The DIY Guide to Writing, Recording, and Sharing Your Music — went live at This was a huge cause for celebration, because I spent countless hours back in the fall writing and recording the course videos (while simultaneously dealing with horrible morning sickness).

In April, I presented a workshop for my local Illinois Federation of Music Clubs titled Music is for Everyone: Teaching Children with Special Needs. I was super nervous about presenting in front of a room full of fellow music teachers, but it went well and I felt like a (very pregnant) rock star afterwards. Later than month I released a new digital songbook, Tapping, Shaking, Music Making!

2013 Review

In May, with only a few weeks to go before my due date, I started winding down professionally and getting ready for the baby. I made it to my last day of the spring session on May 31, and then enjoyed a few days of rest and relaxation before going into labor just a week later.

In June, I gave birth to my son 3 days after turning 30. As you can imagine, I was just a little busy with Parker and didn’t do much in the way of work all month!

In July, I was still on maternity leave but thrilled to feature guest posts from several awesome music therapy bloggers. Michelle, Kimberly and I held our annual Music Therapy Round Table “meeting of the minds” via Google Hangout, since traveling was out of the question this summer.

In August, I made the big decision to work on Sundays in order to have more time in the evenings with my family. And then I got busy planning my fall schedule, since my maternity leave was up at the end of the month.

2013 Review

In September, I returned to work and realized just how hard it is to have two full-time jobs (stay-at-home mom to an infant during the day, music therapist & teacher in the afternoon/evening) with very little sleep. But somehow I survived that first month back, and it only got easier from that point on.

In October, I had the opportunity to use fellow music therapist Lisa Barnett’s My House Interactive Songbook and blog about it here. I also wrapped up the fall session (which is always my favorite because I get to see how much all the kiddos have grown over the summer) of Church Mice.

In November, I started a new series here on the blog called {Mama Moments} where I get to talk about my favorite topic of all time ;) It was also #AMTA13 conference time, so I made the trek to Jacksonville, FL (with my family in tow) to present and network with lots of awesome music therapists.

In December, I wrote a whopping ONE blog post in all that spare time when I wasn’t a) seeing students; b) undergoing a major house renovation; c) taking care of my baby; d) getting ready for Christmas; d) all of the above. This month flew by in a flash, which seems to have been the story of 2013.

And now here we are, days away from 2014. I have no idea what the next 12 months will hold, nor am I announcing any huge goals as I have in years past. (Blogging every day? Nailed it in 2011. New song every week? Got the job done in 2012. Grow a human being? Delivered on that one in 2013.) But I do have some hopes and plans for the new year, starting with a brand new song for 2014 right here later in the week.

Thank you for reading, offering feedback, supporting my work with your purchases, and just generally being wonderful. Now let’s all go enjoy the last days of this year.

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