Before the Sears Guitar, there was Tupperware
Updated: Jul 7, 2020
Welcome, Reader. Before we go further down the exploration of Music Therapy and Reiki, I would like to tell you my Music Therapy story.
Music Therapists are Musicians
Like so many others first learning music and an instrument, I started with a guitar. Mine was a mahogany-colored, 3/4 sized, steel string from Sears. I got it and a Mel Bay beginning guitar book when I was 8 years old. My mother is a piano player, and I had started in the "Teaching Little Fingers to Play" book. I never got past the learning the treble clef, but that was good enough to understand the notes in the early pages of the Mel Bay book. I'd get to the bass clef in my Music Theory class in high school and to the left hand on the piano in junior college for my Associates degree in music. Photo credit: www.reverb.com (I don't know what happened to mine)
Before the guitar, you could find toddler me close to my mom's piano as she played, musicking on a set of Tupperware containers and lids. Pots may have gotten pulled out at some point, too. My dad also contributed to my musical exposure by turning on my record player at night and singing his version of "Good Morning" from "Singing in the Rain" to help me wake up on school days.
My music making history takes me from the guitar to the flute. I started playing in the 7th grade and continue to play today. With my flute, I have had amazing musical experiences from marching in the Tournament of Roses and Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parades to sitting in the pit orchestra in community theaters playing "The Sound of Music" to "The Man of La Mancha" (great piccolo parts) to creating exquisite moments with the Tampa Bay Symphony. It was what I gained from being a part of the Tate High School Band in Gonzalez, Florida that turned my interest towards a music profession. I am grateful that I became a student of music and that I asked the assistant band director, "What else is there to do besides teach?" He replied, "Music Therapy."
Music Therapy is a Degree
"Music Therapy." Those words changed my life...but, not yet. I was gung-ho band and started down the path of Music Education. It became clear after the first year in the music ed curriculum that I was called to something else. I knew that I still wanted to use music to make a difference in the lives of others. "Music Therapy" chimed in my head, so I researched it. It did not take long for me to realize I needed to do 2 things: change my major and change my school. So, off to Florida State University I went, gratefully having been accepted into the Music Therapy program. (I still have a soft spot for the University of Southern Mississippi and am grateful for the advancements I made in my flute playing).
I graduated with my Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy, having completed all the coursework, 200 hours of clinical practicums, and an internship of 1040 hours. The internship at the University Hospitals of Cleveland and under 2 extraordinary Music Therapists helped me continue to transfer the skills of Music Therapy from knowledge to understanding. It cemented my thought that I would work in the medical field and lit the fire for working with children in hospitals. It also helped me get my first full-time job in a children's hospital. Better yet, in my home state of Florida. That was great. I had started my 6-month internship in Cleveland, Ohio in January. It was cold. There was snow, a lot of it!
Photo credit: www.cleveland.com
Music Therapists Work With Many Different Populations
For 13 years, I served the children and families of All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida (now Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital). There, I learned that not only did I have the gifts of helping children heal and giving families hope, I learned that loved to teach. I mentored 9 Music Therapy interns and taught several volunteers, musicians and music-lovers, how to use music in their volunteer roles. I am grateful for my part in helping these wonderful people help others through music and Music Therapy.
When I left All Children's, I worked with Music Sweet Music, Inc., a non-profit serving children with a wide range of physical and developmental needs and adults with developmental disabilities in the Tampa Bay area. I also had a client with a Traumatic Brain Injury. Thanks to the encouragement of another Music Therapist, I found a new fire in my heart next to the pediatric fire...Hospice. I started as the part-time Music Therapist with Suncoast Hospice in 2010 working primarily with patients with late-stage dementia. "Grateful" is a word I am using throughout this post, and when I think about hospice work, I am not only grateful to have served people in their most vulnerable time since childhood and accompanied them in their transition, I am humbled by the power of music to clear the dementia fog and see the unique person there. I am honored to be the catalyst for a mother to see and recognize her son for a moment or to know that someone's dad did not die alone or in pain because music was there.
In 2015, I returned to full-time work coordinating the Integrative Medicine and Palliative Arts Program for Suncoast Hospice. Palliative Arts are complementary methods and modalities that work alongside western medicine. The program at Suncoast Hospice has music, Reiki, aromatherapy, Massage Therapy, Pet Visits, and an acupuncture clinic. This position again allowed me to teach and create processes for others to use music in their work. I also became a Reiki Master, learning how to use the lifeforce energy that is all around us to bring comfort to others. Looking back on just these 4 years at the program coordinator, I find inspiration for the next phase of my career as a therapist, teacher, creator, healer, an agent of hope, and business owner.
In late 2018, I decided to return to Pensacola to be closer to family. In 2019, I established Attuned Music Therapy and Services, LLC with a vision, a mission, a goal, a code of awesomeness, and a small network. January 20, 2020 was the first official day of business. Although the pandemic has delayed the work I had envisioned for my business - bringing Music Therapy to healthcare in Pensacola - I still have the question, "How can I help?" The answer is evolving as opportunities to offer services in different ways are emerging. Even so, I know that I am in the right place at the right time doing the right things for the right reasons. I also have a binder called, "The Big Book of What If?" The new pages, written at 4:00am just the other day, have a new idea for helping you through the stressors of the pandemic on top of life. I am working on practical musical tools for Gen X and Millenials to help with stress-management, relationships with children and aging parents, pain management, and well-being.
Music happens. I am here to help you make that music become a turbo boost to your well-being.
Schedule an appointment or a free consultation: www.pensacolamusictherapy.com/contact
Doing amazing work in the Tampa Bay area: www.musicsweetmusic.org
Check out an example of a training I created for others to use music: https://empathhealth.org/comforts-music-patients-dementia/
Have a piano or keyboard in your house and don't play it? You can still make expressive music! Try playing just the black keys. Here's an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvUklrsIr5I