Friday, May 3, 2019

Learning to Trust the Journey: SMWC Music Therapy Senior Reflection

Each year, a senior music therapy major is invited to write a Senior Reflection about his or her time as an undergraduate music therapy student at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC). Music therapy students experience many things throughout their time at SMWC, including the completion of clinical training hours through practicum experiences with a range of different populations, music ensembles, a rigorous curriculum, and many leadership opportunities. Following is a Senior Reflection written by Kristin Foster, senior, as she is about to complete her coursework and head to a hospice music therapy internship this July in North Carolina.

Despite the extensive amount of writing that I do as a student, writing this senior reflection has been quite challenging for me. I’m finding it incredibly difficult to put these last four years into words. I can't quite sum up all of these memories of singing, music therapy, friends, and family. Since I discovered The Woods, it has held a special place in my heart. The experiences I have had here have shaped me into the person that I am now, and the person I am still becoming. In other words, it has been an incredible journey.

Kristin Foster freshman (L) and senior year (R)
I discovered Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in a very “untraditional” way. I first learned of the Sisters of Providence though a family friend, Leslie, who worked for the Sisters as their Music Liturgist (a career path for which I had inquired). I made my first visit to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in late November of 2014 to visit her and talk to her about her career path. I remember when talking with Leslie I said, “Wait… there’s a college here?!” Later that same day, I met Ron Maurey, now my piano teacher and accompanist, for the first time. Fast forward two weeks later, and I was back attending the Chorale and Madrigals Christmas Concert, where I met the rest of the faculty and staff of the Music and Theatre Department.
The SMWC Madrigals performing in the
Church of the Immaculate Conception
At that concert, I heard the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) Madrigals, directed by Michael Boswell, sing for the first time and that day I vowed to myself, “I have to be a part of that.” Up to that point in my high school career, I had no idea what I wanted to do in college or anything after… but hearing the Madrigals sing inspired me and gave me an idea on which I acted. By January of 2015, I was auditioning for the Music and Theatre Department and interviewing for the Saint Mother Theodore Scholarship Program (Spoiler: I got into BOTH!). I visited SMWC again in April for the Spring Chorale and Madrigals Concert where I met my best friend, Shea Davis, although neither of us had any idea at the time.That summer before I moved to The Woods, I met with my academic advisor, Sharon Boyle (who is also the Coordinator of Undergraduate Music Therapy), to register for classes. At that meeting, I discussed my interest in music therapy with her, and at her suggestion, I enrolled in the Music Therapy introductory course, Music as Therapy. The rest is history. Halfway through my first semester, I fell in love with the music therapy profession. Just like I knew I was destined to be a Madrigal, I had the overwhelming feeling of peace and belonging when I pictured myself joining the music therapy profession. This guiding force that I felt from the very beginning of my Woods Journey is what I now proudly call Providence, and Providence has been my guiding force through these last four years.
The SMWC Madrigals after a concert on their Ireland Tour 2018
Being a Madrigal has been an immense part of my college experience. I am so in love with ensemble singing. It is addicting, heartfelt, and meaningful. I also dearly love each of the Madrigals I have had the honor of singing with each semester. Each of them, and our director and teacher, Michael Boswell, have taught me so much about being a leader, a singer, a musician, and an empathic, loving human being. The kind of musician I am today is largely due to being a Madrigal, and I am so grateful for such an amazing four years with them. From premiering new words to touring the “Emerald Isle” of Ireland (TWICE!), so many of my favorite memories surround this ensemble. I can proudly say, in 20/20 hindsight, that Providence spoke to me that day at the 2014 Christmas Concert when I felt the call to come to this school. This ensemble has truly changed my life for the better.        
SMWC Music Therapy Students 2019

Being a Music Therapy major has been equally rewarding. I feel so fortunate to have found a career path that I feel like must have been carved out just for me. I have had the privilege of going to four different Great Lakes Region Music Therapy Conferences, one national conference, to have served on the GLR-AMTAS board as Secretary, and to have served on the Music Therapy Student Association Executive Board for three years as Treasurer, President, and Past-President. The number of professional and peer connections I have made in the last four years within the context of music therapy has been astronomical… and it will only grow from here! What an amazing profession we have… one that is growing, learning, and teaching us every day to care for our clients in new and creative ways. During these past four years I have had many student practicums that have left a profound impact on my educational experience. This is one of the reasons I love the SMWC Music Therapy Program - I have had seven different practicum experiences and one summer intensive practicum in just four years (That’s a lot of direct hours, by the way!). Some of the most meaningful experiences I have had with clients have inspired my love for Hospice and Palliative Care work in music therapy… which is why I am so fortunate to be starting my internship with Four Seasons Hospice in July of this year. While there, I will get to work with a team of music therapists in hospice, palliative, and bereavement settings. This is another area of my life where I believe Providence is leading me.

SMWC students celebrating with Kristin after her junior recital.
Being a part of this Department has truly helped me to develop my love for deep and meaningful connection with others. This “little Department that could” has given me a family and a home. I’m not sure how I could ever express how much they have helped to shape me into the person I am today. From my teachers to my peers, I have made extraordinary connections here that will remain for a lifetime and beyond. The music we have made, the music therapy interventions we have shared, the learning and supporting that has taken place… everything has been a gift and a blessing. Throughout my time here I have built strong relationships with other students and faculty such as Sharon Boyle, Michael Boswell, Ron Maurey, John McIntyre, and many others outside of the Music and Theatre Department, such as Richard Collins (Saint Mother Theodore Guerin Cohort) and Dianne Powell (Catholic Identity Taskforce). From the impact of my supervision with Sharon Boyle, to my work and music relationship with Michael Boswell, to my encounters with the Saint Mother Theodore Guerin Cohort and Catholic Identity Taskforce, I have had many fantastic opportunities here to grow as a student, professional, and person. I am moving forward into my career knowing that I am well-loved and supported and will always have a home to which I can return.
The 2018-19 SMWC Madrigals singing
with Kristin at her senior recital.

As I prepare to transition into my internship this summer, I cannot help but reflect on what I have learned about music therapy and myself. This profession is teaching me to be more empathic, caring, ethical, self-aware, articulate, and professional each and every day. To say that my music therapy journey and personal journey are intertwined is an understatement. They are one in the same, and I feel very, very fortunate to feel so at home in my career path. I don’t feel like I’m going through college just to get a job and start earning a living, though. The kind of work I have been doing and will continue to do as an intern and professional is soul-fulfilling. It is more than just a career, but rather a vocation and, dare I say, a calling. Again, Providence continues to lead me down a path, providing both big and small affirmations along the way. The Woods has provided countless affirmations, challenges that have helped me to grow as a person, and consolation when I am feeling stuck or insecure. I cannot emphasize enough the support I have received, and how much that means to me. I am going to carry this kindness, this nurturing, and this love with me for the rest of my life. It is my sincere hope that as I transition and move forward in life, I will always carry it with me and share it with everyone I encounter. 
Sharon Boyle and Kristin Foster

To be a “Woodsie” is a core part of my identity. I had no idea that in 2014 when I was walking these grounds that I would call it home and meet the people who would become my extended family. I can humbly advocate for anyone who is currently thinking about beginning their Woods journey: if you are looking for a place that will love you and help you to grow, you’ve come to the right place. This place will teach you a work ethic like no other, and some days will be really, really challenging. But, at the end of it all, I can confidently say I have “promises and miles to go,” (The Ring Song) and that I can continue to daily “place myself gently into the hands of Providence,” (Saint Mother Theodore Guerin) so far which have never failed me. I have learned to trust the journey and trust in Providence, and for that, I graduate this May with a full and content heart.

SMWC students embracing after Kristin's senior recital.
Senior Reflection Blog Post Author: Kristin Foster, a senior music therapy major, who will begin her music therapy internship starting in summer 2019 with Four Seasons Hospice in North Carolina.

Blog Post Editor: Sharon R. Boyle, Associate Professor of Music Therapy and Coordinator of SMWC Undergraduate Music Therapy Program

Music Therapy Student Assistant: Autumn Wilson

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Celebrating 35 Years of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Music Therapy: Part Two

On Saturday, January 19, 2019, we hosted a reception in celebration of our 35-year history as a music therapy educational program. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate and many of those planning to attend were unable to travel to SMWC due to the snow and ice, including one of our alum award recipients. Despite the weather, the reception commenced at 7:30 p.m. with refreshments (cake!) provided by Sodexo in the foyer of the Conservatory of Music. After an introduction by Dr. Janet Clark, Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, as well as a welcome by SMWC Director of Music Therapy and Chair of the Music and Theatre Department, Dr. Tracy Richardson, the reception began. Sharon Boyle, Associate Professor of Music Therapy and Coordinator of the Undergraduate Music Therapy, spoke alongside Richardson to recognize five outstanding SMWC alumni, one from each music therapy program, as well as a surprise award recipient revealed during the reception.
SMWC Music Therapy Faculty - Reception January 2019
 The SMWC Music Therapy programs are honored to recognize these five recipients for their dedication and commitment to the music therapy profession as it has grown and changed following their time at SMWC. These alumni make us proud as they continue our tradition of excellence, service, and scholarship in the professional world.

Amanda Steiner, MS, MT-BC
Bachelor of Science in Music Therapy Alum Award: Amanda (Cook) Steiner, MS, MT-BC, 2006 graduate. Upon obtaining her MT-BC, Steiner began to work in Fishers, IN, with adults and children with developmental disabilities and Autism at Opportunities for Positive Growth (OPG) for 10 years. During her time there, she started a national roster internship site and supervised many music therapy interns while she was there, including some from SMWC. In 2013, Steiner obtained her master's degree in Applied Behavior Analysis with an emphasis in Autism from Ball State University. She continues to guest-lecture and has taught as adjunct faculty for both the SMWC MTE-D and undergraduate programs since 2016. Currently, Steiner is working at Rhythm Garden Music (RGM), owned by SMWC alum Morgan (May) Sparks, providing music therapy to individuals in the Wabash Valley. She also continues to supervise practicum students during the academic year as well as during intensive summer practicums. In addition, Steiner's proposal for a national roster internship site at RGM was recently approved by the American Music Therapy Association. This will be the first national roster music therapy internship site in Terre Haute, IN. Presently, Steiner resides in Terre Haute, IN, with her husband, Ryan, and daughter, Kala.

Jay Thompson, CMT
Music Therapy Equivalency - Campus (MTE-C) Alum Award: Jay Thompson, CMT, who was the first male to complete the music therapy equivalency at SMWC in 1996. At the age of 43, Thompson decided to enroll at The Woods in 1994 after encouragement from a close friend to explore music therapy. Thompson had previously been working as a successful sales manager for a large corporation but was seeking more meaning in his career path. After completing the program, he began working with boys on the Autism spectrum, and later started to work full-time at the well-known mental health center, Saint Vincent Stress Center in Indianapolis. There, he offered music therapy to a variety of populations, including individuals with substance abuse disorders and addictions. Thompson's passion for music and music therapy have helped others develop the skills they need to navigate their lives. His mission is to be a conduit for the healing power of music, always letting the music do the work. Thompson continues to support the SMWC Music Therapy programs through his generous spirit and engagement with many events.
Karen Sholander, MT-BC
Music Therapy Equivalency - Distance (MTE-D) Alum Award: Karen Sholander, MT-BC, completed the MTE-D program in 2014 as a member of the very first MTE-D cohort. With her passion for helping others to find joy and connection, she discovered that music therapy was the perfect second career. Leading up to her career as a music therapist, Sholander had worked as an elementary school music teacher, piano teacher, studio owner, performing pianist, accompanist, and she is a working mother. After completing a music education degree (BME) from Baylor University and her equivalency from SMWC, she completed the certification at Hospice and Palliative Care Music Therapy through the Center for Music Therapy in End of Life Care. Now, she is working with hospice patients and their families through the full-time salaried music therapist position she created in early 2015 through the Visiting Nurse Association of Texas (VNA). Additionally, she guides music therapy interns in the profession, is an active member of both the national and regional associations for music therapy (AMTA, SWAMTA), and she enjoys helping music therapists in her area network with one another. Sholander also presents about music therapy with various community and educational organizations and is dedicated to helping others achieve positive change and connections through music. Sholander attended the SMWC reception and received her award via Skype video!

Master of Arts in Music Therapy (MAMT) Alum Awards: The final two recipients were Annette Whitehead-Pleaux, MA, MT-BC, and Larisa McHugh, MA, MT-BC, who both completed the graduate program in 2003. 

Annette Whitehead-Pleaux, MA, MT-BC
Annette Whitehead-Pleaux, MA, MT-BC has focused on clinical practice, education, research, and service for many years. She worked for 15 years with pediatric burn survivors at a major pediatric hospital in Boston. Now, she is the Senior Clinical Supervisor at Roman Music Therapy Services, managing a staff of 12 music therapists and providing clinical supervision. Whitehead-Pleaux serves as adjunct faculty at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, Berklee College of Music, Colorado State University, and Lesley University. Additionally, she works as an active researcher, focusing on pain, anxiety, electronic music technology, and cultural responsiveness in music therapy. She has ten publications, has written 12 chapters, and was awarded the Arthur Flaggler Fultz Research Grant Award for a research study that built upon her thesis, as well as being co-editor of the book Cultural Intersections in Music Therapy: Music, Health, and the Person. Finally, Whitehead-Pleaux has been an advocate for music therapy through service to the profession throughout her entire career, holding several positions regionally and nationally in the American Music Therapy Association, including Speaker of the Assembly of Delegates, Scope of Practice Work Group, Advisory Team for the Research Priority, Chair of the Education and Training Advisory Board. In addition, she is a founding member of Team Rainbow.

Larisa McHugh, MA, MT-BC
Larisa McHugh, MA, MT-BC, received her Bachelor of Music from the University of Dayton and became board certified in 1997. Having received her Master of Arts from the MAMT program at SMWC in 2003, she is currently completing a PhD program in Psychology, with a specialization in Consciousness, Spirituality, and Integrative Health from Saybrook University in California. Larisa is an advanced trainee in the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music through Appalachian State University. In addition, she has been the Program Coordinator for the MTE-D program (in addition to teaching) since its inception in 2012. Also, McHugh has presented at the state, regional, and international level. Internationally, she has presented at the World Congress of Music Therapy in Austria and South Korea. Her areas of focus have included music therapy internship and supervision, music therapy for persons with Alzheimer’s Disease, interdisciplinary collaboration, and more. She has years of clinical experience working with older adults and co-authored a pilot study on the effect of pre-meal vocal re-creative MT on nutritional intake of residents with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias that was published in MTP in 2012. McHugh has demonstrated extensive service to the music therapy profession. She received the 2016 GLR Service Award and also the Florence Tyson Grant to study Music Psychotherapy in 2012. She has served on the American Music Therapy Association Assembly of Delegates, in President/Past-President/President-Elect positions for the Great Lakes Region of the American Music Therapy Association, as well as numerous state, regional, and national committees. She is also a yoga instructor and has two adorable dogs who keep her company as she spends endless hours at her computer.

At the conclusion of the reception and awards ceremony, Sharon Boyle, Program Coordinator of the Undergraduate Music Therapy Program, introduced a special documentary on SMWC Music Therapy that was the culmination of a senior project for undergraduate music therapy student, Allison Payonk (who is presently in her internship in Ohio).
Allison Payonk
Payonk wrote about this special project:

Last year, while considering what to do for my senior project, I knew that I wanted to combine my interest in creating and designing things with my passion for sharing what makes The Woods so special. I think it's hard to understand or explain what we experience as students, faculty, and alums from this school and music therapy program, and I wanted to see if I could encapsulate it somehow, so other people might see why this place is so incredibly special to so many of us. When Sharon recommended this project, to update and reimagine the video created 5 years ago documenting the history of music therapy at The Woods, I was all in, mostly I think because I didn't yet realize the responsibility and enormity of the project I had signed up for.

Creating this video was certainly daunting at first. How can one do justice to all the incredible people who put in so much work to create this program we've all become a part of, and the growth that is experienced by everyone who was been a part of it? As I went to create it though, I found a common theme emerged naturally: connection. 35 years ago this program was started by people I've never met and don't know, but through the legacy of The Woods and this program, and everyone who's worked to keep it alive, I, as well as all of you, are connected to them, to each other, and the work we are privileged to do in music therapy. While I created this video I felt more than ever connected to this program and all of you who make it up, and in a way, even though I created it for the SMWC music therapy program, it became a part of my journey too. My hope for this video though, is not just that I've told my experience and story in it, but that you hear your story in it too, and are reminded of the 35 amazing years that this program has had and will continue to for many more. I want to thank greatly all of the people who helped me put this together, and of course all of you, who make up the story this video tells.

The video was shown to all in attendance and the viewing involved laughter, smiles, and tears. The special nature of this place, and these incredible music therapy programs, are difficult to articulate, but the alumni, students, staff, and faculty truly emulate its beauty of connection every day.

To view the documentary video, click this link and feel free to share!

Blog Post Co-Authors: Autumn Wilson, Music Therapy Student Assistant and music therapy major; Sharon R. Boyle, MM, MT-BC, Associate Professor of Music Therapy and Coordinator of the Undergraduate Music Therapy Program.

Blog Post Editor: Sharon R. Boyle, MM, MT-BC, Associate Professor of Music Therapy and Coordinator of the Undergraduate Music Therapy Program.

Photo Credits: Sharon R. Boyle, Larisa McHugh, Amanda Steiner, Jay Thompson, and Karen Sholander.

To learn more about the Music and Music Therapy programs at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, check out our website here.


Thursday, March 21, 2019

Celebrating 35 Years of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Music Therapy: Part One

SMWC students discussing songwriting
The SMWC Music Therapy program has been celebrating 35 years’ worth of students, hard work, growth, and change, as the history of our music therapy program continues to lead us into the future. Now that it has been 35 years since this program has been established, we decided to host a special event by pairing up with the Association for Indiana Music Therapy (AIMT) to bring in some wonderful guest speakers to kick off the 2018-19 academic year.

On September 14th, 2018, Dr. Tracy Richardson, MT-BC, presented a songwriting session titled Empowering Your Clinical Songwriting. The other guest speaker this year was Nir Sadovnik, MT-BC, LCAT, who came all the way from New York to present Clinical Applications of Rap in Music Therapy on Friday morning and Keeping in Time with the Groove on Saturday, September 15th.

Dr. Tracy Richardson, Nir Sadovnik,
and Sharon Boyle
SMWC Director of Music Therapy and Chair of the Music and Theatre Department, Richardson practices music therapy on a contractual basis with a local hospital oncology unit. She has been writing songs for 30+ years and has released 2 CDs of original work. She is engaged extensively in the network of Nashville, TN songwriters. She also started a songwriting circle in Terre Haute, IN, and is passionate about supporting others in developing their own songwriting. 

Guest presenter Nir Sadovnik, MT-BC, LCAT, is a music therapy supervisor on an inpatient adult psychiatric unit at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in Brooklyn, New York. He is a faculty member in the graduate music therapy program at NYU, where he teaches piano improvisation, ‘Key Concepts in Music Therapy,’ and supervises students in the program.”

Participants received background on the clinical applications
of rap before displaying their own beats.
During Sadovnik's first presentation, he explained the genre of Rap, its history, and the potential that it has for being used in a clinical setting. Incorporating improvisation, recording technology, and creating Rap beats was central to the presentation. There was exploration of various clinical goals such as increasing self-expression, self-awareness, insights, improving relatedness, and self-esteem.

For Richardson's presentation, she focused on presenting techniques for clinical songwriting and how to use it most effectively in practice. With a  focus on developing confidence and improving skills, participants learned common chord progressions, accompaniment patterns, and worked in small groups to focus on the writing process, writing strategic songs, and using spot songs in music therapy sessions. The sessions included professional music therapists from the Indiana community and students from other music therapy students.

Afterward, new relationships were formed while also visiting with old friends and alumni who were present during an evening jam session.
Saturday's participants experimenting with grooves

On September 15th, after coffee and a light continental breakfast, Sadovnik again presented a 5-hour CMTE presentation to music therapy students and music therapists from the surrounding area with a primary focus on creating groove. He included the origins of groove and facilitated groove-based improvisations in styles such as Salsa, Reggae, Funk, and Hip-hop. 
What does ‘groove’ mean?” and “How has the vernacular term ‘groove’ evolved?” were some of the questions addressed in the beginning lecture and discussion. Participants were able to better understand and respond to the question of: "What is it about a groove and how we use the word groove that we associate with those complex rhythms that drives a musical experience and makes us want to dance?" 

After an afternoon lunch break, the participants reconvened to create music. While focusing on cultural, aesthetic, and technological considerations for the most impact, everyone in attendance jumped right in to try out instruments and get in the groove. With fascinating case vignettes and audio samples, some impromptu singing, and the breakdown of some basic grooves that all can use, everyone had a wonderful experience while exploring the meaning of groove and how it can be utilized in a therapeutic setting.

SMWC music therapy students, alums, and faculty who attended 

Blog Post Author: Autumn Wilson, Music Therapy Student Assistant and music therapy major

Blog Post Editor:  Sharon R. Boyle, MM, MT-BC, Associate Professor of Music Therapy and Coordinator of the Undergraduate Music Therapy Program. I

Photo Credits: Sharon R. Boyle

To learn more about the Music and Music Therapy programs at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, check out our website here.