Saturday, March 28, 2015

Student Elections for MTC


Congratulations to the Music Therapy Student Executive Board for 2015-2016:

President: Kelli Seida
Vice President: Devyn Burns
Treasurer: Nathan Mensah
Secretary: Jessie Bowen
Parliamentarian: Alli Payonk

Saturday, March 14, 2015

SMWC Music Therapy Faculty Spotlight: An Interview with Larisa McHugh

Larisa McHugh, MA, MT-BC, is the Coordinator of the Music Therapy Equivalency Distance (MTE-D) Program at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. As an alum from the Master of Arts in Music Therapy (MAMT) Program, Larisa has a unique understanding of the Woods and has been a wonderful addition to the faculty. Music Therapy Student Assistant and Music Therapy Equivalency Campus (MTE-C) student Nathan Mensah recently interviewed Larisa for this special Faculty Spotlight Feature.
Pictured: Larisa McHugh, MA-MT-BC

Nathan:  Would you mind telling me a little bit about your background in music?

Larisa: Yeah, so I come from a pretty musical family. I picked up piano pretty early on and then in elementary school I started saxophone. Through high school I got involved in choir, so I spent quite a bit of time in music. And, it made sense...if you spend so much time in something, you might as well make it what you do right?

Nathan: Yes, absolutely! With that diverse background, when did you decide on music therapy?

Larisa: I think it was in high school when I made that decision- chase my dreams and become a soccer star (*laughs), or go into music. And there was a voice in my head that said, “You probably won’t make it very far in soccer”, so I decided to major in music. However, I did not know about music therapy when I set out. I would describe what I wanted to do at different schools and they would suggest creating a degree program or a double major, because they did not know about music therapy. So I started off in music education, and later transferred to a school that offered music therapy and I thought “oh my gosh, this is a real profession!”. This was not something I had to create- it exists! So I transferred after 2 years at Ohio State to a Music Therapy Program at University of Dayton. From there, I completed my internship and started working right away as a music therapist and soon after got my masters degree from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

Nathan: Cool! That actually kind of leads to another question. What was your favorite part about being a student at the Woods?

Larisa: Oh my gosh, the connection. The connections I was able to make while a student at the Woods, not only with my cohort and the connections that I made with the wonderful professors, but the connections I was able to make with myself. Interpersonally and intrapersonally, I made connections that truly deepened my work. It brought everything together for me. I found a group of people I know I will be connected with for a long time. These are the most important friendships I’ve ever had, from my time at the Woods. I was able to connect who I was personally and professionally. There’s so much to be said about my time at the Woods, it is a very special place.

Nathan: Yes, it is!

Larisa: Yeah, everything just flowed together so that my work became part of my studies, and my studies were able to be completed in my work. It really helped to introduce me to new things and possibilities and set me on a path to continue to explore and to continue to deepen those connections that were made.

Nathan: You have a unique situation: You were a student at the Woods and now you are teaching at the Woods as well. What’s that like?


Larisa: It’s fantastic to be able to return to the Woods and to hopefully offer some of what was offered to me as a student to future music therapists. In a way, it’s giving back to the Woods and to the profession, and at the same time it is quite rewarding to witness the growth of the students, to see that light bulb go off for them. I’m really inspired by the work that they do and the sacrifices they are willing to make to become a music therapist- it’s great.

Nathan: Out of curiosity, what classes are you teaching (in the MTE-D program) right now?

Larisa: I’m supervising the Practicum courses, teach the Music Psychology course, and teach our Seminar course which covers ethics, reimbursement, and preparation for internship. And then I also supervise students in their internship.

Nathan: Nice! How long have you been teaching?

Larisa: The MTE-D Program started in 2012 [by Dr. Tracy Richardson], so I’ve been teaching at the Woods since 2012. Before that I had the privilege of supervising students in the Undergraduate Music Therapy Intensive Practicum course [in collaboration with Associate Professor Sharon R. Boyle], so I had some students from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods come out and spend 4-6 weeks during the summer for a practicum experience in the long term care facility where I worked at the time. That was great. I started working as a music therapist in, I think, 1996? And I began an internship program, supervised students, and taught as Adjunct Faculty at University of Dayton, and now at the Woods. In January, they made me the full-time Coordinator of the MTE-D Program.

Nathan: Congratulations!

Larisa: Thanks!

Nathan: These last two questions are a little more laid back: What type of things do you like to do outside of work?

Larisa: I have my furry little four-legged friends, I practice yoga, and I continue to make music just for fun. I love to garden and to cook. 

Nathan:  Last but not least,  and this might be challenging as a musician, but what’s your favorite song and artist right now?

Larisa: That is such a challenging question to answer! And it might be challenging for our clients as well, even those non-musicians...if I was stranded on an island, I can always go back to Gershwin, and “Rhapsody in Blue”- it always brings a smile. There’s a certain point in the piece where I always get goose bumps. If I had to pick a favorite, I’d always come back to that. But I enjoy many styles of music as a musician. 

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For more information about the Undergraduate (Bachelor of Science in Music Therapy) or the Music Therapy Equivalency Campus Programs, contact Sharon R. Boyle, MM, MT-BC, Associate Professor of Music Therapy:
 (812) 535-5145

For more information about the Master of Arts in Music Therapy (MAMT) Program, contact Dr. Tracy Richardson, MT-BC:

For more information about the Music Therapy Equivalency Distance Program, contact Larisa McHugh, MA, MT-BC: 
  • (812) 230-6662

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

SMWC Music Therapy: Introductions for the 2014-15 Academic Year

It is hard to believe that we are past Midterms and that the start of the 2014-15 academic year at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College has come and gone. Each new year brings new energy in the form of new students! The new Woods music therapy students are already hard at work with learning new course material, meeting new people, practicing new instruments, and performing new music! Even learning new vocabulary can be a challenge. For example, do YOU know what a kalimba (or thumb piano) looks and sounds like? They are fully integrated into the music culture of the Woods having just participated in their first Homecoming Concert with the SMWC Chorale and Madrigals and with several of them participating in the upcoming production of "Our Lady Victory" which will run at the end of October.

We'd like to introduce some new music therapy students who have started this fall: 

Freshman Karlee Coleman from Evansville, IN, already enjoys playing many different instruments, which explains why she is drawn to the diverse music used in music therapy. “I really want to learn how to play all of the instruments. I’m ready for it. I play a guitar, piano; I have congas and maracas in my room. I really want to learn how to play autoharp and maybe a 12 string guitar... it sounds so beautiful.” Despite her musical background, her path to music therapy was not a straightforward one. 

Karlee Coleman
“I actually wanted to be a marine biologist, and before that a veterinarian, and before that a nurse." After her mother told her about music therapy, Karlee researched it further and she "knew music was going to be part of my future.” Though the task of looking for the right school can be a daunting experience, she was quickly won over by the staff at the Woods like so many before her. “I knew when I met Sharon through Skype...during a winter storm...that there would be warmth.  Sharon and Tracy were so bright and bubbly. I love all the professors, and Dr. Mac, I love Dr. Mac! And Michael, and Ron, I love them all.” Karlee said that she loves music because it takes her mind out of reality and to new places.

 Shanine Pennington, a freshman from Sullivan, IN, describes the positive impact music has had on herself as well. “Music lets me express what I can’t do with words. Music gives me a voice when I feel like I don’t have one." She enjoys listening to Celtic and classical music because of the places it can take her musically. “It is so gorgeous….you can see your own story. They’re not telling you a story; you’re envisioning your own. You can close your eyes and see an entire thing right in front of you, an entire story laid out in front of you, and they’re not telling you what you see, you’re seeing what you feel, which is amazing, it just gives me goosebumps.” Despite being considered a strong performer now, she did not initially consider music as a career. “Well, I’ve always loved to sing. People would tell me 'you’re so good', and I thought 'no!'. I tried out for National Choir Art Series, but I got to go to Carnegie Hall. 10,000 people auditioned, 200 in the choir, 100 in the orchestra and band, and I was one of them.
Shanine Pennington

That was when I thought, okay, maybe I can do this. But…my turning point was to see how music could affect people, and all the great things it could do for others. I saw my best friend who has Cerebral Palsy…she went from not being able to speak and not controlling her arms to all of the hand movements. In four years she went from not being able to do much to doing all of the hand movements and to singing every single word…it was gorgeous...That was when I knew something had to give.”

Hayleigh Brennan is a transfer student from the University of Dayton. She has known that she wanted to go into music since high school. “I really wanted to go into something related to music when I was a junior in high school, and I began researching different careers and I happened upon music therapy. I shadowed a few therapists who lived in the area and I knew right away that it was for me. So I knew it was my calling and the purpose why God had created me to be here.” Typically students get to start attending music therapy sessions to start gaining experience after their first semester, but Hayleigh transferred much of her music therapy coursework from her previous school and was allowed to start her observational practicum experience this semester.  

Hayleigh Brennan
“I am doing my practicum at the Happiness Bag in Terre Haute. It is a day facility for adults with intellectual disabilities and developmental delays”. She could barely hold her excitement when discussing the opportunities she looks forward to this year: “ I love practicum and I’m so excited to learn more, do more, and jump right in. I’ve gotten my feet wet and now I just want to get in the water.” She also says that she plays a range of instruments already including: “Piano, guitar, ukulele, lap dulcimer, organ, Irish tin whistle, harmonica, autoharp, Q chord, various hand instruments, drums, recorder, a little bit of violin, a little bit of viola, that it? I think that’s all I play.”

Mariah Dunn
Mariah Dunn is a music student who comes to us from Michigantown, IN. She has played the trumpet for 8 years and is immersed in voice lessons and singing in the choir. Her views of music have expanded in just the few short weeks she’s been around. She is exploring the possibility of majoring in music therapy. "I didn’t realize all the ways it (music) could help people, and who all it could help. The Music as Therapy introductory class is really showing me." Mariah was interested in how music can impact people before coming to the Woods. "My niece got hurt when I was around 14, and I realized music helped her get better..A nurse had music playing, and my niece stopped crying when the music came on.” She, like many, is a big fan of the Woods. “Everyone is really close! If I get lost, they will say “oh, it’s okay you can come hang out with us”.

Devyn Burns
Devyn Burns, freshman music therapy major, is a Saint MotherTheodore Guerin Cohort Scholarship Winner and has a very diverse set of interests. "Outside of music I love soccer. I played soccer up until my junior year and I love watching it, but I don’t play it as much anymore. Taekwondo, (I come from a black belt family), is something I’m always immersed in. I still have a lot of friends in that, and we still have competitions and national meetings. I’m a second degree black belt. I actually got my black belt when I was 8 and I started when I was 3...My dad had his own Taekwondo school and I was with him the majority of my childhood. Despite these many interests, her primary interest is in music. Growing up, church music was a big part of her life and she often led worship on Sundays.  “I was at church for 12 hours at a time, because I taught two-year-olds as a Sunday School Teacher, and then I had band rehearsal from 3 and be done by 8:30. That was all contemporary Christian rock and that’s what all my family listens to.” Since she is from Indianapolis, the culture shock of a smaller school was daunting to her at first, but she has come to appreciate it.“ My smallest class was probably 23 at my high school, my biggest class was 80...But I really like it here because I get that 1:1 attention that you don’t get from a bigger institution. I’m growing closer to people in my class... and all of the music majors are awesome, and so that community is really, really great.”
Alli Payonk

Allison ("Alli") Payonk is another freshman who decided to study music therapy and is a Terre Haute native. She has a background in choir, volunteering, and dance.“I’ve been dancing at Terre Haute Academy of Dance since I was 4 or 5-years-old. I just finished my last senior dance recital there this spring. I play basic piano, guitar, I’m starting ukulele, and I have a mandolin, but I can’t play it yet. I’ve been in choir all four years (of high school), two of those years were in Counterpoint, which is like the top choir at Terre Haute North. I’ve been part of lots of service groups all through high school. I’ve been part of JDC which is Junior Department Club which is a young woman’s service organization in Terre Haute and the National Art Society.” She enjoys the self-expression that music therapy allows for clients and provides for her.“I feel like I generally have a lack of self confidence in all other areas, except for music. Music gives me the confidence that I don’t have, and the self-expression I can’t get with anything else." In regard to genres, she enjoys listening to alternative, indie rock, and folk. 

The students all seem to be hitting it off as they can frequently be seen wandering the halls of the Conservatory, jamming, and practicing music. There is no doubt that this strong group of women will make the Woods even brighter than before. 

A few new and returning students jamming in the Conservatory stairwell

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Interviews completed by: Nathan Mensah, Music Therapy Student Assistant
Edited by: Sharon R. Boyle, Associate Professor of Music Therapy and Coordinator of Undergraduate Music Therapy


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Reflecting and Preparing

The 2013-14 campus music therapy academic year came to a close in early May, but the music therapy graduate (MAMT) and music therapy equivalency distance (MTED) programs held residencies in May, June, July, and August. In the past year several music therapy students from campus and MTED have completed their clinical internships and passed the national board examination, while graduates/alums of both the undergraduate and graduate music therapy programs have moved into new jobs, had babies, gotten married, published, presented, and more. We are so proud of our students and alums, as well as our faculty!
Final campus practicum class (May 2014)
The MAMT residency in early June was an intensive week as students were immersed in either the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery in Music (BMGIM) or Advanced Improvisation and Composition. Both courses are taught by renowned music therapists and both courses are often reflected on by students as meaningful, or even transformative in nature.
Learning improvisational group techniques
"The piano is our friend"
Laughter is important in learning!
 The recent fall residency for the MAMT program brought us a new cohort of ten students (three of whom completed the undergraduate or equivalency campus program)s. Music therapists from all over the country come together in this graduate program and the bonds that develop are stronger through the music-making that is an important part of the program.
Final residency for this cohort
(Fall 2014) 

In addition, as a final way to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Music Therapy at The Woods, the SMWC Music Therapy Program hosted Nordoff-Robbins music therapist Alan Turry, DA, LCAT, MT-BC, on June 3rd for a Continuing Education course (CMTE) he presented entitled, "Improvisation Primer: Integrate Clinical Improvisation into your Practice".
CMTE participants in June 2014 with
 Dr. Alan Turry
We welcomed returning distance equivalency students, adjunct faculty, and a new cohort of students for the MTED residency. This unique and distinctive program now has begun to send new board certified music therapists out into the professional world and we are so proud of this accomplishment!

Fall 2014 MTED Residency (Faculty and Students)


Finally, in a couple of weeks we will welcome back new and returning undergraduate music therapy students to campus to kick off the 2014-15 academic year. We are excited to begin our 31st year and feel the energy and excitement of the students. We will be sure to introduce some new students via this blog in the coming weeks.



Here's to another successful academic year (and continued meaningful connections through music) ahead!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Reflection of a SMWC Music Therapy Senior:The Journey Unfolding

Sherry Bube, senior
Four years ago, I started on a journey of growth and exploration when I entered Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College as a freshman music therapy student. These years have been marked by moments of joy and celebration, academic achievements, “aha!” moments in the classroom and practice room, and those relational moments between faculty and peers as we supported each other in our educational endeavors. It has also been marked by moments of frustration and doubt; juggling full schedules, experiencing learning blocks when the course material was not quite making sense, or struggling to get a concept. However, at the end of these four years, I am now heading out – from the music therapy program, from dedicated faculty and a network of friends, from "The Woods". This time, I start out with a new found intentional dedication to music as therapy, to a never ending journey of learning and growing, and to a better understanding of myself, my music, and my vocation in life. All these things have taken, and are still taking, time to unfold.


Bube (Center-right) and friends
The undergraduate music therapy program at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College has prepared me in numerous ways that extend beyond the classroom. My experiences include the accumulation of time and involvement in such areas as the practice room, co-curricular activities, practicum placements, the classroom, and many more areas. These experiences have resulted in a better understanding of myself and others through relationships, growth in leadership abilities, developing critical thinking abilities, and having a confidence in my work with others--all aspects that I had not fully possessed before being in this program.

Whenever I am asked about my experience at SMWC, the first word that comes to mind is "splendid". It has been splendid because each person with whom I encountered offered me an opportunity to come away from that interaction with a new idea, perspective, or simply a smile. It was splendid because being called a “Woodsie” holds meaning beyond the association of just attending this specific school. It also means being someone who has been supported to fully dive into her varied interests, grasp the true meaning of what it is to be a lifelong learner, and who is held to a standard of care and respect for each other and our community. Specifically, my music therapy classes with Sharon Boyle, M.M., MT-BC, Coordinator of Undergraduate Music Therapy, cultivated and fostered learning as an all-encompassing process that takes not just the intellectual facet, but includes the entire person: mind, body, and heart. Through the experiences I shared in, and with the music of my peers, I was able to create, to become vulnerable, and to support myself and others in previously unexplored ways. 
Sherry Bube and  Sharon Boyle, Assoc Prof of Music Therapy
The undergraduate music therapy program at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College offers some of the most diverse practicum experiences! My 8 practicum sites encompassed individuals of different populations, age ranges, and abilities, and I have been honored to share in and witness clients' growth and healing processes in the context of music therapy. These experiences have included the following:

  • a practicum experience on a memory care unit where I experienced the connection and awakening of a woman who was in the mid-stage of Alzheimer’s disease through music. At a time when her words were starting to fail her, music was a way for her to express her feelings and to be present in the moment with me and others in the group. 
  • a practicum experience at an elementary school in a classroom for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities through which music therapy provided a little boy who was non-verbal the ability to appropriately and successfully interact with his peers and express his creativity and energy.
  • a summer intensive practicum at a long-term care facility, where I was blessed with the opportunity to work with an older adult who used to be an active musician, but now is unable to participate in this activity due to health reasons. In the context of music therapy sessions, I was able to provide opportunities of success and enjoyment in music where he was able to participate through instrument play and song re-creation. At the end of our sessions together, he told me that he once more thought of himself as a musician. 
  • a two semester practicum providing group music therapy to adults residing on a behavioral health unit, through which I was able to better understand how music therapy serves to build relationships, foster expression, and afford these individuals the ability to cope with mental health illness. Music became a means to recognize and address their areas of need and to celebrate their strengths.
Each of these practicum experiences, as well as ones unmentioned, have contributed to my experience and understanding of clinical musicianship, the therapeutic process and presence that occurs in music therapy, as well as my own responses and interactions. I have changed and grown because of these experiences on a personal, professional, and musical level.

In the end, I have come to understand that music is not just a means of entertainment. Music is a way we witness, honor, and acknowledge the dignity, beauty, and peace that each one of us offers. Music therapy is then a way to work through need areas, provide opportunities for expression, and is a means to engage others in their own process of life. As I reach the end of my time here at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and head to my *6-month music therapy internship, I know that this specific part of my journey is concluding. However, each ending brings a new beginning and that is what makes my journey even more exciting.

 --Reflection written by Sherry Bube, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Music Therapy Senior

*Sherry will be interning for 6 months at a pediatric hospital in Salt Lake City in the coming year to complete her degree program.



Friday, April 11, 2014

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Music Therapy Club Exec Board 2014-15

Congratulations to the newly elected officers for the 2014-15 
SMWC Music Therapy Club Executive Board:

President: Nathan Mensah
Vice-President: Kelli Seida
Secretary: Summer Alvey
Treasurer: Paige Fath
Parliamentary: Hannah Miller

Historian: Beth Allard 


The SMWC Music Therapy Club was est. 2003

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College 30th Anniversary of Music Therapy and Reunion Reflection (Part One)

It has been nearly two months since our Music Therapy Reunion here on the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College campus and I am still drawing upon that experience. Last year, as Dr. Tracy Richardson and I began discussing what we wanted to do to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of Music Therapy at the Woods, we both were very clear that we wanted to bring in guest speakers who represented a way of thinking about music therapy that we feel the programs here have emulated over the years. We wanted to be very clear in our identity as a music therapy program, connecting our wonderful history and traditions with our future aspirations and current programs. We hosted the September Student Cooperative Workshop with University of Dayton, University of Evansville, and SMWC students in Cecilian Auditorium and asked Carolyn Koebel, MM, MT-BC, to present a Drumming Workshop, centering on specific rhythm patterns for diverse populations, body rhythms, frame drum techniques and more. Koebel has taught our World Music course as an adjunct faculty member in our Master of Arts in Music Therapy (MAMT) program many times over the years, and it seemed fitting to bring her to campus during our anniversary year. We had nearly 80 people in attendance, all playing, singing, moving, and drumming on the stage!
Playing as one large ensemble in Cecilian Auditorium
Each school that participated helped out so much by bringing in their own drums and rhythm instruments to help supplement our own supply, and we provided lunch, catered by Sodexo, in the Foyer of the Conservatory Building (which turned 100 this year!).
Koebel brought some beautiful drums from her own collection which truly added to the authenticity of the sounds she was teaching. The SMWC students, as always, were incredible in their ability to help follow through on what was organized, providing assistance anywhere necessary!
Koebel teaching a playing technique
The rest of the fall semester was spent gearing up for our events in January and February. The winter has been particularly difficult this year, and we began our "Spring" semester with having to cancel classes due to the College closing (and most of Terre Haute!) when a large snowstorm blew into town, along with some of the lowest sub-zero temperatures we have seen in many years. I was very worried that weather would keep us from holding our Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 events, but Providence was on our side and while we thought there would be severe weather keeping everyone from attending, it was less severe than expected the day of the Reunion and CMTE. Unfortunately, the person we planned to honor on January 31st, Dr. Laurette Bellamy, SP, who started the music therapy program in 1983, was unable to attend as hoped.
 SMWC Undergraduate Music Therapy Students at Reunion
Alums from early 2000's
On the day of the Music Therapy Reunion, SMWC faculty member from the Text and Image Department, Elaine Yaw, was still working on our 30th Anniversary movie, and we both were putting the finishing touches on it (and I kept adding pictures!) right up to the time people were arriving! The tables were set in the foyer (thanks to Julie Worthington), the cake and refreshments were set up (thanks to Sodexo), and the big screen and A/V equipment was all ready (thanks to Tyler Hutcheson). I had placed peanut M&Ms on tables, in honor of the MAMT tradition of always having these at every residency. The first alums began to arrive and I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion. 

Cathleen Flynn, presently completing her internship: It was energizing being in the presence of so many individuals who are contributors to and beneficiaries of music therapy at The Woods. It's so much more than just an academic program - it's a network of passionate musicians, humanists, friends. It feels a lot like a family even though I don't not know every person. The film made me reflect on the mutualistic relationship between students in the program, faculty members, and the curriculum (which is, to me, a dynamic living entity!). Faculty shapes the curriculum according to their philosophies and needs they perceive in the profession, the curriculum and faculty shape students' skills and world views, and students respond with unique insights and experiences that guide faculty to previously unexplored possibilities. This is true education, and it's beautiful. I think the events the Department is offering embody this spirit of exceptional, student-centered education that has always been present in the Conservatory, evidenced by our graduates who make amazing impacts in their professions and by our faculty who model loyalty and innovation every day. Hearing stories and remembrances made me appreciate the diversity within the program, and I felt both proud and humbled considering how many lives have been touched by music therapy at The Woods.
The only two male equivalency students
in the campus program finally meet! 
Current undergraduates and campus equivalency students arrived, current faculty, former faculty from the Music and Theatre Department, and more alumnae arrived. We had a few MAMT alumnae arrive which was very special, but unfortunately no current distance equivalency students and MAMT students were able to attend (their residencies had been the previous weekend).  Dr. Brian Abrams was in attendance as a special guest, as he was presenting a CMTE continuing education course the following day for the anniversary. In addition, Dr. Dottie King, President, was present to provide a few remarks, and Dr. Janet Clark, VPAA, was also our guest. Finally, Letter 10 performed and provided an important musical "container" to the entire event! The schedule of the evening:
Old friends reconnect
6:30 Arrival and mingling 
7:00 Welcome (by Tracy and Sharon) (light refreshments provided)
7:05 Dr. Dottie King's remarks
7:10-7:30  Recognition of Dr. Laurette Bellamy, SP (who established the MT program)
7:30 Movie presentation (collage/pictures, etc)
7:45 Sharing memories, etc.
8:00 Announcements/Closing
8:00-8:30 Letter 10 performs (mingling)


Alum Nicole Gilberti, a music therapist now working for Opportunities for Positive Growth: Seeing previous and current students alongside individuals who have helped to form the SMWC Music Therapy Program was beautiful. It was wonderful seeing old and new friends and sharing stories of our time at the Woods. The film showed me that I am just a part of a much bigger puzzle. Those involved in creating the program paved a path for me to become the professional that I am today. If the program was not created at the Woods, I would have gone to a different institution and received a very different kind of training. When starting the program, those involved took their time to research the different music therapy affiliations and chose what best fit with the College Mission. As a student I was always encouraged to dream big and follow through with my ambitions. I loved hearing similar stories from year to year. The details of the tales were different, but the content was very similar. We are all connected, throughout the years by a strong education, determined and driven professors, a calling to help others, and the lovely campus. 

Nicole Gilberti (pictured left)
While Sister Laurette Bellamy was not able to attend, we did show the engraved plaque we had made for her, recognizing her important role in creating the Music Therapy Program at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. The movie presentation which followed was moving, and featured interview clips of Sister Laurette (thanks to Elaine Yaw!) describing the history of the program. Images from 30 years moved before us and we read the accomplishments of students, faculty, and alumnae over the years. The sharing of memories was meaningful and I think we all felt the connection...the bridge...between all programs and all eras of the programs in that one evening. The Ring Song spontaneously began and everyone stood in a circle in the foyer, taking in the history and the memories of the space as the final notes sounded. 


The evening concluded with Letter 10 performing, and Jay Thompson (the first male campus equivalency student) jumped in to play with them, jamming on his harmonica and leading a rousing blues song which had the Conservatory filled with energy and excitement. 
Dr. Tracy Richardson "photobombing" Letter 10
Julia Lopez-Kaley (pictured: center)
Julia Lopez-Kaley, another alum from the undergraduate program and a member of Letter 10: 
It was a really special experience to be at the reception. The energy and spirit during the celebration provided needed nourishment, connectedness, and a deep sense of gratitude that I was able to be a part of it. I felt especially grateful that I was asked to provide music at the event. The music – the shared experience, the way it changes an environment, the way it fosters connection – has always been stressed as essential to professional competence and personal growth within the music therapy program at The Woods. It was an honor to participate in providing the music with my good friends and The Woods community.

The film helped me feel like part of a special, collective whole and community. It is sometimes easy to forget about the history before and after one’s own undergraduate, graduate, or professional experience at The Woods. I felt an intense gratitude for the work, passion, and commitment of those before, after, and during my time at St. Mary’s. It is apparent that a focus on professional responsibility, musical and personal development, and clinical experience have been part of the program since it began in 1983. I am thankful that I was a part of the history and development of the program in my own way and I walked away from the weekend with a renewed sense of responsibility to continue to support the music therapy program at The Woods. It is one of the best programs in the United States, and it is essential to the growth of the music therapy profession. 

Current MT Faculty, Sharon Boyle and Tracy Richardson
Former Director of Theatre, Sharon Ammen (right) and
Current Choir Director, Michael Boswell (left)

Mingling at reception



-Written by Sharon R Boyle, MM, MT-BC, Associate Professor of Music Therapy and Coordinator of the Undergraduate Music Therapy Program at SMWC
*Part Two will be written about Dr. Brian Abrams' CMTE and Dr. Alan Turry's CMTE at the end of the semester.