Thursday, October 12, 2017

New Beginnings for Our New SMWC Music and Music Therapy Majors

New music and music therapy students 2017-18
It is hard to believe that another academic year at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is well underway. In fact, we just celebrated our Homecoming this past weekend and the Homecoming Concert was an incredible way for all parts of our campus to come together through the arts. With each new academic year, we welcome new students into the Department of Music and Theatre. We have so many students from different places, with diverse life experiences and musical backgrounds. Enjoy meeting some of our new students, some who are studying as music majors and several others who are music therapy majors.
Ashley Griggs

Ashley Griggs has come to the Woods after completing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Bluegrass, Country, and Old Time Music from East Tennessee State University (ETSU). Ashley is pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy after debating about the amount of time it would take to earn a second degree. “No matter what societal norms dictate, there aren’t actually any rules about when you should finish secondary education. I wanted playing music to be a fulfilling experience. I love performing as a singer/songwriter. That will always be an important aspect of my life, but I wanted to play music for people beyond the purposes of entertainment.” Ashley reflects on her time at ETSU and compares it to her new experiences here at SMWC: “I learned so much from masters of this music and treasure my time there [at ETSU]. I knew coming into the music therapy program that many people would be from different musical backgrounds, specifically classical backgrounds, and I found this simultaneously terrifying and exciting. I am also very aware that as future music therapists, we need to be well-rounded musicians.” Ashley hopes to share her experiences with other students as they share theirs with her. About the recent Homecoming Concert: "Singing with the alumni made me feel more a part of this community. I was also asked to play fiddle on a piece the Madrigals were doing.  I never thought I would get to combine my love of fiddle with my love of choral music. I've always had to separate the two. In some ways this concert confirmed that I made the right choice and coming to SMWC."
Rose Shaffer

Abigail “Rose” Shaffer is a student majoring in Music Therapy with a primary instrument of saxophone. Rose has said, “The biggest surprise to me about the music therapy program is that it's very hands on at some points, which is great and fun!” She enjoys participating in musical experiences and then discussions of how the experience may be used in a session with clients. Rose looks forward to working with clients during her practicum experiences in the coming years: “I think while it'll provide a lot of challenges, it'll be worth it in the very end. Helping the client in the end is what's worth it.” When asked which SMWC tradition she finds most interesting, Rose said Big/Little Week. “It gives the freshmen a chance to make friends with an older student and have fun [while figuring out the identify of their] Big.”            

Valerie Haley
Valerie Haley
is a new student pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Therapy at SMWC and one of the recipients of the 2017-18 Musician of Promise Scholarship. Haley, one of the 2017-18 Musician of Promise Scholarship winners, is also a member of the SMWC Band, Chorale, and Madrigals. Valerie was drawn to music therapy because it was a profession where she could utilize her gifts and talents to help people in need. When asked about her biggest surprise about the SMWC Music Therapy Program, Valerie stated, “It was a surprise to me how different each student is and how each person comes from a different starting point. There are so many different perspectives and the music faculty are really good at working with each student at their own level.” Valerie reflects on the recent Homecoming Concert: “It has been a lot of work keeping up with all the music I’m supposed to learn between Chorale, Madrigals, and Band, but at the same time, I love how my life has become totally saturated with music. I particularly enjoy Madrigals because you can sense that everyone involved has a deep love for music-making...I feel like this concert gave me a little more of a connection to the College's past.” Valerie looks forward to Ring Day for ”it’s about accomplishment, growth, and maturity” and she finds it interesting and meaningful.

Caroline Steinrock
Caroline Steinrock comes from a long background of piano playing. “I have been playing since the second grade, and I never want to stop learning!” She is now majoring in Music Therapy with piano as her primary instrument. Since studying music at the collegiate level, Caroline speaks of her new perspective of music: "I have been exposed to many new musical experiences. I have never sung in a choir before, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how exciting it is! Making music with that large of a group is exhilarating. Performing in the Homecoming Chorale concert was an all-around memorable experience for me as a brand new student here at The Woods. When we opened our portion of the concert with “Lion Sleeps Tonight”, I immediately smiled and began to really get into the music. It was evident that the audience really enjoyed our song selection, and I could feel a great sense of community from where I was standing." When asked about her experience so far at the Woods, she says, “I love being a Pomeroy, because everyone around you is as passionate about their education and their talents as you are. It’s a great environment to be in.”

Sarah Petty, a Music major and flute primary, talks about her love of music. “I have been in band since the 6th grade, and taking private lessons for 6 years.” Sarah is preparing for the Homecoming Concert in Band and Chorale: “In Band, the songs were coming together smoothly and everyone was playing their right parts. And in Chorale, everyone was singing the right parts and it flowed very well and everyone was blending.”
Ronald Brewer

Ronald Brewer, a new music student and singer at the Woods, is open to many types of music such as traditional, rock, hip hop, and others. He looks forward to expanding his musical skills, “I definitely want to grow more in my musical realms [for] both classical and musical theater. I would like to expand my vocals to things like jazz and perhaps some forms of rock. I believe in keeping yourself versatile.” So far, music theory and piano have been the most challenging for Ronald, “I think I grasp both of those subjects conceptually, but the actual execution is quite difficult.” Ronald is a member of the Woods Vocal Ensemble and has become involved in the fall theatrical production "Almost, Maine" which opens in November. When asked about the Homecoming Concert, he said, "I really enjoyed the energy of the audience. The enthusiasm of the alumni definitely made things easier for us to go through. He is applying himself and enjoying his experience as a Pomeroy: “It truly has been a blessing to be able to thrust myself into the community and be involved on this beautiful campus.”

Justine Gibson
Justine Gibson, another recipient of the 2017-18 Musician of Promise Scholarship, is majoring in Music Therapy with a primary study in voice. Justine discovered the power of music after her grandfather suffered from an injury and used music to ease pain during recovery. ”The effect music has on people” is what has drawn Justine to the music therapy profession. Michael Boswell, the Music and Theatre Department’s choral and voice professor, introduced Justine to music therapy as she studied voice with him during her final years of high school. Justine has found the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music to be the most interesting topic mentioned in her introductory music therapy class this semester. Justine performed in the Homecoming Concert as a member of both the Chorale and Madrigals. “It has been very fun. I love to learn new music, especially if there is a lot of it. Just pushes me to work harder! . . . my favorite part [of the Homecoming Concert] was when we were able to sing with the Alums. Singing it [the Ring Song] with the alums just gave me an even greater sense of unity, I just felt like I was right where I needed to be in that moment.”
New students showing their goofy sides - it is midterm after all!
Music Therapy at the Woods - Going Strong!
In addition to the growth in the Undergraduate Music Therapy Program, the Music Therapy Equivalency Distance Program continues to draw many students from across the country. Larisa McHugh, MTED Program Coordinator, and all the wonderful adjunct faculty and staff, are proud that the program celebrates 5 years!  The Master of Arts in Music Therapy program, under the leadership of Dr. Tracy Richardson and in its 17th year, continues to develop and expand its reach through amazing student research, alums who are leaders in the field, and faculty experts.

Blog post interviewer: Sarah Cary, Music Therapy Student Assistant 
Editor and Author: Sharon R. Boyle, Associate Professor of Music Therapy and Coordinator of Undergraduate Music Therapy/Campus Equivalency
For more information about the SMWC Undergraduate Music Therapy and Music Therapy Equivalency-Campus programs, contact:
Sharon R. Boyle, MM, MT-BC 

For information about the SMWC Master of Arts in Music Therapy program, contact: Dr. Tracy Richardson, MT-BC

For more information about the SMWC Music Therapy Equivalency-Distance (MTED)Online program, contact:  Larisa McHugh, MA, MT-BC

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Being a Mindful Community of Client Advocacy: Music Therapy Social Media Advocacy Month

Music Therapists: Being a Mindful Community of Client Advocacy

    Every January, there is an Advocacy Month for Music Therapy in Social Media that the Regulatory Affairs Board within the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) help to coordinate. With that, a theme is suggested and bloggers within the music therapy community are encouraged to write about advocacy issues in music therapy. The 2017 theme is: Your Guide to Advocacy Zen. CBMT encourages us to share the following: 

"Advocacy can help open doors, produce opportunities for growth, expand your horizons, and grow your personal and professional network. Advocacy is also not without its challenges. Over the course of the past decade, music therapists have been faced with responding to misinformed, potentially damaging comments that can serve to undermine the profession and services we provide, all while striving to continue moving forward with advocacy efforts that make a positive difference. These negative exchanges can lead to feelings of frustration, anger, and stress, and serve to potentially distract us from focusing on our clients and our work.

     In light of the contentiousness that seems to surround legislative and policy issues, we propose incorporating a spirit of mindfulness to advocacy efforts. Mindfulness is defined as a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. This requires an awareness of our attitudes, feelings, thoughts, and actions; an understanding of how they impact our experiences and behaviors; and a willingness to take responsibility for our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being."

     In today's world, advocacy takes on new meaning and importance. Music therapists are poised to be important voices as policy and legislation moves forward in the areas of healthcare and education. What role can we play? 

    As educators and supervisors, it is our responsibility to help students understand that caring for our clients does not end in the session room. It continues beyond, as we advocate for our clients when we see an injustice, or when there is some type of policy or legislation that may harm them and take away their rights. The therapist-client relationship is established and developed through trust and respect. Our students need to understand that our clients are individuals who need our support even when the treatment has come to an end. Sometimes, we must be the voice for those without one.

   As professionals, it is our responsibility to be a proactive and coherent voice of reason, as well as one who is paying attention and aware of what is happening locally and at the state level, as well as within the national realm of healthcare and education. We are well-educated in the needs and supports needed to help our clients be successful and thriving, and we know that the diversity we see in our clients is a microcosm of the global picture. Diversity is not a political word. Advocacy does not need to be divisive. 

SMWC Music Therapy Students and Faculty:
Working toward being a mindful community of client advocates
     So, how does this connect to the theme of this year's Music Therapy Advocacy Month in Social Media related to mindfulness? The idea of "Mindfulness" is an important one in music therapy. As I sit with a client and we engage in music experiences, I am mindful of my own thoughts, feelings, values, and beliefs as I am simultaneously trying to be open and mindful of my client's own experience. In order to be a better therapist, I must understand how my client is experiencing the music. It may be different from me. We might need or want different things from the music, but ultimately, the therapeutic relationship allows us to work together to create something meaningful. It is not always beautiful. It is not always pleasing to the ear. But, ultimately, it becomes something from which we both can draw from, learn from, and grow within as people. 

     As music therapists we are part of a diverse community of people from all walks of life. Our varied backgrounds, beliefs, and values allow us to enter into the multi-faceted worlds of our clients, meeting them in the music space where we see one another's humanity - and celebrate it. And so we must move into the diverse community around us and try to mindfully do the same, for this is the world in which both we, and our clients, live.

About the Author: Sharon R. Boyle is an Associate Professor of Music Therapy and been on faculty at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College since 2002. She is the Program Coordinator for the Undergraduate Music Therapy Program.

For more information about the SMWC Undergraduate Music Therapy and Music Therapy Equivalency-Campus programs, contact:
Sharon R. Boyle, MM, MT-BC ( 

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

For more information about the SMWC Music Therapy Equivalency-Distance (MTED) program, contact: 
Larisa McHugh, MA, MT-BC (

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Welcome to the New SMWC Music and Music Therapy Students!

Olivia Wendel
Olivia Wendel, who plays flute and is a freshman music therapy major, was originally going to major in Environmental Science, but she heard about the music therapy program after enrolling at SMWC. “It just kind of clicked in my mind that this is what I should be doing with my life.” Olivia knew she had a passion for helping others and has always been musical throughout her life.  She says the biggest surprises at SMWC have been the differences between coming from a large high school to a small college: “You get more one-on-one attention if you ever need it.” She is growing as a musician and she loves the opportunities. Olivia advises future SMWC music therapy students to be ready for a new family. “You have a huge support system that is helping and pushing you along the way. It's truly an amazing thing.”

Jacob Wilson
 Jacob Wilson, a percussionist and freshman music therapy major, had not heard of music therapy prior to applying to SMWC. A percussionist, he had a lot of interest in psychology and becoming a therapist. “I thought it [music therapy] was perfect. I could help people through therapy and still have a strong connection to music.” To future SMWC music therapy students: “Jump in and fear not, for your professors are there to help you.” He adds: “If you have a natural inclination for music and want to help people, what better way than to be a Music Therapist?” Jacob plays many different instruments which will serve him well as a music therapist including: guitar, piano, ocarina, and Native American flute.

Catherine Larson
SMWC 2016-17 Musician of Promise Scholarship winner, Catherine Larson, is a soprano and freshman music therapy major. Catherine is not a fan of large class sizes and uninterested professors, so when she came to the Woods and saw the small student body and invested professors she knew it was a good fit. “I just knew that this is where I needed to be.” Reflecting on her campus visit where she learned about music therapy, she says “I fell in love and everything fell into place.” Her connections to professors and their willingness to help, along with how comfortable and strongly organized the music therapy program is have been the biggest surprises. Catherine’s advice for students interested in majoring in music therapy? “Go ahead and do it. SMWC is very special especially the music program and if you like small environments, and peace, this is the place to be.” She adds that singing with the SMWC Chorale and Madrigals has been something she dreamed of since seeing a concert as a prospective student. 

Sara Langenberger
                                                                           Sara Langenberger, soprano and sophomore in music, has plans of changing her major after watching a video about Music Therapy helping treat Alzheimer's Disease. “I have family members who have experienced this disease, so it is very close to my heart. It sparked my interest, and the more I learned about it the more I loved it!” Sara’s biggest surprise about the SMWC Music Therapy Program has been “just how all of the teachers are genuinely kind and want you to succeed, which is something you may not find at a large college.” Her advice to future MT students: “Keep an open mind and get ready to learn because this will truly change your life.”

Natalie Coffin
Natalie Coffin, singer/songwriter and pianist, is pursuing her second bachelor’s degree in music therapy. “I have a BA in Creative Writing from IUPUI and am a lifelong professional singer songwriter and musician who was planning to go to law school.  But life took a different turn for me last year.  My mother became ill unexpectedly and passed away after a brief illness.  I had a lot of hours to think about life in the eight weeks she was in the hospital.  Before she passed away, in one of our last conversations, she told me to create a life I would love, and to never give up on music.  So…that is why I’m here.” Natalie feels music therapy is such an exciting field.  “In this short time I can see that there is so much to learn, and yet, I feel as if I’m already a part of a wonderful profession that has so much to offer not only clients and patients, but also to us as Music Therapy students and eventually as Music Therapists.  I’m immensely grateful to be studying Music Therapy at SMWC.” Reflecting on her decision to apply and audition at SMWC, Natalie says, “The audition process was way out of my comfort zone.  It took a lot of practice and a lot of prayer.  And of course, Professor Sharon Boyle and Dr. Tracy Richardson and the rest of the entire department made it so easy.  I can honestly say it was one of my proudest life moments when I completed my audition and was offered a place in the Music Therapy Program of SMWC.  As Oprah says, it was a full circle moment for me, one that I had dreamed about for a very long time…And the best part is, I know that I am becoming an even better musician, expanding my skill set, facing my fears, and living life without regret.  How cool is that?” Natalie is hoping to add the new songwriting emphasis to her major: “I am looking forward to learning more about composition and notation as I have some music percolating in my mind that is of the symphonic choral ensemble type.”

Liz Yeazel

            Elizabeth “Liz” Yeazel, pianist and freshman music therapy major, wanted to pursue a career where she could help people in need. She wrote a research paper on alternative therapies and discovered she loved the idea of being a music therapist. She reflects on her first visit to SMWC: “I met Professor Boyle, an onsite supervising music therapist, and two freshmen music therapy majors. I was blessed enough to view a recorded music therapy session, and that was my special moment. I have always wanted to help those in need, and when I learned I could combine my love for music and my passion for giving back, I knew this was the career path for me.” When asked about the biggest surprise to her in the SMWC music therapy program: “The biggest surprise thus far has probably been how unique everyone is, including professors. I was afraid I would be coming in with little knowledge compared to my peers, but that is not the case. I am quickly realizing everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and it's absolutely beautiful. Individuality is key in this program because no two music therapists will be alike, and no two clients will be exactly the same.” Liz advises future students to “be ready to embrace your mistakes and rejoice in your breakthroughs. We're all on the same journey here in this program.”

*Sarah Cary
            Sarah Cary, alto and transfer student into the music therapy program this year, originally majored in Music Education at another institution. “I began to look at other majors. While researching, I came to the conclusion I was very interested in counseling and therapy work. However, none of what I found included music and I wanted to keep music within my career. For a while I thought there was no career that involved both of my interests. I met a current music therapy student at SMWC and he spoke to me about the major. “Since I’ve started, I am loving it! I was told so many positive things about being a student at the Woods and I am now experiencing them first-hand.” When asked about the biggest surprise about being in the SMWC Music and Theatre Department, Sarah said she is amazed at how invested the instructors are in students' individual growth. “They ask us how we’re doing and are actually interested in our answers. They want to make sure we are understanding our school work and succeeding as much as possible. Our instructors are very willing to help students outside of the classroom and let us know when we are doing well. Our instructors make sure to let us know when we make improvements. I really appreciate that.” Sarah’s advice to future students? “Work hard and dedicate yourself. This is your future career and the only way to work well in your field is to put in the work and dedication now.”

Toby Inserra
Tobias “Toby” Inserra, percussionist and freshman music therapy major, knew he wanted to pursue music therapy from the start and loved SMWC after visiting. “The biggest surprise has to be how much I love it! I just thought it was going to be like any other degree program, but I quickly found that I'm not here to get a degree I am here to get the foundation for my career.” Toby’s advice to students looking into the music therapy program here? “Do it! I was unsure if this was going to be the right fit for me, but it only took one visit for me to figure out this is where I need to be. So just take a chance and at least see what it’s all about.” Toby is excited to be part of the renewal of the instrumental studies and band at SMWC. “As a percussionist, I am really looking forward to being a part of the band brought back this year. While we are just a small band now we will grow and become an integral part of the SMWC music program.”
Annamaria Farmer, freshman MT major

Jacob Reinhart, freshman music major
  Jacob Reinhart, bass/baritone and music major, saw the opportunity to be one of the first undergraduate male music students in the Department of Music and Theatre. “I felt the opportunity too rare to give up and decided to pursue my degree here.” Jacob advises future music students: “For any other guys who are thinking of enrolling in the music program they certainly should invest some time looking into this school because it does have, in my opinion, an excellent program without too much pressure. From what I've learned here so far I can definitely say this school would be a good choice for those who want to take their music education seriously.” Jacob likes to sing classical, Broadway, and gospel music. “I'd like to learn more contemporary styles because I believe a singer should be able to sing all kinds of music.” Jacob is a member of the new Woods Vocal Ensemble started this year.

Group selfie!

*Blog post author: 
Sarah Cary, Music Therapy Student Assistant 

Editor and Blog Coordinator: 
Sharon R. Boyle, MM, MT-BC
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:
phone: (812) 535-5145;

Monday, May 2, 2016

Senior Reflection: A Musical Journey

    Truth be told, I have not looked forward to writing this reflection because it means my time of being on the SMWC campus is coming to a close. I was also worried I would not be able to fully articulate how much my time here has meant to me in writing.  Until last week, I had a very different reflection I was going to share. As often is the case with wonderful Providential timing, I witnessed something recently that allowed me to more effectively process what I wanted to say.

Nathan Mensah in first year of cello lessons
    As part of the Spring Choral Concert, the Madrigals performed the seven movement work “Magnificat”by Norwegian composer Kim AndrĂ© Arnesen. For the past few months I had heard this piece being rehearsed and was really excited to hear it all the way through. During the 40 minutes of music, I was taken on a very powerful emotional journey. My eyes teared up nearly the entire time. I was moved by the beautiful music and could not help but close my eyes and bathe in the auditory ambience. This music spoke to me (and the audience) and it pervaded me. The experience was extremely cathartic and I did not need to understand the text to have it speak to me. How could a (very talented) choir of twelve, a soprano soloist, and an organist move me in such ways? The answer should have been more obvious for someone who is in school learning about how music affects each of us in different ways.

    Music is the way I often process, communicate, and share with others. Music is the vessel through which I can express things I cannot put into words. When I hear a piece of music, I can often be seen bopping my head shamelessly or just flat out dancing. When I am learning and performing songs on guitar and piano, how can I not groove if the music is telling me to do so? With our beating hearts, our lungs expanding and collapsing, and the circadian rhythms on which we operate, our bodies are rhythmic entities, so when I’m fully engaged in the music it is impossible for the music not to be in my body regardless of whether I’m listening to something, playing a new instrument, or conducting.
    I discovered one of the most difficult parts about the Music Therapy program at SMWC was to simply let my authentic self come through in sessions with clients. I had always felt that “trumpet Nate”, “music therapy student Nate”, “composer Nate”, etc. were all different identities. On the contrary, all of these boxes were part of the fuller whole. My musical identity is comprised of many elements, and it was only when I felt comfortable enough to bring all of those elements into my core that I was able to start being fully authentic in sessions. As a music therapy student, it was my job to use clinical and evidence-based music interventions to help my clients accomplish their goals and work toward healthy change. Normally this took place in the form of using familiar songs while challenging clients to accomplish tasks such as playing instruments, responding in certain ways, or to engage in a verbal discourse afterwards.  I was most challenged to be fully authentic in sessions where improvisation was the primary method of communication. 

    Last semester, I worked alongside a board certified music therapist (MT-BC) with an adult client with a range of intellectual and developmental disabilities.  One of our goals for this client was to help increase his level of initiating interaction, so we were challenged to play piano music and other percussive instruments to assist him with staying engaged in the music. Unlike my other sessions, pre-composed songs were not used and we created piano and vocal music for the client during the session using clinical improvisation techniques. Clinical improvisation allows a client and music therapist to create spontaneous music in the moment, often resulting in unique epiphanies, growth, and authentic connection within the therapeutic relationship.  As our mind, body, and spirit are all connected, music can often bring about a transformation for a client. I felt like my identity took a shift after working with this particular client. Initially when working with this client, I noticed I was having trouble building a connection with him. This has been a struggle for me in my past. That semester I also felt like I had become musically stagnant: I was in a decent place, but I knew I was not growing. Through a musical improvisation with my on-site music therapy supervisor, and a discussion about “being in the moment” with my faculty music therapy supervisor, I was challenged to improvise on my own time to try to work through these issues. When I played music on the piano alone, I started to realize I did not need to separate my “musical selves”. Why couldn’t a piece of music reflect all of my tastes? Improvisation has no rules, and it is a place where we can be free to express ourselves fully. This does not mean the result is always pretty or beautiful, but this makes sense: we all have days when we feel down, and we all have days when we feel like a million bucks; so, then, our created music can also change day by day. 
     When I started to accept these ideas, I started to trust my musical intuition, and when my client vocalized and made high and low noises with his voice, I started to imitate him. This was a pivotal moment- over the rest of the semester, the client and I connected through vocalizing with each other, responding to each other, and harmonizing. I believe he became more aware of his own role in the music, and he started to do new things like hold notes for over 20 seconds (a very long time to try to sing along!) and explore his lower and upper registers. We took a new and risky journey together and the result was a fun, beautiful, authentic connection. As a musical being (as we all are), I feel most connected when I can rely on music to do the talking for me. The easiest music connections can occur when we become our uninhibited selves. If we can’t bring our fully real selves to clients, how can we expect our clients to do the same?
    How a client engages with music (their body language, their dynamics, tempo, frequency of notes, facial expressions) reflects the inner being, and by assessing a client’s needs in the moment we can adapt to whatever they are communicating.  For example, while I was placed at ResCare (a day facility for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities) I worked with a client who seemed to be in a bad mood one day. He was crossing his arms and his eyes remained close with his head turned down. I played “Let it Be” by the Beatles and encouraged the clients in the group to close their eyes so they could just focus on listening to the music and relaxing. When I looked to the client who was previously in a bad mood, his demeanor had changed throughout the song: tension was released from his shoulders, he stopped frowning, and he smiled. I played quieter near the end and played a lighter accompaniment pattern and the client opened his eyes and afterwards said the music helped him relax and feel good.

    I can’t begin to put into words how much I have enjoyed and felt blessed by the past few years. Many tangible milestones have taken place of which I am proud: my Ska band finished recording their first album, I got to be in my first professional theater production, I learned how to play guitar and fell in love with it, I attended two schools at once for over a year and survived a year working the third shift at a hospital. But none of them feel as accomplished as getting to share countless musical moments with others. I feel nothing is as important as knowing I witnessed, and engaged with, each client who chose to share their music with me. I was placed in sessions to help clients determine new ways of thinking about things, but in reality, they taught me more than I could ever hope to learn.

    People sometimes say I am a relatively closed off person, despite my outgoing nature. This is not because of them, but because I often only share what I consider worth sharing.  I only find it worthwhile to open up to someone when I know they can truly listen and when I know I can trust them. Over the course of this final semester, I realized I needed to open up more, not just for others, but for myself so I could grow. One friend of mine challenged me to tell them a new fact about myself every few days. Another friend promised to always be there to listen and keep personal matters private. This opening of my personality, while cumbersome, has made me feel more connected to others. We all have flaws and problems we go through- no one is an island- and we are not meant to go through life alone. In music therapy, we are hoping to help our clients realize thoughts like these; but, if they can’t achieve growth by themselves, we can help. While I was placed on the Behavioral Health Care Unit of Regional Hospital, my co-music therapy student and I often played songs (such as “I Can See Clearly Now”) with clients and then discussed the lyrics and meaning of the song. This was done to see if clients could draw conclusions from the meanings of songs to apply to their own lives. One of my on-site practicum supervisors told me the music is an identity in sessions, just as important as the persons in the room. It is only through true connectedness when we can help to reach beyond ourselves in music and in life.

Mensah and fellow SMWC music therapy students
    I will say my time at the Woods has been some of the most challenging and rewarding times of my life. I am beyond thankful for my professors who pushed me, challenged me to think in new ways, made me a stronger musician, and provided the support to help me make it through. I can’t ever look at music in the same way after my three years here. Whether we believe music is a universal language or not, I believe it is something accessible to all. I believe we are all musical beings, and we sound aspects of ourselves when participating in musical creation. In the end, there is no way for me to put into words how much my time at The Woods has meant to me, and how much the community has changed me. Perhaps if you find me some time while in the Conservatory, I can try to play for you what I feel instead of not doing it justice with words. After all, I am a musical being, and you are too.

*Author Nathan Mensah, SMWC senior music therapy student, completes his coursework May 2016 and will begin his 6-month clinical music therapy internship at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in July 2016.
Editor: Sharon R. Boyle

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:
phone: (812) 535-5145;