The first month of this semester has flown by! The Conservatory is full of energy and music…you can just feel how many wonderful things are in store. Before we know it autumn will be upon us, so we wanted to take an opportunity to introduce the new faces in the music therapy department and learn more about some of the people in this special group of Woodsies.
Before the semester even began, members of the first cohort of the MTED (Music Therapy Equivalency Distance) program traveled to the Woods from all around the country to begin classes. These students are truly making history through their involvement in the MTED program, which is the first ever of its kind. After the excitement of the cohort’s kick-off, we asked two of the students to share with us their journey.
Eunice Lee was born and raised in Chicago and currently lives in Colorado. This is Eunice’s first semester in our MTED program, but she has studied music performance and pedagogy for years. Eunice remembers her time as an undergraduate and young professional, saying, “I did not feel quite on the right track. I looked into music therapy. . .and it became clear that I needed to do a little more soul-searching. After college, I worked as a piano instructor and built a private studio before going back to study piano pedagogy and music education. I have taught music in the school system and have stayed active playing for choirs, churches, and a senior living community.” Lee felt like she found her niche working at a residential treatment facility for abused, neglected, and traumatized youth, and again felt drawn to music therapy. “After my varied experiences, I learned that I have an unmistakable passion for working with children. I knew I really wanted to expand my professional knowledge and skills to not only teach music. . . but to work with the children therapeutically. Since I did not want to relocate or quit my job, finding a distance [music therapy] equivalency program was really important to me.”
So what has the distance equivalency experience been like so far? “The equivalency program at SMWC is especially well organized and effective”, says Lee. “I especially enjoy the Skype conversations that we have because we are making organic, real-time connections and learning from each other. The brief residencies on campus also help us connect. It is an ideal learning environment because seminars happen later at night after work and assignments, questions, and comments can be submitted throughout the day via Internet. The faculty is top-notch, class sizes are small, and the students you find in your cohort share very similar experiences. I did not feel like the quality of my learning was diminished because of my physical location, which is pretty remarkable!”
Heather Rhoda of Indianapolis was also drawn to the MTED program after a variety of professional experiences. “I’ve been an autism ‘behavior modification therapist’, an administrative assistant, a German teacher in high school and college, a volunteer interpreter at my church for the Deaf, a mother, and now a fledgling small business owner starting a Music Together business”. Rhoda senses how the similarly rich life experiences of fellow MTED students connect them. “All of our stories have this common thread. Many of us stated during our residency, ‘I was meant to be here at this moment.’ Several people have waited years for a distance program because something in their life-direction had prohibited them from being able to pursue music therapy. Now they can follow their dreams.”
It wasn’t long after these inaugural MTED students left campus that our new campus-based undergraduate students and equivalency student arrived. After a few weeks of settling into the rhythm of a new place, we sat down with a few of these students to learn more about them.
Patricia (Patty) Walke is pursuing her music therapy equivalency on campus this semester. “At first I felt a little overwhelmed with classes,” says Patty, “but I’m excited at the same time about going to a new school and meeting new people.”
Walke is a resident of Rushville, Indiana, and received her Bachelor’s degree in music at Indiana State University with a minor in psychology. She began college as a vocal performance major and quickly realized it wasn’t right for her. “I wanted to stay in music, but I didn’t want a degree in music business, education, or composition. My father was a performer and I wanted to pursue music as a career just like him, but I wanted to do more. I wanted to help others.”
One day while investigating research paper topics for a class, Patty stumbled upon a psychology article written about persons recovering from traumatic brain injuries that mentioned music therapy. Instantly curious, she typed music therapy into a search engine and found herself on the American Music Therapy Association website. “At that moment, I knew I had found what I wanted to do in life”, says Walke. “The next day I talked with my music professors and they mentioned the SMWC music therapy program and how wonderful it is.” Now that Patty is realizing her dream of becoming a music therapist, what is she most excited about? Says Walke, “I am most excited about going to observe at an inpatient psychiatric unit for my practicum. I cannot wait to experience how music therapy works.”
Mallory Tanis is a first-year student from Silverwood, Michigan who is also looking forward to the music therapy practicum experience she’ll start gaining next semester. “These first two weeks have been great”, Tanis says. “I am learning a lot and really enjoying myself. I am very excited to start applying music to therapy.”
Mallory is also eager to delve into voice lessons, much like fellow freshman Hannah Miller. Hannah, a native of Greenwood, Indiana, can sense that the bonds created among Woods music therapy students are truly special. “I’m excited to become closer to the other music therapy students”, Miller says.
Both Hannah and Mallory discovered music therapy when searching for a way to combine several of their passions into a career. “I always had an interest in working with children with disabilities. I also considered going into music and healthcare, so when I heard about music therapy I knew it was the perfect fit for me”, states Tanis. For Miller, combining psychology with music was the key – “I found music therapy and, after doing some research, decided that I wanted to be part of it.”
So what was it about music that made it a necessary part of Hannah and Mallory’s professional aspirations? According to Miller, “Two words: Celine Dion. My parent saw her in concert and brought back a DVD. I was in kindergarten, and was like, I want to do that!” For Tanis, a love of music was also cultivated at a young age. “My mother, who homeschooled me, wanted me and my siblings to have music in our education. When I was 12 years old my Grandparents gave me a guitar for Christmas and my parents got me lessons. It just got better and better from there! My love of singing was what really made me fall in love with music, though.”
Mallory and Hannah have many interests outside of music, too, which help them balance school work with fun. “I love public speaking,” says Mallory, “and enjoy being outside, camping, biking, and working with animals. I also own my own beekeeping business and I love everything about that.” Hannah loves “…watching science fiction, reading comic books, writing, drawing, and fashion!”
As you can tell, this new group of MTED, campus equivalency, and undergraduate students truly demonstrates the diversity of the music therapy community here at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. Now that’s something to sing about!