-Sharon R. Boyle, SMWC Associate Professor of Music Therapy
|Photo courtesy of Nora Dalipi|
What does it mean to spend four years in the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College undergraduate music therapy program? In an attempt to quantify what I’ve put into my music therapy coursework, ensembles, private voice study, and practica, I tried to calculate the number of hours I’ve spent in the Conservatory of Music. I stopped doing the math, though, because I don’t think a sum of time really captures all I gave and received in those hours. Also, I don’t think my development as a music therapy student took place solely in an educational or clinical context – my self-awareness developed through dorm life and relationships, my leadership skills advanced through co-curricular involvement, and my spirituality grew through experiencing the sacred grounds of this campus and those who call it home.
My college experience was eclectic, and I was well-supported by faculty, staff, and Providence in each endeavor. Only at a small college (and, in my opinion, a small women’s college) could I have explored my diverse interests so fully and felt such care from the campus community. This encouragement of self-directed learning and nurturance of the whole student (not mind alone, but heart and values and body) was fully present in my music therapy classes with Sharon Boyle, Coordinator of Undergraduate Music Therapy, and it made all the difference in my education. The music my peers and I created together in class moved me to laughter and to tears. I experienced periods of profound self-assurance and profound self-doubt. And I became comfortable with vulnerability, in myself and in others.My practicum experiences made a profound impact on me, allowing me to explore therapeutic presence, clinical musicianship, and my personal responses to people of all backgrounds, ages, and abilities. During my participation in the Jamaica FieldService Project, I sang “Amazing Grace” to a woman while she wept and cried out for God; I will never again hear that song without thinking of her. The following semester, I experienced authentic “groove” for the first time with a man who was nonverbal and whose primary means for communication and interpersonal interaction was the blues. We stumbled together and laughed together and challenged each other through our musical exchanges; we came to know one another without the security of words. During my time on a memory care unit and in an acute psychiatric facility, the patients I served expanded my perception of what constitutes reality and helped me to understand the value and wisdom within from our intuitions and uncertainties. Somehow, being a part of others’ healing processes changed me, helped me integrate and validate my own experiences, and urged me onward in life’s journey.
As someone who hopes to be an agent of positive change through music therapy, I often ponder the impact that one individual can make in the world. When I reflect on the impact that each of these individuals has had in my life, I am convinced of the power of one. I am confident that by promoting music as therapy, as a community building modality, and as a shared cross-cultural experience, we can form more peaceful social systems, more inclusive communities, and a more nonviolent world in which holistic wellbeing is possible and individuals have freedom to create and to be heard.
|Photo courtesy of Nora Dalipi|
For eight semesters at The Woods, I got to experience and cultivate the linking of musical development and personal development, in myself and in the clients I served. Sometimes it feels like my musical self develops first and the rest of me follows, and other times my musical self develops as a result of personal growth. But I’ve learned that one thing is inevitable - my music will change and I will change and the world will change. Sometimes it will happen quickly, with excitement; and sometimes it will happen slowly, with the pains of stretching. But I’ll keep singing and playing and dancing, honoring the changes of my past and embracing the transformations to come.
-written by Cathleen Flynn, SMWC senior music therapy student