Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Senior Music Therapy Student Reflection: Embracing the Journey Ahead

Each semester, SMWC music therapy students write self-reflection papers, looking back at their practicum experiences and how they have been impacted. Seniors , though, are asked to reflect on their entire four years in the program as they stand between the coursework just completed and their internship ahead. Cathleen Flynn, senior, has been my student assistant (and contributer to this blog) for several years and I asked if she would like to write a reflective post. I hope you'll take in the full range of experiences she has chosen to touch on, the connections she has made between gaining knowledge and application of that learning, as well as the changes she has experienced throughout her time at SMWC while in the music therapy program. This is a challenging major and students find they transform in many ways by the time they complete pre-internship hours, music study/performances, and coursework. As an educator and advisor, when students are heading off to internship, I feel immense gratitude that I was even a small part of their journey.
-Sharon R. Boyle, SMWC Associate Professor of Music Therapy
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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

7 comments:

  1. "amazing"ly "grace"ful. I have been learned so much from Cathleen over the last four years. It has been my privelege to know Cathleen as a teacher, director and friend. Wherever she goes she will bring beauty, truth, and ever-growing wisdom.
    Godspeed, Cathleen!
    Sharon Ammen
    Theatre Director

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  2. As I read your post, I was moved to tears. SMWC is truly blessed in so many ways - wonderful faculty and staff, and promising young leaders who have found a way to capture a piece of The Woods in their heart. I am so proud of all you've become and I'm sure Saint Mother Theodore is as well!

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  3. I wish Cathleen all the best in her future, and I will miss seeing her during Board meetings. Dance on, Cathleen! And thank you for the retrospective!
    Michelle Barrentine

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  4. Cathleen, watching you grow and blossom at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College has been a remarkable experience. You brought intelligence, openness, sincerity, spirituality along with many other exceptional traits and talents. Witnessing the forging of those "raw materials" into the well-grounded individual you have become is so gratifying for those of us who have dedicated our lives to education and particularly to the unique educational experience of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. Our good wishes and prayers go with you and we are very excited to learn about the ways that our Provident God will bless and use your life! Come back often and keep in touch!!

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  5. I will keep it in mind, thanks for sharing the information keep updating, looking forward for more posts on Music Therapy....
    Thanks

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  6. I totally agree!..looking forward for more updates on Music Therapy
    Thanks

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