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.

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