Tuesday, October 21, 2014

SMWC Music Therapy: Introductions for the 2014-15 Academic Year

It is hard to believe that we are past Midterms and that the start of the 2014-15 academic year at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College has come and gone. Each new year brings new energy in the form of new students! The new Woods music therapy students are already hard at work with learning new course material, meeting new people, practicing new instruments, and performing new music! Even learning new vocabulary can be a challenge. For example, do YOU know what a kalimba (or thumb piano) looks and sounds like? They are fully integrated into the music culture of the Woods having just participated in their first Homecoming Concert with the SMWC Chorale and Madrigals and with several of them participating in the upcoming production of "Our Lady Victory" which will run at the end of October.

We'd like to introduce some new music therapy students who have started this fall: 

Freshman Karlee Coleman from Evansville, IN, already enjoys playing many different instruments, which explains why she is drawn to the diverse music used in music therapy. “I really want to learn how to play all of the instruments. I’m ready for it. I play a guitar, piano; I have congas and maracas in my room. I really want to learn how to play autoharp and maybe a 12 string guitar... it sounds so beautiful.” Despite her musical background, her path to music therapy was not a straightforward one. 

Karlee Coleman
“I actually wanted to be a marine biologist, and before that a veterinarian, and before that a nurse." After her mother told her about music therapy, Karlee researched it further and she "knew music was going to be part of my future.” Though the task of looking for the right school can be a daunting experience, she was quickly won over by the staff at the Woods like so many before her. “I knew when I met Sharon through Skype...during a winter storm...that there would be warmth.  Sharon and Tracy were so bright and bubbly. I love all the professors, and Dr. Mac, I love Dr. Mac! And Michael, and Ron, I love them all.” Karlee said that she loves music because it takes her mind out of reality and to new places.

 Shanine Pennington, a freshman from Sullivan, IN, describes the positive impact music has had on herself as well. “Music lets me express what I can’t do with words. Music gives me a voice when I feel like I don’t have one." She enjoys listening to Celtic and classical music because of the places it can take her musically. “It is so gorgeous….you can see your own story. They’re not telling you a story; you’re envisioning your own. You can close your eyes and see an entire thing right in front of you, an entire story laid out in front of you, and they’re not telling you what you see, you’re seeing what you feel, which is amazing, it just gives me goosebumps.” Despite being considered a strong performer now, she did not initially consider music as a career. “Well, I’ve always loved to sing. People would tell me 'you’re so good', and I thought 'no!'. I tried out for National Choir Art Series, but I got to go to Carnegie Hall. 10,000 people auditioned, 200 in the choir, 100 in the orchestra and band, and I was one of them.
Shanine Pennington

That was when I thought, okay, maybe I can do this. But…my turning point was to see how music could affect people, and all the great things it could do for others. I saw my best friend who has Cerebral Palsy…she went from not being able to speak and not controlling her arms to all of the hand movements. In four years she went from not being able to do much to doing all of the hand movements and to singing every single word…it was gorgeous...That was when I knew something had to give.”

Hayleigh Brennan is a transfer student from the University of Dayton. She has known that she wanted to go into music since high school. “I really wanted to go into something related to music when I was a junior in high school, and I began researching different careers and I happened upon music therapy. I shadowed a few therapists who lived in the area and I knew right away that it was for me. So I knew it was my calling and the purpose why God had created me to be here.” Typically students get to start attending music therapy sessions to start gaining experience after their first semester, but Hayleigh transferred much of her music therapy coursework from her previous school and was allowed to start her observational practicum experience this semester.  

Hayleigh Brennan
“I am doing my practicum at the Happiness Bag in Terre Haute. It is a day facility for adults with intellectual disabilities and developmental delays”. She could barely hold her excitement when discussing the opportunities she looks forward to this year: “ I love practicum and I’m so excited to learn more, do more, and jump right in. I’ve gotten my feet wet and now I just want to get in the water.” She also says that she plays a range of instruments already including: “Piano, guitar, ukulele, lap dulcimer, organ, Irish tin whistle, harmonica, autoharp, Q chord, various hand instruments, drums, recorder, a little bit of violin, a little bit of viola, that it? I think that’s all I play.”

Mariah Dunn
Mariah Dunn is a music student who comes to us from Michigantown, IN. She has played the trumpet for 8 years and is immersed in voice lessons and singing in the choir. Her views of music have expanded in just the few short weeks she’s been around. She is exploring the possibility of majoring in music therapy. "I didn’t realize all the ways it (music) could help people, and who all it could help. The Music as Therapy introductory class is really showing me." Mariah was interested in how music can impact people before coming to the Woods. "My niece got hurt when I was around 14, and I realized music helped her get better..A nurse had music playing, and my niece stopped crying when the music came on.” She, like many, is a big fan of the Woods. “Everyone is really close! If I get lost, they will say “oh, it’s okay you can come hang out with us”.

Devyn Burns
Devyn Burns, freshman music therapy major, is a Saint MotherTheodore Guerin Cohort Scholarship Winner and has a very diverse set of interests. "Outside of music I love soccer. I played soccer up until my junior year and I love watching it, but I don’t play it as much anymore. Taekwondo, (I come from a black belt family), is something I’m always immersed in. I still have a lot of friends in that, and we still have competitions and national meetings. I’m a second degree black belt. I actually got my black belt when I was 8 and I started when I was 3...My dad had his own Taekwondo school and I was with him the majority of my childhood. Despite these many interests, her primary interest is in music. Growing up, church music was a big part of her life and she often led worship on Sundays.  “I was at church for 12 hours at a time, because I taught two-year-olds as a Sunday School Teacher, and then I had band rehearsal from 3 and be done by 8:30. That was all contemporary Christian rock and that’s what all my family listens to.” Since she is from Indianapolis, the culture shock of a smaller school was daunting to her at first, but she has come to appreciate it.“ My smallest class was probably 23 at my high school, my biggest class was 80...But I really like it here because I get that 1:1 attention that you don’t get from a bigger institution. I’m growing closer to people in my class... and all of the music majors are awesome, and so that community is really, really great.”
Alli Payonk

Allison ("Alli") Payonk is another freshman who decided to study music therapy and is a Terre Haute native. She has a background in choir, volunteering, and dance.“I’ve been dancing at Terre Haute Academy of Dance since I was 4 or 5-years-old. I just finished my last senior dance recital there this spring. I play basic piano, guitar, I’m starting ukulele, and I have a mandolin, but I can’t play it yet. I’ve been in choir all four years (of high school), two of those years were in Counterpoint, which is like the top choir at Terre Haute North. I’ve been part of lots of service groups all through high school. I’ve been part of JDC which is Junior Department Club which is a young woman’s service organization in Terre Haute and the National Art Society.” She enjoys the self-expression that music therapy allows for clients and provides for her.“I feel like I generally have a lack of self confidence in all other areas, except for music. Music gives me the confidence that I don’t have, and the self-expression I can’t get with anything else." In regard to genres, she enjoys listening to alternative, indie rock, and folk. 

The students all seem to be hitting it off as they can frequently be seen wandering the halls of the Conservatory, jamming, and practicing music. There is no doubt that this strong group of women will make the Woods even brighter than before. 

A few new and returning students jamming in the Conservatory stairwell


Interviews completed by: Nathan Mensah, Music Therapy Student Assistant
Edited by: Sharon R. Boyle, Associate Professor of Music Therapy and Coordinator of Undergraduate Music Therapy

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