Thursday, October 12, 2017

New Beginnings for Our New SMWC Music and Music Therapy Majors

New music and music therapy students 2017-18
It is hard to believe that another academic year at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is well underway. In fact, we just celebrated our Homecoming this past weekend and the Homecoming Concert was an incredible way for all parts of our campus to come together through the arts. With each new academic year, we welcome new students into the Department of Music and Theatre. We have so many students from different places, with diverse life experiences and musical backgrounds. Enjoy meeting some of our new students, some who are studying as music majors and several others who are music therapy majors.
Ashley Griggs

Ashley Griggs has come to the Woods after completing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Bluegrass, Country, and Old Time Music from East Tennessee State University (ETSU). Ashley is pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy after debating about the amount of time it would take to earn a second degree. “No matter what societal norms dictate, there aren’t actually any rules about when you should finish secondary education. I wanted playing music to be a fulfilling experience. I love performing as a singer/songwriter. That will always be an important aspect of my life, but I wanted to play music for people beyond the purposes of entertainment.” Ashley reflects on her time at ETSU and compares it to her new experiences here at SMWC: “I learned so much from masters of this music and treasure my time there [at ETSU]. I knew coming into the music therapy program that many people would be from different musical backgrounds, specifically classical backgrounds, and I found this simultaneously terrifying and exciting. I am also very aware that as future music therapists, we need to be well-rounded musicians.” Ashley hopes to share her experiences with other students as they share theirs with her. About the recent Homecoming Concert: "Singing with the alumni made me feel more a part of this community. I was also asked to play fiddle on a piece the Madrigals were doing.  I never thought I would get to combine my love of fiddle with my love of choral music. I've always had to separate the two. In some ways this concert confirmed that I made the right choice and coming to SMWC."
Rose Shaffer

Abigail “Rose” Shaffer is a student majoring in Music Therapy with a primary instrument of saxophone. Rose has said, “The biggest surprise to me about the music therapy program is that it's very hands on at some points, which is great and fun!” She enjoys participating in musical experiences and then discussions of how the experience may be used in a session with clients. Rose looks forward to working with clients during her practicum experiences in the coming years: “I think while it'll provide a lot of challenges, it'll be worth it in the very end. Helping the client in the end is what's worth it.” When asked which SMWC tradition she finds most interesting, Rose said Big/Little Week. “It gives the freshmen a chance to make friends with an older student and have fun [while figuring out the identify of their] Big.”            

Valerie Haley
Valerie Haley
is a new student pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Therapy at SMWC and one of the recipients of the 2017-18 Musician of Promise Scholarship. Haley, one of the 2017-18 Musician of Promise Scholarship winners, is also a member of the SMWC Band, Chorale, and Madrigals. Valerie was drawn to music therapy because it was a profession where she could utilize her gifts and talents to help people in need. When asked about her biggest surprise about the SMWC Music Therapy Program, Valerie stated, “It was a surprise to me how different each student is and how each person comes from a different starting point. There are so many different perspectives and the music faculty are really good at working with each student at their own level.” Valerie reflects on the recent Homecoming Concert: “It has been a lot of work keeping up with all the music I’m supposed to learn between Chorale, Madrigals, and Band, but at the same time, I love how my life has become totally saturated with music. I particularly enjoy Madrigals because you can sense that everyone involved has a deep love for music-making...I feel like this concert gave me a little more of a connection to the College's past.” Valerie looks forward to Ring Day for ”it’s about accomplishment, growth, and maturity” and she finds it interesting and meaningful.

Caroline Steinrock
Caroline Steinrock comes from a long background of piano playing. “I have been playing since the second grade, and I never want to stop learning!” She is now majoring in Music Therapy with piano as her primary instrument. Since studying music at the collegiate level, Caroline speaks of her new perspective of music: "I have been exposed to many new musical experiences. I have never sung in a choir before, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how exciting it is! Making music with that large of a group is exhilarating. Performing in the Homecoming Chorale concert was an all-around memorable experience for me as a brand new student here at The Woods. When we opened our portion of the concert with “Lion Sleeps Tonight”, I immediately smiled and began to really get into the music. It was evident that the audience really enjoyed our song selection, and I could feel a great sense of community from where I was standing." When asked about her experience so far at the Woods, she says, “I love being a Pomeroy, because everyone around you is as passionate about their education and their talents as you are. It’s a great environment to be in.”

Sarah Petty, a Music major and flute primary, talks about her love of music. “I have been in band since the 6th grade, and taking private lessons for 6 years.” Sarah is preparing for the Homecoming Concert in Band and Chorale: “In Band, the songs were coming together smoothly and everyone was playing their right parts. And in Chorale, everyone was singing the right parts and it flowed very well and everyone was blending.”
Ronald Brewer

Ronald Brewer, a new music student and singer at the Woods, is open to many types of music such as traditional, rock, hip hop, and others. He looks forward to expanding his musical skills, “I definitely want to grow more in my musical realms [for] both classical and musical theater. I would like to expand my vocals to things like jazz and perhaps some forms of rock. I believe in keeping yourself versatile.” So far, music theory and piano have been the most challenging for Ronald, “I think I grasp both of those subjects conceptually, but the actual execution is quite difficult.” Ronald is a member of the Woods Vocal Ensemble and has become involved in the fall theatrical production "Almost, Maine" which opens in November. When asked about the Homecoming Concert, he said, "I really enjoyed the energy of the audience. The enthusiasm of the alumni definitely made things easier for us to go through. He is applying himself and enjoying his experience as a Pomeroy: “It truly has been a blessing to be able to thrust myself into the community and be involved on this beautiful campus.”

Justine Gibson
Justine Gibson, another recipient of the 2017-18 Musician of Promise Scholarship, is majoring in Music Therapy with a primary study in voice. Justine discovered the power of music after her grandfather suffered from an injury and used music to ease pain during recovery. ”The effect music has on people” is what has drawn Justine to the music therapy profession. Michael Boswell, the Music and Theatre Department’s choral and voice professor, introduced Justine to music therapy as she studied voice with him during her final years of high school. Justine has found the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music to be the most interesting topic mentioned in her introductory music therapy class this semester. Justine performed in the Homecoming Concert as a member of both the Chorale and Madrigals. “It has been very fun. I love to learn new music, especially if there is a lot of it. Just pushes me to work harder! . . . my favorite part [of the Homecoming Concert] was when we were able to sing with the Alums. Singing it [the Ring Song] with the alums just gave me an even greater sense of unity, I just felt like I was right where I needed to be in that moment.”
New students showing their goofy sides - it is midterm after all!
Music Therapy at the Woods - Going Strong!
In addition to the growth in the Undergraduate Music Therapy Program, the Music Therapy Equivalency Distance Program continues to draw many students from across the country. Larisa McHugh, MTED Program Coordinator, and all the wonderful adjunct faculty and staff, are proud that the program celebrates 5 years!  The Master of Arts in Music Therapy program, under the leadership of Dr. Tracy Richardson and in its 17th year, continues to develop and expand its reach through amazing student research, alums who are leaders in the field, and faculty experts.

Blog post interviewer: Sarah Cary, Music Therapy Student Assistant 
Editor and Author: Sharon R. Boyle, Associate Professor of Music Therapy and Coordinator of Undergraduate Music Therapy/Campus Equivalency
For more information about the SMWC Undergraduate Music Therapy and Music Therapy Equivalency-Campus programs, contact:
Sharon R. Boyle, MM, MT-BC 

For information about the SMWC Master of Arts in Music Therapy program, contact: Dr. Tracy Richardson, MT-BC

For more information about the SMWC Music Therapy Equivalency-Distance (MTED)Online program, contact:  Larisa McHugh, MA, MT-BC

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Being a Mindful Community of Client Advocacy: Music Therapy Social Media Advocacy Month

Music Therapists: Being a Mindful Community of Client Advocacy

    Every January, there is an Advocacy Month for Music Therapy in Social Media that the Regulatory Affairs Board within the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) help to coordinate. With that, a theme is suggested and bloggers within the music therapy community are encouraged to write about advocacy issues in music therapy. The 2017 theme is: Your Guide to Advocacy Zen. CBMT encourages us to share the following: 

"Advocacy can help open doors, produce opportunities for growth, expand your horizons, and grow your personal and professional network. Advocacy is also not without its challenges. Over the course of the past decade, music therapists have been faced with responding to misinformed, potentially damaging comments that can serve to undermine the profession and services we provide, all while striving to continue moving forward with advocacy efforts that make a positive difference. These negative exchanges can lead to feelings of frustration, anger, and stress, and serve to potentially distract us from focusing on our clients and our work.

     In light of the contentiousness that seems to surround legislative and policy issues, we propose incorporating a spirit of mindfulness to advocacy efforts. Mindfulness is defined as a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. This requires an awareness of our attitudes, feelings, thoughts, and actions; an understanding of how they impact our experiences and behaviors; and a willingness to take responsibility for our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being."

     In today's world, advocacy takes on new meaning and importance. Music therapists are poised to be important voices as policy and legislation moves forward in the areas of healthcare and education. What role can we play? 

    As educators and supervisors, it is our responsibility to help students understand that caring for our clients does not end in the session room. It continues beyond, as we advocate for our clients when we see an injustice, or when there is some type of policy or legislation that may harm them and take away their rights. The therapist-client relationship is established and developed through trust and respect. Our students need to understand that our clients are individuals who need our support even when the treatment has come to an end. Sometimes, we must be the voice for those without one.

   As professionals, it is our responsibility to be a proactive and coherent voice of reason, as well as one who is paying attention and aware of what is happening locally and at the state level, as well as within the national realm of healthcare and education. We are well-educated in the needs and supports needed to help our clients be successful and thriving, and we know that the diversity we see in our clients is a microcosm of the global picture. Diversity is not a political word. Advocacy does not need to be divisive. 

SMWC Music Therapy Students and Faculty:
Working toward being a mindful community of client advocates
     So, how does this connect to the theme of this year's Music Therapy Advocacy Month in Social Media related to mindfulness? The idea of "Mindfulness" is an important one in music therapy. As I sit with a client and we engage in music experiences, I am mindful of my own thoughts, feelings, values, and beliefs as I am simultaneously trying to be open and mindful of my client's own experience. In order to be a better therapist, I must understand how my client is experiencing the music. It may be different from me. We might need or want different things from the music, but ultimately, the therapeutic relationship allows us to work together to create something meaningful. It is not always beautiful. It is not always pleasing to the ear. But, ultimately, it becomes something from which we both can draw from, learn from, and grow within as people. 

     As music therapists we are part of a diverse community of people from all walks of life. Our varied backgrounds, beliefs, and values allow us to enter into the multi-faceted worlds of our clients, meeting them in the music space where we see one another's humanity - and celebrate it. And so we must move into the diverse community around us and try to mindfully do the same, for this is the world in which both we, and our clients, live.

About the Author: Sharon R. Boyle is an Associate Professor of Music Therapy and been on faculty at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College since 2002. She is the Program Coordinator for the Undergraduate Music Therapy Program.

For more information about the SMWC Undergraduate Music Therapy and Music Therapy Equivalency-Campus programs, contact:
Sharon R. Boyle, MM, MT-BC ( 

For more information about the SMWC Master of Arts in Music Therapy program, contact:
Dr. Tracy Richardson, MT-BC (                                                 

For more information about the SMWC Music Therapy Equivalency-Distance (MTED) program, contact: 
Larisa McHugh, MA, MT-BC (