Wednesday, April 25, 2018

SMWC Music Therapy Senior Reflection 2018: Music and Providence

Each year, a senior music therapy major is invited to write a Senior Reflection about his or her time as an undergraduate music therapy student at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC). Music therapy students experience many things throughout their time at SMWC, including the completion of clinical training hours through practicum experiences with a range of different populations, music ensembles, a rigorous curriculum, and many leadership opportunities. This year, two seniors were invited to write their reflection together because of the meaning of their friendship and support throughout this experience.

Four years ago we began the journey that gave us meaning beyond what can be placed in words… but here we try. Do you ever just stop, breathe, and realize you are exactly where you need to be- that everything in your life seems to have lined up to bring you to one point, place, and purpose? That is Providence. Maybe you were led down a path somewhat unwillingly, strike that, VERY unwillingly (I cried- Alli) (I wanted to drop out-Devyn), but what resulted was more than you could have imagined. For us, our time has been a journey of friends, love, hardship, growth, growth, GROWTH, and music. Music became so ingrained in every aspect of life that it became a way of being.  Music became the focus of our biggest frustrations, vulnerability, self-growth, love, relationships, release, tension, and so much more. Music built our greatest friendships and created our most meaningful moments, and all of this occurred because of the Providence that placed us here, together.
Freshman Year
We are Devyn and Alli, always said together, seen together, referenced together, and occasionally—no, often mistaken, for being related. We have spent the last four years, hand in hand, pulling and supporting each other through the incredible and rigorous journey that is Saint Mary-of-the-Wood’s Undergraduate Music Therapy Program. Through nearly every class, project, and endless theory assignment, we have forged together through laughter, tears, and encouragement.  Though neither of us had an initial plan to attend SMWC, we were both led here, to our friendship and the many others we’ve built while being here, to an incredibly unique and spectacular education, to growth and development of ourselves, our relationships, our music, and our knowledge and love of music therapy.  Both of us strongly believe that it was all on the behalf of God and His Providence.

The music that has comprised these last years are to what we contribute a majority of  our growth, development, and success. When looking back on where music therapy has led us, our first clinical practicum stands out in our memories. During our freshman year we were placed together (like we said, always together) at the same practicum site working with a client who was nonverbal and communicated almost solely with us through the music we shared, alongside our music therapy supervisors.  Working with this client taught us about what music can do to empower and form a connectedness among everyone who takes part in it. This amazing experience was just the beginning of what we would come to understand music’s role to be within a music therapy context. We had no idea yet of how music had the power to change our clients’ lives, nor how it was going to change our own lives over the course of our next four years.
Fall 2017 Practicum Class
We were placed together for our practicum a second time this year, during our fall semester as seniors at an inpatient acute psychiatric/behavioral health unit.  Having experienced different practicums, challenges, and victories in the time between these two practicums, we entered the semester together with new strengths and unique experiences that shaped the way we came together to co-facilitate sessions. We continued our growth by observing the other’s strengths while challenging each other to identify new areas to work toward, in addition to our weekly supervision. We assisted one another in deepening our understanding about the importance of the role of music in the session and how to provide support.  By working together, helping one another, and encouraging each other, we were able to provide even better treatment for the people with whom we had the opportunity to work.  Each session and moment of progress for us as clinicians and students became even more meaningful because our shared knowledge, understanding, and music didn’t just help us, it allowed us to be a part of deep and meaningful moments with the people we worked with in this facility. 

Allison (Alli) Payonk
Alli's Perspective: In all my other practicum experiences, I found the site where I was placed and the people I worked with always had a strong tie with the personal challenges and triumphs I was experiencing at the time.  Sometimes my practicum experience pushed me along, showing me where I needed to grow, and sometimes the growth during practicum occurred because of the processing and development I worked on outside of class. It took me a long time to learn that who I was as a person tied directly to who I was as a music therapy student clinician and that I owed it to not only myself, but also others, to become the best version of myself. When I was challenged my sophomore year with how to verbally lead and be more genuine in music therapy sessions at a memory care unit working with older adults, I also was struggling with expressing myself genuinely in my own personal life.  During that time, I leaned on music and allowed it to lead me, and slowly I grew and learned how to truly be myself in and out of sessions.  When I was being challenged by the music I was creating within choir, voice lessons, or just for myself, I found I could still share in meaningful experiences during music therapy sessions I facilitated with incarcerated juveniles and with adults coping with a range of mental health issues.  I discovered how innately connected it all is: music, self-development, music therapy, and personal life.  They push and pull one another, and in strengthening one I’ve always found more strength in the others.

My junior year I discovered the song “I’m Good” by the Mowgli’s. For a while, I kept it close to my heart as my own little secret musical motivator.  In the past year, I’ve begun to share this song.  I’ve shared it in sessions with adults struggling with mental health and with kids working towards positive self-concept.  Using music to learn and grow yourself, then being able to take that growth and share it with others so they can know its power too has summed up so much of the beauty of music therapy I’ve come to know here at the Woods. How powerful to sing the words that changed my life in a session with others, and have the opportunity to share that self-compassion and growth with others - all of which came to be through the music. 
At AMTA Conference
Sandusky, OH

Devyn Burns
Devyn's Perspective: So, except for internship, Alli and I essentially began and ended our clinical training together- seems fitting, right? The time in separate clinical training experiences allowed us to grow, change, and independently develop our distinct ways of practicing. The last four years have given me nothing but support for my belief in the power of music. I have had the privilege time and time again to see its beauty. In my junior year, I communicated through music with a child who had just spent the hour running and screaming prior to our session, letting the music calm and focus, while developing our connection. I was once told after a session that a woman with major depression and suicidal ideation had smiled and felt joy for the first time in a long time. The magnitude of music and what I am going to get to do every day in my professional life is a true blessing.

The experiences I’ve had are emotional and profound, but they have also been correlated with my own “stuff”. I had to delve deep within myself to find out how to be authentic and genuine in my practice. I had to, first and foremost, develop a confidence that I was capable of playing a guitar in front of people, and also able to actively treat and lead them through experiences. But now? Music is everything. As cliché as it sounds, it is what I have breathed and lived these last four years. I now understand that I have the amazing privilege of connecting people and reaching individuals through music. I could not have done so without my practicum experiences. I conquered some of my most ingrained fears through practicum (flashback to freshmen year Devyn covered in hives whenever singing in front of others) and realize that I am who I am today because studying music therapy has changed my life. If you have ever seen the movie August Rush, they explain the complexity of music better than I could even begin to: “You know what music is? God’s little reminder that there’s something else besides us in this universe, a harmonic connection between all living beings, everywhere, even the stars”. This is the gift that the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Music Therapy Undergraduate Program has given me.
Our experiences over the years propelled us to this moment, the now. We were challenged and supported by each other, our peers, and the professors here at The Woods. This is how we grew. We are who we are now thanks to these people. The Woods has prepared us to now give to others, to go into the world and spread the importance of music, the story of Providence, and what being a “Woodsie” means.
Ring Day 2017 with Music Therapy Faculty

We once worried about what the future would hold for us in coming to college.  But God provided us with more than we ever knew we needed.  So now, we prepare ourselves to leave this place, unsure of the future and what will come.  But, now we trust that God will provide for us through His Providence.  We leave you with the words we have had the honor of singing together multiple times as members of the SMWC Madrigals  from the song “La Providence”, commissioned for the SMWC Madrigals in 2012 and composed by Sydney Guillaume, based on the words of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin:

   “Pourquoi nous inquiéter des choses à venir?
    Pourquoi tant de soucis pour notre devenir?
    Dieu de la Providence, Maître de l’Univers,

Tu donnes à tes enfants plus que le né.”

Why must we worry of the things to come?
Why so many concerns for our future?
God of Providence, Master of the Universe,
You give to your children more than is needed.

SMWC Madrigals 2018

Music Technology Class 2016

Ring Day 2018
Seniors at Spring Choral Concert April 2018
Photo courtesy of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

Senior Year

Senior Reflection Post written by Allison Payonk and Devyn Burns, senior music therapy majors who will begin music therapy internships starting in fall 2018.

Edited by: Sharon R. Boyle, Associate Professor of Music Therapy and Coordinator of Undergraduate Music Therapy Program

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The SMWC Music Therapy Graduate Program: Enduring Connections

In 2000, the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Master of Arts in Music Therapy (MAMT) program began. Since its inception, it has been a leader in providing both an accessible, yet challenging, graduate program. While other graduate programs have been developed over the past 18 years, SMWC was one of the first programs to utilize a hybrid format. With an emphasis on meeting the needs of working music therapists, the MAMT program utilizes short-term residencies, bringing students to campus three times a year for intensive courses taught by experts in the field. Each residency is followed by online work that further fosters learning and collaboration. Strong connections among peers are a benefit of the cohort model (each class moves through the program together to provide continuity). The focus on active music-making in the program helps foster relationships both inside and outside the classroom. Graduates from the program have gone on to be leaders in research, teaching, and clinical work. Dr. Tracy Richardson, Director of the MAMT Program and one of its developers, has even brought back some of the MAMT graduates to teach in the program. We interviewed some individuals who have a unique perspective on the program - one is a recent graduate, one is currently in the program, and one graduated ten years ago - to provide context about the program's impact on all who move through it.

Damian May, MA, MT-BC, received his Master of Arts in Music Therapy degree from SMWC in 2008. He works as a music therapist at Napa State Hospital in California and is also an adjunct music therapy instructor for SMWC in the Music Therapy Equivalency Distance (MTED) program.
Damian May, MA-MT-BC
What aspects still endure for you as you reflect on your time in the program? What has stayed with you?
I remember being challenged to take the concepts that I was learning, discussing, and reading about in the program and applying them directly in my work. As a relatively new music therapist at the time, it encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and try new things with the patients I was working with... simultaneously, I was able to be bold and go out on "creative limbs", which was a benefit, I believe, to my patients. They sensed I was taking risks and they followed suit. I still remind myself of this regularly - to stay creative and try different approaches, look at situations and challenges from different perspectives in my work, and in life.What are some professional goals or accomplishments that have occurred since receiving your Master's degree from SMWC?

First, an ability to go deeper with my patients, to have a fuller understanding of music therapy and its implications beyond the broad undergraduate subject matter. Additionally, it opened up doors for me in the music therapy academic world, leading me to be an adjunct faculty member in the SMWC MTED program.

Which class(es) or professor(s) influenced you the most in terms of your professional development, goals, or other areas of growth?
I'd have to say a few that stood out to me include the World Music class taught by Carolyn Koebel and Advanced Improvisation and Composition taught by Dr. Alan Turry. World Music (in context of clinical work) opened my eyes even more to a myriad of new instruments, customs, and musical styles/forms that I was able to use with my patients...and expanded my openness and acceptance of new and different mindsets and cultures. I still occasionally use my Shruti box. Clinical Improvisation is a stand out in the sense that, while I felt I was always relatively comfortable improvising, I learned there is always more to work on and master. A few of the simple techniques that I learned through that class, have been a bedrock in my daily clinical practice, as well as my own use of music improvisation for self care.

Dana Kim, MA, MT-BC, graduated with her Master of Arts in Music Therapy degree from SMWC in December 2017. She is also the first student to complete both the Music Therapy Equivalency Distance (MTED) program and the MAMT program. She works at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Tennessee.

Dana Kim, MA, MT-BC

As you reflect back on your time in the MAMT program, what do you feel you gained both professionally and personally as you moved through the program, and now as an alum?
I experienced great personal and professional growth throughout the MAMT program.  The curriculum emphasizes personal reflection which allowed me to better understand my individual personality, and how that impacts my interpersonal relationships and work as a therapist.  Professionally, I feel much more confident in my work and better able to serve clients with complex needs and conditions.  As an alum, I am continuing to develop the professional skills I learned in the MAMT program and am finding new ways to implement them into my work.  I have also remained connected with my classmates and colleagues as we continue to support one another in our careers.

What do you already miss about being part of the MAMT program?
I miss the constant connection and support from colleagues and mentors.  The coursework also provided me with a steady stream of new techniques and ideas which I was able to directly implement into my music therapy practice.  Now, I have to be more mindful to seek out opportunities for connection and growth.

What has been the most beneficial aspect about obtaining your Master of Arts in Music Therapy degree from SMWC?
There have been so many benefits to obtaining my Master of Arts in Music Therapy degree from SMWC.  I feel much more confident in both my musical and therapeutic skills and have a better understanding of who I am as a therapist.  Obtaining my master’s degree has also allowed me to pursue additional leadership opportunities within the medical center in which I work and feel more proficient in mentoring music therapy students.

What advice would you give to others considering a master’s degree and who are looking for the right fit in a graduate program?
I think it is important to find the program that best fits your theoretical orientation, but that will also challenge you to grow and reflect your approach as a therapist.  Reviewing and prioritizing your career goals is helpful and can allow you to find the right program to best meet your individualized needs.  Asking alumni to share their personal experiences is beneficial as well.

What else would you like to say about your experience in the MAMT program?
I am very grateful for my experiences at the Woods and to all of the faculty and peers who supported me throughout the journey.  Alumni from the MAMT program are doing such meaningful work and making a great difference in many areas of the field.  It is inspiring to be part of such a special group.

Ginger Drake, MT-BC, is in her first year of the SMWC MAMT program and also recently completed the SMWC MTED program. She works at Hennepin Health, Hospice of the Twin Cities and at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minnesota. In addition, she is a Graduate Assistant for the MAMT Program. 
Ginger Drake, MT-BC
What helped you make the decision that the SMWC MAMT program was the right fit for you as you looked at graduate programs?

After a rewarding and successful completion of the MTED program, the decision was easy. I went into the MTED program knowing that I wanted to get my master's degree and it was a simple transition from one program to the other. The level of education and professionalism among the professors combined with the nature of the distance program was enough for me, I knew it would be a good fit.

How do you feel you have managed your career, personal life, and schoolwork so far?

This is not an easy program, managing a full time career as a new professional while still keeping up with homework and maintaining a personal life can definitely be challenging. It takes effective planning and time management to be successful, but I come from the generation of "you can do anything you set your mind to" and this program is no exception.  It may be difficult at times, but it can be done.

What have been your favorite aspects of being in this program?
I love the residencies. They are an integral and enjoyable component to the MAMT program that allows you to get to know your cohort and faculty in a way that would be completely lacking in a traditional distance program. Intense on-campus education mixed with fun music-making and social activities makes residencies my favorite aspect of the MAMT program.

What else would you like to say about your experience in the MAMT program at this point?
The MAMT program is challenging, intense, interesting, and rewarding.  The faculty is amazing, this program draws some of the best experts in the field!  Though this style of learning isn't for everyone, it can offer a unique opportunity for professionals who aren't able to move to a school to complete a campus program.  SMWC has done a really nice job designing this program.


If you are interested in learning more about our Master of Arts in Music Therapy program, visit our website or contact Dr. Tracy Richardson for more information!

Blog Post Author: Sharon R. Boyle, MM, MT-BC is Associate Professor of Music Therapy and Coordinator of the Undergraduate Music Therapy Program. Some of the interviews were conducted by Sarah Cary, Music Therapy Student Assistant.