Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Celebrating 35 Years of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Music Therapy: Part Two

On Saturday, January 19, 2019, we hosted a reception in celebration of our 35-year history as a music therapy educational program. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate and many of those planning to attend were unable to travel to SMWC due to the snow and ice, including one of our alum award recipients. Despite the weather, the reception commenced at 7:30 p.m. with refreshments (cake!) provided by Sodexo in the foyer of the Conservatory of Music. After an introduction by Dr. Janet Clark, Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, as well as a welcome by SMWC Director of Music Therapy and Chair of the Music and Theatre Department, Dr. Tracy Richardson, the reception began. Sharon Boyle, Associate Professor of Music Therapy and Coordinator of the Undergraduate Music Therapy, spoke alongside Richardson to recognize five outstanding SMWC alumni, one from each music therapy program, as well as a surprise award recipient revealed during the reception.
SMWC Music Therapy Faculty - Reception January 2019
 The SMWC Music Therapy programs are honored to recognize these five recipients for their dedication and commitment to the music therapy profession as it has grown and changed following their time at SMWC. These alumni make us proud as they continue our tradition of excellence, service, and scholarship in the professional world.

Amanda Steiner, MS, MT-BC
Bachelor of Science in Music Therapy Alum Award: Amanda (Cook) Steiner, MS, MT-BC, 2006 graduate. Upon obtaining her MT-BC, Steiner began to work in Fishers, IN, with adults and children with developmental disabilities and Autism at Opportunities for Positive Growth (OPG) for 10 years. During her time there, she started a national roster internship site and supervised many music therapy interns while she was there, including some from SMWC. In 2013, Steiner obtained her master's degree in Applied Behavior Analysis with an emphasis in Autism from Ball State University. She continues to guest-lecture and has taught as adjunct faculty for both the SMWC MTE-D and undergraduate programs since 2016. Currently, Steiner is working at Rhythm Garden Music (RGM), owned by SMWC alum Morgan (May) Sparks, providing music therapy to individuals in the Wabash Valley. She also continues to supervise practicum students during the academic year as well as during intensive summer practicums. In addition, Steiner's proposal for a national roster internship site at RGM was recently approved by the American Music Therapy Association. This will be the first national roster music therapy internship site in Terre Haute, IN. Presently, Steiner resides in Terre Haute, IN, with her husband, Ryan, and daughter, Kala.

Jay Thompson, CMT
Music Therapy Equivalency - Campus (MTE-C) Alum Award: Jay Thompson, CMT, who was the first male to complete the music therapy equivalency at SMWC in 1996. At the age of 43, Thompson decided to enroll at The Woods in 1994 after encouragement from a close friend to explore music therapy. Thompson had previously been working as a successful sales manager for a large corporation but was seeking more meaning in his career path. After completing the program, he began working with boys on the Autism spectrum, and later started to work full-time at the well-known mental health center, Saint Vincent Stress Center in Indianapolis. There, he offered music therapy to a variety of populations, including individuals with substance abuse disorders and addictions. Thompson's passion for music and music therapy have helped others develop the skills they need to navigate their lives. His mission is to be a conduit for the healing power of music, always letting the music do the work. Thompson continues to support the SMWC Music Therapy programs through his generous spirit and engagement with many events.
Karen Sholander, MT-BC
Music Therapy Equivalency - Distance (MTE-D) Alum Award: Karen Sholander, MT-BC, completed the MTE-D program in 2014 as a member of the very first MTE-D cohort. With her passion for helping others to find joy and connection, she discovered that music therapy was the perfect second career. Leading up to her career as a music therapist, Sholander had worked as an elementary school music teacher, piano teacher, studio owner, performing pianist, accompanist, and she is a working mother. After completing a music education degree (BME) from Baylor University and her equivalency from SMWC, she completed the certification at Hospice and Palliative Care Music Therapy through the Center for Music Therapy in End of Life Care. Now, she is working with hospice patients and their families through the full-time salaried music therapist position she created in early 2015 through the Visiting Nurse Association of Texas (VNA). Additionally, she guides music therapy interns in the profession, is an active member of both the national and regional associations for music therapy (AMTA, SWAMTA), and she enjoys helping music therapists in her area network with one another. Sholander also presents about music therapy with various community and educational organizations and is dedicated to helping others achieve positive change and connections through music. Sholander attended the SMWC reception and received her award via Skype video!

Master of Arts in Music Therapy (MAMT) Alum Awards: The final two recipients were Annette Whitehead-Pleaux, MA, MT-BC, and Larisa McHugh, MA, MT-BC, who both completed the graduate program in 2003. 

Annette Whitehead-Pleaux, MA, MT-BC
Annette Whitehead-Pleaux, MA, MT-BC has focused on clinical practice, education, research, and service for many years. She worked for 15 years with pediatric burn survivors at a major pediatric hospital in Boston. Now, she is the Senior Clinical Supervisor at Roman Music Therapy Services, managing a staff of 12 music therapists and providing clinical supervision. Whitehead-Pleaux serves as adjunct faculty at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, Berklee College of Music, Colorado State University, and Lesley University. Additionally, she works as an active researcher, focusing on pain, anxiety, electronic music technology, and cultural responsiveness in music therapy. She has ten publications, has written 12 chapters, and was awarded the Arthur Flaggler Fultz Research Grant Award for a research study that built upon her thesis, as well as being co-editor of the book Cultural Intersections in Music Therapy: Music, Health, and the Person. Finally, Whitehead-Pleaux has been an advocate for music therapy through service to the profession throughout her entire career, holding several positions regionally and nationally in the American Music Therapy Association, including Speaker of the Assembly of Delegates, Scope of Practice Work Group, Advisory Team for the Research Priority, Chair of the Education and Training Advisory Board. In addition, she is a founding member of Team Rainbow.

Larisa McHugh, MA, MT-BC
Larisa McHugh, MA, MT-BC, received her Bachelor of Music from the University of Dayton and became board certified in 1997. Having received her Master of Arts from the MAMT program at SMWC in 2003, she is currently completing a PhD program in Psychology, with a specialization in Consciousness, Spirituality, and Integrative Health from Saybrook University in California. Larisa is an advanced trainee in the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music through Appalachian State University. In addition, she has been the Program Coordinator for the MTE-D program (in addition to teaching) since its inception in 2012. Also, McHugh has presented at the state, regional, and international level. Internationally, she has presented at the World Congress of Music Therapy in Austria and South Korea. Her areas of focus have included music therapy internship and supervision, music therapy for persons with Alzheimer’s Disease, interdisciplinary collaboration, and more. She has years of clinical experience working with older adults and co-authored a pilot study on the effect of pre-meal vocal re-creative MT on nutritional intake of residents with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias that was published in MTP in 2012. McHugh has demonstrated extensive service to the music therapy profession. She received the 2016 GLR Service Award and also the Florence Tyson Grant to study Music Psychotherapy in 2012. She has served on the American Music Therapy Association Assembly of Delegates, in President/Past-President/President-Elect positions for the Great Lakes Region of the American Music Therapy Association, as well as numerous state, regional, and national committees. She is also a yoga instructor and has two adorable dogs who keep her company as she spends endless hours at her computer.

At the conclusion of the reception and awards ceremony, Sharon Boyle, Program Coordinator of the Undergraduate Music Therapy Program, introduced a special documentary on SMWC Music Therapy that was the culmination of a senior project for undergraduate music therapy student, Allison Payonk (who is presently in her internship in Ohio).
Allison Payonk
Payonk wrote about this special project:

Last year, while considering what to do for my senior project, I knew that I wanted to combine my interest in creating and designing things with my passion for sharing what makes The Woods so special. I think it's hard to understand or explain what we experience as students, faculty, and alums from this school and music therapy program, and I wanted to see if I could encapsulate it somehow, so other people might see why this place is so incredibly special to so many of us. When Sharon recommended this project, to update and reimagine the video created 5 years ago documenting the history of music therapy at The Woods, I was all in, mostly I think because I didn't yet realize the responsibility and enormity of the project I had signed up for.

Creating this video was certainly daunting at first. How can one do justice to all the incredible people who put in so much work to create this program we've all become a part of, and the growth that is experienced by everyone who was been a part of it? As I went to create it though, I found a common theme emerged naturally: connection. 35 years ago this program was started by people I've never met and don't know, but through the legacy of The Woods and this program, and everyone who's worked to keep it alive, I, as well as all of you, are connected to them, to each other, and the work we are privileged to do in music therapy. While I created this video I felt more than ever connected to this program and all of you who make it up, and in a way, even though I created it for the SMWC music therapy program, it became a part of my journey too. My hope for this video though, is not just that I've told my experience and story in it, but that you hear your story in it too, and are reminded of the 35 amazing years that this program has had and will continue to for many more. I want to thank greatly all of the people who helped me put this together, and of course all of you, who make up the story this video tells.

The video was shown to all in attendance and the viewing involved laughter, smiles, and tears. The special nature of this place, and these incredible music therapy programs, are difficult to articulate, but the alumni, students, staff, and faculty truly emulate its beauty of connection every day.

To view the documentary video, click this link and feel free to share!

Blog Post Co-Authors: Autumn Wilson, Music Therapy Student Assistant and music therapy major; Sharon R. Boyle, MM, MT-BC, Associate Professor of Music Therapy and Coordinator of the Undergraduate Music Therapy Program.

Blog Post Editor: Sharon R. Boyle, MM, MT-BC, Associate Professor of Music Therapy and Coordinator of the Undergraduate Music Therapy Program.

Photo Credits: Sharon R. Boyle, Larisa McHugh, Amanda Steiner, Jay Thompson, and Karen Sholander.

To learn more about the Music and Music Therapy programs at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, check out our website here.