Friday, May 3, 2019

Learning to Trust the Journey: SMWC Music Therapy Senior Reflection

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. Following is a Senior Reflection written by Kristin Foster, senior, as she is about to complete her coursework and head to a hospice music therapy internship this July in North Carolina.

Despite the extensive amount of writing that I do as a student, writing this senior reflection has been quite challenging for me. I’m finding it incredibly difficult to put these last four years into words. I can't quite sum up all of these memories of singing, music therapy, friends, and family. Since I discovered The Woods, it has held a special place in my heart. The experiences I have had here have shaped me into the person that I am now, and the person I am still becoming. In other words, it has been an incredible journey.

Kristin Foster freshman (L) and senior year (R)
I discovered Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in a very “untraditional” way. I first learned of the Sisters of Providence though a family friend, Leslie, who worked for the Sisters as their Music Liturgist (a career path for which I had inquired). I made my first visit to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in late November of 2014 to visit her and talk to her about her career path. I remember when talking with Leslie I said, “Wait… there’s a college here?!” Later that same day, I met Ron Maurey, now my piano teacher and accompanist, for the first time. Fast forward two weeks later, and I was back attending the Chorale and Madrigals Christmas Concert, where I met the rest of the faculty and staff of the Music and Theatre Department.
The SMWC Madrigals performing in the
Church of the Immaculate Conception
At that concert, I heard the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) Madrigals, directed by Michael Boswell, sing for the first time and that day I vowed to myself, “I have to be a part of that.” Up to that point in my high school career, I had no idea what I wanted to do in college or anything after… but hearing the Madrigals sing inspired me and gave me an idea on which I acted. By January of 2015, I was auditioning for the Music and Theatre Department and interviewing for the Saint Mother Theodore Scholarship Program (Spoiler: I got into BOTH!). I visited SMWC again in April for the Spring Chorale and Madrigals Concert where I met my best friend, Shea Davis, although neither of us had any idea at the time.That summer before I moved to The Woods, I met with my academic advisor, Sharon Boyle (who is also the Coordinator of Undergraduate Music Therapy), to register for classes. At that meeting, I discussed my interest in music therapy with her, and at her suggestion, I enrolled in the Music Therapy introductory course, Music as Therapy. The rest is history. Halfway through my first semester, I fell in love with the music therapy profession. Just like I knew I was destined to be a Madrigal, I had the overwhelming feeling of peace and belonging when I pictured myself joining the music therapy profession. This guiding force that I felt from the very beginning of my Woods Journey is what I now proudly call Providence, and Providence has been my guiding force through these last four years.
The SMWC Madrigals after a concert on their Ireland Tour 2018
Being a Madrigal has been an immense part of my college experience. I am so in love with ensemble singing. It is addicting, heartfelt, and meaningful. I also dearly love each of the Madrigals I have had the honor of singing with each semester. Each of them, and our director and teacher, Michael Boswell, have taught me so much about being a leader, a singer, a musician, and an empathic, loving human being. The kind of musician I am today is largely due to being a Madrigal, and I am so grateful for such an amazing four years with them. From premiering new words to touring the “Emerald Isle” of Ireland (TWICE!), so many of my favorite memories surround this ensemble. I can proudly say, in 20/20 hindsight, that Providence spoke to me that day at the 2014 Christmas Concert when I felt the call to come to this school. This ensemble has truly changed my life for the better.        
SMWC Music Therapy Students 2019

Being a Music Therapy major has been equally rewarding. I feel so fortunate to have found a career path that I feel like must have been carved out just for me. I have had the privilege of going to four different Great Lakes Region Music Therapy Conferences, one national conference, to have served on the GLR-AMTAS board as Secretary, and to have served on the Music Therapy Student Association Executive Board for three years as Treasurer, President, and Past-President. The number of professional and peer connections I have made in the last four years within the context of music therapy has been astronomical… and it will only grow from here! What an amazing profession we have… one that is growing, learning, and teaching us every day to care for our clients in new and creative ways. During these past four years I have had many student practicums that have left a profound impact on my educational experience. This is one of the reasons I love the SMWC Music Therapy Program - I have had seven different practicum experiences and one summer intensive practicum in just four years (That’s a lot of direct hours, by the way!). Some of the most meaningful experiences I have had with clients have inspired my love for Hospice and Palliative Care work in music therapy… which is why I am so fortunate to be starting my internship with Four Seasons Hospice in July of this year. While there, I will get to work with a team of music therapists in hospice, palliative, and bereavement settings. This is another area of my life where I believe Providence is leading me.

SMWC students celebrating with Kristin after her junior recital.
Being a part of this Department has truly helped me to develop my love for deep and meaningful connection with others. This “little Department that could” has given me a family and a home. I’m not sure how I could ever express how much they have helped to shape me into the person I am today. From my teachers to my peers, I have made extraordinary connections here that will remain for a lifetime and beyond. The music we have made, the music therapy interventions we have shared, the learning and supporting that has taken place… everything has been a gift and a blessing. Throughout my time here I have built strong relationships with other students and faculty such as Sharon Boyle, Michael Boswell, Ron Maurey, John McIntyre, and many others outside of the Music and Theatre Department, such as Richard Collins (Saint Mother Theodore Guerin Cohort) and Dianne Powell (Catholic Identity Taskforce). From the impact of my supervision with Sharon Boyle, to my work and music relationship with Michael Boswell, to my encounters with the Saint Mother Theodore Guerin Cohort and Catholic Identity Taskforce, I have had many fantastic opportunities here to grow as a student, professional, and person. I am moving forward into my career knowing that I am well-loved and supported and will always have a home to which I can return.
The 2018-19 SMWC Madrigals singing
with Kristin at her senior recital.

As I prepare to transition into my internship this summer, I cannot help but reflect on what I have learned about music therapy and myself. This profession is teaching me to be more empathic, caring, ethical, self-aware, articulate, and professional each and every day. To say that my music therapy journey and personal journey are intertwined is an understatement. They are one in the same, and I feel very, very fortunate to feel so at home in my career path. I don’t feel like I’m going through college just to get a job and start earning a living, though. The kind of work I have been doing and will continue to do as an intern and professional is soul-fulfilling. It is more than just a career, but rather a vocation and, dare I say, a calling. Again, Providence continues to lead me down a path, providing both big and small affirmations along the way. The Woods has provided countless affirmations, challenges that have helped me to grow as a person, and consolation when I am feeling stuck or insecure. I cannot emphasize enough the support I have received, and how much that means to me. I am going to carry this kindness, this nurturing, and this love with me for the rest of my life. It is my sincere hope that as I transition and move forward in life, I will always carry it with me and share it with everyone I encounter. 
Sharon Boyle and Kristin Foster

To be a “Woodsie” is a core part of my identity. I had no idea that in 2014 when I was walking these grounds that I would call it home and meet the people who would become my extended family. I can humbly advocate for anyone who is currently thinking about beginning their Woods journey: if you are looking for a place that will love you and help you to grow, you’ve come to the right place. This place will teach you a work ethic like no other, and some days will be really, really challenging. But, at the end of it all, I can confidently say I have “promises and miles to go,” (The Ring Song) and that I can continue to daily “place myself gently into the hands of Providence,” (Saint Mother Theodore Guerin) so far which have never failed me. I have learned to trust the journey and trust in Providence, and for that, I graduate this May with a full and content heart.

SMWC students embracing after Kristin's senior recital.
Senior Reflection Blog Post Author: Kristin Foster, a senior music therapy major, who will begin her music therapy internship starting in summer 2019 with Four Seasons Hospice in North Carolina.

Blog Post Editor: Sharon R. Boyle, Associate Professor of Music Therapy and Coordinator of SMWC Undergraduate Music Therapy Program

Music Therapy Student Assistant: Autumn Wilson