Year of Graduation: 2009
Current Positions: Music Therapist, Lifeworks Services, Inc. & Travel Consultant, Paradise Weddings and Travel (Additional Education: Music Therapy, Augsburg College)
Describe your current positions and what they entails.
As a Board Certified Music Therapist, I am working with clients to reach therapeutic goals. A music therapist works to create goals and track them, while providing music interventions. Music Therapy uses music to reach non musical goals. We may be working to increasing communication, develop positive coping skills, provide a space for emotional expression or to enrich the client's life through music. The population I work with are mainly teens and adults with developmental disabilities. I like to look at each person and find their real abilities and work with that, rather than focusing on a disability.
I also run my own travel business. I was always interested in traveling and exploring new places. After my destination wedding in 2014, I joined the company that my travel agent worked for. Now I plan and coordinate travel for my clients as they celebrate a honeymoon, destination wedding, family trip or vacations for fun. I've been fortunate to travel to destinations like Costa Rica, multiple destinations in Mexico, Hawaii and soon to Bora Bora to research resorts. I'm passionate about providing a quality planning experience that's stress free for my clients! I am most excited when I get to share my travel experiences and recommendations with a client and then see the trip come to life.
What path did you follow to arrive at your current goal?
During my sophomore year at St. Ben's, I decided I wanted to become a Child Life Specialist and maybe go to school to become a Music Therapist as well. I looked ahead at the courses that were required in various music therapy programs and decided to start taking them at St. Ben's. By doing this, I was able to cut out an extra year at Augsburg.
When senior year came around, I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I ended up applying for Child Life internships and grad school. It was very hectic, both auditioning for schools and conducting interviews but it all paid off in the end. I had a few different options and ended up completing my Child Life internship at Sanford Health in Fargo, ND, the fall after I graduated. I then started on my music therapy degree. It is really tough to get a job in Child Life so that is what helped me decide to go back to school right away.
After my destination wedding in 2014 I was presented with the opportunity to start working in travel. When you start a business, your network is so important! I've always enjoyed keeping up with friends and family over the years and those first round of referrals is how I got started. Now I am receiving referrals from past clients, friends of friends and random clients finding my name online. It's been an exciting place to be to watch this business evolve over the past two years.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
Look into required coursework for Music Therapy early so that you might be able to fit some of these classes in while at CSB/SJU. Also, music therapy is currently moving in the direction of occupational therapy. In 2-5 years, a Master's degree will be considered entry level for the field and the Bachelor's degree will no longer exist. Most likely those people who have Bachelor's degrees will be "grandfathered" into the new system.
As for my career in travel, I went about this in a very unconventional way. I had become very good friends with our travel agent that I worked for our destination wedding; she helped me get everything started (including training) from the ground up. If I was going to give advice to anyone interested in starting in the travel world, I would say to apply to a local travel agency to start. You will get leads, learn from coworkers in-house, receive trainings and meet important people in the industry (like your business development managers and property sales representatives) as they pop in the office. As an agent working from home, it would be extremely hard to meet those people otherwise. You would also have the opportunity to go on familiarizing trips to the various locations I mentioned earlier to see the resorts, meet the staff, eat the food, sleep in the beds, etc. It really makes a difference if you are able to personally recommend or NOT recommend a property. Getting a few years under your belt in an agency will provide a wide background on travel and set you up with a client base. If you choose to go out on your own, you can seek out a Host Agency and pay a yearly fee to work from home but have their resources. Or you could continue to work in a travel agency as well!
What skills are important in your field?
Child Life Specialists deal with high stress environments daily. You meet the family and their child in some of the most vulnerable experiences of a lifetime. The hospital is fast-paced and knowing medical terminology is a MUST. Every day looks different as far as how you prioritize your time and you will have to be able to go with the flow as well. Child life specialists also need to maintain their certification as time goes on, so continuing education must be a priority.
Music Therapists are creative musicians who want to use music to help people in some way. They have strong intuition and are able to cope with stressful situations. Music Therapists are also proficient in piano, guitar and voice. You will learn these instruments in school but it would be really helpful to start playing and singing before grad school.
Travel Consultants are like event planners. You need to be detail oriented, good with managing money and budgets and a "people person". You will meet all different kinds of people! Travel is my first job in sales - you will be selling your services and resorts based on your experience.
What are the most challenging and satisfying parts of your work?
I get to play and sing music with clients for a job - it doesn't get much better than that! I'm able to create an experience that helps people cope with life situations. Music Therapists work with clients from the neonatal intensive care units to hospice. Music is a sort of universal language that accesses people across the lifespan. The most challenging part of music therapy and child life is self-care. It is easy to get burned out in a field that is growing so rapidly. I could be working 7 days a week with all the needs out there. It's important to set boundaries and do things to satisfy your own needs. Taking time to go for a walk or read a book is something that I try to do daily; it can affect your ability to help others if you don't have a strong foundation.
Running your own business can be stressful. The environment can be a roller coaster as your business will fluctuate year to year. You really need to be smart with your money to manage how you are going to pay yourself in those months that are slower for travel. Seeing amazing places and sharing what you learned with your clients is definitely a high point!
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for your current career?
I really liked one of the service learning projects I took part in at St. Benedict's Senior Center. I was able to help the music therapist with activities and continued to volunteer after my hours were over for class. I was able to see first hand what music therapy is all about. I'd suggest picking one volunteer opportunity and really getting involved. Those experiences will shape your perspective and can serve as really good resources down the road.
If you want to get into travel, studying abroad would be a good way to see and live in a new place for a semester. I never did an official study abroad at CSB but I look back wishing I had. If you don't study abroad, try to do a May term or take your own backpacking trip with friends! I also wish I would have taken a business class or been involved with the entrepreneurship program. My degree in Sociology is definitely something I use every day working with people!
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