Year of Graduation: 2009
Continuing Education: Music Therapy, Augsburg College
Please give a brief description of your graduate program and what it entails?
Augsburg College offers both two options for students who would like to become a music therapist. If you already have a bachelor's degree you can enter the equivalency program in which you complete the coursework you need to become a certified music therapist but do not receive a degree from Augsburg. The second option is to earn a second bachelor's degree in music therapy. The second option requires two extra classes but you have the option to receive greater financial aid. Depending on the college coursework you already have, it will take 2-3 years to complete the program at Augsburg. Music therapy students must complete a six-month internship once their coursework has been completed.
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.
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.
What skills are important in your field?
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.
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 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.
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.