Is It Worth It?

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Is it worth it…?

What I mean by is it worth it for Music Therapist is… Is a five year degree where you are trained as a music educator and a clinician worth it? Now do you continue on with your education to receive a Masters degree, is it worth it? Music Therapy is a unique job and there aren’t as many of us as say, occupational therapists or speech therapists and in some cases recreation therapist. So is it worth it to try find your place to build a career? Coming out of Music Therapy school let’s say, as a trumpet major (as your applied instrument) is it worth it to develop as a well rounded musician using voice guitar or piano? 

Let me describe some music therapy  scenarios and you can decide…

Last week a nurse in one of my outlying areas for hospice identified our heartbeat  music offerings to a distraught family member who was losing her mother. Having just gone out to this outlining area I had to go back out two days later for this and upon walking into this patient’s room, with 15 family members, I quickly recorded the patient’s heartbeat (because she was actively dying). With that done I told the daughter that “one important thing we have to do is for you to decide on a song you want to accompany your mothers heartbeat, for this keepsake project. Without even thinking the daughter said “Amazing grace, it’s my mom‘s favorite song…” Seeing that the family wanted spiritual music we sang some hymns together and the daughter and another niece were holding the the mothers hands while singing. After a few hymns with everybody emoting, singing and even pleasantly reminiscing, I said let’s sing amazing grace. While singing amazing Grace the patient passed. Is it all worth it?

Of course, every day people pass with music playing in their midst. But myself as a music therapist, I was able to be there during this family’s precious time and facilitate doing this playing live, their mothers favorite song. Wow!

Another scenario…

A while back I had this very fragile hospice patient in his 50s who lived a very rough, drug and alcohol addicted life. Upon meeting him he said he loves music and that all his life he has written lyrics, expressing his dreams and life experiences. We embarked on a project to make an album using his lyrics, the patient wanted me to put music to his lyrics. When he would write words I would “shore them up” to make them a bit more lyrical, which he was fine with, then he would identify a favorite singer or group that he wanted the song to sound like. I would listen to that song for five seconds to get the flavor ,energy and spirit of his chosen music then I would write music to his words. I’ll never forget the first song I present it to him with his words… He had tears in his eyes and he said “I never, ever thought I would hear my words put to music.” He was thrilled and we went on for the next year and a half doing many many more songs. His family has them now to cherish forever.

My last scenario… Doing (pre school) autism and special needs large group music therapy sessions two years ago, the staff wanted me to organize their Christmas, holiday event around Music Therapy. This, I’ll never forget… After one of the programs a parent came up to me with tears in her eyes saying “I never thought I would see my young child perform in a school music program…” she was thrilled!

So, is it worth it? I’m sure you can see that I would say it is more than worth it! But as I mentioned earlier, Music Therapy is a unique profession, it is not easy, but it is very enriching, gift-giving, and even spiritual on so many levels.

I’ll end with something I always end my blog posts with and that is,

What is my prescription? 1) Identify if you truly love music, because after all these years that’s so important. 2) Become well-versed in an accompaniment instrument like guitar and piano, and get as much experience playing every style of music you can. Put yourself in various performance situations. And 3), keep developing in music and music therapy related areas like songwriting, recording, new modalities like Heartbeat music, the use of technology in  music therapy, and more…