When I was in high school, I was often asked what I wanted to study when I went to college. For a long time, I didn’t have an answer to that question. I knew I wanted to go to college, but I didn’t know where I should go, or what I would choose to study there. Then one morning, I was called to my school’s guidance office to take a test. (Fun fact: I don’t like tests.) But this one was different. This test was all about me, my interests, my skills, my ambitions. When I submitted the test, a list was generated based on my answers of the possible jobs and career paths I could pursue. Take a guess what career was number 1 on that list.
If you guessed music therapy, you would be correct! At the time I had no idea what music therapy was, if it would be the right fit for me, or if I would even be a good enough musician to pursue it as my career choice. I started doing some research on the field and ended up writing a major thesis paper on it during my junior year of high school. I spent summers volunteering at camps that served individuals with special needs, and that started to light my fire a bit. During my senior year, I applied to colleges that had music therapy programs affiliated with the AMTA (American Music Therapy Association) and was accepted to three of the schools. Ultimately, I completed my degree program at Elizabethtown College, a smaller school in Lancaster county, PA. Their music therapy program was demanding and rigorous, but successful in teaching me everything I would need to know in order to do my future job well.
The most important and inspiring part of my education, however, was my fieldwork. I started my practicum experience by observing music therapy sessions led by upperclassmen in the program. The next step was assisting in sessions, helping to pass out instruments and materials and be an extra set of hands where needed. From my third semester on, I was co-leading music therapy sessions with another student, and working with individual clients on my own. I was fortunate to work with clients across the age spectrum, and a wide variety of populations, including: autism, Down syndrome, MDs (multiple disabilities), PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), older adults with and without dementia, hematology/oncology patients, and post-surgical patients. It was during these practicum placements that I developed an understanding and love for each of the specific populations, each for the things that made them unique – the way certain clients played instruments, the way a client’s face lit up during a favorite song, the memories shared by older adults, the progress I got to witness across the semester as the clients grew in their goals. I loved the variety I experienced as a student and really felt like I wanted that to continue in my work as a professional one day.
Knowing that there were endless possibilities in the field, I selected hospice & palliative care for my clinical internship following my academic coursework. This was a population we did not get to experience in undergrad, and I wanted to at least dip a toe in. The 6 months I spent providing music therapy services to hospice patients were life-changing. When I finished that internship, I really felt like I had been able to observe and learn to facilitate music therapy in a broad array of settings. I was so motivated to study efficiently so I could take my board certification exam as soon as possible.
If you remember, I mentioned earlier that I’m not a fan of tests. This particular test was a big one, and took months of studying and preparation. I took the music therapy board certification exam in July of 2018 and passed on the first try, which does not always happen. I was so proud and excited to finally be credentialed, and Valotta Studios scooped me up as a passionate, brand-new music therapist. Working with the leadership team at Valotta, we launched the music therapy program officially in October of 2018. To see this practice grow over the last 3 years has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It is a thrill to be able to offer this service to the families in my community. Along with our individual clients, we now contract with an assisted living facility, as well as a school, providing music therapy in various forms both on-site and virtually. I was ecstatic to bring on Ms. Emily in February of this year; she has been a wonderful addition to the program, as she not only provides music therapy, but is also a music educator and teaches adaptive lessons to students with learning differences and special needs.
Looking back on how everything began to write this post made me teary-eyed as I remembered how excited I was to enter school and study to become a music therapist. Little did I know I would help to create a program right in the community where I grew up. I feel so fortunate and can’t wait to see all the incredible ways Valotta Music Therapy will continue to grow!