Music to spark a better life for older adults and preschoolers


Pathway Between the Old and New Market

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Rachel See Smith, MA, MT-BC recently posted “How I became interested in music therapy” which made me realize  that while I had shared my story on Musical Gems (My Music Therapy Aha! Moment) I hadn’t shared my story on this site. Here is the expanded version of my career path in music therapy.

Finding my path

My parents often joked I sang before I talked. While that may or may not be true, some of my earliest memories are of singing. At around age 2 I sang two settings of the liturgy at church and created my own songs while swinging. As I grew, I continued to sing.  I also studied piano and flute. One Christmas, my parents gave me a guitar which I taught myself to play.

My dad, a Lutheran pastor, chanted the liturgy and listened to opera whenever he could. My mom lead family singalongs around the piano and in the car.  They took us to concerts and played a variety of music in our home. Growing up in the parsonage afforded may opportunities for creating music at church and taking part in visits with shut-ins. All of this created a desire to work with people and to create music. Fields such as social work and elementary music education didn’t quite fit my desires. One Sunday a feature article in the Wichita Eagle-Beacon highlighted a music therapist working at St. Francis Hospital in Wichita, KS. I suddenly knew I had found my career.

Starting on the path

It took a lot of work to convince my high school counsel such a field existed and was offered at the University of Kansas. Once I was at KU, I was blessed to be surrounded by gifted students like Barry Bernstein, Brian and Lesley Hunter and wonderful professors including Dr. Alicia Clair. It was a great environment for me to learn and work with a variety of clients during my practicums. I interned at Parsons State Hospital and Training Center  in Parsons, KS with Ron Havelka. There I had the opportunity to interact with interns in many other disciplines including art, speech, and occupational therapies.

Where the path has led

Since completing my studies, I have worked with a variety of clientele in a range of settings. Other than when I have been self-employed I have carried job titles other than “music therapist”. Yet, that training has served me well. And, I have gained skills in all these positions and been able to utilize my music therapy skills in them. Most importantly, I found populations for which I have a passionate – older adults and young children. And, I developed skills leading intergenerational groups.

I still accept opportunities to work with those outside these groups. (One never knows when a new passion will develop.) Attending conferences, reading journals and books, looking for sources of information on the web are part of my continued growth as a therapist and as a person. Also, I know I am constantly learning from those I am blessed to have as clients.

What this path means for my clients

It’s a long road to freedom,

A winding steep and high,

But when you walk in love

With the wind on your wing

And cover the earth with the songs you sing

The miles fly by. ~ lyrics by Sister Miriam Therese Winter

My path to music therapy and to this point in life has been many miles and filled with many songs. For all those you have been with me and those who will cross paths in the future , thank you.

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Comments on: "Finding My Career Path in Music Therapy" (5)

  1. […] To continue reading, click here. Share this:SharePrintFacebookEmailStumbleUpon This entry was posted in Music Sparks and tagged Arts, Lutheran, Music, Music therapy. Bookmark the permalink. ← Elvis Week Sing-along […]

  2. This is great! I’m loving to “how I got here” stories that are being shared. I had to convince my counselors that MT was real too!

    • It is fun reading the finding music therapy stories. It will be interesting how to see if they change in the next ten years with all the press that has recently happened.

  3. I’m interested to see the way the stories will change with the way music technology has changed, too. Electronica, music by computer, etc. I don’t think that classically trained musicians will be overlooked or anything, but I’m curious how Music Therapy will expand.

    • Technology is incorporated in music therapy. For example, there are lots of music therapist using computer programs in the creation and recording of music by and for clients. The use of I-pads is also happening. However, it does take time for research to demonstrate an evidence base. As technology continues to expand our understanding of the human nervous system, I think we will have potential for creating an even stronger evidence based for music therapy.

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