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Red River Valley                                                                Winter 2016
A publication of the Southwestern Region of the American Music Therapy Association                                                                                             

Ask Eva

Ask Eva is a column aimed at answering student and new professional music therapist’s questions about the professional and personal aspects of this field. “Eva” is actually a panel of experts from around the Southwestern Region that pool their vast knowledge. The column is named as a tribute to Eva Augusta Vescelius who was a pioneer in the field of music therapy in the 1920’s. She founded the National Society of Musical Therapeutics, one of the first music therapy organizations which eventually paved the way to the American Music Therapy Association and your very own Southwest Region of the AMTA.

1) I have had several practicum placements and have loved working with every population. Do you have any advice as I start planning where to apply for internship? I can't decide which population I would most like to focus on. 

Congratulations on the progress you've made!  It's great to hear that you have had experience in several settings and populations. Having difficulty narrowing down your preferred population is a common concern for student music therapists. Here are a few things to think about as you start applying for internships.

What did you like in particular about each population? Being able to identify the factors that really draw you to a population can help you make a decision. Keep in mind that some sites have multiple populations served. Working at one of these sites will give you more time and experience before you have to decide where to apply for a job.

Where do you want to live when you are done? Or where would you live to live temporarily?  You may be able use this time as an opportunity to live in a particular area for six months while completing your internship. Be open!

If you are able to attend the SWAMTA conference in March (Fort Worth), you will have a great opportunity to network within our region. Plan to meet some of the amazing MT-BCs you’ve read about or heard speak. Maybe you will find yourself talking to your future intern director!

2) How can I gain more experience required for certain jobs that require “more experience” in that specific setting?

That is a tricky situation, isn't it?

Volunteering in areas where you need experience is an excellent way to learn.  I don't think that always needs to be doing music, but is helpful! Gaining experience with the target population, learning how to interact with them and what their needs and behaviors are would prepare someone nicely without having paid music therapy experience. Be sure to list these as volunteer hours on your resume.

Some possible areas for volunteer opportunities are churches offering respite evenings for parents of children with special needs, nursing homes, camps for various needs, hospitals, and hospices. Many groups would love to have you share music with them for no charge!

Also, see if there are any supplemental skill trainings you could take that would enhance what you would have to offer in that job setting. For example, sign language training, training in specific augmentative communication devices, etc. Employers like to see that therapists have "gone the extra mile" to develop skills.

3) Do music therapists working in school districts continue to work through the summer?

Great question!

Music therapists that are contract (self-employed) may or may not be offered work during the summer months. Employees of a school district will likely be paid across the school year, and may or may not be required to work during the summer.  Some school districts also offer summer programs that are called Extended School Year (ESY) programs. These are abbreviated programs that are available to special needs students who show regression after a long period away from their educational settings.  

If you are a contract therapist, it is wise to save money for those months and to seek out other work during the summers to help you financially. Be creative! You can offer a short-term program for music therapy groups, teach a summer music camp, or offer private music therapy sessions for the summer. Some families actually prefer only a short-term commitment.

Of course, you could also save up enough during the year so that you can take the summer to relax and refresh yourself for the next school year!

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