In case you missed it this weekend:
I was getting this post ready to publish and I realized I’ve featured 26 careers on the blog now. How exciting! I love how there are SO MANY diverse and interesting careers out there.
Here are the last five careers Iâ€™ve featured and you can find ALL my career features HERE!
- History Professor
- Stay at Home Mom Feature II
- Director of Support Services
- Occupational Therapist
- Stay at Home Mom Feature I
1. What is your official job title and what exactly does your job entail?
I am a Music Therapist and my official job title is Music Therapist. Â I work within the Special Education Department of a large suburban school district in the Dallas area. Â I use music to help students who have special needs work on goals that are typically non-musical in nature. Â We use music to help students with speech and communication skills, to work on fine and gross motor skills, to learn how to function in a group with appropriate social skills, and with general academic skills.
I serve these students in conjunction with speech therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, counselors, behavior specialists, and teachers. Â A big part of my job is teaching the teachers how to use music in their classrooms so that they can continue to utilize my strategies continuously in their learning environments. Â I work with students ranging in age from 3 years old to 22 years old. Â Many of my students have Autism, Intellectual Disabilities, Auditory/Visual Impairments, Speech Impairments, Emotional/Behavior Disturbances, and Physical Disabilities.
Music therapy is a wonderfully diverse field and can cover many areasâ€”I have colleagues that work with individuals who are elderly, are recovering from strokes, who are in psychiatric facilities, who are receiving hospice care, and who are recovering from traumatic brain injuries (US Representative Gabrielle Giffords and her music therapist have made the news very recently). Â There is a lot of growth in the area of wellness lately as the Baby Boomers are getting older but are working to maintain their cognitive fitness.
2. How did you get into this field?
I started playing the clarinet in middle school and immediately fell in love with band and music, but I knew that I did not want to teach music or be a band director. Â I had a strong interest in psychology and human anatomy and considered studying physical therapyâ€”but I didnâ€™t like the idea of â€œgiving upâ€ music in order to study those other fields. Â While attending a college night at my high school I noticed a check box on an information cardâ€¦it said â€œmusic therapy.â€ Â I was pretty certain that I had found the perfect career for me and set out to find more information. Â I attended Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas where I received my Bachelorâ€™s of Music in Music Therapy, then I completed a six month clinical internship at a state psychiatric facility, sat for my Board Certification exam and the rest is history! Â My first job was in a nursing home and I worked there for two years before coming to the school system.
3. What is the most challenging thing about your job?
One of the hardest things about my job is being responsible for approximately 20 campuses every school year. Â Traveling between schools has a lot of advantages (not getting wrapped up in school politics, listening to the radio, getting outside in beautiful weather) but it can also be difficult. Â My job includes a lot of â€œstuffâ€ that I have to carry from place-to-place: a guitar, books/visual aides, instruments (small drums or other Latin percussion instruments), a laptop computer, notebooks for documentation, etc. Â Moving between 2-3 campuses a day can be physically demanding! Â The ever extreme Texas weather can also make things interestingâ€”I have been traveling between schools in 105 degree weather this school year, but I have seen everything: sleet, pouring rain, fog, freezing cold, etc. Â I have to be very creative in making workspaces on my campuses and can often be found working in a teacherâ€™s lounge or in the lobby of a school. Â I call my car my ca-ffice as it serves as my office on wheels. Â I could see where it might be easier to work in one facility and have the clients come to you, as is the case with some music therapists.
4. Describe a typical day in your work life?
My schedule varies from day to day as I am working on different campuses and with different groups each day. Â I will give you a basic example of what a day might look like. Â Mornings are usually busy because that is a good time to catch the students with their special ed classes before they go out into inclusion for the day. Â I also work with preschoolers who are only in school from 8:00-11:00 or 12:00-3:00.
So a typical day might go something like this:
8:00 Arrive at my first campus, gather my guitar and materials from the car, and sign-in.
8:10-8:40 Music Therapy group with morning PPCD (Public Preschool for Children with Disabilities) Class
8:45-9:00 Pack up and drive to next campus
9:00-9:30 Individual Music Therapy session with 4th grade student who has visual impairments and cognitive delays
9:30-11:30 Office timeâ€”emails, documentation, planning for upcoming sessions, scheduling, consultation with teachers, etc. Â Sometimes I have to attend meetings for students to help determine their Individual Education Plan for the year. Â These are annual meetings that every student who is receiving special education has. Â I do not have to go to all of them as I am not included in every studentâ€™s plan, but I do attend the ones that have music therapy as a related service.
12:00-12:30 Pack up and travel back to my original campus for that day
12:30-1:00 Music Therapy group with afternoon PPCD Class
1:00-1:30 Music Therapy group for Functional Life Skills Class (these students are more medically fragile and have more physical needs)
1:30-2:15 Office time as neededâ€”consultations, documentation, planning, etc
2:15-3:00 Pack up and travel to middle school
3:00-3:30 Music Therapy group for middle school Life Skills Class
3:30-4:00 Pack up for the day, finish documentation, make sure I am set for tomorrow
5. What’s your favourite thing about your job? Least favourite thing?
I am so lucky because I have been working with students when they have uttered their first word or sound. Â Music is such a motivating thing for most kids so their faces usually light up when they see me come in the room with my guitar. Â Sometimes music is the only thing that will work for a student and the teachers and other therapists will come to me when they have tried everything that they can think of. Â One of the physical therapists calls us â€œmagic therapistsâ€. Â I get to sing and play with kids all dayâ€¦who can beat that? Â There are very few drawbacks to my job and that is another reason that I am lucky.
If I had to pick a least favorite thing it would be doing paperwork and documentation. Â I would rather be with the students than working at my desk.
6. What is something about your job that surprises people?
I think that people are surprised at the level of musicianship a music therapist must possess. Â In order to be an effective therapist you have to be completely in the moment with your client. Â That means that you canâ€™t be thinking about what lyric comes next or how to play a chord on the guitar. Â The music must flow so naturally from you that it is like second nature. You must have a lot of skills in your â€œbag of tricks.â€ The more instruments you can play with ease the more tools you will have when working with a client and thus more opportunities to reach them.
My coworkers and I call it the â€œIceberg Theoryâ€â€”a casual observer might simply see singing, music games, instruments, and fun but there is a lot going on under the surfaceâ€”communication skills, motor skills, social skills, academic skillsâ€¦.the list is infinite! Â Music therapy really requires a wonderful mix of skillsâ€”psychology, education, human interactions, and musicianship.
7. If you could describe your career in one word, what would that word be?
8. Anything else you’d like to add?
Sorry if I have gone on and onâ€¦.you can see that this is a topic very near and dear to my heart! Â I am lucky to have found a career that is fulfilling and that teaches me so much everyday.