One program that makes Drury stand out is the music therapy major. I know a few music therapy majors on campus, and I tracked down one of the students–who I also went to high school with. I interviewed Kirsten, a senior at Drury, about being a music therapy major and what it entails:
Kirsten is a senior at Drury who studies music therapy. Photo courtesy of Facebook
Why did you decide to become a music therapy major at Drury University?
Deciding to major in music therapy was not an immediate decision for me. In fact, I had not even heard of the field until my last year of college at a neighboring school. My mom was the first person to mention music therapy as a serious career path. I had always grown up with music, from listening to it in my home, to private piano lessons, and throughout middle school and high school band. Since music was such a big part of my life, I knew that I could not let it stop there. Shortly after hearing about it, I decided to meet with the head of the music therapy department to tour the campus and learn more about what I would be potentially doing. After hearing about all of the amazing things I would get to be involved in and the people that I would get to help, I knew that music therapy was the perfect career path for me. Help people condense.
So far in your area of study, which class has been your favorite and why?
That is an impossible question to answer. All of my classes and instructors have been memorable. My instructor Dr. Carlyle Sharpe made learning about music theory more fun than I could have ever imagined. When I wanted to rip out my hair from frustration at analyzing music, he was always there with a good joke and helpful tips on how to understand what the composer was doing.
I’ve also enjoyed my time in the Drury jazz band ensemble. I came into the group knowing very little about playing drums, and after three years of performing with the other instrumentalists, I can see how much I’ve grown as a musician. My piano teacher, Sungsil Kim has been one of the most supportive and outstanding individuals I have ever met in my life. She taught me how to quit playing only notes, and how to make real music.
Lastly, my field studies class in which I get to work with real clients in a clinical setting has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. The individuals that I get to help on a weekly basis always teach me something new, and my supervising therapist, Leslie Jones, has helped show me what kind of music therapist I want to be. By far, that class has given me the most hands on experience of my collegiate career.
What challenges have you faced being a music therapy major?
One issue that all music therapists are facing right now is obtaining licensure. Currently, Missouri music therapists are working with senators in the capitol to lobby for these rights. Without licensure, it is harder for music therapists to provide groups and individuals with services because people have to pay out of pocket. So far the music therapy students at Drury have put forth effort to advocate by compiling folders with information about music therapy for the “Hill Day” on the capitol, by providing drum circles on campus to promote good health and stress relief and by performing at open mic nights at Big Momma’s coffee shop to spread awareness and good music! Hopefully through these actions we will make a big difference for our clients and other music therapists alike.
Personally, one of my biggest challenges has been to create new session plans each week for the diverse population of clientele that I serve. I individualize each intervention/activity and song to meet the client’s specific needs. It may sound simple, but it is a lot of work, especially when you have a job to maintain and live off-campus.
Give me some examples of projects you have completed for your major:
The most common thing I do as a music therapy major does is create hour-long session plans for each one of my clients/groups. You choose the music (or write your own), practice the music throughout the week (almost all of the music we provide our clients with is live instead of prerecorded), help pick goals that the client wants to work on, and you make visual aids. Put all of those elements together, and you have yourself an average day in the life of a music therapist.
Along with these session plans, a music therapy major constantly works on practicing all of their many instruments (voice, piano, guitar, percussion, and their chosen primary instrument). Each student works all semester long on certain challenging pieces that they will memorize and perform at the end of the semester in front of the faculty. Students also have practice writing professional papers and article reviews that have the potential of being submitted to our professional journal for music therapy. Overall, the work of a music therapist is never done.
What kind of advice would you give to a prospective student who is looking into studying music therapy at Drury?
Practice! Practice! Practice! Any music/music therapy major will tell you the same thing. You want to be able to play your instruments adequately, and with confidence.
Another good tidbit of advice I would like to share is get out and enjoy some concerts in town! As a music therapy major, we are required to attend so many performances each year. This was a frustrating task my first year at Drury. Instead of enjoying the music I told myself that going to each concert was a chore. Do not allow yourself to think like that! Just sit back, relax, and have a little fun listening to something that you might not have had the chance to hear before.
Some of my most valuable experiences I have taken from my time in the music therapy program have been when I have volunteered. Whether it be in drum circles for cancer patients, a conference for children with Down syndrome or Autism, or a bereavement group; all taught me something important. I suggest that any person avidly pursuing a degree some additional experience in the field by donating some of their time.
Thinking about music therapy as a major? Visit the department webpage for more information.