Keeping Busy: My Day-to-Day Summer Schedule

Hello again! I hope you had a lovely Independence Day!

For me, it was a lovely mid-week break. Thursdays are my busiest days between a contract location in the morning and clients and students in the afternoon, so the holiday was a much needed bit of rest. Reflecting (and resting!) yesterday inspired me to write a blog post about my weekly schedule now that I’ve settled into a routine.

Mondays are a good, slow start to the week. I have a contract location in the morning and then I see a few clients at MTC in the afternoon. It’s a great way to ease into the week!

Tuesdays begin to speed up a bit, with a very fast-paced contract all morning, supervision with my colleagues in the afternoon, and a few lessons in the afternoon and evening.

Wednesdays are a nice bit of mid-week quiet for now. I’ll have some Listen and Learn for Little Ones classes starting this week and I’ll begin at a different contract location on Wednesday mornings in the early fall, but for now I’ve just been focusing on office tasks, practicing, and students.

Thursdays are by far my busiest day! I go to the same fast-paced contract location as Tuesday for a few hours in the morning, then I head to MTC for a few back-to-back clients and students in the afternoon. I usually leave the office quite tired at the end of the day, but also quite fulfilled.

Fridays for now are a nice quiet end to the work week. The contract location I’m scheduled to be at is on summer break, so I’ve just been taking Fridays as an opportunity to get things done at MTC like organizing and cleaning, practicing, writing blog posts, doing some general office work and seeing a client and a student. Starting in the fall, though, my Fridays will fill up quickly with contract work and more clients and students at MTC!

This ‘light’ schedule has been a great way to ease into my new job and roles here at MTC. Coming straight from busy weeks of college classes and internship has definitely helped keep me on top of things and in a routine. It’s also definitely helped that my schedule is a bit lighter for the summer as I get adjusted to life as a professional music therapist and living here in Springfield.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read! I look forward to seeing you around MTC.

Molly Robitaille

New Beginnings

I have mementos of home all over my apartment- one of my favorites is this beautiful picture of Connecticut, featuring mountain laurel which is the state flower.

Hello again and happy Friday! Now that I’ve introduced myself, I wanted to share a little about my first few weeks here at MTC and in Illinois. As you may know from reading my previous blog post, I recently moved here all the way from Connecticut. It was a big change, but one I’m so glad I made!

Relocating your entire life can be a little scary, especially when you’re moving halfway across the country to a place where you know no one. When I was looking for a job, I didn’t really look in Connecticut much. I knew that I wanted to live in a different state and experience new things — but I never thought that would bring me all the way to Illinois! I’ve always had an adventurous spirit, so when this wonderful opportunity presented itself, I didn’t bat an eyelash. It’s been the best decision I’ve ever made!

Now that I’ve been here for almost a month, I’ve had some time to settle in to my routine. I have a jam-packed schedule at MTC and the various contract locations that I serve, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve kept busy with trainings, paperwork, practicing, sessions, lessons, and not to mention unpacking and organizing at home!

Now that most of the trainings and paperwork are done and my apartment is mostly unpacked, I am really looking forward to getting out and exploring the awesome city of Springfield.

It’s been wonderful getting to know all the families and clients at MTC and I look forward to writing more blog posts in the future! Thanks for reading!

Molly Robitaille

Finding Balance in a Job with Multiple Hats

When a typical day consists of balancing being a therapist, music instructor, and occasionally, an early childhood music teacher, it can feel like my main job is actually figuring out how to balance all of the different roles.

I struggle with balancing the position of teacher and therapist because I tend to rigidly categorize myself as a music therapist who should only pursue music therapy-specific roles.

Although I grew up taking music lessons every week, I never pictured myself in a teacher role. Even in my current position, I am still learning what the role of a music therapist truly looks like.

How I found a balance in the various hats that I wear in my professional life

I struggle with balancing the position of teacher and therapist because I tend to rigidly categorize myself as a music therapist who should only pursue music therapy-specific roles. However, the more I’m actively working within this field, the more I see opportunities for my music therapy training to supplement other disciplines/roles and vice versa.  

In teaching lessons, the music therapist in me is able to tune into my students’ developmental, psycho-social, and behavioral needs, all the while keeping them engaged in the music and task at hand.

In music therapy sessions I often find myself drawing on the resources, repertoire, and lessons that I have used teaching the individual lessons and classes.  

During the times when the roles of music instructor and music therapist intersect, I have to remember that no matter what I’m doing (whether it’s teaching individual lessons, 1:1 music therapy sessions, or leading group music therapy sessions), the most important aspect of my work is empowering my students and clients to live life fully.

I find joy in knowing that growing my students’ music skills could lead to more opportunities in their academic and extracurricular life, future performance opportunities, and even a future career.

As for my clients, I love using music as a tool to lead to physical, communicative, emotional, academic, social, and recreational wellness.

These are just some of the reasons that I love what I do, day in and day out. If you have taken on different roles as a music therapist, I’d love to hear from you! let me know in the comments how you have worked through your various roles, and how your roles have informed your day to day life.  

Adult Piano Lessons in Springfield, Illinois

Song Discussion and Songwriting: Increasing Emotional Wellness

Song discussion and songwriting can be beneficial and fascinating practices. Not only do they give an opportunity for the client to respond to a song in a real and genuine way, but they are also exercises in expecting the unexpected.

It can be scary to never really know how the client will respond. Thankfully, through many hours of clinical training, embracing the uncomfortable has become easier. I’ve come to appreciate the moments where my clients feel empowered to express themselves through song lyrics in a safe space.

How do I validate emotions that can’t exactly be defined?

One song discussion and songwriting intervention that I have recently used involved goals of discriminating and processing emotions, increasing self expression, increasing reminiscence, and strengthening coping skills.

The application began when I played a song that was requested by my client. Once the song ended, I asked my client how it made her feel. After a long pause, my client answered, “somewhat in between.”

In my head, I was pondering: how do I validate emotions that can’t exactly be defined? Do they need to be defined to be valid? All of a sudden, this intervention popped up in my head that both honored my client’s response and could be a starting point in helping my client increase her coping skills and emotional processing.  

My client mentioned that the song made her feel both sad and happy. I grabbed my white board and used a dry erase marker to draw a happy face on the left side of the board, a sad face on the right side, and a neutral face in the middle.

With each experience, I validated what was shared and made her know that it was a safe place to share only what she felt comfortable with.

Next, I went through the lyrics, two lines at a time, and asked my client to place the lines under each emotion that best matched how the lyrics made her feel.

After we finished placing the lyrics under the various emotions, we took a look at the board and saw just how mixed a song could make someone feel. Not only was this helpful for my client to visually see the diversity of emotions, but it also helped the her to see that it was okay to not feel strictly “happy” or “sad” all the time.

To make this intervention more personal and to further allow my client to discriminate emotions based on her own experiences, I prompted my client to describe moments in her life where she felt happy, sad, and in between. With each experience shared, I validated what she said and again stated that it was a safe place to share only what she felt comfortable with.

We didn’t have time to put her experiences to music yet, but we are excited to finish our original song during our next session. 

Song discussion and songwriting can be a very personal experience, and therefore can look different for each client. What are ways that you have incorporated emotional goals and coping skills in song discussion and songwriting? We’d love to hear from your experiences, so let us know in the comments below!

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Where Music Lessons Have Taken Me

Where Music Lessons Have Taken Me

“What instruments do you play?”

That’s one of the questions I get asked the most when I tell people that I’m a music therapist. I usually list off my instruments and the conversation continues.

You’d think I’d get tired of answering this question. Instead, it’s the opposite.

I’m always glad when someone asks because it gives me an opportunity to reflect on each instrument I’ve learned, the relationship I’ve had with each instrument, the season in my life during which I was learning, and where it has brought me today.

Given the sheer amount of time, financial investment, practicing, and personal growth that is associated with learning instruments, choosing an instrument and sticking with it is a big deal!

For me, the musical journey began at age five, when I started taking piano lessons with my sisters.

  • Was it fun all the time? No.
  • Did my parents have to shuttle four kids to their lessons every week? Yes.
  • Did I have to practice over and over? Yes.
  • Was it worth it? Yes.

To name everything I have gained as a result of taking piano lessons would take a long time. Therefore,  I will share just a few:

  • Learning discipline (i.e. “doing the things that are good for me even when I don’t feel it)
  • Finding a creative outlet
  • Building confidence and competence to grow in a new skill
  • Gaining opportunities to share music with others (joining the praise team at my church or accompanying friends who love to sing)

One of the best things about the piano was that it served as a foundation to the other instruments that I learned.

I began the French horn at age 11.

While I never had any previous experience with the horn, my dad played the trumpet and instilled within his kids a deep love for brass instruments. I loved how the French horn looked, sounded, and also the fact that you could turn it all around and spit would come out! All in all, music was enjoyable to me, but I did’t become serious about it until I started to think about college and what I would major in.

My senior year in high school presented a series of new challenges including auditioning for an honors orchestra, understanding the role of principal horn, and eventually, committing to audition for colleges as a prospective performance major.

It was a stressful time in my life, but the feeling of working so hard towards my goals and meeting them gave me the fuel and confidence to continue my music journey in college as a horn performance major.

While at college, I immersed myself in learning repertoire, technique, and fundamentals. All of which deepened my skills and forced me to take ownership of my own growth as a musician.

My confidence as a performer was lacking, however. I struggled with feelings of inadequacy and fear of failure. It came to a point where I no longer felt confident as a musician and I wanted to desperately find the joy and confidence I had felt when I first started to fall in love with music as a young piano student.

Long story short, I found my way from the field of performance to music therapy, where my love of music was not stolen by a drive for perfection, but was able to be expressed in helping others.

Over time, I began to learn guitar and pursued voice lessons. By the end of my college career, the list of instruments had grown, confidence was regained, and my joy for music continues to fuel everything I do.

Laura Tam | Music Therapy Connections | Springfield, IL

Everyone’s music journey is different, and I’m glad mine turned out exactly as it did. If you want to start your journey, it is never too early or too late! Whether it’s taking early childhood music classes, beginning ukulele, pre-lesson classes or instrument lessons, we’d love to meet you and help you soar.

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What I Wish I’d Known as a Music Therapy Student

The last couple weeks, I’ve been sharing a lot about the process of becoming a board-certified music therapist. It really wasn’t that long ago, however, that I was a beginning music therapy student, taking introductory courses in music therapy, and wondering how my head knowledge of music therapy content could eventually translate into skills and application with real clients.

In this post, I hope to share insight as to what being a music therapy student really is like, and also talk about the things I wish I had known along the way.

Know your blind spots, and make a plan.

This is a big one. First of all, music therapy requires so much more than one straightforward set of skills. Music therapy is a blend of several major fields, involving:

  • Music theory
  • Music performance
  • Counseling
  • Psychology
  • Research

All of these involve a high degree of discipline and self-awareness. As you start out in your studies, what areas listed above are you avoiding or make you tense up? Know that it’s okay to not be where you want to be right now. You’ll get there. Be honest abut where you are right now, and be proactive about how you can practice, study, and get more comfortable with the things that scare you.

It’s not always about the grades.

One of the most important things you will learn to appreciate about being in a school environment is that it is a place where a lot of personal growth happens, critical thinking is encouraged, and opportunities to go beyond your comfort bubble can occur.

That being said, take time now, before you graduate, to explore your identity: who you are, both as a student and outside of school. Part of being a music therapist is being able to have a strong identity, to be aware of self-biases, and to be open to other cultures outside your own.

Perspective is key.

You might not get into all the classes you want, you may not have enough hours in the day, and it might be easy to compare yourself to others. Know that you may not have control of every step in your journey, but what you can control is an attitude of gratitude. Take a step back, and remember, you have the best major in the world. Then keep going.

For more information on majoring in music therapy, you can read this helpful article. Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email!