Some Helpful Advice for Passing the Music Therapy Board Exam

After 5 long years of pursuit, I am now Katelyn Farris, MT-BC. Man that feels great to say! I am absolutely thrilled to now have an undergrad  degree and a national board-certification that says I am fully qualified to practice music therapy. For students and interns who are working toward the same goal, I promise you that few things in life top this feeling.

With that being said, I had never been so worried about an exam in my life. I have always been one of those people who does well on exams, especially when I study. However, the fact that this particular exam would affect the course of my entire career carried such a heavy weight on my usual ability to be at ease about standardized tests. When you want something so bad you can taste it, you’re paralyzed with fear at the thought of possibly not attaining that certain something. To make matters worse, there is no clear-cut way to tell you exactly what will be on your CBMT exam. I’m not going to lie to you: this exam is hard.

Fortunately there are many resources to help you pass this very important test. The online practice exam, old notes from music therapy classes, textbooks, and internship/practicum experiences are all valuable materials to help you pass with flying colors. I am also very fortunate to have some awesome music therapy peers who support each other in these challenging times! My friend and classmate Nicole Ribet (who also passed her board exam!) sent me this list of tips she wrote for taking the CBMT which I found extremely helpful:

Tips for taking the CBMT via Nicole D. Ribet, MT-BC

  1. Take the test as soon as you finish your internship. – The valuable information you learn on your internship (assessments, documentation, and interventions) is fresh in your head.
  2. Study your material. The New Music Therapist’s Handbook by Suzanne Hanser is very helpful and has valuable information that pertains to everything on the test. The Scope of Practice is also valuable information as well as the Code of Ethics.
  3. Know your terminology. Know the difference between OBJECTIVE and SUBJECTIVE. Know the difference between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy. Know what an IEP is and how it will pertain to music therapy. Know what IDEA is and how it relates to Music Therapy.
  4. Everything you do in your classes COUNTS! All those term papers, research projects, practicums, journal articles; they will be on the test. Trust yourself, you did the work it will pay.
  5. Study your MUSIC THEORY. Know your guitar chords, know what I,IV, V chords are and how they relate in music. Know your 6 and 6/4 inversions and how it relates to music. Know what cadences are and when to properly use them. Know what the difference in Baroque, Classical, ect.
  6. Know your GUITAR. Know what the individual string notes are and what they would be if you tuned to an open G chord ect. Know how to read guitar chords written out on a chart. If you don’t know your chord structures see #5.
  7. Read through Music Therapy VIGNETTES. Familiarize yourself with different music therapy scenarios and pay attention to not only the clients/patients but also what the music therapist does.
  8. Take a Practice Test. This helps you to not only be familiar with the types of questions you will see but also give you an idea of what your weaknesses are and what you need to brush up on. There is a practice online test you can buy through CBMT or if you are lucky like me, your internship supervisor will have one for you. You will also get a CBMT handbook on the website that will prepare you for how to take the test with tips and what you need when you arrive at the testing site.
  9. Do NOT Stress. Do not look at this exam as the end all be all to your career. Worst-case scenario, you fail and have to take it again. No one will DIE because you failed. I suggest no studying the night before or the day of the test. You need a good night’s sleep and do something relaxing the morning of the test. Go into your test refreshed, calm, and relaxed.
  10. Take your TIME. Arrive to the testing sight early and do not rush through the questions. Pace yourself and do not struggle with the hard questions (you have the option to mark questions and come back to them.) Do not change your answers, more than likely your ‘first answer’ is correct. You will also get a piece of scratch paper during the test that will be turned in. (I used mine for the Music Theory questions).

Final Thought – If you made it this far to take your CBMT, you were a strong student. You will do GREAT!

Nicole and me on graduation day at William Carey University. We did It!

Nicole and me on graduation day at William Carey University. We did It!

These tips helped me so much during my preparations for the board exam. After taking and passing the test myself, here are a few bits of wisdom I would like to add:

  • Mark any answers you are unsure about. If you are willing to bet money on your answer being correct, don’t mark it and don’t return to it. Use your time at the end only to check if you actually GAVE an answer, otherwise don’t dwell and move on.
  • When I had questions that I couldn’t decide between two different answers, I used my scratch piece of paper to write the question number and my alternate answer. When I came back to the question, I analyzed all the information given in the question’s scenario, then chose either to change or keep my answer.
  • When in doubt, client needs ALWAYS come first. Choose answers accordingly.
  • Draw a mini-guitar with string numbering (remember that string 1 is the smallest string closest to the floor!) and the notes for standard tuning. This helped me with guitar theory questions.
  • You can use the restroom anytime during the exam, so don’t be afraid to drink coffee if it helps you with brain power! On the flip side: if coffee only makes you jittery and impairs your brain function, avoid caffeine before the exam. However, DO eat breakfast that includes a good balance of protein, omega-3 fats, and whole carbs.
  • The primary materials I used to study were the practice exam my internship director gave me, The New Music Therapist’s Handbook by Suzanne Hanser, and the CBMT Scope of Practice as a guideline. I also had a music therapy study guide book that I found useful, and I know there are some out there on the market that are more up-to date, so that may be a worthy investment on your part.
  • IT IS NEVER TOO EARLY TO START STUDYING (I’m looking at you, freshmen)! All that you do in your undergrad studies and internship culminates to this one board exam. Soak in as much knowledge as you can and apply all that knowledge in your practicums, research studies, and internships. Attend conference sessions geared toward passing your board exam and PAY ATTENTION!
  • Bring some earplugs and a light jacket to the exam, just in case.

When all is said and done, you can take the test again. It won’t be the end of the world if you don’t pass the first time. In the end, you WILL be a music therapist if you want to be.  Take the practice exam, study as much as possible, get a good nights rest, eat a good breakfast, show up early and relaxed, and know that you are going to rock that exam! I hope this help you on your journey to becoming a music therapist and happy exam-ing!

Nicole rolls out her private practice, Ribet Rhythms Music Therapy Services, PLLC,  in Gulfport, MS this September. For more information, check out their Facebook page here.

What are your biggest exam fears? Anything you would like to add? Feel free to comment or email me at You can also connect with me via Twitter at @KatelynFarrisMT.

A Terrific Idea for the Broke Music Therapist via Buzzfeed

I just wanted to take a moment to share this awesome post from Buzzfeed. Looks like I have tons of crafting to do!

Here’s the link to “12 Sweet DIY Instruments For Cash-Strapped Musicians”:

Music Activity Monday: Cotton Balls Music

I know it’s hardly Monday anymore, but I did say I was going to do better at posting more frequently, so here we are. Better late than never, right?

Today’s music activity was actually adapted from an occupational therapy activity website (when I remember which one, I will post it). If you ever need fresh inspiration for activities, I highly recommend searching for OT activities via Google, Pinterest, ect. They use a lot of creative interventions just like we do, but their methods don’t always include music. When I found this activity I got so excited and giddy because I had never thought of it before, and I love stumbling across new and creative ideas! Since the activity was on a site geared toward occupational therapists, the emphasis is placed on the specific physical skills it works to rehabilitate; however, I can think of many social and cognitive skills this can be used to address as well. I haven’t received the opportunity to try it out yet, but hopefully I will in the not-so-distant future.



Cotton Balls Music

This is a great activity to do in a group setting. However, it can be done with only one client as well. The goal of this activity is to use the clothespins to pass the cotton balls without letting them pile up in front of the client when the music stops.


  • Clothespins
  • Cotton Balls
  • Tongs


Crossing Midline, Finger Strength, and Pincer Grasp


Have the group sit in a circle. Give each client a clothespin and a cotton ball. Instruct the group to pick up and drop the cotton ball on the lap of the client sitting to their right when the music starts. When the music stops, each client should pick up his/her cotton ball using the clothespin and raise their hand.

You can make it into a game by giving an additional cotton ball to a client who raised their hand but did not have a cotton ball caught on his/her clothespin. The client with the least number of cotton balls at the end of the game wins.


  • Instead of using clothespin, you might want to use tongs or tweezers. For an even greater challenge, use two rhythm sticks.
  • If you are playing with 1 client, you may want to just use one cotton ball and see who has it when the music stops.
  • After a few times passing the cotton balls to the right, switch and have the passing go left.
  • Instruct the group to pass to the tempo of the music.

Music Suggestions:

  • For this one I would suggest random chords and strumming patterns on the guitar; that way you can challenge your group more by adding the slow/fast variation.
  • Tailor the music to your group.
  • If you want to use recorded music, I think “Cotton-Eyed Joe” or “Peter Cottontail” would be fun 🙂


What do you think? How would you add to this activity? If you know the origin of this activity, please let me know by leaving a comment or email at
You can also follow me on Twitter at @KatelynFarrisMT

Quick Update

Hey guys! It has been a while since I have written a post, so here is a quick update on what has happened since my last post:

I finished my internship at The Baddour Center on June 21. I move out of my apartment in Southaven this upcoming weekend, and will be returning to the Hattiesburg/South Mississippi area. Since my internship has ended, I have been spending my time studying, studying, STUDYING profusely for the music therapy board exam. I am unsure of exactly when I will take it, but it will be very soon and I need to be prepared.  I want that MT-BC credential so bad I can taste it.

As for what happens after I take the board exam: I will be applying for jobs and grad school, advocating for music therapy and disability rights in my community, and continuing the development of this blog. My graduation date from William Carey is August 10 and I could not be more excited! Words can not describe how it feels to have made it to this point, except for maybe the word “grateful”.

This blog started as an internship journal, but I plan to keep it going as a general music therapy blog. The Music Therapy Diva will continue to be an arena to share my thoughts and opinions, issues, ideas, experiences, testimonies, helpful tips, and news relevant to all things music therapy. With this profession still in its developmental years, it is important for music therapists, interns, and students to stay connected and share ideas. I also hope it will be a place for people who have not heard about music therapy to gain a better understanding of what it is and why it is important. My goal is for every single person in the State of Mississippi and beyond to have a good grasp of music therapy. And I promise I will be updating the blog more frequently than I have in the past 🙂

Until then, feel free to connect by commenting or emailing me at

Burnout: Don’t Think It Won’t Happen To You

Music therapy is exciting, invigorating, …

Music therapy is also, at times, exhausting.

Constantly advocating, pushing for contracts, searching for jobs that in any way relate to your degree and experience are just a few of the challenges that music therapists face. Whoever said this job was easy: I seriously urge you to step into our shoes.

Not so long ago, I scoffed at the idea of self-care being important in music therapy. At conferences I never chose to go to a session on self-care, thinking pah! I know how to take care of myself, thank you! Oh, how pride cometh before the fall.

Within the past month-and-a-half, a number of stressors have caused me to feel a heavy burden that I haven’t felt in a very long time. One minute you think you have everything under control and things are going great, then the next minute life throws you too many curve balls to handle. I feel like the entire month of May, I was a huge walking bundle of stress and nerves. The pressure of a research project, a full case-load, the job hunt, grad school applications, and studying for the GRE and music therapy certification simultaneously seemed to all weigh in on me at once. Add a few worries from my personal life to the plate and you’ve got a recipe for an extremely spazzed-out intern!

Month 5 of internship is the month that you realize you’re about to leave to graduate. I can’t remember the specific day or moment it sank in that the “real world” was just a few months away, but when it hit me, I seemed to spiral into a decent of stress and anxiety. The funny thing about stress is that it makes you act crazy and you will have no idea why you are doing crazy things, thus reinforcing the idea that you are, in fact, going crazy. When you ignore the warning signs of stress, it WILL appear in your life in sneaky little ways. My eating patterns suffered; one day all I wanted to eat/drink was protein shakes, then the next day I wanted to inhale an entire cake. I also would find myself spacing out and spending 3 hours in Kroger, returning with nothing but a bag of cat food and herbal tea. When you find yourself so stressed that any moment of peace and normality comes as a surprise, it’s time to make self-care a priority.

“Burnout” is very much a real thing that many music therapists, interns, and students experience sometimes. I have learned that not only is it normal to feel this way, but it is perfectly alright to take a rest and do something about it. If you don’t treat it, either your body will tell you to take a rest by becoming sick, your professional work will suffer, or a combination of both. In light of the recent discovery that I am shockingly not SuperGirl, here are my tips and ways to recouperate from the dreaded burnout:

1. Exercise, and do something you absolutely love.

I absolutely believe that we were meant to be active, no exceptions. I could go on and on about the benefits of exercise. It’s tough to make exercise a priority, especially with important deadlines and other job-related duties. But for me, physical activity gives me an outlet to unwind and makes me feel so much stronger. A good jog also gives me time to shut out the world for an hour or two and listen to the music that I want to listen to (SUPER important for any music-driven person).

2. Give yourself a treat.

Everybody has their vices/ guilty pleasures. My indulgences: a well-crafted cupcake, a few hours of Big Bang Theory, and retail therapy (aka window shopping). Just remember not to go overboard.

No money? Treat yourself to the gift of time. Spend the day with no forms of communication such as your cellphone or social media. Clear your mind. Just breathing is a gift in itself.

3. Get just the right amount of sleep.

I suggest no less than 7 hours and no more than 9. The older you get, the more necessary and luxurious a good night’s sleep becomes. In addition to quantity, consider the quality of your snoozing as well. Pop a melatonin supplement, listen to whatever calms you the most (Chuck Wild, a fan, silence, ect.), and sink into some soft, comfy sheets 30 minutes or more before you want to begin to fall asleep. Reward yourself for a hard day’s work and recharge your batteries for tomorrow’s work.

4. Take a short trip anywhere.

One day I crossed the state line to Tennessee just to chill in a different Starbucks. The adventure and change of scenery was a breath of fresh air. So find a local park you’ve never visited, go see a movie solo, or bum the couches of some good friends.

5. Make time for friends and family.

This is especially important if you haven’t seen them in a while. Your friends and family are the ears you need to vent to and the shoulders you need to cry on. Sometimes it’s possible to be so busy that you forget you miss them until you see their faces or hear their voices. I got the luxury of going home two weekends in a row. I got to meet my newborn nephew in person, have a family cook out, attend my niece’s 1st birthday party, lay out by the pool, go to my favorite Mexican restaurant, and hang out with some of my friends that I haven’t seen in a long time. I came back feeling refreshed and ready to take on my internship.

6. Listen to or practice only your absolute favorite music for a day.

Give yourself permission to be completely selfish in what you listen/jam out to. Revisit the music that was so powerful that it inspired you to pursue music therapy in the first place. The mustard seed that starts a career in music therapy is the music that inspires, motivates, and changes us. What is yours?

7. Don’t forget to eat well!

Bad diets will cause more stress in the long run than if you let yourself go and get the oh-so-convenient cheeseburger and fries. That my-jeans-are-too-tight-but-I-have-no-time/money-to-buy-more feeling is THE worst. You’ll thank yourself later if you eat your fruits and veggies today.

8. Do not compromise your spirituality.

If you do not consider yourself a spiritual person, this of course does not apply. However, I urge you to prioritize the god of your understanding. For me, it is Jesus Christ. Jesus’ two biggest commandments are to first love our God above all things, then love others as you love yourself. When I find myself putting myself or other priorities above that, I find myself getting out of sorts and really struggling. We are also taught that we don’t have to carry our burdens, because our future is already secure. When I allow that truth to sink-in, I have so much peace, which in turn allows me to better follow His commandment of loving others. There is so much truth in the phrase “Let go and let God.”

9. Laugh and make others laugh. It is the best medicine, after all!

On that note, I leave you with my favorite scene from Big Bang Theory. Bazinga!



Below I have provided links to some awesome blog posts concerning the topic of burnout in music therapy:

Music Activity Monday: Lyric Analysis “Hopscotch”

Happy Monday to all! Summer is coming upon us soon, but we are still in the middle of Spring and enjoying those May flowers! With all this beautiful sunshine,I hate being cooped up inside, and I know my residents do too.  One of my individual residents has been talking nonstop about going outside to play. This particular resident is extremely full of energy, and sometimes she is unsure of how to handle that energy. Some goals I have been working on with her are on-task behavior and abstract thinking. She has trouble doing any one thing for longer than about 5 minutes, so the fact that she stays all 30 minutes of her music therapy session is big progress for her. With those target goals in mind, I had to create an activity for her that reinforces task endurance, cognitively engages her, and facilitates abstract thinking. The result came out looking something like this:

 Lyric Analysis “Hopscotch”
This picture was taken after our game...hence the marked-out numbers

This picture was taken after our game…hence the marked-out numbers


  • Outdoor area with concrete
  • Sidewalk Chalk
  • Song of choice
  • 4-8  abstract-thinking questions pertaining to the song
  • Hula hoop (optional)


  1. Begin by setting up your outdoor area. For each question, draw a box with a number for each corresponding question and a starting place. (I chose a hula hoop to set up the starting area because the resident was later rewarded by getting to hula hoop, which I made a “music activity” by instructing her to start/stop hula hooping when the music stopped and started.)
  2. Begin by singing and playing your song. Invite the client to sing along if you wish.
  3. Instruct your client to begin at the starting point. When the music starts, your client is to hop from square to square in no particular order. When the music stops, whichever square he/she lands on is the question he/she gets.
  4. Each time your client lands on a new number, have them mark it out so they can avoid hopping on that number and getting the same question.


  • For groups, have them take turns.
  • On a rainy day, use cardboard to put on the floor with the number on one side and the question on the other. That way the client can just flip it over and answer!
  • For a client who is unable to hop or stand, this can be made into a beanbag-toss game.

There are a number of ways this can be changed or adapted to fit your clients’ needs. Get creative and have fun with it!

Music Activity Monday: A Justin Bieber Hello!

Happy Monday to all! I’ve seen many music therapy blogs write posts every Monday sharing some great activity ideas that they use and can be “stolen” by other MT’s for use in their own practice. I believe that there’s no such thing as too many activity ideas, so I figured I would follow suit. Without further ado, I introduce to you my very first Music Activity Monday post!

This activity is a Hello song I wrote for a resident of mine who absolutely LOVES Justin Bieber. Although I’m not a huge JB fan myself, I had so much fun writing my first rap! It’s also tons of fun to perform, because it’s not often I get to show off my mean rapping skills 🙂

Not only is this Hello song a fun way to kick off a session, it also addresses a few goals. Encouraging your client to drum and/or freestyle rap targets areas such as nonverbal cueing, creative self-expression, and following directions. The call-and-response aspect of the rap encourages expressive and receptive language areas such as impulse control and listening skills. I’m sure this can be creatively adapted in numerous ways to fit your clients needs, so unleash your inner Belieber and enjoy!

Hello Song  in the style of “Boyfriend” by Justin Bieber


  • Karaoke track of “Boyfriend” by J. Biebs
  • Drum of choice
  • CD Player



Welcome to music, Ima tell you hello,
We gon’ do some stuff you ain’t never done before
Baby take a chance or you’ll never ever know
I got drums in my hands that I’d really like to beat
(begin drumming) *beat *beat *beat  for you
We’ll sing and we’ll play and dance a little too
I dunno about me but I know about you
So I’ll say hello to you in three, two…

 Hello (insert name), how are you today?
 Hey boy (or girl), let me sing to you

Hello (insert name),  How are you today?
Tell me how you’re doin, what you’ve done today

We can talk about it, anything you want

Hello (insert name), how are you today? how are you today?

Your client can use the next verse to improvise on the drum or freestyle rap about how he/she is, what he/she has done that day, ect. When the pre-chorus comes back in, you can either begin singing again or encourage your client to sing to you this time!

Have fun and keep looking for more Music Activity Mondays in your future!

6 Challenges I Have Faced In Music Therapy Internship

Can I just say that this has been a crazy and hectic past few months? Since my last post, many exciting things have happened in all aspects of my life. I have travelled to Chattanooga, TN for regional music therapy conference, taken a visit home for Easter, and began leading all music therapy sessions and classes, which includes 8 individual residents for treatment. Add a research project, progress notes and documentation, job hunting, grad school applications, and CBMT test-prep, and you have the recipe for one busy intern! Needless to say, posting on The Music Therapy Diva has been put on the back-burner. However, after a brief hiatus I am back and ready to blog! As I am in the last stages of my clinical internship, I thought I might share with you some of the challenges I have been facing during this critical time of professional development.

1. Time management

Ok, let’s admit it: we are all big fat procrastinators. And if you aren’t now, you at some point in your life have waited until the VERY last minute on some sort of deadline. In almost every aspect of our lives, we must learn to utilize the precious amount of time we are given to the most productive degree possible. The field of music therapy is no exception.  Plan sessions a week or two in advance. Write down any spur-of-the-moment intervention ideas for later use. GET OFF FACEBOOK. Never take office/planning time for granted. And if you can, try your best not to take work home. Relaxation time is very important in self-care (which, by the way, is not selfish at all).

2. Becoming tech-savvy

I have a love-hate relationship with technology. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but sometimes I can’t figure out how to turn on a computer to save my life.  I am THAT person who would much rather handwrite things than type them in a Word document; I have an Audrey Hepburn notebook that can attest to this.. Because of my brain’s apparent inability to grasp technological concepts, I have acquired a terrible habit of writing my progress notes down and forgetting to electronically document them later. I know, I promise I’m working on it.

In this day and age, however, technology is not optional and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. Many everyday tasks would be impossible without electronics. Exhibit A: this very blog! And though I make regular weekend trips to Starbucks in order to get a Wi-Fi connection on my computer that took me 5 months to learn to work (anybody else miss Windows 98?), I do what I must to get it done.  Trust me when I say this: you cannot make it as a music therapist without knowing basic computer skills. Computers aid in everything from documentation to learning YouTube guitar-licks. I also cannot stress to you how important social media networking is to the music therapy world, but that is another topic for another blog-post.

I also have a confession to make: I was an iPad non-believer. I know, I know, I’m a music therapy grandma, right?  When I was I student, I vowed never to use an iPad in a session because it honestly scared me. However, seeing the iPad being used as a successful tool has changed my mind. The iPad can be used in so many different ways, and not one of them is a “replacement” for live music as I previously thought. Creative iPad use enhances therapy and can be used as further contingency. One of my residents in particular will only stay the full length of her session if she gets some iPad time at the end (and believe me, that is HUGE for her!). With that being said, I do believe that electronic devices, as with anything else, should be used in moderation. It’s called MUSIC therapy for a reason, and nothing beats the vibration of real instruments sounding beautiful chords.

3. Not having enough hands

Ok, this not something I can change about myself, but it would be nice to sprout an extra pair sometimes! I can’t count the number of times that I have been loaded down with a djembe, CD player, notebook, pen (which usually ends up in my hair), egg shakers, and guitar/guitar accessories. There may not currently be a cure for our limited limbs, but there are ways to combat the symptoms. Large totes, backpack guitar cases, and rolling carts all help carry the loads of “stuff” that comes with being a MT. If you are fortunate enough to own an iPad, it can eliminate much of the baggage when travelling. It can be used in lieu of notebooks, chord sheets, certain instruments, props, CD players and recording devices. For more on the iPad, refer to Challenge #2.

4. Holding back laughter

The residents at The Baddour Center are hilarious. They each have a personal sense of humor and I can play and joke with each of them in different ways.  But what happens when they say something I find funny, but they are being dead-serious? Or if their behavior is socially inappropriate and/or disruptive? These particular situations happened my very first week of leading group activities completely by myself. In one particular class, after singing “how are you today?” during the Hello Song, this resident decided he was doing so well that he needed to get up in front of the class and lift his shirt a la “Girls Gone Wild”. As I struggled to maintain composure and some type of authority, I promptly told him to stop and sit down. However, my giggles proceeded to come out like word-vomit during the next round of the Hello Song, rendering my vocal chords ineffective to sing. This, in turn, set the tone for the rest of the group session, which wasn’t as behaviorally controlled as I would have liked for it to be.

Bottom line: if your client/resident is being inappropriate, serious, or harmful, you should do all within your power not to LOL. Laughing is normally a positive reinforcement for any behavior, and if your clients have a certain attention-seeking behavior that you are working to get rid of, laughter only encourages the repetition of said behavior.  However, if the resident is joking or trying to be funny in an appropriate way, it is perfectly OK to laugh along with them! Not only is laughter the best medicine, but it builds rapport with your clients.  This may all sound like common sense, but trust me, sometimes it takes great self-control.

5. Holding back tears

This week one of my residents talked about how she was not looking forward to Mother’s Day, as her mother had passed away 7 years ago. When I said “I know, I know”, she replied “no, you don’t”. Talk about heart-breaking! How was I to respond to that? When a situation like this happens, you have to be strong in order to help your client/resident deal with his or her emotional pain in a manner conducive to therapy. Sometimes you just have to take the emotional punch in the gut with no sign of a grimace. Remind yourself that you can cry all you want at home.

6. Fighting germs

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Katelyn who loved to taste her friends/family’s food, take a swallow after other people when she was thirsty, and never use Germ-X. She would also offer the same eating/drinking courtesy to those around her, because she believed in the Audrey Hepburn quote: “For a slim figure, share your food with others.” Then one day, she became an intern at The Baddour Center, a lovely and magical place for lovely and magical people. These beautiful people loved to give hugs with reckless abandon, greet everyone with a firm handshake, and bestow their kisses upon hands and cheeks. But there was a wicked villian called “Germs”, and this wicked villian came in the form of the flu, stomach virus, and pink eye. And while the people of The Baddour Center were absolutely precious and pure of heart, their hands were not so pure of the nasty Germs that terrorized the villiage. The Germs spread so quickly among the villiagers that the entire Baddour Center was quarantined for two weeks, meaning all art, music, and recreational activities were cancelled. Katelyn observed within a few short weeks of coming to The Baddour Center that she needed to take strong action in the war against Germs in order to defeat the enemy once in for all.

Long story short: I now love to Lysol the entire perimeter, AirBorne and vitamins count as a food group, and hand sanitizer is my best friend.

I am very thankful for every single one of these challenges, because they have caused me to grow in ways I never thought possible. This has been such a precious time in both my personal and professional development. If you are approaching this moment yourself, I urge you to make the most of every minute and welcome every challenge that comes your way. I would also love to hear from you and/or answer any questions, so please feel free to leave a comment!

5 Songs That Instantly Make Me Feel Better

This has been a very unusual week at the Baddour Center. All activities in our department were cancelled since Tuesday due to a stomach virus that has spread from resident to resident and house to house. As a result, the building has been extremely quiet all week. There were no music therapy sessions, no social hour, no office visits, no expressive arts classes. It was odd, but we were under nurse’s orders.

While this week has been rather slow, next week is going to be killer busy for me. Between leading group music therapy sessions all by myself, going to Chattanooga, TN for the SER-AMTA regional music therapy conference, and choreographing a dance routine, this week is going to be hectic! In light of all this sickness and stress, I thought I would share with you 5 songs that are guaranteed to put me in a good mood, whether I am heartbroken, physically ill, or when I just have “the blues”.

1. “Circle of Life”.

It has to be the song from the movie, not the Elton John version. Maybe this is because I am a 90’s kid, but I can’t listen to this song without getting pumped about life.


2. Almost any song by Tim McGraw.

Tim McGraw is always going to have a special place in my heart. I grew up listening to country music, and he and his wife Faith Hill were my absolute favorites. When I am down or upset, Tim McGraw is my go-to.


3. “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey

Come on, you know you still turn this song up no matter how over-played it is. It will always be a song to fist-pump to.


4. “All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles

A classic “hippy-dippy” love song with a great message.


5. “Girl On Fire” by Alicia Keys

A new favorite of mine. It’s hard not to feel empowered after listening to this song.


What are your good-mood songs? Leave me a comment or send me an email at

6 Cool Facts About Music Discovered By Science

Being in the field of music therapy, I am continually astounded by the power of music. Usually when I talk to someone about what I do, I will tell them about the numerous scientific studies showing evidence of music’s ability to move and heal us.
If you watch the news, you have probably seen more and more stories of the success of music therapy. For instance, when Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was wounded by a bullet into the left side of her brain, she was able to talk again through music therapy. After the shooting, she was not able to speak, but amazingly she could sing the words, a common characteristic of patients with aphasia. Through success stories like this, music therapy has recently been brought to the public eye and gives people a glimpse of how effective it really is. And as any MT professional, intern, or student knows, it is important to keep up with these news articles and breaking research studies in order to be able to advocate for our profession. In this week’s post, I thought I might share with you some of my favorite articles and studies on the truly amazing things that music can do.

Disclaimer: Not everything on this list has been scientifically proven…yet. Because the field of music and its effects on the human brain is in its baby years, these studies only suggest and lead to conclusions based on the data obtained. Hopefully new research will find consistent-enough results to conclude what everyone has seemingly known all along: music is a powerful force to be reckoned with.

1. All pop music really does sound the same.

"That's just AWFUL."

It’s official: pop music is louder and blander today than it was 50 years ago. Some researchers in Spain used a huge database of pop songs from 1955 to 2010 to come up with data that says our chord progressions are getting simpler, volume is getting louder, and the overall timbre, or tone quality, has less variety. Simply put, there is a formula for a hit song, and pop artists and producers are cranking them out all the time. You may not necessarily hate today’s Top 40 (I know I don’t), but if you’re one of those people who sticks to the “oldies but goodies”, you may have a good point.


2. Musicians who play together think together.


I remember this one time I was singing with the Carey Chorale for a concert, and we were singing a piece we had rehearsed quite a few times. I can’t remember if our director had maybe forgotten to cue us or if we just had a collective brain fart, but either way, we were silent for about four measures after we were supposed to enter, and we all knew it. But then it was like we read our director’s mind; almost ALL of us came back in at the same time, so nobody knew we had messed up at all! Afterwards, my Chorale friends remarked at how odd and uncanny that moment was, and it turns out that this is a proven phenomenon.

Scientists conducted a study with trained guitarists in which they attached electrodes to their heads while they played a duet. They discovered that the brain waves coordinated between the two partners in order to perform the music together.These findings suggest that brain waves coordinate in order to perform a collective task, in this case, a jazz guitar duet. The same principle can be applied to a capella groups, orchestras, small ensembles, and just about any other instance in which musicians are required to play in tune with each other.


3. Studying music rewires your brain.


We all know that learning music skills at an early age has so many benefits, but new studies are suggesting that it actually rewires the way we think. Research has found that certain parts of the brain are larger in musicians, and they have enhanced motor and auditory processing skills. Researchers also found that the more years of musical experience a person has, the larger the effect. So basically if you want your child to be a little Einstein, put them in piano lessons early.


4. There is a name for those pesky songs that get stuck in our heads.

"If I hear that song ONE. MORE. TIME."

Ever had the urge to post song lyrics as your Facebook or Twitter statuses because you just can’t get them out of your head? Those annoying songs and lyrics are called Involuntary Musical Imagery, or “earworms”, and sometimes they drive us crazy. Some say they are even more predominant in musicians, women (?), and people who are tired, stressed or neurotic (kinda describes most musicians, but I digress). Personally, I have either a song or a catchy movie quote in my head all the time. When I was younger I thought it was just me, but turns out it happens to everyone. Think about it: what song is in your head at this very moment? You probably have been busy occupying yourself with various other tasks of the day, but turn up the volume on whatever is playing in your brain for a minute. Is it Taylor Swift? Maybe a commercial jingle? Are you annoyed by it yet? The best way to deal with them is to just accept it and think about something else. Another method is to sing the lyrics out loud to pass them on and “infect” somebody else. I’ve also heard that chewing on a cinnamon stick helps?


5. You like a certain version of a song not because it’s better, but because you heard that version first.

How many times do we complain when Facebook changes it’s layout and newsfeed (for the MILLIONTH time)? And who else was irked with the new Darrin on “Bewitched”? Or the new Dumbledore? People like originals; we don’t like change. The same is true of the versions of songs we listen to. Some people may actually welcome change or don’t really have a preference for either song versions (I personally am torn equally between Dolly and Whitney’s versions of “I Will Always Love You”), but most of us detest it. And according to the study, we actually prefer something that looks or sounds original because we perceive originality as “better”.


6. Today’s music says that our culture is Narcissistic


A study in the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts journal confirms what you probably already know: our culture is becoming more and more about “me, me, ME!”. Since our music points to some of the attitudes of our society, researchers put this data into a study that suggests our culture is more “self-focused”. Words like “I”, “me”, and “mine” are more commonly found in song lyrics today than they were 15 years ago. Also, more violent words such as “hate” and “kill” appear in our lyrics. These characteristics are both common traits in Narcissistic and Antisocial personality disorders. Hmm…and antipsychotic medication use is up among our youth? (See:


There are many more studies out there about the power of music, and there are many more studies to be done. Although I don’t believe there can ever be a scientific formula for the beauty and magic of music, I do believe there is much to be discovered about music’s effect on humans. This is a field that is constantly growing, and hopefully this research can expand and be applied in music therapy practice. Do any of these apply to you? Let me know what you think!

For more information on Gabby Giffords amazing recovery through music therapy, see: