So I’m jumping on the blogosphere bandwagon here; I present to you The Music Therapy Diva’s Official Music Therapy Advocacy Blogpost! January is Music Therapy Advoacy Month, and many music therapists around the country are using social media to get the word out about the awesomeness and effectiveness of music therapy. Facebook has been buzzing with a little video parody of “Somebody That I Used To Know” (thanks George Center!), and Twitter is seeing hashtags like #LoveMusicTherapy, #MTAdvocacy, and #FollowMTweek (thanks Ben Folds!). But what does music therapy advocacy have to do with beauty pageants?
The recent crowning of Miss America last weekend made me reflect on my own past experience with pageants and how that gave me the opportunity to advocate for my chosen field and soon-to-be profession. In the past, pageantry has gotten a lot of flack for seeming “superficial”. A young woman with a Vaseline-plastered smile chattering on about world peace is the image that comes to most people’s minds when they hear the term “beauty pageant”. But these pageants are far more than fake tans and hair extensions. These girls work hard to pursue their education while making a difference in their world, all while looking gorgeous and maintaining a swimsuit-ready figure. As music therapy advocates, we can use pageantry to promote our cause. Not sure how? Keep reading.
My Experience As a Beauty Queen and Advocate
My sophomore year of college, I was privileged and honored to hold the title of Miss William Carey University 2010. I entered and won the pageant at WCU, which qualified me to compete in the prestigious Miss Mississippi pageant. As a preliminary pageant to Miss America, the competition involved a talent portion, evening wear, on-stage question, swimsuit (in front of everyone, ick!), and, often hailed as the most important part, an interview portion. One other very important component (although unjudged) is the personal platform of the contestant, in which she uses her year of reign to promote awareness and dedicate her time to an issue or need she feels is relevant in today’s society.
My chosen platform that year was Music Therapy for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities. What a mouthful, right? And the media always seemed to choose a different name for it, such as “Music Education for the Mentally Disabled” (wha?). One even went so far as to print “Musical Therapy” as my platform. As much as I love musical theater, I don’t think I would go around for a year promoting musicals as a form of therapy for individuals diagnosed with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
But anyway, enough of my soapbox.
In addition to riding in parades, signing autographs, and waving and smiling, I got the opportunity to use my crown to create awareness of music therapy (specifically in Mississippi) and its effectiveness for my chosen population. I volunteered at area elementary schools and lead group music activities for their Special Education classes, giving their teachers a “taste” of what music therapy is and does. I spoke at a local Rotary luncheon about the importance of using music therapy with individuals with developmental disabilities (but not before I passed out instruments and sang “The Crawdad Song” to begin my presentation). But the biggest way that I advocated for music therapy that year was simply by answering the question “So what is your platform?”, which led to the more commonly heard question “What is music therapy?” During my interview, the judges were interested in my platform as well, and if they didn’t know what music therapy was before the interview, they certainly knew what it was after. I even got the opportunity to talk to a former Miss America about music therapy!
How You Can Help
I am so thankful that the Miss America Organization gave me the opportunity to advocate for my future profession. I encourage any girl between the ages of 17-24 to compete in the Miss America Scholarship Program not only to get money for school, but to use it as a way to advocate for music therapy. Even if you don’t choose music therapy as your platform, having music therapy as your major will invoke lots of questions about. Use your interview to put in a “plug” for music therapy, especially if your chosen platform can benefit from MT services. Although the platform concept is unique to the MAO, most other pageant systems emphasize community service, so I encourage any young woman who is interested in competing in pageants to go for it!
If you aren’t an unmarried female who falls in that age range, I encourage you to seek out local AND state title holders with a music-related platform (there is at least one girl around the country every year with a platform specific to music therapy). Reach out and talk to them, find their blog or website, ask for ways you can donate your time or money, or even give them the opportunity to donate their time to you. Titleholders are always looking for new ways they can speak or get community service hours relating to their platform. And usually when a person with a crown talks, people listen.
You don’t have to be or know a beauty queen to be an advocate; there are TONS of ways to advocate for music therapy as a student, intern, or professional. The links to some blog posts below give many wonderful ideas of things you can do right now to get the word out about music therapy!
All links were taken from musictherapymaven.com
To find your state and local titleholders, visit missamerica.org
Feel free to leave thoughts, questions, suggestions, or comments!