William Carey University Cheerleader Makes Half-Court Shot

This is why my university is awesome. Go WCU!


My First Week of Co-leading

This week I began co-leading classes and sessions. “Co-leading” means that I have to plan my own activity to lead for each class and individual MT session. Let me just say that I never thought I could learn so much in 1 week. I also never thought that my first time leading activities would be so scary and stressful! Yes, I was ready to jump in and start participating, but more goes into planning just one activity than I realized. Thoughts ran through my head like “What if I mess up?”, “What if this doesn’t do ____ any good at all?”,  and “What if the residents hate it?” But one more thing I realized: it’s ok if I mess up; this is a learning experience. Ain’t nobody got time for stupid worries!

After receiving helpful feedback from my internship director, I thought I would share with you some of the activities I did this week and what I should have done differently.


President 1st Name Game.

This activity was done with the older retirement group at the Baddour Center. Since Monday was President’s Day, my ID planned a president/patriotic-themed session. The game I planned for them was to write on the white-board the 3 most common first names of U.S. past presidents (James, John, and William). I divided the group in to two teams, and they took turns naming all of the president’s last names. The team who could get the most names got to sing the song of their choice.

What I would have done differently:
When I got up to lead them in the game, sometimes all I could think about was how quiet it was. I know they needed time to think about their answers, but I don’t like silence, so I probably will add some patriotic background music if I use this activity again. Also, I might create a board in which I reveal all the correct answers as they are named, instead of writing them on the board. I could just use the board to keep tally of the scores.


Tap Tap Your Rhythm Sticks

This is a great music therapy song by Rachel Rambach (listenlearnmusic.com). It can be used with various populations and is adaptable for groups or individuals. The song basically instructs the client/resident to tap their rhythm sticks loud and soft, but you can add in lots of other adjectives (fast, slow, ect.). I used this activity in an individual session with a resident whose goals include increasing attention span and impulse control. The resident (we will call him M) has trouble with following directions and many times during his session, M will say “I wanna go eat cookies on the couch.” So if we can get him to complete an activity without him interrupting and have him engaged and listening, then we will have made progress.

What I would have done differently:

Before I began, I asked M to demonstrate tapping his rhythm sticks loud and soft, which he was able to do. But when I sang the song, he tapped along, but didn’t understand the concept of loud and soft when I prompted him. My ID suggested that I try a different activity that requires him to respond quicker so that he doesn’t lose focus in the song.


I Went Down To The River

Ever since my sophomore year of college, this has been one of my signature activities. This was one of the silly call-and-response chants we did at cheer camp when we had some down-time, and I’ve always loved its spunk and silliness. I decided to do it on a whim with a group at a music therapy conference and it was a hit.  It’s a great creative movement activity for gross motor skills, following directions, and group involvement. The group I did this with was the Open Music class, which means any resident could come to the group and participate. Since that day was National Pet Day (who knew?), I thought an activity that had to do with an animal would go along with the theme of the session. The chant goes something like this:

I went down to the river,

and I took a little walk,

I came across some turkeys,

and we had a little talk.

I washed that turkey,

and I hung him on the line.

I said we can meet some turkeys,

oh any ole time!

What I would have done differently:

Although the residents were somewhat familiar with this activity, some of them seemed a bit confused on what the motions were and what to repeat. Next time I will review the motions and words with them before I begin to eliminate any confusion. Although the residents caught on to doing the chant loudly and softly, my ID also suggested that I give verbal cues to how I was going to do the chant next (fast, slow, ect.)


My week of co-leading also included a cowboy-themed group sing-a-long, an individual piano improvisation, and a Sandi Patty song (the resident is crazy about her). I am less than a month away from fully leading sessions (aaahhhh!), so hopefully I will take what I will learn in these next few weeks and apply it when I have a full case-load. There is much to be done and prepare for, but I am looking forward to finally jumping in and utilizing what I’ve learned these past four-and-a-half years!


This week wraps up my 6th week of internship, and it has been quite a busy one. We’ve had both Fat Tuesday and Valentine’s Day-themed sessions, a Valentine’s dance tonight, and this is the last week I have of observations because I begin co-leading next week! Though that is a lot to think about on its own, one thing seems to be on my mind this week over and over again: home.

Most people my age experience moving away from their families when they go to college, but as WCU was only 30 minutes away from my home, I never fully experienced that because home was a short drive away. This is probably the longest I have ever been without going to visit Runnelstown, much less Hattiesburg. I’ve never been the type of person to get extremely homesick, and I have a more independent personality so am just fine being alone. But this week I couldn’t help but to be thinking of my family and friends down South.

View of the tornado from Hardy Street

View of the tornado from Hardy Street

If you have seen the news this week, you’ve probably heard about the tornado that rampaged through South MS this past Sunday. My family was thankfully left unscathed, but several people I know have lost their homes, churches, and parts of their school. Although my William Carey was left unharmed, Southern Miss was not so fortunate. It’s been a rough week for my hometown, and I hate that I could not be there to help everyone pick up after the devastating mess. It is so bad that President Obama declared it a major disaster for Forrest and Lamar counties. It is a miracle that there were no fatalities (praise God!). I am also thankful that South Mississippi is one of the most giving and generous areas of the country, so I know that they will clean up and rebuild in no time!

A heartbreaking image of the devastation to USM's campus

A heartbreaking image of the devastation to USM’s campus

Being homesick is something that everyone experiences sometimes. Although the Baddour Center is home to all the residents, they will still tell me about going “home, home”. Many of them live in different states all over the US and only get to visit once or twice a year. If you are an intern or music therapist, you may be dealing with a client or patient who struggles with being homesick from time to time. You have also probably experienced being homesick yourself at some point in your life. So here are my Top 10 songs to use in sessions (or as personal therapy) that have “home” as the common theme:

1.”Home” by Michael Buble
2. “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” by Bon Jovi
3. “I’m Going Home” by Daughtry
4. “Country Roads” by John Denver
5. “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynard Skynard
6. “The Long and Winding Road” by The Beatles
7. “Green Green Grass of Home”
8. “Homesick” by Mercy Me
9. The House That Built Me” by Miranda Lambert
10. “Home” by Phillip Phillips

Several of the songs on this list have certainly lifted my spirits when I have thought about missing home. They can be used in a variety of different activities such as lyric analysis, songwriting, and improv. Have you ever done an activity or session that addressed homesickness? Have you ever dealt with homesickness yourself as an intern or at a new job? I would love to hear your ideas/stories!

Hattiesburg, Oak Grove and Petal are still recovering from the disastrous tornado that hit on Feb. 10. If you are interested in helping, you can make an online donation at http://salvationarmyalm.org/hattiesburg-tornado-21013/.

The Importance of Goals

Many people don’t realize that music therapy is a goal-driven practice. Goals are the purpose, drive, and method behind the madness. Having goals is what sets us apart from the misconception of what some think we do: just “singing to people to make them feel better”. The type of goals we have for our clients also sets us apart from music educators. A music teacher’s objectives may be something like “name the years and composers of the Baroque period”, whereas a music therapist’s goals may be “increase response to verbal cues” or “improve motor functioning skills”. When the goals set by the music therapist are achieved, the MT will then document the progress of the patient/client, thus showing the effectiveness of music therapy interventions.

Goals are not only important in music therapy; they are important to have in life. Think about where you are right now: you are either here because a) you set a goal a few years ago and worked hard to get here, b) are in the process of attaining some goal you are striving for, c) a combination of a and b, or d) you are not here by choice, and are either happy or unhappy about it. Setting goals for ourselves allows us to shape who and what we want to be, and if we don’t have goals, we have no life-purpose.

If you are a music therapist or MT student, you probably already know the value of reaching goals, both personally and in your practice. Internship is HUGE time of growth and goal-setting in a baby music therapist’s journey. One of the purposes of this blog is to document my progress during my internship experience, so I thought I might share with you some personal and professional goals I have for myself. Some of these goals I hope to have accomplished by the end of my internship, and others I hope to have accomplished in the next few years.

By the end of my internship, I hope to:

-Create a “Big Ole Book” filled with activities and categorized by goal-area, population, and activity type.

-Create my own assessment and progress note form.

-Successfully document the effectiveness of my music therapy sessions when I get my own case-load.

-Decide where and when I wanna do grad school.

-Look and apply for jobs.

-Get back down to my “pageant weight”, which is 15 lbs lighter. (This may not seem to have much to do with music therapy, but being healthy and physically fit is a very important part of being a good therapist, and feeling energized and good about yourself is just as important for your client’s well-being as it is your own.)

By this time next year, I hope to:

-Be a Board Certified Music Therapist!

-Have a job somewhere (hopefully working as a music therapist)

-Be applying/auditioning for grad schools.

-Run in some type of marathon.

Within the next few years, I hope to:

-Help the state of Mississippi enact legislation for music therapy licensure.

-Have a music therapy association established in Mississippi.

-Establish a music therapy internship site (because you can never have too many of those!).

-Present at Regional or National conference.

-Have a master’s degree and possibly a doctorate.

-Contribute in some way to a published journal article or research project.

These goals serve as motivators and guidance in my present life choices. Over the years my goals may change and morph into something completely different, but right now the future as I see it is very bright for my career and the field of music therapy. I may not reach all of my goals I set for myself, but that’s ok. The sky is the limit, and that is very exciting! I cannot wait to meet future clients, advocate for music therapy in my state, and further my education and clinical practice.

If you are a student, intern, or even professional, I encourage you to set goals for yourself and create a “treatment plan” for your own life. I also encourage you to document your progress by journaling or blogging, which can be a great tool for self-reflection and even a form of therapy for yourself.

What are some things you would like to accomplish in the next few years? What are some goals in the past that you have already come to achieve? I would love to hear from you!

Lessons I’ve Learned So Far

It’s so hard to believe that I’m almost through my first month as an intern at the Baddour Center! I have absolutely loved it so far; this is exactly where I need to be. I have spent this first month mostly observing classes and sessions, so I thought I might share with you what I have learned at this point in my internship experience.

Lesson 1: Expect the Unexpected
No two days are ever the same, which is one of the reasons I am in love with this line of work. So how am I to prepare for something I don’t even know is coming my way? Just “roll with the punches”. The great thing about music and art is its spontaneity. Allow your residents/clients the freedom to be creative. If a resident wants to come to your office and seranade you with a little George Strait, let them.

Lesson 2: Think Like a Music Therapist
Although observing doesn’t seem like much, it is an important part of a budding music therapist’s growth experience. Observation is the time an intern has to think “What would I do if I were in the therapist’s shoes? How would I handle this situation?” Also, think about why the therapist chose a particular activity or course of action. Is it to address a certain need? To correct a behavior problem? Constantly asking yourself these questions prepares you for future practice.

Lesson 3: It’s OK to Not Be Perfect
“Perfectionist” is a word many of us use to describe ourselves, especially if you are a musician. As artists, we were born with a undeniable desire to work and practice and stress and strive to remove as many flaws from our art as possibly possible. But one of the big differences in music therapy and music teaching is that perfection is not a goal. The main focus here is to ensure that the quality of life for each resident is the best it can possibly be, and sometimes that excludes “perfection”.

I have learned so much already, but I still have a loooong way to go. I am very excited to continue this journey and see how much more I can grow in this experience. This has been an exciting whirlwind of a month, and I am looking forward to the next five months at the Baddour Center!

So what are some lessons you’ve learned in your music therapy internship? Have any tips as an intern director or professional? I would love to hear your thoughts with a comment!