I love getting questions from readers. More often than not, they inspire me to consider something I hadn’t thought of before or to see it through a different lens.
I got a question along those lines this week. Maven reader Kate wrote:
Before you were an MT-BC music therapist, what kind of jobs were you employed at? Do you feel that having a job that is related to mental health/education/health services is an important part of developing as a music therapist? I ask because currently I waitress, but am feeling that more experience related to my field may be more beneficial.
I held a variety of jobs as a student. Prior to becoming a music therapy student, I worked as a lifeguard and had a (very small) music studio. My longest standing job as a college student was in healthcare—I was a home health aide and certified nursing assistant. At other points during my training I worked as a server for a major restaurant chain and taught swim lessons at the local community center to teenagers and young adults with special needs.
At the time, I applied for the swim lesson and home health aide jobs for the very reason that Kate mentions above—it was a purposeful attempt to get more experience in a related field. And there were some benefits to having those jobs. I gained experience working with older adults and with persons with special needs, experiences I did not have up to that point (My home health aide days also gave me one of my favorite clinical stories that occurred before I was even a music therapist).
On reflection, though, and with some professional clinical experience under my belt, I’m not sure that was completely necessary. Let’s consider the waitress job. That’s not a healthcare or education-related field, but there are several skills that are learned and practiced when serving customers that transfer smoothly to skills you need as a music therapist:
- Handling multiple needs and request simultaneously (multi-tasking)
- Staying cheerful and pleasant when dealing with angry and frustrated customers (clinical skills)
- Making last-minute changes to orders when customers change their mind (flexibility)
And that example only covers non-music-related jobs. For the gigging music therapy student, you can be honing your guitar, piano, voice, and/or percussion skills. Maybe you write songs or improvise on a regular basis. Maybe you facilitate group singalongs, drum circles, or direct a children’s choir. These are all ways that you can be developing and practicing those music abilities that transfer to the clinical musicianship skills you will need.
Consider, too, the possibility that it may be a good thing to have a break from clinical student-land. Working in a non-healthcare/mental health/education field may provide you with some experiences and perspectives that will benefit you as a professional music therapist.
Here’s the bottom line: If you are aware and self-reflection, you can make note of the skills and abilities you use in your job and make transfers as a student music therapist.
Ultimately, too, I think we are all on our own journeys. If Maven reader Kate is feeling to pull to look for a job more in line with an education or healthcare field, then I feel that is worth exploring. Good luck, Kate!