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(Guest Post) Show Us What You Got: Tips for Shining Throughout the Internship Application Process

by Kimberly on November 16, 2011 · 4 comments

I absolutely love my clinical work at United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), where I have the privilege of working with amazing children with special needs every day. In addition to my role as a clinician, I also serve as a supervisor to music therapy interns. This role is just as fulfilling, but in a different way. As a supervisor, I have the opportunity to witness the transformation from student to clinician every time I have an intern.

As the Internship Director at UCP I am responsible for handling student inquiries, reading applications, and interviewing and auditioning prospective interns. Thus, I have a few tips for students applying for internship.

Although this post is directed towards students, it is also applicable to anyone applying for a music therapy position. Here are a few tips to help you shine as a candidate throughout the application process.

Make your first contact with the Internship Director stand out

I can’t tell you how many generic requests for information letters/emails I receive. For example, “Hello, I found your internship site on the AMTA national roster and found it to be very interesting. Please send me information and application materials. Thank you.”

Make your request for information stand out. This is your first impression, and you know what they say about first impressions! Here are some easy ways to do this:

  • Address the director by name. Rather than “Hi!” say “Hi Ms. Kalas.”
  • Make your letter specific to the internship site. You can do this by naming United Cerebral Palsy, for example, rather than saying “I am interested in your internship site.”
  • Be specific about why you are interested in that particular internship site. For example, state that you love working with children, you like the treatment approach, etc.
  • Explain briefly about yourself and what makes you stand out. Yes, you can toot your own horn!
  • Refer to something specific that was listed in the National Roster listing. For example, something unique to the internship at UCP is the opportunity for the intern to co-treat with speech, occupational, and physical therapists. If that interests you, mention in your letter that is an opportunity you would love to have.

Read all application instructions carefully…and follow them!

Each internship site has different requirements for the application process. Be sure to read and follow all instructions carefully – they are made for a reason!

For my internship, I made it a point to request that all application materials be sent together in one packet. This is for a very specific reason. I used to receive letters of recommendation separately, sometimes even before I would receive the actual application. It became very hard to keep track of all the letters being sent to me. So, I am very specific on my application instructions that I would like all materials to be sent together in one packet.

Choose audition pieces that are appropriate for the clinical population at the site

Your audition pieces should be specific to the population for you which you are applying to work with. For example, as much as I love the Beatles, I don’t want to hear “Let it Be” in an audition to work with children at UCP. I am looking for original songs that are appropriate for children birth-age 7. The songs don’t need to be Grammy-worthy, just appropriate for children!

Follow up…be proactive!

Internship directors are busy people. If you don’t hear back after calling or sending an email, be proactive and follow up. This serves as a friendly reminder, but also shows that you are sincerely interested in pursuing the internship at that facility.

Another nice gesture is to send a thank you note to the director after interviewing at the facility. This is courteous and again shows your genuine interest in the internship program.

As an Internship Director, what makes a prospective intern stand out to me?

  • Genuine interest in working with children with special needs
  • Strong musical skills on guitar, piano, and voice
  • Strong grades in core music therapy classes
  • Strong letters of recommendation
  • Creativity and initiative
  • The ability to articulate their own personal definition of music therapy and philosophy of music therapy.

Remember that the ultimate goal is for you to stand out from the crowd and shine!

If you are interested in the internship program at United Cerebral Palsy, visit or send me an email: Our next opening is for June 2012 with application materials due by December 1, 2011.

About the Author: Amy Kalas, MM, MT-BC is employed full-time as a music therapist at United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Miami, where she works with children birth – age 7 with special needs. She is also the Clinical Training Director for the internship program at UCP and has supervised interns since 2007. In addition, Amy runs a private practice, Wholesome Harmonies Music Therapy, and provides music therapy services in the Miami area. Her website and blog can be found at


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily O. November 16, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Excellent points. I think another small but important detail in making a good first impression is to have a professional-sounding e-mail address when you’re requesting information from a prospective internship supervisor. ILoveMickeyMouse@Yahoo or DitzyGirl@Gmail might be fine for communicating with friends, but it doesn’t make you sound like you’re ready to be in a professional work environment full-time. Using your university e-mail or a simple, easy to spell (something I neglected with my e-mail account when I was looking for internships!) username through one of the free account sites like Yahoo or Google will add to the impression that you’re ready for this new phase in your education.

Amy Kalas November 19, 2011 at 9:13 am

That is SUCH a great point!! I’ve received emails from some pretty goofy addresses and it definitely does not make a professional first impression. Thanks for your input!
Amy 🙂
Amy Kalas´s last blog post ..Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Kimberly November 21, 2011 at 3:52 pm

I agree with Amy–GREAT suggestion! Thank you for sharing it with all of us. ~Kimberly

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